When you go out for ice cream, what flavor do you choose?
Maybe you’re a plain vanilla kind of person. You could be a straight chocolate-lover. If we’re talking soft-serve you could be a proponent of the swirl, or you could be someone who prefers some choices like strawberry, mint chocolate chip, or cookie dough — all viable options worthy of consideration.
Ice cream shops know that there are plenty of people who aren’t always in the mood for plain chocolate or plain vanilla, and so they carry a variety of flavors to satisfy those who are a little more creative in their ice cream proclivities. Baskin Robbins boasts 32 different flavors — a number the company is so proud of, they include it in their logo.
The idea is that the consumer demands choices. Two options, like chocolate and vanilla, aren’t going to cut it for many, if not most.
If we can have 32 options when it comes to choosing what ice cream we want to enjoy for a blissful few minutes, why is it that we seem to have only two options when it comes time to decide our president for the next four years?
Options are vital for the basis of human discourse and growth.
When two major parties run the big show, whose interests are really being represented? The two party system — Republican and Democrat — has a monopoly on our American version of representative democracy, and we as voting members of this populace should be angry about that.
We should be demanding more options.
On Sunday, TEDxPSU took place in Schwab Auditorium and gave many intelligent men and women the chance to address an audience of intent listeners and make a case for an idea worth sharing. One speaker, Eric Charles, challenged listeners to change the way they think about voting.
According to the Commission on Presidential Debates’ website, the mission of the presidential debates is, “to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.” There is no mention of any kind of exclusivity for the Republican and Democratic parties.
However, according to Charles, a presidential candidate must be polling at 15 percent of the vote in order to secure a spot on the national presidential debate stage. This makes the chance of a third party candidate seeing a debate with the Republican and Democratic candidates slim to none.
A Gallup poll published in July 2012 asked potential voters who they planned to vote for in the November 2012 election.
In adding the percentages of voters who said they would back either the Green Party, Libertarian Party, or Constitution party candidate, as well as adding on the percentage that said they would vote for another candidate altogether, that combined percentage of voters is 7.5 percent — half of the percentage that only one of those candidates would need to get into the debate.
Charles argued that these kinds of polls are helping in marginalizing what kinds of candidates have a viable chance at the presidency. Due to social pressures and a lack of knowledge about the third-party candidates, those being polled don’t want to answer a pollster with anything but support for one of the two major parties.
But in doing this, we take away the chance for variety in our candidate pool, as well as the chance to learn more about these lesser known third-party candidates.
What you answer in a poll about your choice in presidential candidates is between you and the person asking. This is not your actual vote — this is a chance to throw some support behind the beauty of having options.
You don’t have to agree with the stance of a third-party candidate, and by supporting them in a poll you aren’t casting your vote for them — you’re just giving them a chance to make the case for their thoughts and ideas.
A variety of thoughts and ideas can’t hurt. The problems we face as a nation today are not conventional problems. Why do we think that these unconventional problems will be solved with conventional solutions — solutions like voting red or blue in every election?
Are you happy with the way that things are? Do you want our nation’s state of affairs to stay the same?
I do not propose that a third-party candidate will ride in on a white horse and turn out to be your new favorite flavor of ice cream — simply that this new option deserves a voice.
I am fully aware that the politics of American government and the politics of frozen dairy treats are hardly the same. But the idea at the crux of both scenarios rings true — you aren’t getting the full picture of what is available to you if you only go to a place that sells chocolate and vanilla, or Republicans and Democrats.
And make no mistake, the presidential debates as we know them are selling you a Republican or a Democrat.
The argument many people make is that a vote for a third-party is a wasted vote.
You know that your one small vote won’t win the election for the Green Party or the Libertarian Party or the Constitution Party, or any other small party for that matter. But Charles made an excellent point on Sunday afternoon — when you vote for one of the two options presented to you during the presidential debates, you have already thrown away your vote.
You have thrown away your vote to a candidate that was guaranteed a spot on that stage and who had unlimited campaign funds at their disposal — a candidate who is a puppet for the monopolizing two-party system, and who will serve as a mouthpiece for their party’s known interests.
You throw away your vote to the political machine, and watch as the third-party candidates have their own smaller, virtually ignored debate in the shadow of the red and blue behemoth.
Sometimes two flavors won’t cut it. Sometimes you want something new. Baskin Robbins knows this, and has 32 flavors at your disposal because that is what their customers demand.
If we demand this kind of variety when it comes to our ice cream, imagine what would happen if we took a chance and demanded more choices when it comes to our presidential candidates. Red or blue, chocolate or vanilla—let’s get ourselves some more options.
Katie Murt is a junior majoring in English and is The Daily Collegian’s Tuesday columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.