MYTH: voting third party is voting for the “Greater Of Two Evils”

“A vote for a third party is a vote for Obama.”

As a candidate for U.S. House in 2012, I cannot tell you how many times I heard this statement. It must number in the hundreds.

Though seemingly innocuous enough, it is loaded with illogical assumptions. And what it does not assume, it achieves in total irrationality.

Let us cut through the cognitive dissonance. Let reason be our guide.

NOTE: For the purpose of this article, let us refer to candidate “Romney” as “LOTE” (Lesser Of Two Evils), candidate “Obama” as “GOTE” (Greater Of Two Evils), and our third party candidate as “NOTE” (Neither Of Two Evils). We will address this theme in greater detail as well.

logical fallacies

a contradiction at face value

Aristotle’s law of noncontradiction states that “One cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.”

For example, a vote for a third party candidate – say, Mickey Mouse – cannot also be a vote for a candidate – say, GOTE – who is not Mickey Mouse. This is because ONE vote cannot be both FOR and NOT FOR any ONE candidate.

In a literal sense, the statement in question is a blatant contradiction on its face. This alone should be enough to stop reasonably intelligent people from mindlessly regurgitating such nonsense ever again, but let us continue.

simple math

When one votes FOR a candidate, that candidate and that candidate alone receives one tally in his or her column. No other candidate receives any tally whatsoever. So, in a race which is perceived to have two “mainstream” candidates, a vote for a third party candidate has, essentially, an absolute zero effect on the outcome between those two mainstream candidates. It does not “help” or “hurt’ either or those two candidates in any way. This alone should also be enough to stop reasonably intelligent people from mindlessly regurgitating such nonsense ever again, but let us continue.

a non-vote for LOTE is a vote for GOTE

What the statement really says is “Anyone who doesn’t vote, or votes for anyone but my candidate, votes for my candidate’s main opponent.” Seen in this light, the statement is incredibly pompous. It is also quite obviously unreasonable. Are those citizens who simply do not participate in national politics – for example, the Amish, or the disaffected, or even those who simply do not care – are they, de facto, voting for GOTE? Of course not. They simply are not voting.

Not to mention the inherent hypocrisy. Is a vote for LOTE more “valid” than a vote for NOTE? Of course not. Then doesn’t a vote for LOTE “harm” NOTE equally as much as a vote for NOTE “harms” LOTE? Does it not “help” GOTE in the same way? Following the statement’s logic, does not a vote for LOTE equate to a vote for GOTE equally as much as a vote for NOTE is, supposedly, a vote for GOTE?


LOTE is preferred over GOTE

“Assumption Fallacy #1” is that, if not for the third party candidate, the vote would go for LOTE. This is, however, far from accurate. I personally know many people who, if they had not voted for NOTE in 2012, would have voted for GOTE. Many others simply would not have voted for either LOTE or GOTE. I myself am in the latter group.

LOTE really is “less evil” than GOTE

Consider 2012’s LOTE and GOTE. Both were bankrolled (that is to say, owned) by the top international banks. Considering both rhetoric and record, both candidates support status quo Federal Reserve policies, bailouts, more government economic intervention, endless war, more debt, boundless state power, abridgement of civil liberties, socialized healthcare to varying degrees, and that’s just for starters. They disagreed on minutia. Was one candidate “less evil” than the other? Debatable. Was it substantially so as to warrant minor compromising on personal principles to vote for either? Not in the slightest.

LOTE would be better “all-around” than GOTE

Consider the 2008 election. If LOTE had won, America would still be on the same declining path it is today. Perhaps at a slightly lesser speed – this is debatable – but the same path nonetheless. However, consider the results of GOTE’s victory. The anti-GOTE electorate was absolutely electrified into action. This crowd would probably otherwise have passively accepted the same or similar policies had “their” candidate won. The same can be said for 2012.

Consider also that GOTE can only terrorize us for 4 more years. LOTE could have done so for 8!

Lastly… sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. This time around, GOTE is a lame duck President before he is even re-inaugurated. There’s a lot to be said for government ineptitude. It is leaps and bounds better than government malevolence.


Let us look at real-world results. Since this year’s election, a misleading statistic has floated around implying that Ron Paul voters in 4 swing states impacted the outcome of the election, because the Ron Paul primary votes in those states outweighed the Presidential Election difference. While this is a fun talking point, it is incorrect. Firstly, a portion of those voters no doubt did in fact vote for LOTE. Second, the voting demographic in the general election was vastly different than that of the primary, so much so as to make such conjectures entirely useless.

The fact is… “LOTE” would have still lost, even with NOTE votes! So in the final equation, what did NOTE votes accomplish? They showed that about 1% (of those who voted) simply do not consent.


Consider this: what if the third party candidate who had “no chance” was Thomas Jefferson? Christians, what if it was Christ? Further, what if this candidate truly appeared to have “no chance” to win? Would you cave on your principles and vote for Stalin so Hitler didn’t win? Would you go the extra step and try to convince everyone you know to vote for Stalin as well? Or, instead, would you expend that energy spreading the message of Thomas Jefferson, or Jesus Christ – knowing full well that your candidate may have a high probability of failure – but knowing that your candidate actually espouses your principles?

What it comes down to is this: Republicans need to take responsibility for their actions instead of finding scapegoats. In response to, arguably, the worst U.S. President of all time, Republicans nominated, arguably, the worst Presidential candidate of all time. They did so in the face of the most passionate political crowd in modern history – the “Ron Paul Revolution” – and they then all but officially excommunicated said group. And after all that, they expected everyone to vote for their terrible, status quo candidate? Sometimes movie quotes say it best:

How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

– V For Vendetta

The “A vote for NOTE is a vote for GOTE!” lie has been sold by the powers-that-be forever, hand-in-hand with its sister lie, “This is the most important election in history!” The true intent is to keep you on the two-party reservation; to preserve the status quo system. And as long as this persists, it will continue to be effective.

Last but not least, the statement is nothing but an insult to the principled minority who refuse to compromise their principles for more lies. At least we have progressed past “voting third party is a wasted vote”, right?

Let us put this perpetual Orwellian doublespeak propaganda to rest, once and for all. And let us react to those who continue to parrot said for what they are: shamelessly unable (or willing) to comprehend the simplest of reason.

2 replies on “MYTH: voting third party is voting for the “Greater Of Two Evils””

  1. Calen – regarding your “contradiction at face value” and “simple math” sections – let’s get serious. Everyone, including you, knows exactly what is meant by the phrase “a vote for a third party is a vote for (in this case) Obama”. 2012 isn’t the first time this phrase has come up. This idea has been around as long as political parties have been campaigning. When an election has two potential candidates, one more conservative and one more liberal, and then a third candidate becomes involved, any votes taken by the third candidate, assuming the total number of voters does not change, MUST come from the pool of votes which would have otherwise gone to one of the other two candidates. It has nothing to do with the idea that a vote for Johnson somehow also magically registers as a vote for Obama, as you well know.

    Regarding your comment that someone might believe that “Anyone who doesn’t vote…votes for my candidate’s main opponent”, obviously anyone who doesn’t vote has no effect whatsoever on the outcome. I have never said anything of this kind, since it makes no sense whatsoever. So at this point, we can finally get to the actual core of the question, the only part of your dissertation which really addresses my concern. When there are three candidates, and one is rather liberal and two are rather conservative, those voters who tend toward conservatism are typically split, some voting for conservative A, and some for conservative B. When the overall voting population is pretty evenly split in its philosophy between conservatism and liberalism, we can assume that about half will vote for the liberal and half for the conservative side. As I wrote to you earlier, a simple scenario would use ten voters. If they are evenly split philosophically, we can assume that five will vote liberal and five conservative. In the 2012 race, that would mean five votes for Romney and five for Obama. However, if a third party candidate joins the race, who is seen by the large majority of the voters to be conservative, we can rightly assume that perhaps one of the ten voters will vote for the third party guy. The net result would become five votes for the liberal, four for the conservative, and one for the third party guy. Multiplied by one million of these scenarios, Obama receives ten million votes, Romney nine million, and Johnson one million votes. Therefore the liberal wins the race because the conservative vote has been split. Lacking a more technically precise way of stating this idea, the phrase is used that a vote for the third party conservative helps the liberal candidate to win the race. It’s called “splitting the vote”. Everyone knows this to be true, no one disputes that this phenomenon occurs. It makes perfect common sense, but for some reason you refuse to admit this. There is always the possibility that the third party guy takes votes equally away from each of the other two, but in this case, as in most, the third party guy is more closely associated with one than the other, and in this case, Johnson and other third party candidates split the conservative vote, helping Obama to win.

    Finally, regarding your challenge of the third party candidate being Jefferson or Christ – that’s a bit of a stretch. There are probably thousands of candidates who would have been better for America than the candidate who actually won. However, if the better candidate cannot or does not run a campaign which causes an adequate number of voters to vote for him, he loses. If, on the day prior to the election, everyone in the nation realizes that a candidate cannot win, and that there is a huge philosophical difference between the two remaining candidates in the race, then I believe it behooves (yes, behooves) every voter to choose between one of the two viable candidates, since the long-term impact on the nation will be considerable. A US President will have a huge impact on law and policy for decades to come, as well as making appointments to federal circuit courts and the US Supreme Court. These laws and policies will have real effects on the daily lives of real people, and will affect their way of life and ability to prosper. I understand the concept of “voting one’s conscience”, but one’s conscience may also want to consider the real effects of a third-party vote on the real lives of real people (perhaps as yet unborn, and therefore at risk) for decades to come.

  2. admin on

    The first two sections are just to cover all the bases. It is necessary to point out that the statement is literally ridiculous in the first place. But your second point there is where you start to go wrong. Dead wrong. You say “any votes taken by the third candidate… MUST come from the pool of votes which would have otherwise gone to one of the other two candidates.” This is simply not true. A huge portion of those who did the former would NOT have done the latter if there were indeed only the two major candidates (myself included). Not in a million years would I (we) have voted for the walking contradiction that is Mitt Romney.

    I have also heard many people say “a no-vote is a vote for Obama”, so whether or not YOU say it, it has been said.

    But getting to the core of the issue. You say that there is a 50-50 “liberal/conservative” split, and a third-party candidate makes that 50-40-10 (or 50-49-1, even). You make many assumptions. 1: That the “conservative” candidate is actually “conservative” (Romney was NOT). 2: That the third-party candidate does not “steal” a hefty amount of votes from the “liberal” (this DID happen). 3, and perhaps most relevant: That the resultant votes for the third-party candidate would have actually enabled the “conservative” to win (this WAS NOT the case).

    Regarding your final point, you have disregarded some important elements of my position. 1: There was NOT a “huge” philosophical difference between the two remaining candidates in the 2012 POTUS race; they were minor. 2: It would NOT have been better at a macro-level had Romney won, in my opinion; you speak of “the real lives of real people”, but do you REALLY apply that principle to people in foreign countries where Romney wanted to EXPAND U.S. interventionist warfare? 3: If it “behooves” YOU to choose between Hitler and Stalin, which do YOU choose? That IS a serious and relevant question, and maybe it will help illustrate how people like myself feel when told to choose between two candidates whom they hold pretty much zero in common with ideologically and politically. And how will YOU feel when the Fascists and Communists tell YOU that you’re “wasting your vote” by voting YOUR conscience?

    Finally, let’s be honest: whether Romney or Obama won, nothing would have changed. If candidates like yours are ACTUALLY genuinely concerned about winning votes that otherwise go to third-party candidates, maybe they should actually assimilate and endorse the important principles those third-party candidates and voters espouse, instead of blaming them for their own lack thereof.