Tomorrow is Election Day. I have three last minute messages for you.

First, vote. If you haven’t voted already, go vote. It’s probably not rational, but how many of the things that you do really are?

Second, vote for a major party candidate. Vote for the Democrat or vote for the Republican. Don’t vote for any third party candidate, or an independent. 

We try to be nonpartisan at Mischiefs, but I have to take a stand here. The policies of the Green Party or the Libertarian Party might be great, but you’re not helping realize them by voting Jill Stein or Gary Johnson.

Why not? For one, even if they were elected, a third party candidate would have to deal with a Congress filled with Democrats and Republicans. The president doesn’t get to just repeal Obamacare or implement single-payer health care. That’s the job of the legislature. By definition, anyone running for president as a third-party candidate has decided that coordinating with members of the two major parties is too hard. If it’s too hard in the nomination stage, why would it suddenly become easy at the legislating stage?

And of course, no third party candidate is going to win. So your vote doesn’t help. Meanwhile, there are real differences between Obama and Romney. Very big ones, in fact. Voting for anyone else means you give up your chance to voice your opinion on the divisions that are actually at stake in this election. 

Third, vote for your major party candidate. Don’t vote for the guy you like better, or for whom you would want to have a beer with. If you look deep down, you are probably closer to one of the two parties. Even if you are independent, research suggests you have your leanings. And the parties are clearly not hard to distinguish. One is probably better for people like you.

You are not just selecting a president. You are also selecting which party that president will draw his cabinet from, and which party he will find most amenable to his agenda. You are selecting the leader of a team. The rest of the team will matter a great deal over the next four years.

Fortunately, most voters don’t need these warnings. Most voters do vote for their party’s candidate. Maybe most voters are on to something.

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction]

Hans Noel

Hans Noel is an assistant professor of government at Georgetown University.