So, it is now official: the two candidates vying for President of the United States are Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican). One of those two will be the next president, as will be decided by the voters on 8 November 2016.
Neither of these two seem overly popular. Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are between 55% – 57%, while Trumps are between 57% – 62%. So, are there other choices? What about 3rd party candidates, you ask? Okay, I keep hearing a couple of names bandied about, so here is my take.
First, it is important to note that no third-party candidate has ever won a U.S. presidential election. That’s right … since the first presidential election in 1789 until present day, 227 years, 56 elections, no third-party candidate has ever won the office of president. The strongest showing for a third-party candidate came in 1912, when former President Teddy Roosevelt left the Republican Party. He ended up coming in second, with 27.4 percent of the popular vote and 88 electoral votes.
Add to that the fact that neither of the third-party candidates in this race are particularly well-known, and the odds that either would be elected go from slim-to-none. Although there are some 16 independent candidates, only two have surfaced as being semi-viable candidates: Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. A brief look at both:
- Jill Stein is an American physician, activist, and politician. She is currently the Green Party’s presumptive nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election. Stein was the nominee of the Green Party for President of the United States in 2012, and was twice a candidate for Governor of Massachusetts—in 2002 and 2010. She received 469,501 votes in 2012 (0.36% of the total votes). On June 22, 2015, Stein formally announced her candidacy for the Green Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. Stein has polled as high as 7% in general election polling. Stein has asserted that it is “hard to say” whether Trump or Clinton is the “greater evil”. She has asserted that the “two corporate parties”, the Democratic party and the Republican party, have converged into one and the same party.
- Stein advocated a “Green New Deal”, in which renewable energy jobs would be created to address climate change and environmental issues; the objective would be to employ “every American willing and able to work”. Stein said she would fund the start-up costs of the plan with a 30% reduction in the U.S. military budget, returning US troops home, and increasing taxes on areas such as speculation in stock markets, offshore tax havens, and multimillion-dollar real estate. She is in favor of cancelling all student debt, wants to cut U.S. military spending by at least 50%, and wants to close US overseas military bases. Stein calls for pardoning Edward Snowden, and has said that she will put him on her Cabinet if elected President. Stein proposes to make the United States transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and supports a national ban on fracking. She has spoken against nuclear energy, saying “nuclear energy is dirty, dangerous and expensive, and should be precluded on all of those counts”. Stein argues in favor of a “Medicare-for-All” healthcare system. She has been highly critical of Israel, accusing the Israeli government of “apartheid, assassination, illegal settlements, blockades, building of nuclear bombs, indefinite detention, collective punishment, and defiance of international law.”
My take? Her platform is incomplete, with no mention of immigration, and very little to the social issues facing the nation today. Additionally, much of what she proposes is unrealistic. She does not have experience in governance and no real qualifications for the job.
- Gary Johnson is an American businessman, politician and the Libertarian Party nominee for President of the United States. He served as the 29th Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003 as a member of the Republican Party. He was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 election. Two years ago, when asked whether he would run as a Libertarian or a Republican in 2016, he stated that “I would love running as a Libertarian because I would have the least amount of explaining to do.”
- Johnson’s views have been described as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Johnson has said he favors simplifying and reducing taxes, and during his governorship, Johnson cut taxes fourteen times without ever increasing them. Johnson has said that he supports balancing the federal budget immediately, and advocates “slashing government spending”, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and would cut Medicare and Medicaid by 43 percent. He opposes foreign wars and pledged to cut the military budget by 43 percent in his first term as president. He would cut the military’s overseas bases, uniformed and civilian personnel, research and development, intelligence, and nuclear weapons programs. Johnson is a strong supporter of civil liberties and received the highest score of any candidate from the American Civil Liberties Union for supporting drug decriminalization while opposing censorship and regulation of the Internet, the Patriot Act, enhanced airport screenings, and the indefinite detention of prisoners. He has spoken in favor of the separation of church and state. Johnson endorsed same-sex marriage, but opposes Roe v. Wade, and is opposed to gun control.
While he has more experience than Stein, some of his proposals are impractical at best. But then, nearly all of Trump’s proposals are impractical, if not impossible, so …
Now on to the real topic here … do either of these two have a realistic chance of winning the election? In a nutshell, no. Ballot access in states and rigorous requirements to enter the general election debates, the Electoral College, and the lack of a clear ideological opening make this talk little more than a protest. In 1992, Ross Perot won 20% of the votes, but failed to win a single state.
That said, there is one scenario under which an independent could actually win the presidency. If neither Clinton nor Trump win an absolute majority, then the new House of Representatives would select the winner. Assuming that a third-party candidate had won at least one state, he could, conceivably be chosen to be the president. Some believe, given the unpopularity of both Clinton and Trump, that this is a realistic scenario. Personally, I doubt it, but then in this topsy-turvy election year, I have been wrong more often than I have been right, so who knows?
If any third-party candidate has a chance, it would be Johnson over Stein, as his poll numbers are significantly higher than hers. Most polls rank Stein at 3%-4%, as opposed to Johnson who, though he is showing 13% in one poll, averages 6%-10% in all other polls. (Data source: RealClearPolitics) In order to participate in the debates, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) requires that candidates poll at 15 percent in five national surveys leading up to the three scheduled debates and that they garner enough spots on state ballots to chart a path to the White House. If Johnson does not meet the above criteria, he will not participate in the debates, in which case he has little or no voice on the campaign trail.
In short, I do not expect a third-party candidate to win the election, but a credible candidate like Johnson may well have an effect on the results. But that is a story for another day, as this post is already too long.
2016 General Election Debate Schedule:
- 26 September – 1st Presidential debate – Hampstead, NY
- 04 October – Vice Presidential debate – Farmville, VA
- 09 October – 2nd Presidential debate – St. Louis, MO
- 19 October – 3rd Presidential debate – Las Vegas, NV