- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It feels good to take a stand on principle. Knowing you’ve done the right thing for the right reason brings a feeling of satisfaction; third-party advocates thrive on this emotional response. The problem is, voting for an alternative candidate is rarely the right thing to do.

Supporters believe the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson would, if elected, be better equipped to restrain Washington spending. The front page of Mr. Johnson’s own website acknowledges that’s not something that will happen. He only seeks enough votes to make a protest statement. “Five percent of the vote ends the two-party abuse and allows Libertarian candidates equal ballot access and federal funding,” wrote Mr. Johnson.

That’s right, the Libertarian candidate wants your vote so he can get a handout from Uncle Sam: matching funds that neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama have sought this year.

Mr. Johnson’s complaint about ballot access rings especially hollow considering he had a fair shot at winning the Republican nomination. The former governor of New Mexico could have showcased his excellent record during the GOP primary debates, but his performance failed to excite conservatives.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul showed there’s another way. Though he was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988, he learned he could be far more effective within the two-party system. As a GOP contender in the past two cycles, Dr. Paul developed a devoted following among small-government Republicans that he used to form the Campaign for Liberty, which fights for change from within. It’s hardly a secret that Dr. Paul’s son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, will enjoy this organizational advantage should he run for the Republican nod in 2016 or 2020.

Change from within is effective, but voting for a third-party candidate never pays off. Hard-left voters learned this in 2000 when they decided uncompromising Green Party candidate Ralph Nader better suited their values than establishment Democrat Al Gore. We can thank Florida’s 97,488 third-party liberals for ensuring George W. Bush would win by fewer than 600 votes.

In 1992, Ross Perot played the same spoiler role by drawing support away from George H.W. Bush. Had Mr. Perot not been on the ballot, then-President Bush would have had enough support to take the states of California, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington. Mr. Perot is the reason Bill Clinton seized the White House with a mere 43 percent of the popular vote.

The two-party system is designed to ensure our country’s leaders enjoy majority support. It’s what separates us from the parliamentary factions of Europe where politicians with slim backing forge compromises to build shaky coalitions that give them tenuous control of government.

It makes far more sense to cast a real vote for Gov. Romney than to vote to send your tax dollars to Mr. Johnson and hand Mr. Obama his re-election.

The Washington Times