Imagine that it is a Friday night and little Freddy Freshman is wandering into Commons. He cannot remember the last time he had a meal that was exactly what he wanted. As he takes his place in the queue, he catches a glimpse of the evening’s entrees. Once again, Freddy is in the unenviable position of choosing between baked scrod and stale spaghetti. He feels like there must be a better way, but he is really hungry. So, he takes a deep breath and asks for the scrod. Freddy’s friend Lisa nearly gags at the sight of the evening’s fare, and tells Freddy that she is going to go order some Chinese food. Before Freddy struts off towards the dining room with a heaping tray of unappetizing fish, he turns to Lisa and says, “Order from a third party? You go right ahead, but I’m not going to throw my money away!” In more than one way, Freddy just got scrod. Political alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans do not get much love nowadays. Most politically aware people have one thing in mind when they think about third-party candidates: spoilers. The most significant example of the spoiling effect of third parties was Ralph Nader’s candidacy in 2000, which facilitated George W. Bush’s victory over Al Gore by earning a small numbers of votes in battleground states. In theory, voters that sided with the liberal Greens would vote for a Democrat if Nader were not on the ballot. But who is to say that Nader’s supporters would even have voted if their man were not in the race? Calling Nader a spoiler candidate is insulting to the notion of a viable alternative to the two dominant parties. Strict adherence to a two-party system reduces political debate and discussion to us-vs.them trench warfare. There are more than two ways to run a government, and broadening thought in this country beyond the simple left-right model can only benefit our political system. Contrary to popular belief, third parties are not simply extremist caricatures of the Dems or GOP. Take for example the Libertarian Party, which supports the legalization of all drugs and strongly opposes the policies of preemptive military action. Sounds pretty liberal, but the plot thickens. The LP also calls for the abolishment of the public school system and the end of all gun-control laws. Politics are not so simple when you step outside the box of the two party system. Political ideals can be as diverse as the populace that devises them, and we should not limit ourselves to only two options, particularly when neither option is really enticing. Every four years, our nation arrives at the proverbial crossroads, with two well worn paths that most voters will walk down this November. But, if you think that neither path leads to a better America, do not be afraid to blaze your own trails. Whether you live in a battleground state or not, your vote can make all the difference.