As the 2016 Presidential Election approaches, voters across the nation are being forced, as we are every four years, to make a partisan decision. Although this is the most important collective choice of the next four years, we are not given the options that we deserve. It seems that this year the two choices will be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Many individuals on both sides are longing for more candidates (highlighted by the “Never Trump” conservatives, and the hardline Bernie Sanders supporters). Some voters share the sentiment that we are choosing between two political machines that have been pre-selected and pre-shaped in many ways by major corporations and special interest groups in which most citizens are simply not included.

Politics is a dirty game, and there are no easy answers. There are winners and losers, and there will always be people who are unhappy with outcomes of elections, policies enacted, and actions taken by our leaders. However, the outrage and staunch partisanship in this election cycle, as well as the state of congress, display the brokenness of our current political system. Voters are forced to choose between left and right, blue and red, conservative and liberal, instead of choosing between honest and sincere candidates who genuinely want to affect positive change.

People arrive at their political decision in many different ways. Some individuals are influenced by family and friends. For many voters, the decision is based on one issue that they believe is a moral one. For others, their choice is made to support “the lesser of the two evils.” Regardless of which side people support, there is a common theme once the choices are narrowed down to two: there should be more choices. Over the course of the election cycle, the differences between the two candidates seem black and white. However, most politically savvy citizens understand that the political campaigns are a nasty game. Politicians will lie, cheat, scheme their way to the top of their party to gain support any way that they can. The platforms on which they run change several times during the process, and they often change stances on issues based on the ability to gain additional supporters.

This election cycle has shown us more than ever before that the current political system is no longer working. The partisanship over the past several years has reached levels where once elected, Republican officials refuse to work with Democratic officials and vice versa, based solely on political affiliation. There are many instances in which politicians who support a specific issue refuse to sign bills based on the fact that they were drafted by individuals in the” opposite” party. Furthermore, in terms of the two presumed nominees, Clinton and Trump, they are two of the most polarizing political figures in recent history. People seem to either love them or hate them. And while politics will never be simple, straightforward, and free of partisanship, or corruption, steps can be taken to improve the system.

What this boils down to is that the public needs more choices. I am not just talking about a third party run from the Green Party, or an out-of-the-blue bid from “The Rent is Too Damn High” Party. We need more options from all sides of the political spectrum, and we need the playing field to be leveled. We need strong parties that can rival Democrats and Republicans alike. Candidates from each party should have access to the same media, so that their ideas and policies can be heard equally as loudly. The problem is that “Independents” and politicians who would generally fall under other political parties, such as Libertarians or Liberal Conservatives, are forces to “pick a side” and run as either Democrats or Republicans, as Bernie Sanders did this year, in order to have a real chance at the presidency. The current campaign finance system needs to be re-imagined to allow for additional parties to have their platforms heard. Elections should not be based on who has the most billionaire friends, or who is supported by the largest companies and institutions.

One problem with the current system is that the left-right partisan gap in this country has become so wide that most people lie somewhere in-between. However, they must vote for one side or the other, or to choose not to vote at all. There are very few people who are 100 percent liberal or 100 percent conservative, but everyone is forced to vote as though they are. The candidates position themselves as socially and fiscally liberal or conservative, and those stances represent a miniscule portion of the broad political spectrum. This is why many voters resort to the “lessor of two evils” options. For this reason, it is common to hear: “I am voting for her, because I don’t want him in office!” and vice versa. Is this how we should be selecting the leaders of our nation?

Many people are fed up with the political system simply because they do not feel adequately represented. Would-be-voters often complain that their vote does not count due to the fact that in a two-party system, when there are only two viable options, a single vote has less clout than it would in a multi-party system. This is especially true when the options are so polarizing, and often do not meet the needs and desires of individual voters. Common sense tells us that more choices equates to more opportunities to find candidates that individuals like and support. People are tired of not being represented fairly.  The system of representatives, delegates and super-delegates is another issue that turns people away from politics. (The fact that we are not a true democracy is upsetting for many voters, but that is a whole separate topic.)  Many choose not to participate all together, and others only pay attention during the election cycle. Scores of others only vote in the final election, leaving out the primary season, knowing that in the end the choice is always the same: Red Political machine vs. Blue Political Machine.

Citizens want candidates that they can believe in and a multi-party system is a step in the right direction. Countries such as Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and the Philippines have all adopted some form of multiple party systems, and are proving that the U.S. can be successful in converting to such. The 2016 election will be a hotly contested battle and will ultimately prove the need for more political options, and the need for the playing-field to be leveled for these third, fourth, fifth or sixth options. The additional parties could also lead to less partisanship in Congress, as there would be less of a sense of “us vs. them.” In this world full of choices, chances, opportunities, and endless possibilities, why are we forced to choose between two candidates in one of the most important decisions of all?

(Photo Source: DonkeyHotey Flickr Stream |  The source image for this caricature of an elephant is a Creative Commons licensed photo from Visnu Pitiyanuvath’s Flickr photostream. The source images for this caricature of a donkey are Creative Commons licensed photos from Don DeBold’s andKlearchos Kapoutsis’ Flickr photostreams. | License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode)