Is 2016 the Year of the Third Party?

Not since Abraham Lincoln has the United States elected a third-party candidate.  Is it possible that 2016 will overturn the two-party’s 155-year legacy?

Short answer – no.  If you’re easily bored, you can stop reading now.

2016 may go in the history books as the most divisive political election.  People are saying the Democratic & Republican candidates are equally awful.

So, why am I so convinced we won’t swear in a third-party candidate in January 2017?

How America’s System Favors Republican & Democratic Candidates

Republican & Democratic candidates are on the ballot in all 50 states once they receive their respective party’s nomination.  Third-party candidates must petition every state to either be on the ballot or be a write-in candidate.

There’s also the media coverage disadvantages third-party candidates face.

This year’s televised national debates had record viewer numbers.  However, only Republican & Democratic candidates appeared & shared their policy plans (or insulted one another, depending on who was talking).  This was key to getting the candidates’ views out.

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a nonpartisan (so they claim), nonprofit organization, sets the debate stage rules.  To appear, candidates must meet this criterion to show they have a chance of winning & public support:

  • Constitutional eligibility
  • Appearing on enough ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning
  • Polling at 15% in five national polls the CPD picks for their reputation & methodology

Two third-party candidates – Dr. Jill Stein & Mr. Gary Johnson, specifically – petitioned the CPD to let them debate the major party candidates.  However, neither candidate was polling at or above 15%, & the CPD refused to let them.

Major party candidates spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in advertising beyond the debates.  However, third-party candidates usually fund their own campaigns or get small sums from individuals, so they don’t have the same spending power.

The media is also less likely to invite them to panels & interviews.  So, they have to make every dollar & appearance count.  A single mistake could be all voters remember about a third-party candidate.  Many people know about Mr. Johnson’s on-air “Aleppo” flub, but they would be hard-pressed to name his take on important issues.

Why Third-Party Candidates Can’t Buck the Trend

Originally, I researched Dr. Jill Stein & Mr. Gary Johnson extensively for this post.  I wrote up a draft with their CVs, their political experience, & their faults.  I avoided their takes on the issues because my opinion on a candidate’s political views wouldn’t match someone else’s.

Then, as my research progressed, I realized I couldn’t discuss the third-party candidates in a single post.  I could write for years & not address every single third-party candidate – there are just too many.

In 2016, three third-party candidates are on the ballot in 20 or more states.  Five third-party candidates are on the ballot in fewer than 20 states.  Twenty-one third-party candidates are on the ballot in fewer than five states.  Five hundred & forty third-party candidates are write-in candidates!

But, we’re familiar with two, maybe three, third-party candidates at best.  The sheer number of third-parties (50+) makes it difficult for any one third-party candidate to gain traction in the general election.

Third-Party Path to Presidency

Federal & state governments make election rules.  Because most of those government representatives are either Republicans or Democrats, the laws favor those parties.

Third-parties would serve their efforts better by building up state & federal representation.  There, they could help craft laws that support their candidates.  They could also expose voters to issues they hold dear, make real changes for the people, & strengthen their party.

Instead, they tend to aim for the presidency before they build a third-party political resume.  Dr. Jill Stein has run – but lost – several Massachusetts elections as a Green Party candidate.  Mr. Gary Johnson served as a Governor of New Mexico as a Republican before running for the presidency as a Libertarian.

The other 567 candidates, I can’t speak to.  I doubt any one person can.


6 thoughts on “Is 2016 the Year of the Third Party?

  1. I wonder if a third-party candidate should start campaigning pretty much as soon as the election ends, in preparation for the regional elections? Forget the Presidential election and just go for building up a base.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s what I’m saying! You said it better in 2 sentences than I did in 600 words. LOL 😉

      But really – the two major (if you could call them that?) third-parties could build up support & do more good works at a local level. I think the push to go straight to the POTUS seat is both foolhardy & impossible.

      I didn’t mention it, but there’s always the possibility they’re going to win the presidency for Trump by pulling support from Clinton. That’s what happened in 2000, with Nader pulling support from Gore. That’s truly terrifying. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I align pretty much with everything the Green Party stands for, but I don’t think Jill Stein is the right standard bearer, not because of her gender, but because of her experience. I’d love to se someone besides a D or an R as President one of these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! I think the Green Party could push fantastic issues forward. They’re very liberal & have a strong focus on the environment, which is so very important… y’know, for survival.

      The research I did shows she’s woefully inexperienced, unfortunately. She ran for Governor, Secretary of State, State Representative – all as a Green Party candidate, & she did well. But she’s only served on the Lexington town council (it’s called something else; I can’t remember it off the top of my head).

      Also… she has a nasty habit of getting arrested when she’s running for President. I think it’s, in her mind, for good reason, but it looks bad. I agree with her opinion against the DAPL, but defacing a bulldozer isn’t good publicity. Neither was getting arrested at the 2012 debates when they wouldn’t let her join in.

      I think you’re right. We’re the country of choice! We should have more options! But, to do that, it has to be done slowly. The Green Party could do work at a local level that would help so many people. From there, they could build strong voter support & put forward issues of great importance.

      Thank you for the great comment!! 🙂


      1. Thank you! I’ll definitely check out that post. I love reading about kitties!

        The kitty in my pic is my Loki (named after the Norse G-d, but then the Marvel movies came out… we’ve both suffered at the hands of the Disney corporation LOL). He’s about 6 now & he’s finally becoming less of a brat. 😀


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