Since last Tuesday, there have been more than a few articles written clamoring that we need a third party to rescue this country from the terrible evils that the Republicans and Democrats are laying upon it. A third party, we're told, will really resonate with the voters; will unite them against the two "basically identical" major parties; will end corruption. There's only one problem: we already have a third party.
Actually, we have several "third" parties. The Libertarian party, if you add all the races together, got over one million votes for the House of Representatives this year. The Green party got more than twice that many for President just 12 years ago. And the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties have all run nation-wide Presidential tickets in every election since 1992. And that doesn't even count the literally dozens of smaller and regional parties.
Maybe you think there's a growing trend? That, yes, it's true that this has been going on for decades, but that's because it's building slowly, and now it's clear that the wave is about to crest, and a three-party utopia is on the horizon! Well... not so much. There have consistently been three or more new political parties founded in every decade of the nation's history since at least the 1840s, and some of them have done much better than any of the ones we have now. The only exception to this rule is the 1860s which, significantly, is the decade of the civil war and, related, the decade after the Republican party replaced the Whig party as one of America's two major-parties. (And by the way, the Republican party was never a third party.)
Third parties come, and third parties go; if they're lucky, they get to have some indirect influence on the debate by way of being a credible-enough spoiler threat. Occasionally (once a century or so) a major-party goes, and a new major-party forms to take its place—never (yet) an existing third-party. And that's the way it is, because third parties can't win this game.
Anyone who is whining that America needs a third party to "save" it then, is wrong for two reasons: we already have them, and they can't save us. We have a two-party political system because we have a two-party voting system, and if you don't like the former, you have to change the later.
Approval voting and score voting allow third parties a real chance to grow and actually win elections. That would, at the very least, facilitate a faster rate of change of who the two major parties are, and perhaps even lead to a long-term three (or more) party system. This would then speed the rate at which new issues, new ideas, and new ideals, are incorporated into our political discourse.
Consider that the Whig party collapsed because neither it nor the opposing Democratic party could discuss slavery, and that the Republican party's rise was because it could. Had this changeover not been artificially retarded by an inefficient voting system perhaps war could have been avoided. If war really is just the continuation of politics by other means, then a better voting system really is a matter of life and death. I ask you to give this a moments thought on this Veteran's Day.