If your goal is to change the Republican and Democratic parties, arguably it is more effective to work outside of the two-party system in support of third party and Independent alternatives who more closely approximate your own positions. At Our Dinner Table, Seth makes the case for "throwing your vote away":
Perot’s fiscal responsibility message in the 1992 Presidential election earned him 19% of the vote. That got the attention of the other two parties. They adopted the fiscal responsibility platform to attract those votes. Republicans adopted some of Perot’s platform as their own in 1994 to retake control of Congress and even Bill Clinton adopted a more conservative fiscal stance to get re-elected in 1996.
It worked. Most of the 19% of the people who voted for Perot in 1992 threw back in with one of the major parties in the next Presidential election.
When a third-party or fringe party makes headway and attracts votes, the other two parties respond and try to adopt that stance in some form or fashion. This makes sense. This is normal feedback at work . . .
So, despite what the guys on the radio say, all those people who threw their votes away on a third-party candidate really made a difference. It just took a little longer to make that difference.
They sent a message to Democrats and Republicans that fiscal responsibility was important enough to get their votes. The feedback loop worked because both parties responded.The only wasted vote is a vote for a Republican or a Democrat.
Let’s say I agree with 20% of the policies of one major party candidate and 65% of the policies of the other. If there’s a third party candidate that I’m in 85% agreement with, the guys on the radio would tell me to vote for the 65% candidate in order to improve my chances of not winding up with the 20% candidate. But, I think I’m done with that. Voting for the the 85% candidate is my best chance of moving both parties closer to my ideal. Over time, if we all do this, perhaps we start moving all the candidate positions closer to our goals. . . .
Maybe the political calculation of the guys on the radio is why we seem to to have politicians that are out of touch with the American people. Instead of voting for what we really want and moving those agreement percentages closer, we vote for the lesser of two evils and move those percentages away over successive elections . . .