Despite popular perception across the world that the electoral race in the U.S. is between two parties, this is not the case. There are other candidates apart from Democratic Party’s Hillary Clinton and the Republican Party nominee Donald Trump running for the post of U.S. President.
As the writer travels across three states from the capital city Washington DC to Virginia and finally Denver, Colorado the names of Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Green Party’s Jill Stein consistently find mention in conversations with University-going students.
It cannot be highlighted enough that the 2016 election polls consistently show that both mainstream party candidates are disliked more than they are liked i.e. the choice for American voters is who do they dislike more?
Hence, millennial being millennial, young voters across the country are choosing to make their dislike apparent by supporting candidates from smaller parties or referred to in common parlance as third-party candidates.
Both Johnson and Stein, are drawing away a lot of young voters from the two mainstream parties as – Trump has not managed to change his image of being brash and loud mouthed after the Presidential debate nor has Clinton managed to increase her appeal or trust levels with those skeptical of her.
In, 2016 the third-party candidates, are polling at their highest levels ever i.e. since pollsters started tracking American elections. Johnson also secured an endorsement from one of America’s oldest newspapers – Chicago Tribune.
Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party will have their names featured on the ballot box across all 50 states in the U.S. along with Trump and Clinton. There are about 30 more candidates whose names will be featured on ballot boxes on 20 or more states.
Gary Johnson – Libertarian Party
What does it mean to be Libertarian? Well, for a start the party is all about less government and more individual choices. If taglines were the draw then this is possibly the biggest reason most young voters see Johnson as a legitimate option.
But what apart from less government?
On abortion: Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
Government Finance and Spending: All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors…
Health Care: We favor a free-market health care system. We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want (if any), the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions…
To the writer, the Libertarian values seem a mish-mash of Democratic and conservative ones, with more leanings toward the right.
At the University of Virginia, the writer spoke to students who had set up a stall to canvas for the Libertarian candidate. Harrison Priman, a senior year student along with a college mate had set up a table outside the college cafeteria and the duo were enthusiastically debating points with anyone wanting more information.
Harrison says he officially joined the Libertarian party two weeks ago because he believed in Johnson’s pitch of building a society different from the one he lived in – the first step being a political system that allows someone other than from the two mainstream parties to lead the country.
Harrison is not alone in not identifying with either the democrats or the republicans –The number of un-affiliated voters in the country are at a record high – about 31% of those eligible to vote, which means there is growing space for a Gary Johnson. According to Professor Kenneth Bickers, University of Colorado, “Gary Johnson’s numbers have only been going up. What we know is third party candidates score about 8% (maximum) during voting but the polls show that Johnson at one point reached 12% which is unprecedented.”
Johnson’s political history includes a track record of being a conservative governor in the state of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, he also ran for President in 2012, as a Libertarian, and received just under one per cent of the vote
Johnson to his credit, is the highest ranked public official to call for a nation-wide legalisation of the use of marijuana – another draw for the millennials.
Despite Johnson’s popularity many experts argue that the poll numbers rarely translate into votes and many flocking to his side now might vote for a mainstream candidate. A two-way poll shows that many supporting Johnson could vote Hillary Clinton.
Jill Stein – Green Party
The Green Party’s message in three words is (seen on a t-shirt) – Rise. Resist. Revolt. In a slightly more lengthy note it calls itself the party of “grassroots activists, environmentalists, advocates for social justice, nonviolent resisters and regular citizens who’ve had enough of corporate-dominated politics. Government must be part of the solution, but when it’s controlled by the 1%, it’s part of the problem…Vote Green.
Suffice it to say it is a party of those on the left of the left. Hence, the party activists and the party itself is dismissed or atleast accused of being environmentalists and socialists –historically two very bad words in American politics but with Jill Stein that seems to be changing.
Dr. Jill Stein, their presidential candidate is a physician, an environmental activist and she also holds the current record for most votes ever received by a woman candidate for President of the United States in the general election (2012). Jill’s support base is largely young voters as climate change is relatively high on the list of issues that millennials care about.
Marcus, a graduate from Colorado State University explains his support for Stein, “For me Stein represents all that we need a political leader to be and green issues are big for me. I would also vote for Stein if you are talking about supporting her to bring in more women leaders at the top.” On pressing him about the fact that support for Stein might actually help Donald Trump, Marcus admits that he might just vote Clinton to prevent such an occurrence.
This is why Stein shows up with about 2% of the votes in the polls but most experts argue that this will be much less come voting day.
Even though there is increasing talk and support for third-party candidates, having one of them become the president of the country will take more than just popular support.
According to the Constitution of the United States, the President is not elected by popular votes but by winning the majority of electoral college votes. Hence, a candidate like Gary Johnson might win a sizeable number of votes from Americans, but he does not have any senators or congressmen at the state level to vote for him during the electoral college.
According to Faith Winters, a democratic party citizen legislator from Colorado, the way forward for third-party candidates is long and hard, “For most Americans the issues that they rally around is local. Third-party candidates have very little pan-country presence and they only show up during the big elections. They absolutely need to build up a grass-roots movement, get leaders into state councils before competing in the Presidential elections.”