The Third-Party Voting Dilemma: Principles or Strategy?

Katherine Emily
6 min readOct 23, 2020

Third-party votes are often aimed at more strategic goals, like gaining state recognition for their party. But third-party voters tend to be more ideologically driven. Can the two be squared?

A vote is an expression of self-interest. It reflects not only the preferences of the voter — reflecting their personal value-judgments and belief in what policies are most conducive towards their welfare — but the policies they believe will respect the choices they make in working towards their own ends.

This means, despite what certain self-appointed keepers of democratic welfare shriek, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to vote. Parties do not own votes; they attract them. And they do so only to the extent their platform aligns with the values of individual members of the electorate. And to the extent they recommend policies likely to promote the values held by their supporters.

So-called “vote shaming” flips the relationship between a person and their vote on its head: those who seek to berate and belittle anyone who expresses a candidate preference that doesn’t align with what nosy scolds claim protects democracy and rights attempt to supplant the ideology and interests of the subject of their disapprobation and replace it with their own. They seek to divorce individuals from their ideas: asking them to think of the needs of others before their own.

But voting is important only because it is the only opportunity for citizens to directly exercise their will and insure it becomes a part of the decision-making process of state and federal legislatures, whose decisions affect their livelihood. Among the advantages of a republic is that legislatures work “to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens.” (Madison, Federalist 10)

Madison talks a great deal of proportionality in the Federalist Papers: in striking the proper balance between the ability of a majority faction to unduly control the rights of the minority and the ability of a minority faction to unduly control the rights of the majority.

Legislatures help promote proportionalities: an individual’s voice resonates on a broader scale in the legislature to the degree it’s shared by others. It’s given…

Katherine Emily

Founder, The Subversive Scrivener. Writer. Thinker. Intransigent ideologue. Radical individualist. Talent fully developed is the highest moral good.