By James Calabresi ’20
Once upon a time the Republican and Democratic parties produced respectable candidates that the vast majority of their respective constituencies could support. Today, we find ourselves in a world where large amounts of the American public –– up to 47 percent, according to a Wall Street/NBC News poll –– for a third-party candidate in November. Some of these Americans want a second chance after what many are calling a “failed” primary process. Others are just tuning in now, wishing they could change the station or wake up from this bad dream.
For these disaffected Americans, Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party could be the perfect solution. As flocks of people argue over whether Clinton or Trump are worse, others find themselves turning to the trustworthy and earnest third-party candidates. Unfortunately for Stein and Johnson, the small amount of coverage they receive from the media may be too-little-too-late. In recent polls, both candidates failed thus far to reach the 15 percent threshold to qualify for the national debates. This lack of exposure could well lead to the negative cycle that pervades in third-party politics: the lack of media coverage yields loss of popularity.
So why vote for a third-party when you could use your vote to help stop Trump or Clinton? Johnson’s answer to that is seen in his viral “Balanced Rebellion” advertisement, which features Abraham Lincoln beseeching the public to vote Libertarian. Old Abe tells you that your vote won’t go to waste because if you vote for Clinton to stop Trump, someone else will vote for Trump to stop Clinton. With both of you promising to now vote third-party, the rebellion is “balanced.” Such novel ideas are crucial to gain coverage and attention for third-party candidacies.
Although Jill Stein attracts many ex-Bernie Sanders fans, she still has trouble gaining widespread attention and continues to protest the lack of media coverage covering her campaign. Bold public acts like these help Stein gain name recognition and do capture media attention, even if it is negative. She was recently ‘caught’ by the media spray painting a bulldozer over the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.She plans to protest the 15 percent threshold for debates by attending a picket-line outside the first presidential debate. For young voters, these third-party candidates are the future. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that among Millennial voters aged 18-34, 31 percent would vote for Clinton, 29 percent pledged to vote for Johnson, 26 percent for Trump, and 15 percent for Stein. The results of polls like this are important to Republican and Democratic officials because Millennials are one of the largest generations in U.S. history. Millennial votes could shape the future of these parties. Unfortunately, many Millennials are unhappy with the results of this primary race. Many Democrats are dismayed by recent DNC leaks, pointing to a potentially ‘rigged’ Democratic primary, while traditional Republican voters are upset that their party could embrace such an abrasive nominee as Donald Trump. With an increase in support from Millennials, either major candidate could eke out a win in November, but the question remains: is it too late for a third-party candidate?
By James Calabresi ’20