Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Case for a Third Party

BY Jackson Rioux

We have reached the final stretch in the 2016 presidential election. A Sept. 6 poll via CNN/ORC showed Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by just two points.

Despite the close race, it seems like nobody is excited for either option. It’s hard to get your hopes up for anything after enduring a year of scandals, immature insults and utter incompetence between the two candidates. I’ve frequently heard people say, “Candidate A is terrible, but Candidate B is even worse, so I’m voting for Candidate A.” Is this really what American politics has turned into?

This presidential election has reminded me of a famous segment from the television show, “The Simpsons.” The episode aired on Oct. 27, 1996, just days before the presidential election between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. For those unfamiliar with “The Simpsons,” this episode was the annual “Treehouse of Horror” special. The “Treehouse of Horror” episodes always feature Halloween themes that place the characters in ridiculous — and hilarious — situations. This edition featured Bill Clinton and Bob Dole campaigning for the upcoming election. Everything is normal until two aliens, Kang and Kodos, kidnap Dole and Clinton. They disguise themselves as the two candidates through “bio-duplication” and begin campaigning in an attempt to enslave the human race.

The episode reaches a climax when both false candidates are exposed as alien impostors in front of the Capitol. Kodos, no longer disguised as Bill Clinton, tells the crowd, “It’s a two-party system, you have to vote for one of us!” The people in attendance obviously are mortified, with one even yelling, “Well I believe I’ll vote for a third-party candidate,” to which Kang responds, “Go ahead, throw your vote away.” In the end, the people don’t go the route of a third-party and are enslaved by President Kang. Homer Simpson sums it up best by saying, “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.”

The point of mentioning “The Simpsons” was not to suggest that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are merely extraterrestrial impostors. Instead, it was to show America’s reluctance towards taking any third-party candidates seriously. A third-party candidate has never won an election. The best performance for a third-party came over 100 years ago when Teddy Roosevelt finished with 88 electoral votes in 1912. If there ever was a year for a third-party candidate to make some noise, you would think 2016 would be it. “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both more strongly disliked than any nominee at this point in the past 10 presidential cycles,” according to the statistical website FiveThirtyEight.

Even with the historic dissatisfaction, only two third-party candidates are polling above 1 percent nationally. Libertarian Gary Johnson is at 7 percent, while the Green Party’s Jill Stein is at 2 percent, according to the Sept. 6 CNN/ORC poll. I’m not suggesting that Johnson or Stein are better candidates than Trump or Clinton. But how many of their policies can you name compared to the two main candidates? More Americans should be paying attention to third-party candidates. Although a third-party candidate won’t win in 2016, this election can be seen as an opportunity to build momentum for future elections. Voting for a third-party candidate isn’t “throwing your vote away,” as we’ve all heard so many times. Throwing your vote away is voting for a candidate you don’t believe in. America is one of the most diverse nations in the world, yet we’re left with only two parties to run it. Two parties speak for 318 million people. It’s Republican or Democrat. Left or Right. With relationships between Republicans and Democrats being more toxic than ever, perhaps going in a different direction isn’t such a bad idea.