The controversial nature of this year’s presidential election is undoubtedly a consequence of the Democratic and Republican candidates themselves. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leans left in the political spectrum whereas businessman Donald Trump represents the right.
The natural result of this predicament is that both politicians face brutal opposition from their rival parties. Paramount to this election, however, is the huge volume of intra- party dissatisfaction. For a slew of reasons, neither candidate has been able to grasp sound support from his/her entire party and voters are left feeling torn between “the lesser of two evils.”
This difficult situation begs the question: “What are my other options?” But the answer to this question is almost always dismissed as a non-option. Third parties in the United States have generally been deemed irrelevant, a discouraging circumstance for this election’s Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. This is due, in part, to the attitude of the electorate, as well as the nation’s rigid two-party system.
The two-party system has been a prevalent feature of U.S. politics since it became a sovereign nation. Despite historical shifts in ideology and the emergence of new parties, there have always been only two dominant parties comprising the majority of the government. Any success of third parties in the past has been extremely short-lived.
“I understand that people vote for third party candidates because they may not like the two-party system,” said UM junior Coleman Reardon. “I think the most important thing is that people research possible candidates and vote for the one who aligns most with their own values.”
Third parties seem to be trapped in a cycle of disadvantages that hinder them from truly being considered. They are constantly battling to gain traction with the populace, but fail to do so because of legislation that bars them from standing or debating on the same stage as major political party candidates. The reason for the existence of such legislation is that third party candidates do not typically have enough popular support. How can the party gain supporters if they are refused the same coverage as the two major candidates?
Besides an inadequate amount of social presence, third parties have a shy track record of success because actually voting for a third party candidate is considered risky. Many constituents fear that because of a third party candidate’s relatively low level of support, a ballot case for these candidates is a waste of a vote. Others take this idea even further, claiming that a vote for a third party is a vote for one of the two major parties’ candidates, as it takes away from the overall state population’s votes for them.
This stigma is built upon the assumptions people make about other’s voting habits. If people were to follow their conscience rather than stipulations, then third parties might experience an increase in popular support. There is much to be done by our government before any significant adjustments will be made to create an even playing field for third parties, and in the heated election climate of today, trust in these alternative choices might be the solution for many voters.