Why Voters Think There are Only Two Candidates for President
It is 2016, and the presidential race is something on almost all American's minds. Who will you vote for? The woman who endangered American troops, and has repeatedly lied and manipulated to the American people? Or the man who has continued to create divides between Americans and will in all likelihood damage foreign relations. This election seems like a scary real life version of a certain South Park episode, and I believe many of you would agree. So in the midst of all of this political chaos, I have found something to be overwhelmingly true: voters believe these are their only choices on election day. American is not a two-party system the way politicians would like you to believe. In fact, early on there were many options for presidents. Technically speaking, a third party candidate has never won, but that is because at the time of George Washington and John Adams, Federalists were not a "third party". While no third party has ever won, this is not for lack of trying.
Governor George Wallace ran for president three times, and while it may be a good thing he never won, he eventually began running as a Democrat to try and attain more votes. More recently, Ross Perot ran twice in the '90's. A number of candidates ran in the decades surrounding the Great Depression, as people were looking for great change and reform. So why have they never been successful? Is there a way to change this and odd options for voters?
To start, modern media plays a crucial role in what voters know and more importantly who voters know. Unfortunately there are rules in place that marginalize third parties. Rules that require third parties to have received at least 15% of the vote in the previous election, otherwise they are not involved with mainstream debates and similar publicity. This is extremely damaging because of how difficult it is for third party candidates to get their platforms to the general public without any mainstream attention. With popular news and social media outlets being packed with articles about each new Hilary/Trump scandal, it is hard to wade through these and find different candidates. Additionally, third parties are not always listed on the ballet in all 50 states. In the 2012 election, for example, the third party candidate was only listed on 48 out of the 50. How could we expect someone to win if they are not even on the ballet in at least two states? Democrats and Republicans never mention these things of course because it would damage their chances of winning election/reelection. However there is some hope at the end of this dark, two-party, tunnel we have been living in.
This election cycle, a third party candidate, Gary Johnson, will be on the ballot in all 50 states. He won 1% of the vote in 2012, which may seem small, but this is fairly good for a third party candidate. In the current election, he has been doing very well (most likely due to the less than ideal popular candidates) and in a number of polls has received around 10%. This number is also not very promising, but the number increasing so drastically is due to voters educating themselves on what their options are and realizing that they do not have to conform to the status quo. Additionally, with another 5% Gary Johnson could be included in debates and mainstream interviews, which would allow him more visibility to the general population.
If you have posted article after article about how horrible the Republican and/or Democrat nominees are and complained countless times to friends or family about how limited your choices are, then I encourage you to explore the third party running this election. We are living in an age of divisions and the popular candidates are aiming to only increase those divides. We need a fresh look and a new way of doing things. If we all work together, if we work on getting the message out to others about a third option, image the change we could accomplish. Do not let people tell you that voting for third parties is useless because that plays into the hands of corrupt politicians. Let's work together to change history in this election, and open the path for more possibilities in the future.