The Third-Party Option

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The Third-Party Option

In a contentious and often disappointing election year, many voters may consider third-party candidates.

In a contentious and often disappointing election year, many voters may consider third-party candidates.

Gary Johnson and Jill Stein

In a contentious and often disappointing election year, many voters may consider third-party candidates.

Gary Johnson and Jill Stein

Gary Johnson and Jill Stein

In a contentious and often disappointing election year, many voters may consider third-party candidates.

Connor Price, Staff Writer

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This year has proven to be a significantly heated election year, often stirring contention as a result of highly divided reactions to hot topic issues and policies being discussed by the candidates. As with the majority of the previous years’ elections, the two major party candidates – Senator Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – maintain a powerful lead over third-party candidates.

In this election, however, third-party candidates have carved a unique path in the political sphere. In such a divided and tension-filled race with two candidates with whom many are dissatisfied, third-party candidates offer different and possibly refreshing political stances. Despite the fact that, in all likelihood, one of the major party candidates will endure the crucible and win the election, third-party candidates play a pivotal role in the political process.

The two key third parties in the 2016 election are the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, which have gained a considerable amount of attention through their candidates, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, respectively. Both represent a considerable group of voters, Stein having secured many with her emphasis on climate change and liberal policies, and Johnson with his libertarian philosophies and conservative ideals. The major party candidates’ historically low approval ratings have played to  Stein’s and Johnson’s advantage thus far. Many Democrats, unhappy with Clinton’s nomination for the party over Senator Bernie Sanders, lean towards Stein, while many Republicans and moderates alike favor Johnson.

Though a comparatively small percentage of voters do end up voting for these candidates, third parties’ impact on presidential elections has proven significant. Most notably, many Democratic supporters voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in the 2000 election, taking votes that would have otherwise gone to Al Gore, thus propelling George W. Bush to the Oval Office. Recent polling has suggested that the 2016 race will be as narrow as ever. Furthermore, many political scientists have noted a trend in registered Democrats and Republicans voting for either Stein or Johnson.

With Clinton and Trump neck-and-neck in the race, many analysts have placed their hope in these unlikely third-party candidates – not to win the election, but to alter and improve the political process. Both Stein and Johnson have unique individual followings, much of which results from general discontentment with the major parties. Only time will tell as to what extent the third-party campaigns will play in the culmination of this election and in those of the future.

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