With all the turmoil over the 2016 Presidential campaign – and the choice between a duplicitous but highly qualified Hillary Clinton and a raving nutbag of racism, misogyny and xenophobia in the Tangerine Nightmare (that’s right, I don’t even begin to name him – my choice), never in the history of the United States has there been a riper time for a third party candidate to make an impact. Because the two “major parties” have been unable to nominate someone who could, you know, actually LEAD the country, someone like the Libertarian Party or the Green Party could step in and fill the void. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Let’s take the Libertarian Party first. The only other party to actually be on all 50 ballots in the U. S., the Libertarians have reached a crossroads in their existence. Long viewed as the “hippie” party because of their views on legalization of marijuana and policies that put more into personal responsibility than governmental rigor, the Libertarians are actually the only party (other than the two major parties) to actually register a notable percentage of the vote in 2012; in that Presidential election, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson garnered 1,275,951 votes across the U. S. – roughly 1% of the votes in the election (and the best ever showing by the Libertarians).
When it comes to the 2016 Presidential efforts, however, the Libertarians took a page from the GOP playbook instead of…well, being Libertarians. Johnson (who had previously run for President as a Republican in 2012 and, after losing that nomination, suddenly “saw the light” and became a Libertarian), believing that he would be easily nominated again for the party’s Presidential ambitions, instead had to fight off accusations that he wasn’t “libertarian” enough (heard that somewhere before?) and that someone who was a “true Libertarian” needed to be chosen. In the end, however, Johnson and his Vice President pick, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, earned the nomination of the party.
Turning our attention to the Green Party, they have also nominated the same candidate that they chose in the 2012 election. Dr. Jill Stein, a longtime activist with the party, was selected in 2012 and garnered absolutely no attention from anyone whatsoever. How bad was it? In that 2012 election, Stein drew in 469,628 votes, less than the population of Brevard County on the East Coast of Florida.
Fast forward to 2016 and, instead of picking someone who might be a “fresh face” for the party, the Greens picked Stein again. The choice was made despite the factor that she has been viewed by many as anti-science and has tossed her hat in the ring with 9/11 conspiracy advocates (like the Orangutan Mutant). Party officials obviously were looking for someone and, lacking anyone with even the inkling of name recognition that Dr. Stein (who also offered her nomination to former Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders if he would just switch to the Green Party) had, decided to stick with her (these things have pretty much eliminated her from contention, much like Johnson’s Aleppo mistake and, just this last weekend, his contention that “nobody got hurt” during the bombings in New York and New Jersey and the knife attack in Minnesota, dismisses him as a serious contender).
There’s several problems with looking towards the “third party” option in this or any election, but we will only deal with a few of them here. First, voting for a “third party” option is the waste of a vote (and, as you will see, the statistics demonstrate this); second, that a solid third party has yet to form; and third, that the other parties are not following a path towards success if they are trying to infiltrate the two party system.
First, if you are considering a vote for a third party candidate this year, take a look at the numbers. Of the elected positions in national government – the President and Congress – how many of those seats are held by the Libertarian Party? The total would be zilch. What about governorships in the United States? That, too, would be zero. You have to go to the state legislatures to even find a Libertarian, and that total would be four out of 7383 seats available. In local elected offices (of which there are tens of thousands of elected positions), there are only 145 wielding power.
What about the Green Party? They don’t even register on the national or state scene, with no elected officials in any national or state government. The Green Party does register about the same numbers on the local scene as the Libertarians – an estimated 137 positions – but there’s problems for the party overall. When it comes to actually getting votes, they aren’t even on the ballot in all 50 states FOR PRESIDENT, let alone running in other races.
The second point – that no solid third party has formed in the past 30 years – takes into account those parties that “stood alone” from the two party system, of which none have been successful. The Tea Party was a subset of the Republican Party (in fact, if the Republicans didn’t want to be in the situation they are now, they should have cut the Tea Party loose from the start) and the Dixiecrats were a subset of the Democratic Party after World War II (and they were eventually cut off by the Democratic Party). Those parties that tried to stand alone – Ross Perot’s Reform Party had a nice run in the 1990s before petering out after the turn of the century and there are individuals who choose “Independent” as their party (despite the fact there isn’t a “dedicated” Independent Party) – have never been able to grasp the public’s attention for very long.
The third point – that the smaller parties are taking the wrong approach – is an easy one to correct. Instead of trying to elect one of your members to the Presidency, why not try to make inroads into the local and state realms of government. Remember those numbers presented earlier? The numbers that showed that, of all the state and federal elected positions, that only four seats would be occupied by someone that identified as Libertarian and zero by Greens? The numbers that showed that, of local governments, slightly less than 300 seats were held by someone not affiliated with either major party?
If the Libertarian or Green Party were able to actually make an impact on the local political arena – instead of 300, how about 30,000 elected officials? – then they would be able to spark the changes that they seek on the state and national scene. Even if either Johnson or Stein were elected, do you honestly think that the Congress – dominated by the two major parties – would choose to work with them? It is something that has to grow from the ground up, not from the top down.
It is thought that pulling the lever for one of the non-mainstream candidates will be a form of “protest,” of “voting on principle,” when it will in fact be a waste of your voice. By pulling the handle for either Johnson or Stein (or any of the other candidates who may emerge on your ballot for President), you are saying that, while you don’t like either of the major party choices, you also don’t want to be involved in the process of choosing from the two most likely choices someone who WILL be the next President of the United States (and yes, it can sometimes seem like you’re getting screwed, but at least you made a choice as to who would be screwing you).
Who do you want making the key decisions, not only for our nation but also for the usage of our military men and women, for the conduct of our foreign affairs, for the security of the nation, for the efficient operation of our government and for raising up everyone instead of a select few? By voting for a third party candidate, you abdicate your ability to make the choice – the compromise that our democracy is built on – and choose the future leader of the country.
With all hope, it won’t have an effect on the outcome of the race. In 2000, the Green Party’s Ralph Nader was able to garner 2.9 million votes, with some saying that it doomed Al Gore’s hopes for the Presidency (and remember that, in Florida, Gore is reported to have lost by 527 votes despite winning the popular vote nationally). In 1992, Perot ran as an Independent (he had yet to create the Reform Party) and earned a whopping 19% of the vote, arguably denying the first George Bush a second term in office (Bush lost to Bill Clinton by roughly 5.8 million votes; Perot earned 19.7 million).
The choice may be an ugly one, but it has to be made. A petulant display of “making a point” by choosing a minor party’s candidate isn’t a protest but an abdication of responsibility. Perhaps someday these parties will have worked to the point where they can challenge the current stalwarts of politics, but that time isn’t now. Thus, we have to choose from the two candidates who represent the major political parties and, after the votes are tallied, WILL provide the 45th President of the United States.