As the 2016 presidential election continues to heat up between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, many voters are disgusted by either choice.
For some, the obvious option would be the third-party candidate. But, given the level of party awareness for the GOP and the Democrats, would a vote for the outsider be a wasted ballot?
It’s a fair question, given all of the conspiracy chatter that the elections are actually rigged and primary votes were mishandled. Most people believe that the next election will be a contest to just keep one or the other out of the White House, depending on the voter’s affiliation. What’s the alternative? Are voters stuck with either the lesser of the vulgar business tycoon or the lying ex-First Lady?
There are literally dozens of political parties active in the United States, most of which would be considered minor organizations. Alternate parties currently considered to be “major” include Libertarian, Greene and the Constitution Party. At the moment, the leading third-party candidate, actually the only one that has any publicity at all, is Libertarian representative, Gov. Gary Johnson.
What is a “Libertarian?” Put simply, a Libertarian is someone who pursues personal freedom while upholding individual responsibility. On the surface, it’s a good philosophy. But political libertarians can also be seen as falling under the heading of “anarchists” because they want to cut the level of government control to an impractically low level.
Johnson was the 29th governor of New Mexico and, although Trump and Clinton are vastly ahead in the polls, his numbers are climbing in some battleground states like Florida and North Carolina.
But lack of exposure or a cohesive platform might make the idea of this third-party runner a moot point. Some Libertarians make statements contrary to the benefit of the party’s prospects. For example, many of them believe that if they refuse to accept donations from large contributors, they’re playing above the petty back door dealings of mainstream politics. What it really does, however, is negate any hope they have of competing.
When people complain about the media coverage given to the other two major parties over the Libertarian candidate, it really shouldn’t matter. The fact is that the airways are available to all parties and candidates, but that requires money. Just like any business or product, a party can saturate the media with paid advertising, but it costs a fortune.
Of course, there is always the belief that there is no way a third-party candidate is viable, no matter what his or her poll numbers might show. Many are of the opinion that the media and the lobbyists are actually the ones who make or break kings and queens, and that the voters are of no consequence. Well, we won’t be debating conspiracy theory today.
Past elections have shown how ineffectual a third-party candidate can be, succeeding only to draw a few undecided votes. It’s likely that most voters feel that a vote for any third-party candidate would be a vote wasted — and they’re partly right.
Casting a ballot for a third party will pull votes from the top two, as in the case of Teddy Roosevelt’s “Bull Moose” party in 1912. Roosevelt’s alternate party managed to come in second, but succeeded mostly to fragment the Republicans and served up the election to the Democrats.
Unless there is an immediate and monumental shift in the thinking of the American public, it’s unlikely that Johnson, nor any other third-party candidate, would have a significant effect on the outcome of November’s general election. Such a shift is doubtful, but if everyone who has vowed not to vote because of the unpalatable conservative or liberal choices, a victory is not impossible.
As voters, Americans need to remember that, barring the conspiracy nuts, every vote counts. A few thousand votes in one district can alter the outcome of an election, so everyone needs to get out and cast their ballots in November. Make sure every voice is heard.
At the very least, it may swing the election away from the greater of two evils.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications Ltd. More at www.deerinheadlines.com.