Some confusion may exist between the words politics and government, particularly when the latter is meant as being in charge of the coercive powers of The State. By politics should be meant, the struggle for determining what the laws of society should be. It should not mean the struggle of which group of people are going to control the The State's governmental machinery.
Libertarianism is unavoidably a political ideology: but by that I mean that it expresses what the laws should be, not how The State should be managed. The State is a monopoly of violence and expropriation; it taxes you by force with the promise of providing you security and justice. It dictates by force upon society the laws which we are to abide by, and provides the monopoly of punishing force for law-breakers.
But the ultimate purpose of activist libertarians is political change, not power. We want less centralized and less powerful government, and more individual freedom, and would like to see our laws and The State's apparatus, to reflect these changes. Libertarians are not advocating better government, but less government and, in most areas of human action, no government.
This must be kept in mind when viewing the electoral process. Yes, for the most part it has been rigged by the Democratic and Republican parties to keep themselves in power. Yes, it would seem that an alternative competitor would be wanting to break this monopolistic power alliance and seek power for themselves. But the reality is that the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party, the Green Party, and other alternative parties and independent candidates aren't really seeking power over the State, but change in our laws and policies.
Democrats and Republicans believe:
1. Elections are the stamp of legitimacy in a representative republic;
2. People who don't vote have no right to complain;
3. Voter turn-out is often quite low, but those who do vote overwhelmingly favor Democrats and Republicans; and therefore,
4. The people are content with two-party rule.
Why then, do alternative or "third" parties exist? In many states, ballot-access laws make it far more expensive and labor-intensive (by collecting petition signatures) for third parties to even get on the ballot. Yet they often do, election after election. Often, resources are so exhausted by then that an effective general election campaign is virtually impossible.
With the system rigged against them, why do they bother? Does it make any sense for them to hope to win, or at least to somehow win enough votes to make some inroads to break the two-party monopoly? Unlikely.
But political change, as opposed to political power? That's a different story. That's a different hope.
The Chinese curse goes, "May you live in interesting times," and that, we are in. We live in two Americas. The first agrees with the war on Iraq and the open-ended War on Terrorism in general, plus belief in the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security and other programs, like the War on Drugs, of the federal Police State. And even among many voters who don't believe in these things, they will vote for one of the two-party monopoly candidates, Bush or Kerry, because of traditional partisan loyalties,or because of sheer hatred of the other candidate. They will embrace the "lesser of two evils" or the "anyone but [Bush or Kerry]" philosophy.
This constitutes mainstream America. The America that never read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, or perhaps did, but thinks they're obsolete, or doesn't understand them. The mainstream media may report that America is "evenly divided" between "liberalism" and "conservatism," but I think personal differences regarding the legality of abortion, and the degree of gun control, and this or that environmental regulation, are the only things that separate Bush and Kerry. To support either man is to be part of mainstream America. Because to support either Bush or Kerry is to support an all-powerful, imperial, consolidated State for whom neither local democracy at home, nor sovereignty of nations abroad, has any practical meaning. Anything coming from Washington, and especially from the White House, is good; anything else is either morally suspect or downright evil.
The "other America" are people of both the Right and the Left who are thinking, "what in the world is going on here?" To them, neither Bush's re-election nor Kerry's defeat of Bush would present any positive change. Both of the two-party monopoly candidates want to expand America's military commitments abroad, which means the draft. Both want to expand the reach of the federal government's powers to investigate crime, which means invasions of personal privacy. The thoughtful conservative is aware that the same federal power that can declare Howard Stern "obscene" has the same power to declare that traditional Catholic or fundamentalist Christian teachings on the airwaves to also be "obscene." The thoughtful liberal must be aware that the police-state tactics of the Clinton-Reno or Bush-Ashcroft won't be any better under John Kerry.
Rightists may condemn socialism, and leftists may criticize capitalism, but both the Left and the Right, not to mention libertarians, are appalled by what's been done to American foreign policy and the Bill of Rights. Now more than ever, it is time to vote your conscience. If you are on the Left, vote Nader or Green - because if you don't, the Democratic leadership will both take you for granted and treat you with contempt, just as they do now with African-Americans. The same will go for libertarians and conservatives who vote for the Republican Party. Individualists and free-marketeers must vote Libertarian; conservatives and federalists must vote for the Constitution Party. Republicans will get the message; two crucial components of their base are in almost complete disagreement with the Rockefellers and Neo-cons who control the party.
If everyone of the anti-war, pro-Bill of Rights Left voted for Nader, Green, or Libertarian, and the anti-war, pro-Bill of Rights Right voted Constitution or Libertarian, then Congress and the newly-elected President would get the message: the American people do not want an Empire and they do not want a Police State.
If ever the was a time to get rid of the "lesser of two evils" syndrome, the time is now. Die-hard liberals and conservatives, loyal Democrats and Republicans - we all know that both Bush and Kerry will expand the Imperial State and the Police State. They have both supported it and promised it.
We would therefore do far more good to encourage everyone to, as L. Neil Smith advised, "vote third party - any third party." The more third parties are on the ballot, the more you can find one more favorable to your conscience. Anything that sends a message to the Two-Party Monopoly that we are unhappy with the Warfare State and the Police State, the better. As opposed to not voting at all, which they will interpret as apathy, voting for a third party against foreign wars abroad and police states at home will provide a wake-up call to the two-party monopoly office-holders. If the anti-war, anti-police state message comes from both the Left and the Right, the two monopoly parties will be inclined to make changes in our direction, in order to try to win back our votes.
It's a simple plea, really. Vote your conscience: vote for the candidate who most conforms to your principles, not based on which candidate you hate the most. The election result should be viewed as the combined messages of what the people want and are trying to advance, not as who they hate and want to avoid the most.
This is most especially true when the two greatest threats to our liberty - imperial warfare and an internal police State which both Bush and Kerry desire, are the main issues of the Presidential election. Voting for either man means you desire perpetual war and a police state. Voting against both men mean that you desire something better. You can either vote for the two-party monopoly, or you can register your dissent to it.
It's a less than ideal choice, but it's the choice facing us. Third-party voting is the best means of registering your protest against the kind of nation, and world, that both Republicans and Democrats and have willfully led us into. How the people vote in 2004 will have an even greater effect in the Congressional elections of 2006 and the Presidential elections in 2008. Voting for either party in the power monopoly, or not voting, makes no difference at all; only by voting third party can you make a difference.