The Abilene Paradox

A common argument against third party alternatives to the duopoly system is that their candidacies are not viable because they have no chance of winning, and would hence be a waste of a vote. Yet, the only difference between a viable and a non-viable candidate is whether a significant number of voters is willing to cast a ballot for them. The fact that a majority of Americans tell pollsters they agree that a competitive third party would be "good for the United States" indicates that we have stumbled here upon a form of the Abilene paradox, according to which "a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of any of the individuals in the group." What are potential solutions to this conundrum?

In a post on the drawbacks of the two-party system, and the political cost of lesser-of-two-evils voting, Bo "Knows" writes:
I would like to see the growth in size and popularity of some of the smaller political parties. What I would really like to see is the development of a web of political parties with a wide variety of issues that they are concerned about and aren’t just to the left or the right of the political spectrum.
Such an effort should be central to third party political strategy, and would be a strong step toward addressing the problem posed by the Abilene paradox. There are a few positive signs that things are moving in this direction: the "we agree" statement endorsed by Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and Chuck Baldwin last fall, the recent meeting of third party activists in Minnesota, and the ballot access suit filed by a third party coalition in Pennsylvania.

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