It’s coming closer to election time, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that something crazy or unprecedented could happen in the coming months.
Trump and Clinton are the most disliked presidential candidates in history, both having an “unfavorable” image with the majority of the U.S. population. Meanwhile, according to a recent Pew Research poll, only 24% of registered voters feel that the next generation of Americans will be better off than folks today.
PICKING UP STEAM
But, as Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins notes, for the first time in almost 20 years, the third-party candidates are getting attention across the board. Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green) are even getting regular mainstream coverage from outlets such asCNN, Vox, The Washington Post, The NY Times, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.
The poll numbers for Johnson and Stein are respectable, especially among the millennial crowd where they garner around 40% of voter support. When it comes to the general electorate, however, average poll numbers are more muted with Johnson averaging 9% and Stein 3%.
The numbers are not enough to meet the arbitrary 15% threshold for the first round of debates, but the third-party candidates are starting to pick up steam in other areas. For example, Gary Johnson just shattered a fundraising record for the Libertarian Party by raising $5 million in August. Meanwhile, Stein is preparing for a major publicity stunt at Hofstra University in New York – the site of the first Presidential Debate on September 26th.
AN END TO THE TWO-PARTY DUOPOLY?
Regardless of how Johnson and Stein fare, this year could symbolize a resurgence for third-party candidates in the national conversation. After all, it seems that growing discontent with the two-party duopoly can be found in a variety of places.
More people are now aware that the committee that set the arbitrary debate threshold of 15% was established jointly by RNC and DNC officials. This makes it almost impossible to get a third-party candidate onto the debate stage. However, if you ask actual voters about the third-party candidates, the answer is clear: 52% of Americans want to see Gary Johnson in the debates, while 47% would like to have Jill Stein’s voice heard.
Further, supporters of Bernie Sanders found out first-hand that the elections are not as democratic as they once seemed. Leaked emails from the DNC showed that the party worked against Sanders to ensure a Clinton nomination. Sanders supporters also found out the true power of superdelegates, which were initially created by the DNC elites to ensure their choices were considered disproportionately.
Lastly, it’s also worth noting that the media landscape has changed. There is no longer a few television networks that dominate the conversation, and people now have more access to independent media than ever before. This fragmentation increases competition and gives outsiders the opportunity to express opinions – it also allows groups like Wikileaks to do their thing by uncovering scandals or other unfair play. The new generation of media will lead to the exploration of different alternatives in both opinion and policy. With that will come more support for third-party candidates that align themselves with those viewpoints.
Some people will consider a vote for a third-party candidate as a waste, and others will condemn it as a mere “protest” vote. Likely, some people will also consider Johnson and Stein as the candidates that best reflect their values, and they’ll consider the “lesser of two evils” argument to be one without merit.
Regardless of what happens, for better or worse, the Libertarians and Greens will likely leave their stamp on this election. Hopefully it’s one that ends up being a net positive for the future.