Third Party Crasher


Alex Hahn, Writer

If you have been living under a rock and are unaware of the current political climate, it is important to mention the upcoming presidential election. The next president will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It will be one of them because they are the nominees of the two major American political parties. Clinton is the nominee of the progressive, Left-Wing Democratic Party, and Trump is the nominee of the evangelical, Right-Wing Republican Party.

We are stuck with them because of the primary system, where Presidential hopefuls are slowly eliminated in contests often more akin to blood sport than civil discourse. At the end of each primary season, the candidate with the most kills becomes the nominee.

Hillary slayed Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley. Donald Trump had a much longer hit list, stretching from Jeb Bush through Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, and finally John Kasich; may he rest in peace.

It seems most of America hates the two nominees we wound up with, preferring any of the defeated hopefuls, even the 16 year old Deeze Nuts or Limberbutt McCubbins, who is an actual cat.

But I am not here to beat a dead cat. The primary system is terrible and there is nothing we can do about it now. As far as most of America is concerned, we’re stuck with an angry pumpkin or a political chameleon. Now feel free to crawl back under your rock in despair, or stick around for a bit of hope.

What most people don’t know is that you don’t have to vote for a crazy orange man or the shady blonde woman this fall. The best kept open secret in American politics is the political organizations called Third Parties. Third parties are simply parties other than the two major parties of the day, and right now America has three third parties that are worth noting: The Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party.

The Libertarians are a center right political party, focused on small government and individual rights. What that means is they get to brand themselves as the best of both parties. They nominated former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson for President, and have been doing the best out of all third parties because they are have been pulling in moderate republicans who absolutely hate their nominee.

However, the democrats are not fully unified either. They are losing votes to the Green Party, a far left political party, focused on environmentalism and college debt reform. They nominated Dr. Jill Stein for president, and have been capturing voters from Bernie Sanders’ political revolution. Sanders’ populist coattails are putting them at a solid fourth in most polls.

Then there is the Constitution Party, a far right party focused on preserving the Constitution and promoting Biblical values. They nominated a man named Darrell Castle, and no one is taking them seriously. That is not authorial bias; their convention only had delegates from 28 states.

But before you jump on a third party bandwagon, be prepared to not have your candidate win. Barring something unforeseen, our next president will be either Trump or Clinton. None of the third parties are polling at better than 12% of the nationwide popular vote, in any poll. Even combining all three third parties, and assuming all undecided voters will choose one of them, third parties cannot even make up 20% of the nationwide popular vote.

Keep in mind that is popular vote, and popular vote doesn’t mean anything unless you win electoral votes, which require winning individual states. Even Gary Johnson, the strongest of all third party candidates, in his home state of New Mexico, where he is the strongest, is only polling at 18%. 18% is barely enough to win a seat at the presidential debates, let alone a seat at the oval office.

So, when you vote for a third party, you are voting for someone you know will not win. Now, the traditional rebuttal to that has always been: “third parties do not win because people believe they will not win,” or in parenting terms, “not with that attitude, young man.”

However, I don’t live in magical fairy land where two hundred years of history will be overturned once experts stop stating the obvious. See, the sad fact is the only third party to ever win the presidency was Washington, who was running unopposed.

Some highlights of the more numerous failures include Teddy Roosevelt, who was the most popular ex-president in history when he ran as a third party candidate in 1912, and he only won 88 electoral votes. The most recent third party to win any electoral votes was George C. Wallace with 46 in 1968, and he barely won those votes in the deep south by running on a segregationist platform.

I am not saying third party supporters should not vote for their candidates. I am asking them to stop living in a political wet dream. Third parties have never defeated the establishment candidates in all of American history, and it will not happen this year. Third parties lack the momentum, the name recognition, the campaign infrastructure, the money and the political base required to defeat the established parties in a presidential race.

But, third parties often do act a spoiler. Spoilers are a candidate that siphons off votes, stealing support away from major candidates as the third parties build up their base. If a spoiler manages to pull away enough votes, they can be the difference between a major party candidate’s victory or loss.

Third parties have a history of costing candidates elections. Third parties are credited with helping defeat the opponents of John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Knowing this, the fear of spoilers often causes major parties to attempt to shutter third parties by locking them out of debates, and forcing them off the ballot.

Given all the obstacles they face, Johnson, Stein or Castle will not be moving into the white house, unless something unforeseeable happens. Admittedly, this election is exactly where something unforeseeable would happen, but I remain doubtful the next president will be painting the map anything but red or blue.

Given the impossibility of having a third party win, you may be right asking why you should even bother supporting a third party. For me the answer lies in my idealistic humanist tendencies.

Voting third party has often been called “throwing away your vote” and in a cold mathematical world that may be true. But we still live in a world of people, and ideas, and emotions. In this world, a third party vote is not a wasted vote, it is a clenched fist, an angry voice shouting to the men in the tower, “you can do better!”

I view the third party vote as the protest vote, and the entire point of protest is to incite change. Third parties bring about this change by acting as a barometer for dislike of the major parties. That dislike becomes very real when third parties transform into spoilers. Spoilers scare the establishment into movement.

If Johnson steals away Trump’s support in Indiana, “the Mississippi of the North”, the republicans will see that they need to support more policies written by men like Johnson, and less polices shouted from an isolationist orangutan.

If Stein successfully steals Bernie’s revolution from Hillary’s camp, the Democrats will see that their primary system needs to be fixed so their base gets the nominee they want, not the one that has been waiting in line the longest.

As much as I would like to break down all the angles, and reasons for voting third party, or sticking with the two party system, that would miss the point. Voting third party is an act of passion, not of logic. We’re in Indiana, where Trump will safely win our 11 electoral votes, so if you’re like most young Americans, head to the polls and tell the political circus that their act got old.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Oracle, Columbus East High School, and Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation.