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Spotlighting the Third Party Candidates

Updated on July 13, 2016
RJ Schwartz profile image

I'm on the right side of politics and enjoy a good debate on government, the economy, common sense, and the rights of the people.

Now that Bernie Sanders has endorsed his formal rival Hillary Clinton, the press is abuzz with comments, questions, and criticisms. Some Sander's supporters are still trapped in the denial stage; lamenting Bernie dropping out of the race before the Convention and making his case to be the nominee. Others are looking backwards into the messages Bernie spoke along the campaign trail, and wondering if he went too easy on attacking Hillary's record. While still others are just stuck in the limbo of “what just happened?” and not ready to make a decision on where they will put their loyalties in the future. Both candidates left in the race are already making a plea to Sander’s supporters in the hopes that they will shift their allegiance to them. Donald Trump is on social media pointing out how Hillary in entrenched in big money, part of the global minded thinking group, and untrustworthy. And although she hopes to get them, Mrs. Clinton is realizing that not all Sanders supporters automatically come with Bernie’s endorsement. She did have a joint campaign stop with Senator Sanders recently but both looked very uncomfortable during their time together. Across the media, there are numerous polls circulating since the announcement, with varying results. Some have Sander's supporter's overwhelmingly going for Clinton, others have them splinters, and still others have them totally against her. The only tangible results that all of the polls identify are that voters are taking a look at candidates outside of the two mainstream parties. Of those third-party candidates, two have risen to the top; Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson, a Libertarian.

Jill Stein - The Green Party

Jill Stein, the presumptive nominee of the Green Party is running a campaign based on her version of empowering the American people. Her platform consists of a “promise of democracy,” and it’s heavily tied to environmental issues as expected. Her “Power to the People Plan,” sounds very similar to the platform of the Democratic Party, but with defining extras. She lays out a vision of moving America from the “greed and exploitation” of corporate capitalism to a human-centered economy that puts people, planet and peace over profits.

Some of the highlights of her plan, in her words, are that it will end unemployment and poverty; avert climate catastrophe; build a sustainable, just economy; and recognize the dignity and human rights of everyone in our society and our world. Some of the highlights are the “Green New Deal,” which she expects will create millions of jobs by transitioning America to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, plus investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, and conservation. She really doesn't go too in-depth on how these jobs will be created, or what she'll do about all the newly unemployed her plan will create when the fossil-fuel based energy sector is eliminated. In her plan, jobs, and health care will be considers “rights” that everyone will have. She wants a guaranteed "living wage" for all jobs and expects to shift health care to a government controlled single-payer system much like many of the European nations.

She’s adamantly pro-union and wants guarantees to food, water, housing, and utilities for all citizens. She claims her anti-poverty programs will ensure every American a life of dignity. She wants to abolish student debt for everyone and guarantee free tuition for colleges, much like Senator Sander's plan. She also wants to eliminate standardized testing and private schools, forcing all children on the government mandated education system. She wants more governmental involvement in the financial sector. She wants the big banks broken up and the Federal Reserve democratized, although she doesn’t say how or really what that means. She’s a proponent of “racial justice,” in law enforcement by empowering the Federal Government to take the lead on policing. Additionally she’s a big supporter of most of the other Democratic talking points on social justice; expanding women’s rights, protecting LGBT from discrimination, creating a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants and more. She’s pro-marijuana, anti-fracking, anti-oil drilling, anti-nuclear energy, and anti-fossil fuels. She’s heavy to protecting public land, water supplies, and pollinators.

Aside from a few points that are outside the mainstream, Jill Stein and the Green Party are, on the surface, quite close to the message Bernie was speaking. Bernie was a Democratic Socialist and Jill Stein is an Eco-Socialist, both have their roots in a collective-type of world. She goes further than Bernie did with the push to make America totally green, but the message is still basically the same. Both candidates want everything to be free, yet neither can demonstrate that our nation has the means or the will to pay for those freedoms. She often mentions “democratic” in relation to her key talking points, which somehow suggests she is for everything to be voted on, sort of like a national co-op, but she's thin on the specifics.

Gary Johnson - The Libertarian Party

Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico as a Republican is the presumptive nominee for the Libertarian Party. In his public appearances, he focuses on differences from Hillary Clinton but says little about Donald Trump. His platform is focused on several key issues, which sound quite familiar with his Republican roots. He wants a balanced budget and to end wasteful spending in Washington. In fact, Mr. Johnson has pledged that his first major act as President will be to submit to Congress a truly balanced budget. One with no gimmicks, no imaginary cuts in the distant future, real reductions to bring spending into line with revenues, and no tax increases. He has pledged to veto any legislation that will result in deficit spending. He also wants to “fix” the tax code of the United States, something many in the past have campaigned on. Gary Johnson’s plan will overhaul the code and focus on a system that rewards productivity, investment, and savings. On the topic of job creation, Mr. Johnson claims to have the best record of any of the candidates running on creating jobs, although he doesn’t cite any specifics. He does show his disagreement with the many burdensome regulations that exist now which stifle job creation.

Gary Johnson is a middle-of-the-roader when it comes to immigration. He thinks the Trump wall will be a failure, but agrees that the open-borders plan favored by Clinton and the Democrats is also a failure. Gary expects he can clean up the problem with a simplified and secure system of work visas by which willing workers and willing employers can meet in a robust labor marketplace efficiently and economically. In his system, immigrants would undergo a background check, pay taxes and provide proof of employment. He would make it easier to enter the US for work, which seems counter-productive to his claim of being for American jobs.

On social issues, Gary Johnson has a wide viewpoint. He claims to support both sides of the abortion issue, but leans pro-choice. He supports the legalization of marijuana but no other drugs. He’s a strong supporter of school-choice and wants the Federal Government out of Education totally. He does however see the government as having a role in environmental issues. He is pro-energy but also anti-pollution. On the topic of climate change, he differs with many Republicans but his stance is quite vague and focuses more on whether chasing climate change with money is the right strategy. He’s also a big fan of reforming the criminal justice system to reduce the number of people in the system; mainly drug offenders. He cites the fact that we have “too many laws” which have contributed to the high level of incarceration in this country.

What Mr. Johnson is missing is the fact that he doesn’t really live up to the Libertarian ideals. His record in New Mexico as governor really doesn’t marry up with what he claims in his speeches. His website makes many mis-leading statements about his accomplishments and he has been accused of repeatedly using his role as a public officeholder to increase his own personal standing. The primary tenants of the party platform are autonomy, freedom of choice, individual judgement, political freedom, and voluntary association. Gary Johnson really doesn’t focus on any one of them, instead bringing a quasi-Republican approach to the stump and calling it something different.

Can a Third Party Candidate Win?

Of course, there are many more candidates that will appear on the ballot, many token ones, but nonetheless legitimate. The rift between American voters and the two-party system has never been as wide as it currently is, so these two will get more of the spotlight than expected. They both face the difficult hurdle of getting to 15% in at least five national polls to be included on the debate stage this fall, hopefully to square off with Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. Johnson has reached 10% in some polls and Stein as high as 6%, but the 15% threshold is still a long ways away and will be quite expensive to reach. The pundits expect Johnson will pull support from both parties, while Stein will mainly pull support from the Democrats. As far as a third party candidate winning the election, it’s possible but at this point neither one seems to have the momentum to achieve that feat.


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