Home Opinions Third parties are not good for the American diet

Third parties are not good for the American diet

Illustration by: Maria Tahir | Staff Illustrator

Usually alternatives are great; however, some third party political candidates are not good for the American diet.

According to polls from the Wall Street Journal and NBC, 47 percent of registered voters are considering voting for a third party nominee in the 2016 presidential election.

In 2012, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson ran for President on the Libertarian ticket. He received over 1.2 million votes, accounting for about 0.99 percent of the popular vote. Currently, Johnson is gathering about nine percent of the vote nationwide. In states like Utah where Trump is widely disliked, Johnson is winning as much as 16 percent of the vote.

Regardless of his rise in supporters, Johnson does not stand a fighting chance. Third parties exist to promote different ideals, not to win elections.

The ideals third parties represent are admirable. The Libertarian party promotes civil liberties, non-interventionism, laissez-faire capitalism and the abolition of the welfare state. The Green party is based on grassroots political and economic democracy, nonviolence, social justice and ecological sustainability. The Constitution party advocates a platform that reflects its interpretation of the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Bible.

But let’s face it. In the political realm, three’s a crowd.

When people decide to vote third party, they end up spoiling the election for the person who would have won in the first place. The most notorious example is the 2000 presidential election, when Ralph Nader spoiled Florida for Al Gore by capturing 97,488 votes. This ultimately ended with Bush taking the presidency. Approximately half of Nader voters said they would have chosen Gore in a two-man race. In other words, Gore would have achieved a net gain of 26,000 votes in Florida—far more than needed to win the state and the entire election.

In American politics, there is a “one vote one winner,” system. We end up voting against the candidate we dislike, ensuring a two-party system stays in power. Currently, many “Bernie or Bust” voters are planning to withhold their support for Hillary Clinton, and third party candidates are tailoring their platforms to capture many of these “spoiler” votes.

Third party candidates cannot win unless they are strong regionally or end up tying the Republicans and Democrats. Ross Perot received 19 percent of the popular vote, yet received no electoral votes. The importance of the Electoral College is that third party candidates will not be effective unless they win states. If a candidate falls short of the minimum 270 electoral votes needed to be elected president, the election is brought to the House of Representatives where the majority of voters are Democrats or Republicans, meaning they would vote accordingly.

The last time America saw a third party nominee elected to presidency was when Millard Fillmore won the race. We have not had a true third party race since 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt came in second place to Woodrow Wilson, who ran for the Bull Moose Party. This actually just ended up spoiling William Howard Taft’s road to re-election.

The belief that a third party system of government would actually help our stalemate in Congress is wrong. A third party president would have a difficult time gaining the support of Congress because both Democrats and Republicans would be vying to dissemble him.

Don’t make this election more difficult than it has already proven to be. Three’s a crowd when you enter the voting booth.

Jakob R. Rodriguez is a journalism freshman


  1. Many are voting third party this year with an eye toward 2020, because getting 5+% of the national popular vote will qualify the party for federal election grant support next time around (which Democrats and Republicans already enjoy). So if you live in a non-swing state–or if Clinton is still at a huge advantage come Election Day–voting Libertarian or Green is clearly your best hope to make a difference.

    In any case, our country really needs a more competitive field to raise the bar from better-than-Trump. This could be achieved with ranked choice voting, a.k.a. instant runoff. This allows voters to indicate their preferences among all the candidates: 1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice, etc. If no one wins a majority of 1st-choice votes, the candidate who comes in last is eliminated and all votes for him or her *transfer* according to the 2nd choice picks of those voters. The process is repeated as necessary until someone has accrued >50 % (for more information, see fairvote.org/rcv).

    Under this system, we’d be empowered to cast our vote for the candidate we truly think is best, without fear of making victory more easily attainable for the one we consider the worst.

    If RCV had been used in 2000, enough of the votes Nader won would have transferred to Gore, putting him over the top.

    Bernie Sanders could have simply run as an Independent without fear of splitting the progressive vote. Likewise, Scott Walker could have competed as an Independent without fear of splitting the conservative vote.

    What’s more, had RCV been used this year in the primaries, Trump wouldn’t have been so dominant–and we’d probably have a different Republican nominee.

    The U.S. clearly needs a system better suited to races with multiple candidates, one that will give us outcomes more in keeping with the spirit of democracy and meritocracy.

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