We’ve been asked to give the 3rd party candidates more attention. We’ve actually done several stories on Libertarian Gary Johnson, but we have hardly mentioned the Green Party’s Jill Stein. We’ll give her some attention, but first, let’s talk about the effect of third parties this year. Ordinarily, the Libertarian Party draws support from Republicans, and the Green Party draws from Democrats. But not this year.

Polls show Hillary leading Donald Trump with a drop-off when third candidates are included. In the newest RealClearPolitics numbers, for instance, Hillary is leading Donald Trump by 7 points, but with Johnson and Stein included, her lead drops to 4%, practically tied, considering the margin of error.

One mystery of the polls is why Johnson seems to take votes from Hillary, since he’s a former Republican governor. Seems to me, the answer is that those are “NeverTrump” voters. They’re not actually for Hillary, they’re just against Trump—and when given a Libertarian option, that’s where they go.

In other words, if they are “spoilers” this year, it will be because the Libertarian siphons off the conservative NeverTrump vote away from Hillary–and the Green will take the liberal NeverHillary vote from Trump!!

With all the fury of Bernie Sanders’ supporters, it’s surprising, but most of them have reportedly listened to him when he said switch to Hillary for the general election.

But not all. Sanders had strong support among young people, and Hillary is counting on those young supporters, but a new McClatchy-Marist poll says a full 40% of young people plan to vote third-party this year.

This surge in support for Johnson and Stein comes as both major-party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, continue to struggle to establish a firm support among young people. While Clinton is viewed as basically dishonest and untrustworthy by a major section of these voters, Trump’s recent antics have meant that his already fledgling support among millennials has taken an even greater toll.

During the nominating season, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders dominated support among millennials by a long stretch among all the presidential candidates still left in the fray as late as early June. His policy positions, which included tightening the reins on Wall Street and bringing sweeping reforms on healthcare, coupled with his promise to abolish student debt once and for all, had made him an overwhelming favorite among young voters tired of growing corporatism in establishment politics.

Yes, it’s just Hillary’s problem, because among the four candidates, McClatchy says Trump is the fourth choice of young people.

Trump young voters WaPo

Trump young voters WaPo fox news

Trump young voters WaPo tie

Even though Johnson is taking votes from Clinton, Trump, oddly, does not want the Libertarian Party in the debates.

That is odd, since Trump did the best when he had many people on the stage–and he refused to debate anyone one-on-one, such as Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders.

So if third party candidates are becoming so important, shouldn’t they automatically be on the debate stage, instead of first having to show 15% support nationally? A Bush-appointed judge says no, throwing out a lawsuit brought by Johnson and Stein supporters.

(We have suggested that a better requirement would be to allow all candidates who are on enough state ballots to conceivably win 270 electoral votes.)

The major parties don’t like the idea of including third parties. They’ve had the system to themselves for almost all of American history. When a third party candidate is popular, the argument is that that candidate is just a “spoiler,” who has no chance of winning, but helps defeat the candidate most like them.

Ralph Nader took a lot of heat in 2000, when people said he cost Gore the election. He bristles when people say he elected Bush. And it’s apparently not true, anyway.

The conventional thinking goes like this: Nader voters lean left and Gore is to the left of Bush, therefore votes for Nader would have gone to Gore. But leftist academic Tim Wise pushed back on this summation in 2000, writing that “Exit polls in Florida, conducted by MSNBC show that Nader drew almost equally between Gore, Bush, and ‘None of the above,’ meaning his presence there may have been a total wash.”

Others say that voting third-party is just a wasted vote. But maybe not.

So, is a vote for a third-party candidate a “wasted vote”? Absolutely not! As none other than Gary Johnson himself said — paraphrased — a vote for Johnson (or any other third-party candidate) is not a wasted vote. A vote for a candidate that you don’t believe in is a wasted vote.

Here are three other reasons why a vote for a third-party candidate is not a wasted vote.

The Fallacy Of The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. . .If everybody assumes that a third-party candidate doesn’t stand a chance, and thus doesn’t vote third-party, then of course the third-party candidate doesn’t stand a chance!

Gary Johnson Actually Stands A Chance. . . Johnson is polling in double digits in some polls, and should he reach 15 percent in the polls, he’ll be invited to the national debates. . . Johnson’s candidacy could attract more supporters from both sides of the aisle, siphon votes from Trump and Clinton, and win the White House fair and square.

[Winning in the House]. . .[If] Trump or Clinton fail to get 270 electoral votes. . .the House of Representatives would vote for the next President. Currently, the House leans heavily in favor of Republicans, but many of those Republicans are turned off by Trump.

The New York Times did a nice retrospective, showing the fortunes of third parties, going back to 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive (“Bull Moose”) Party received 27% of the vote, in a four-candidate race. And no one expected Harry Truman to beat Tom Dewey in 1948, because the Democratic Party had split into three parties, with Strom Thurmond winning four states and 39 electoral votes. On the other hand, Hubert Humphrey did lose to Richard Nixon in 1968, when Democrat George Wallace took five states and 46 electoral votes. The story also covers other third-party runs.

Should you vote third party? Some say it dooms the lesser of two evils. Others say it’s a wasted vote, since a new party hasn’t won since the Democrats split in three in 1860, allowing the new Republican Party to win. But if everyone thinks a third party will lose, that dooms the candidate you really want. Maybe you should just forget all the strategy and do what Cruz said: vote your conscience. Or, as Lewis said in the Movie, The American President: “vote your conscience, you chicken-sh*t lame-*ss!”

Add Comment | Follow us on Twitter and Facebook
Filed in: 2016 Tagged in:
Goethe Behr is a Contributing Editor and Moderator at Election Central. He started out posting during the 2008 election, became more active during 2012, and very active in 2016. He has been a political junkie since the 1950s and enjoys adding a historical perspective.

Subscribe Via Email

Sign up for instant election alerts and the latest content delivered to your inbox: