Rather than leading to a revolution or even meaningful change, it leads to the equivalent of a bunch of children in a grocery store stomping their feet and screaming about the candy bars they want, but that the parent honestly cannot give them. The children don't get this. They think they might actually get the candy bars, but that's never going to happen. Best case, they are a minor annoyance. Worst case, they get their asses beat right there in the store.
If you are one of these children, the phrase "that's never going to happen" has you screaming even louder, just like it does in a store where the parent says "You can't have the candy bar."
You/they believe the phrase is a lie. You/they believe if you/they stamp and scream enough, the parental figure will cave in and give you/them the candy bar. Or ... and this one actually slipped past me on an earlier draft of this post ... you/they just want to protest the general lack of candy in your hand, with no expectation that the situation will change.
You/they are thinking like children.
Here's the thing, children. We can't give you the candy bar. Are you listening? We can't give you the candy bar ... because the store doesn't sell candy bars. They are just for show.
Our political system doesn't let a third party in. The numbers just don't work. They never have and they never will. That's by design. It promotes political stability, which is actually a good thing even if you are, as I am, a flaming lefty.
If you are interested in why third parties are shut out of our official political system (Yes, there are mathematical, psychological and economic reasons for a two-party system), check out Duverger's Law, which is all kinds of academic blah-dee-blah that basically says in a system of plurality (50+ percent) winner-take-all where there is one voice/one vote, you are going to get a two-party system.
The only mathematical chance a minor or new, aka "third", party stands in this system is for it to displace one of the existing big-two parties. Basically, to win power a third party must no longer be the third party. And, since third parties are always, by definition, on a fringe (if they weren't on the fringe, they'd be one of the big-two parties and therefore not a third party at all) they aren't going to gain enough support to hit the plurality and take the seat.
There is the remote possibility that a third party can draw enough votes off the other two parties to keep either one from achieving a plurality, but then the winner of the seat is going to be decided by an entity other than the voters ... an entity owned and operated by ... you guessed it ... one or both of the big-two parties.
This brings into play the psychological effect in Duverger's Law, which tells us that enough people who support a third party's ideology -- who are third-party supporters -- are not going to be third-party voters. They are going to do the math and step away from that third party when it comes time to actually spend their vote, thus nullifying the potential power of any third-party movement.
The third-party supporters do the math and it looks like this: "If enough of us vote for the third party, one of three things is going to happen."
- We are going to throw the election to the tie-breaker entity to decide, which means my vote is technically wasted.
- We are going to create a gap that could let the big-two candidate I hate more win, which means that my vote wasn't wasted, so much as it was stolen by the guy I hate more.
- The guy I would have voted for as the lesser of two evils is going to win anyway, which means my vote is technically wasted.
In all three of these situations, the third-party supporter's vote would be wasted ... or worse. So, the rational thing to do is vote for the big-two candidate who is the least irksome, because while it isn't a perfect fit at least they get some value from their vote. If enough third-party supporters behave rationally, which is very likely the case because voters are rational even if you disagree with their conclusions, the third party can't gain the momentum to displace one of the big-two parties.
Thank you, Maurice Duverger.
Assuming all this is true -- that the grocery store doesn't sell candy bars -- and if you stop screaming and hopping around for a second you'll realize it is ... does it mean there is no chance for a major political change?
Absolutely not. Change always happens. The question is more how do you make it happen the way you want.
Just ask the Tea Party. Those children got their candy bars by screaming in a grocery store that actually sold candy.
Before you go, if you've made it this far I would love to hear your opinions on this post -- for or against. I might not have any candy bars, but sometimes if feels good just to scream.