The Truth About Voting for Third Parties

—Matthew Long—

garydebateweb2-fw(Photo Courtesy of A Libertarian Future)

As we close in on November 8th, 2016, otherwise known as Election Day, President Barack Obama has sent out a warning to voters who are pondering supporting third-party presidential candidates. In a recent address to the public, President Obama stated that voting for either Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein is, essentially, “a vote for Trump.”

But to what extent is this message true? When asked if she agreed with the President’s message, Amanda Mills, Government teacher and 26 year teaching veteran, says, “Yes I do, I hate that that is happening but yes that is exactly what could happen.” Although these Third Parties do not affiliate themselves with either of the United States’ two major parties, the Green Party, can be considered an ideologue farther left on the political spectrum than the Democrats, taking into account their support for climate change and a strong central government, and even though the Libertarians are opposed to both sides of our bipartisan government their policies tend to lean more left than right.

Statistics show that Millennials, those aged from 18 to 34, are primarily liberal, and they also happen to be the most likely to vote for a Third Party candidate.

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(Photo Courtesy of the Huffington Post)

Voting for a Third Party in our two party election system has two effects: It makes young voters feel like they’re making a difference by expressing their voice and going against the status quo, but it also means subtracting votes from a candidate who’s much more likely to win the election than an independent. “Well, some Third Parties are actually interested in hurting the Republican or Democratic candidates, but generally speaking, I think that’s why they don’t want to go out on a limb because they’re afraid that they could, and you know I think that’s why Bernie Sanders didn’t run as an independent because it would’ve potentially split the Democratic Party, and I think that he knew that the party needed to be united,” says Mrs. Mills. Third Parties may not be likely to win, but they have the potential to sway the vote in this presidential election, and it wouldn’t be the first time it happened.

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(Photo Courtesy of Truth, Justice, and Peace)

Third Parties are an integral part of our election system, they enrich our country’s democracy, they bring up important issues that matter to the American people, and they provide an alternative to those who disagree with the Republican or Democratic party. Most start as what is called a single-issue party, which is essentially what it sounds like. The candidates campaign on one single issue, and although they don’t attract many voters, the voters they have are committed and passionate about their cause. This is how the Green Party began Through the years, we’ve seen them grow in popularity and expand on their policies. Green Party Candidates first rose through the ranks during the 2000 presidential election, when the Green Party nominee, Ralph Nader, supposedly won Republican candidate George W. Bush the race—by taking away votes from Democratic candidate Al Gore. This controversial topic has been up in the air ever since, and people from various political affiliations have claimed to debunk the belief and just as many have argued that it’s the absolute truth. So, what are the chances that something like this could happen again?

Given the growing political dissatisfaction that’s emerged during this election, it’s clear that there’s a hunger for alternatives to our Republican and Democratic candidates. Bill Schneider, a political analyst and professor at George Mason University said in an interview with ATTN, “There are a lot of conservatives unhappy with Trump and a lot of liberals who are unhappy with Clinton, and a lot of them are flirting with the idea of voting for Gary Johnson but don’t have the faintest idea of what a Libertarian is. They just want to cast a protest vote, make a statement.” Recent polls show that a sizeable percentage of the support for Third Party candidates is being pulled from Millennial voters, and they’re mostly pulling that support away from Clinton. Later in the interview, Schneider also stated that “They don’t have a chance to win. The only way you can tell that is from the polls and what the polls have been showing all year is that neither of them (Jill Stein or Gary Johnson) has a serious chance to win.”

Our winner-takes-all system makes it very difficult to elect Third Party candidates, but that doesn’t mean we should throw them under the bus. In 2014, forty three percent of Americans identified themselves as politically independent, and with a large number of undecided voters, the odds are still possible. Both Stein and Johnson have capitalized on the political unrest and frustrations of this current election, and it’s safe to say that whether or not they perform well in this election, they’re worth keeping an eye on past November.

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(Photo Courtesy of Oddessy)