Third party candidates offer alternate choices in election
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In this election, both major party candidates have historically high ratings of unfavorability. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went through long primary battles and have had trouble uniting their respective parties.
Clinton has struggled to gain full support from the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party and is distrusted by many for her email scandal and the events in Benghazi. Trump has had issues getting the backing of the Republican establishment and other voters who don’t like his divisive, fear mongering and sometimes downright racist rhetoric.
It would seem that if there was an election where third party candidates could break through, this would be it.
In recent history, third party candidates have not had much success. A Democrat or Republican has won every election since the 1850s, and few third party candidates have even come close. In 1992, billionaire Ross Perot received 19 percent of the vote. He even led the race at one point, but on Election Day didn’t even win a single state.
This election cycle, the major third party candidates are Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party. Recent polls often show both candidates below 10 percent, not even close to the 15 percent they need to make it into the presidential debates.
Although many Americans would like more choice in politics and social media has allowed Johnson and Stein to get more press, both have failed to make breakthroughs.
Each represents political positions that are not embraced by Clinton or Trump. Johnson is economically conservative, socially liberal and has somewhat more isolationist foreign policy. Stein is extremely left wing on all policies.
In my mind, the failure to break through is a combination of fear of Trump and mistakes that have ended up defining candidates. In a normal election year, Democrats might feel less of a need to vote for Clinton, but given that Johnson or Stein have no real chance of winning, Clinton is the choice for the many who can’t stand the thought of a Trump presidency.
“Vote your conscience” has been a theme this year, but among former Sanders supporters, for example, many people won’t vote Stein even if they want to because it would open the door more for Trump, throwing the many American groups he has targeted this campaign under the bus.
A Trump presidency would tell many Americans that it is OK to incite hate. If I were a voter, even though I am progressive, I would vote Clinton because that is a risk we simply can’t take.
Secondly, these third party candidates have made crushing mistakes of their own, and these mistakes often get more press than anything else they do. Johnson recently asked what Aleppo, an important Syrian city is in an interview. Stein has also made headlines for her wishy-washy position on vaccines, has said that WiFi is unsafe for kids and called for a new investigation on Sept. 11, making her look a bit “out there.” Although these are red flags for a campaign, it is unfair to define these campaigns on these few points.
Americans have not been given much of a choice in politics, as even at the local level most politicians are Republicans or Democrats. I would like to see politics expand and different parties develop more influence, simply because there are so many different people in America that it is unreasonable to expect everyone to fit in the boxes of Democrat or Republican. That being said, I don’t think this is the right election to make a statement. Clinton, despite all her issues, has adopted a very progressive platform, acknowledging how much support Sanders received. Many Republicans do not like Trump, but believe Clinton is an awful choice. The fact that these candidates are widely disliked would seem to help third party candidates, but it also hurts them because many people are very committed to making sure one of the major candidates does not reach the White House.