In almost every instance the individual candidates represented narrow views of the nation, the world and the problems faced by each. That is usually the failing of third parties - their views, no matter how valid or insightful, are usually minority views, not supported by the majority of the country.
All of the most successful modern third-party candidates - Ron Paul, Strom Thurmond, Ralph Nader, George Wallace and Ross Perot - represented narrow constituencies. Today's most successful third-parties - Green, Libertarian, Constitution - represent narrow positions.
For right or wrong, the citizens of America have aligned themselves Right and Left. The two national parties with actual federal elected officials, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, have both been moving right.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, while claiming to be centrists, governed right-of-center. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush governed from the right. The current crop of congressional Republicans, influenced by the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement, has been moving in hasty lock-step to even further far-right extremes.
Progressives, who put much faith in the "hope and change" message of Barack Obama, now find themselves without a candidate who they feel represents and champions their concerns. So, they are threatening a voter revolt.
President Obama, for all his liberal-leaning best intentions found himself chastened before a powerful obstructionist Republican Congress hell-bent on preventing any progressive, or even liberal, policies from becoming legislation.
So-called moderate Republicans were defeated en masse by the likes of the Tea Party. That left whatever remaining congressional Republicans with any moderate leanings without a power base. No movement to the center can be accomplished when one party, in this case the Republican Party, has no pressure to "do the right thing" for all voters, not just their electoral base.
Mitt Romney, appealing to the current super-conservative Republican base in order to claim the party's nomination, has cynically abandoned all his formerly left-leaning inclinations, whatever they may have been, in favor of endorsing extreme hard-right positions.
If we, as voters, want a more progressives government, then we can not abandon the only party with any hope of making those changes. That is the Democratic Party. We have to gather together, in blocs, and defeat the far-Right.
So, the mission of voters with progressive and/or liberal goals ought to be the defeat of the conservatives and the strengthening of the party which most closely aligns with their concerns and that can actually win an election and govern - the Democrats.
Backing a third party, like the Green Party, is a wasted, symbolic vote. The problem is that, in close elections, progressives vote for the candidate closest to their concerns (e.g. Nader/Stein), who can't win, taking votes away from the candidate second-closest to their concerns (e.g. Gore/Obama), who can win. The result is the victory of the candidate furthest from their principles (e.g. Bush/Romney).
Some frustrated voters tar all politicians with the same brush. claiming all of them are puppets of wealthy power brokers. That is an intellectually lazy assertion. These citizens threaten to withhold their vote in protest.
In this election, a non-vote or a third-party vote will surely result in the victory of Mitt Romney with devastating effects on health care, reproductive rights, job creation, environmental protection, worker benefits, national security, responsible energy practices, housing affordability, educational opportunities and national prosperity.
The two-party system works in this country when its elected officials work from the center and consider the points of view of those to their left and right. It doesn't work when voters and politicians increasingly move to the extremes and entrench themselves. This is a country of majority rule with minority protections. Don't let it become a nation of minority control with majority oppression.
We need to stop moving further and further from each other, "ghettoing" ourselves into more narrow positions. We need to hear and respect the voices of differing factions, considering their concerns and solutions. And we need to work together to find ways to bring peace, happiness and prosperity to all - for the common good.
All of this is an argument to please, please vote Democratic across the board in the 2012 election. Git rid of the Republican obstructionists. Let a resounding liberal victory send a clear message to Republicans and Democrats alike to govern in bi-partisan compromise, from the center, to solve the nation's ills.
With a more liberal Congress, President Obama and Democrats will be more emboldened to embrace legislation and policies favoring reform and fairness.
With a more liberal Congress, moderate Republicans will be more free to vote their conscience.
With a more liberal Congress, voters will have sent a message to the wealthy power brokers and entrenched interests who have a death grip on Washington that the "will of the people" will now reign supreme. There IS hope for change.
After the election, make your concerns known to your elected representatives - local, state, national. Let them know what you think needs to be done legislatively. Tell them what you think, what you want. It is their job to represent our concerns. It is our job to let them know what those concerns are.
So, please vote. Please don't throw away your vote in symbolic protest. And, please, please, vote Democrat.