In reviewing my posts from the 2012 election cycle, I noticed that there was barely any mention of third and minor party candidates.
And here is why.
In 2012, the final result was Obama 51-47 with third parties and other minor candidates making up the final 2%.
It is very likely that the winner of this election will end up with a plurality of the popular vote as well as winning several states with pluralities in part due to the historic unpopularity of both major party candidates. Clinton would have the highest unfavorable ratings in the history of polling if it wasn’t for Trump. Though most of that has been baked in due to the media’s relentless hounding of the Clintons over the last 30 years combined with the press giving Trump a free pass during the primaries.
Many people would want to see a viable third party option rise. Surveys show there is an environment for it.
I have often heard that 45% of the country identify as independent but the problem with that is once you dig into the numbers there are these things called closeted partisans. These are the people who do not particularly align themselves with a major party but generally strongly support some of the ideas of one of the two major parties that cause them to gravitate in that direction. Human beings can be complex individuals.
The two major third party candidates, Jill Stein representing the Greens and Gary Johnson for the Libertarians, have ran for president before. Last election cycle Johnson was the best showing for the Libertarian Party since their 1980 bid. Stein only received a little more than one-third of one percent of the total ballots cast in 2012.
Most importantly, they each received zero electoral votes. Ross Perot is considered to be the most successful third-party candidate. Despite receiving nearly 20% of the popular he too received zero electoral votes in 1992 and the efforts to build a viable third party with the long defunct Reform Party collapsed by the start of the 21st century.
The most recent successful third party bid was George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, who ran in 1968 on the American Independent Party. He claimed a lower share of the popular vote than Perot did – 13.5% - but he won 5 states – mainly in the south – and a faithless elector from North Carolina for a total of 46 electoral votes.
The other hindrance to their success is they lack a substantial power base. Quick, how many seats do the Green and Libertarian Parties hold in any legislative body, federal or state? How many governorships, senators, other statewide offices?
If you said zero, you are correct.
The highest office Johnson held was governor of New Mexico while he was a Republican. Same with his running mate Bill Weld who was governor of Massachusetts in the 1990s. The highest office Jill Stein has held is essentially the equivalent of a city council member and her claim to fame was setting up a community recycling program. In the 2002 Massachusetts’ gubernatorial election, her Democratic opponent considered her a non-factor.
John Oliver goes further in criticizing the third parties on they have ideas, but not necessarily substantive ideas.
And the two-party system has been in effect in this country since the establishment of the Constitution. It has evolved and various minor parties have come and gone over the last 200-plus years. If you want to blame someone for us having this system, blame these guys:
If third parties are serious about building a viable option to the two-party system, they cannot just show up every four years to just run for president. If they want to build their parties, they need to start by building a viable local base in their communities and start winning seats in city councils and then eventually make a play for state legislature and above. This is a model that Bernie Sanders did building his brand as Independent.
However, given their inability to organize I doubt they will be nothing more than another footnote in American politics.