The other day, I received my ballot in the mail. Looking at our list of candidates, I couldn’t believe we were actually here, forced to see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on our ballots — and I’m sure others felt the same.
The other shocking thing about seeing the list of presidential candidates was the long list of third party candidates. I had no idea there was a Unity Party and a Liberation Party, but with the campaigning done by Libertarian Gary Johnson, he would have you think he was the only third party candidate.
Gary Johnson has campaigned like he is the only viable option to “save” us from Trump and Clinton. I have never seen or heard him mention Jill Stein, who is still polling well for the Green Party and has very similar views to Bernie Sanders. Sanders clearly identified with a large portion of the Democratic Party, and Stein serves as an excellent alternative to Clinton for some folks.
Not to mention Evan McMullin, of Utah, who is running as a “true” independent. The funny thing about McMullin? He’s leading Utah in some polls, and is in a statistical three-way tie with Clinton and Trump. Johnson’s whole campaign has rested on the idea that he could win New Mexico, his home state where he served as a Republican governor, and throw off the electoral counts. But with the polls in New Mexico, it looks like Clinton has a clear win. McMullin is beating Johnson at his own game.
I understand that he’s running a campaign and in the race to win the presidency, but at the same time, he has expressed his desire to encourage third party growth overall, not just the Libertarian Party. He can’t support third parties and not acknowledge success across the board for these different parties and independents — especially as it becomes clear that he will not win the presidency through electoral votes.
I’ve always felt that the growth of third parties could never be furthered by just one party. In this case, we would just have Libertarian, Democratic, and Republican parties. The issue with that? Libertarians often identify with Republicans, and vice versa. Most Democrats don’t identify with the Libertarian Party due to the stark differences of the economic policies and social welfare programs that are underpinning the Democratic Party. If it was just those three, we would have a Democrat elected every time, and that is not representative of our electorate. This would also apply if the Green Party became a major third party — the liberal vote would be split and we would only have a Republican.
Third party candidates will all succeed more if they work together. Part of the appeal of third party candidates in American politics right now is a break from the two party institutions that run our government today. It’s not a bad thing for these candidates to embrace their divergent nature. Hammering the idea in voters heads that third parties represent something bigger than their ideology, but represent options, and that there is an option for everybody, will result in higher numbers for third party candidates not only for the presidential election, but also local elections, which are arguably more important.
So don’t just vote for Gary Johnson because he’s the third party, find a candidate that fits you for your opinions. That makes more of a statement than voting for the guy who campaigned on bragging about his physical fitness for a few weeks.