Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are experiencing record breaking disapproval ratings. ABC News reports seven out of ten Americans view Trump unfavorably, while 55 percent view Hillary unfavorably. It stands to reason that voters are looking for options, not just in candidates but in their political parties. Many experts are saying this might be the year for third party options.
Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are the Libertarian and Green Party candidates, respectively. The Libertarians are saying they will be on the ballot in all 50 states by November. That would give Johnson a fighting chance against Trump and Clinton. The Green Party is working diligently with the same goal in mind. They, too, have hopes of making the ballot in all 50 states for Stein, but it isn’t easy. In fact, getting on the ballot in all 50 states is a herculean task for a third party, as the Green Party’s Rick Lass explains to CounterPunch. The green party is currently on the ballot in 22 states and DC.
“Yes, we’re actively petitioning in 25 and expect to be petitioning in all 28 very soon. We fully expect to get on the ballot in all but three states due to our petition drives, and in three states we’ll probably litigate because their petition requirements are so onerous… North Carolina… requires 89,000 signatures.”
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are historically unpopular, but the feeling runs far deeper. The Democrat and Republican parties are also at an all-time low on their approval. A little-cited fact appears on Huffington Post, revealing that only 30 percent view the Republican party favorably while 60 percent view them unfavorably. Only 45 percent of voters view the Democratic party favorably while 46 percent view them unfavorably.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have a huge advantage over Gary Johnson and Jill Stein because their parties are frequently viewed as the only viable choices. In the past, third parties were not on the ballot in all 50 states. They get virtually no publicity from the mainstream media and their nominees are often excluded from televised debates.
The differences matter. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump got far more media attention and publicity earlier in the election than other candidates, and now they are the reported nominees. Still, the Internet is proving to be a great equalizer for outsider and third party nominees. Bernie Sanders proved, with his high approval ratings and undying support among young voters, that the Internet will soon surpass TV for providing voters with information on candidates.
Gary Johnson and Jill Stein will have to work a lot harder for every vote they get than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. First, third parties have to petition states every four years, unless their candidates get a certain percentage of votes in the state. Then, they have to oppose Clinton’s thick wallet full of superPAC money. They contend with media bias and an attitude within the general public that voting for them divides the votes, or “wastes” votes.
Hillary Clinton, in her race with Bernie Sanders, exemplified the kinds of biases third party nominees and outsiders face. Many voters do not research all their options and trust the evening news and television talk shows to give them all the facts. Media coverage of the majority of presidential primary candidates is nonexistent, and coverage of third party politics is even worse. The media narrows pubic choices. Coverage of media favorites like Clinton is typically biased.
Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are vastly ignored by the media. The media shows less than half of all primary candidates and generally shows no Green, Libertarian, or Socialist candidates. They often make a buffoon of at least one primary candidate, by filming them at all the wrong times. They tried this with Donald Trump, but for whatever reason, it had the opposite effect in the primaries. Then, they focus on someone like Hillary Clinton and ignore the rest. Remember Carly Fiorino? Most people don’t, but she was a Republican candidate in the 2016 Republican primaries.
With Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both running, no one is really a spoiler. We will have four parties now, on all or most of the ballots. With not one, but two viable alternative choices this year, voters could make a difference if they disregard media steering and vote according to their informed opinions. Voting for Hillary or Trump is fine if having researched, a voter finds they like the candidate’s views, and trust their character. If not it is hardly sensible to vote for them. The internet and social media could make a difference and volunteers could push this race toward a third party candidate. With Johnson and Stein each picking up both democrat and republican votes, America would not only have a four party race this election this year, but next time as well, giving these parties a chance to grow and provide more options for informed voters.
If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do not fit what a voter wants, then that voter has the responsibility and the right to seek out third party nominees like Johnson and Stein and support them. There are much more fruitful ways to express a loss of confidence in mainstream parties than to silently hate them. There are steps individuals can take.
Gary Johnson and Jill Stein would benefit greatly from just a little help from voters. Americans should proudly circulate and sign petitions for third parties getting on the ballot. They should push state legislatures to simplify the process of getting the third party and independent nominees on the ballots. Then, voters should research all the candidates and vote their consciences. American voters can treasure their right to vote, rather than choose a candidate they don’t like.
Unlike Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein represent a way to change the presidential election status quo.