Third party candidates have always been a bit of a question for me. How do they do in the races in which they participate? Has any third party candidate ever been elected to the presidency? What impact do they have in elections?
First, there has never been a third party candidate elected to the office of President, and this presidential election will be no different. Six third party candidates have been elected to statewide offices in our country. I am sure that lower level races may have more significant numbers of victories by third party candidates.
Third party candidates in national and even statewide races have served essentially two purposes: they have permitted the exercise of a person’s constitutional right and they have served to create ‘spoiler’ situations where the third party candidate took sufficient votes from one candidate to potentially have permitted another candidate the victory.
There is the temptation to suggest that third party candidates tend to be more spoilers than candidates in earnest. That may not be fair but it does work in that manner more often than not. Does a person have the right in our country to enter a race knowing they have no possibility of winning but just for the satisfaction of showing they disapprove of any and all the other candidates? Absolutely.
Third party candidates or those who favor third party candidates’ rights to act as candidates would dispel the notion these people are simply spoilers, even though properly motivated in most cases. Are there crackpot third party candidates? Absolutely, but not that we typically see in national or even statewide races. Are the third party candidates in lesser races crackpots? No, that is not what I am suggesting, but I would suggest that most see this quest as their right to tilt at windmills. And that is their right, thankfully, in this country.
We will have four options on our ballots for the office of President of the United States this fall. The Democrat, the Republican, the Green party, and the Libertarian party candidates. In order, those are Hillary Clinton (D), Donald Trump (R), Jill Stein (G) and Gary Johnson (L). I suspect there will be more votes cast for the ‘lesser of evils’, however we make that determination individually, this year. Will the Libertarian and Green party candidates have some impact on the Republican and the Democrat candidates? Will that impact center on one of the two major party candidates? Possibly, but we’ll never know the real answer.
Should we consider some kind of change to the rules to limit third party candidates in national races? That would fly in the face of our Constitution. Should we as voters give some additional thought to that candidate for whom we will cast a ballot? Yes, we are exercising a very important right when we vote. A ballot should not be cast for a person simply to deny another person that vote. A ‘spoiler’ vote does speak to the apparent quality of the other candidate or candidates, but that is a terrible way to rationalize our vote.
We have a very significant choice to make this fall. We know that the victor will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I also know, in my heart of hearts, what the likely governance of a President Hillary Clinton would be like. We know that the next President will set the tone of the United States Supreme Court for decades to come presuming the Congress honors his or her appointments. We know that our vote will be impacting our children, their children, and their childrens’ children for decades to come.
Throwing a vote away, which is the essence of voting for one of the lesser likely winners, is simply not something any of us adults ought to consider. If we cast our vote as an objection to one or both of the top two rather than as a positive vote for the one we want to win from those two, one of whom will be the most likely victors, we are casting our vote for a person we know will not win. We are pouting as we vote, and that is not a good way to view an election nor the selection of candidates. We might think an alternative is simply to sit out this election. That certainly is an option but that is not a good option. If you want Hillary Clinton as your next President, deciding to not vote is essentially giving a vote to Donald Trump. Deciding to vote Green or Libertarian, if you are a Democrat is the equivalent of a vote for Trump.
If you want Donald Trump as your next President, deciding to not vote is essentially giving a vote to Hillary Clinton, and so on.
Finally, you have to vote what your heart and your mind dictate. We cannot, in my less-than-humble opinion afford another Clinton as President, even if this would be the first female president; we especially cannot afford this Clinton as the next President. Try to picture your loved ones of younger ages in your mind’s eye as you pull the curtain closed or step into the voting booth and prepare to mark a ballot.
The next President of the United States will be making decisions that will impact this country throughout the lives of even your youngest children and of your grandchildren. This vote may well be the biggest thing you’ll ever do to influence their lives favorably, other than for your participation in their creation and their birth, whether direct or indirect.
I know this is the most important vote I will have cast for a President since I began to vote more than fifty years ago.