THE PITT NEWS: Third party politics: Do you really know where you belong?

Written by Rebecca Tasker for The Pitt News, the University of Pittsburgh student newspaper

I sat there, staring at my phone’s browser in shock. My results were in — and contrary to what I had strongly believed since I had first learned the definition of the term, I wasn’t a Democrat.

According to a political alignment quiz, I was actually a member of the Green Party. My heart slumped to my stomach as I realized that something I had considered an essential part of myself was apparently a lie. I vaguely remembered hearing about the Green Party as part of English politics, but I didn’t even know what the Green Party stood for. But during my research, I realized that their frontrunner for the 2016 Presidential election — Jill Stein —  was exactly who I wanted as a candidate.

The more I dug into the Green Party, the more I realized what I had been missing from the Democratic Party. The Green Party is dedicated to environmentalism, non-violence, social justice and grassroots organizing. It is attempting to renew democracy without corporate donors. I quickly realized I had been missing the whole point of being a good voter and citizen — rather than finding the right party for me, I was satisfied with forcing my views to fit the party I thought I belonged to.

American citizens need to find parties that fit their values. Under media control, we subscribe to a two-party system that pigeonholes us into choosing from two main pools of candidates. Brazen headlines brim with news about Democratic scandals and G.O.P. mishaps. We’re so distracted by elephants and donkeys that we forget there are other parties with qualified candidates.

With next year’s presidential elections looming, it’s imperative that we give other parties a chance. It’s time to look past our country’s two-party system and at least become educated on other subsidiary parties and their platforms. What if you only agree with half of Bernie Sanders’ platform but discover an Independent candidate is your spirit animal?

It’s time to give the little guys — or third parties — a shot, to hear out candidates that typically live in the shadows of our two-party candidates.

We need to get informed. Unfortunately, when we hear about smaller party candidates, it’s usually because they’re super wacky.

I’m sure we all remember Jimmy McMillan, the founder of The Rent is Too Damn High Party. He was an older man with a Dumbledorian white beard, screaming about how “the rent is too damn high” — hilarious, and makes for great television.

Unfortunately, focusing on the fun smaller party candidates causes us to overlook serious contenders. These candidates may hold some of the answers for solving our major issues, but since they don’t have major corporate backing, we don’t see as much of them.

Stein, who is seeking the 2016 nomination for the Green Party’s bid, is attempting to fund her campaign without backing. She is pro-choice, in favor of ending occupational apartheid — a concept under which individuals cannot freely choose their occupation due to race, disability, age, gender, sexuality, religion or political preference — and heavily supports government reform. She is what I personally found lacking in the Democratic Party, and I intend to fully support her in the coming elections.

On the more conservative side, Tom Irwin is a small-town man seeking the American Party nomination. He is pro-life, pro-military and pro-guns. He lives in Sandy Lake, Pennsylvania, which is roughly two hours north of Pittsburgh. As president, he would work to fully reinstate NASA, to break our reliance on Russia and to take astronauts to the national space station.

From the Libertarian party — a group more socially liberal than the Democrats but more fiscally conservative than the Republicans — hails Marc Feldman, a licensed physician and 2016 presidential candidate. Feldman refuses to run an expensive campaign and reach out to the wealthy, claiming that he doesn’t like them and they don’t like him. Feldman advocates for a balanced budget and disagrees with big spending. Overall, he hopes to limit government power.

These are just three of the many American citizens who are seeking a third-party nomination, and who truly want to help make a difference.

When preparing to head to the polls in 2016, be sure that you are voting for the right candidate for you, whether it’s the member of one of the two big parties, or an independent candidate.

If you’re unsure of how to get started on the great, magical journey that is being an informed voter, I suggest visiting ISideWith.com, a site devoted to unearthing your party affiliation based on your beliefs about basic government and political questions. This is the site that opened my eyes to the smaller parties. And remember, answer all the questions thoughtfully.

Once you see your results, it is then your duty to look into the party and its potential candidates. The future of our country is in your hands — be informed when you vote.