Well, no one I know has actually said that. They say a third party vote is really a vote for someone else. But that logic is flawed, as my parody illustrates.
A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Gary Johnson, and a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Jill Stein. It really is that simple.
Of course, what people mean is that a vote for a third party candidate has the effect of electing the ideologically opposite major party candidate.
But they’re forgetting about the Electoral College. I noted before that the United States has always been a two party system because the president is elected by the Electoral College and not by popular vote.
This winner take all system means a third candidate could thwart a majority in the Electoral College, throwing the vote to the House of Representatives where it’s sure to become a cluster fuck.
A third party vote in swing states like Ohio or Florida could affect the national election, if there’s critical mass in that state and if the Electoral College math nationally is close. That did happen in 1992 when Bill Clinton got elected with a minority of the popular vote.
But most states clearly lean Democratic or Republican. Hillary Clinton will not win Texas, and Donald Trump will not win Massachusetts.
There probably aren’t enough Gary Johnson supporters in Texas to give Hillary a victory there. And Massachusetts Green Party voters are unlikely to hand Trump a victory in that state.
So vote the way you want. But with this point of caution: My personal metric (which I’m pulling out of my hat) is that if the major party candidates are less than 10 percentage points apart in your state, and if a third party candidate seems to be getting a lot of attention, then you should think about the possibility that a split vote could elect the worst of two evils.