In 2016, the reason for and role of third party candidates is very different. So is their impact. In most election years, third party candidates are viewed as an expression of protest that ultimately weakens a more viable candidate. Sometimes the expression of protest is a petty and superficial reaction by those who didn’t win a primary election. Supporters want to bring down the winner, or simply keep attacking them on specific issues they disagree on. Third party candidates are often vilified along the way and then blamed for any loss, regardless of how likely frontrunner was to win even in their absence. However, this year, there’s been a groundswell of disenfranchised voters who have no intention of ever supporting the dominant party frontrunners. This is the result of extreme dissatisfaction with the dominant party front runners, and how they are significantly altering the integrity and makeup of their parties.
Depending on the degree of dissatisfaction with their party’s frontrunner, voting for the opposing establishment candidate sends a message of dissatisfaction and increases the likelihood that a party’s frontrunner will lose. For example, someone really upset about Trump, may vote for Hillary to ensure he loses. A milder form of dissent is to support a third party candidate. That’s one less vote for Trump, but not one more vote for Hillary. Where the margin is wide between the major party candidates, third party candidates aren’t likely to alter the outcome of an election.
Those upset about Hillary may choose to support every other candidate in the field to turn up the volume on the anti-Hillary message. An example of this is Fox News embracing Green Party candidate Jill Stein. By contrast, there are well established high-profile Republicans who are supporting Hillary for similar reasons. It’s these unlikely alliances that make things interesting. At the DNC, Bernie Sanders supporters were marching with Donald Trump supporters in protest of Hillary. The two groups shared a common experience of being marginalized by dominant party elites. For some people concerned about Hillary Clinton and what she is doing to the party, Donald Trump is viewed as someone who can help expose her corruption in a way that Democrats will not. While bad for the party in the short-term, it is possibly helpful for a long-term refining of the Democrat Party.
Important Checks and Balances
At a time when some feel the dominant parties are an indistinguishable corrupt duopoly controlled by billionaires and power elites, it’s helpful to have third party campaigns and candidates asking questions and addressing issues that one or both of the establishment parties may be trying to ignore.
This year, given that we have frontrunners with historically high disapproval ratings, third party candidates are gaining supporters who would otherwise not choose one of the front runners. For example, some disenfranchised Bernie Sanders supporters, who refuse to support Hillary Clinton even after Sanders endorsed her, are choosing to support Green Party candidate Jill Stein. If Jill Stein wasn’t running, her supporters would not necessarily vote for Hillary. It’s not the case that these people really like Hillary, but like Jill Stein just a little more.
Consider that the nation’s leading progressive leaders, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have both endorsed Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama called Hillary the most qualified person ever to run for president, and Rolling Stone says she’s one of America’s most honest politicians. So, the message is that she’s progressive, qualified, and honest.
However, some people aren’t accepting that message as entirely accurate. The presence or absence of third party candidates isn’t going to influence their views about Hillary. Hillary has been going out of her way to gain the support of prominent Republicans and some well known billionaires. This has further alienated progressives. Those who claim Jill Stein is causing Hillary to lose votes are just not seeing the big picture.
Ultimately, Jill Stein and the Green Party values are an appealing message for those who don’t feel they fit into any other party, and don’t align with the establishment candidates. Such people aren’t likely to join a major party.
Libertarians like Gary Johnson offer a message and platform that’s a unique hybrid of Republican and Democrat priorities and values. So, it’s not surprising that he draws support equally from the Republican and Democrat parties. Take a look at the New York Times aggregated national poll averages shown below. When Gary Johnson is factored in, both Hillary and Trump drop about equally. He’s not throwing the election of either of the establishment party candidates.
Without Gary Johnson Alternative
With Gary Johnson Alternative
Trump is shown above as about 6 or 7 points behind Hillary regardless of whether Gary Johnson is an available alternative. So, only in extremely close swing states would his candidacy have an impact and its anyone’s guess what that impact might be at any given time in a specific state.
This makes Gary Johnson more appealing for those who might otherwise be concerned that voting for a third party candidate might throw the election.
Because he’s not a ‘spoiler’ he isn’t viewed as a threat. The Libertarian Party is a growing alternative to the two main establishment parties, and its members are fairly committed to the party’s long-term growth. They aren’t likely to flip-flop between their party’s vision and that of another.
It’s no secret that some traditional Republicans are disappointed not only with the party’s nominee, but the direction he is taking the party. Some are so upset, and intent on bringing down Donald Trump, that they are joining Hillary Clinton. For those who can’t quite stomach supporting Hillary Clinton, Evan McMullin offers an appealing alternative that reaffirms historically important values and principles of the Republican party. It’s a way that Republicans can express their disappointment with their party’s frontrunner without supporting what some feel is a corrupt regime. You can learn more about Evan on his website EvanMcMullin.com.
Spoiler Alert: Smear Campaigns Ahead
Although the third party candidates mentioned above don’t disproportionately threaten the campaigns of the billionaire funded establishment party candidates, they will be verbally attacked in the media because they raise awkward and embarrassing questions about:
- unfair taxation
- illegal wars
- a war on terror that produces more terror
- wasteful government spending
- the erosion of civil liberties
- counterproductive foreign policy
- immigration laws that are either ineffective or too harsh
- the need for criminal justice reform
- an incarceration crisis worse than any nation on earth
- global environmental destruction leading to an extinction level event
- the deteriorating quality and availability of quality education
- the ineffective war on drugs
- the erosion of democracy being replaced by corporate rule
- social justice issues
- and finally, data that suggests our country is far behind globally
The above topics are largely ignored by the establishment parties because they point out failings of the dominant parties and their candidates. They also illustrate the collusion between politicians, the media, billionaires, and big corporations.
Extremism in Campaign Propaganda
This year, perhaps more than any other, we’ve seen some very extreme claims being made about the dominant party front runners. Hillary Clinton has been called the devil, a co-founder of ISIS, and a criminal who committed treason, lied to the American people, and betrayed our country. Donald Trump has been compared to Hitler, and his supporters are described as KKK members, and uneducated bullies.
The goal of the dominant parties is to make you so fearful of their opponent, that you’ll be immobilized and incapacitated, trembling on your couch at home, glued to the television news, unable to think rationally, and unable to do any independent investigative research of your own. Those sucked into this mindset, will not accept anything but what they are told by the party.
As news media outlets align in collusion with the dominant parties of choice, and serve as surrogates for them, there become two prominent messages that people gravitate to for safety.
In addition to painting a horrific dystopian catastrophic future under the dominant opposition candidate, third parties candidates and their supporters are vilified, diminished, belittled, criticized, and marginalized. As election day approaches, intolerance increases among the dominant controlling parties.
Despite these conditions, some independent thinkers break free from the clutches of the dominant two party system and seek to become better educated about their other options. That’s what third parties are about. Unlike the warring dominant parties, third party candidates tend to be more cooperative, collaborative, and optimistic about each other. They even work together for fair and equal access to debates, for example. This is why their combined message is viewed as a hopeful, inspiring, and upbeat alternative to the elitist establishment duopoly.