Third-Parties: Candidates and Controversies
In the 2020 election, enthusiasm for either of the major party candidates is relatively low; 56% of Biden supporters and 19% of Trump voters support their candidate mainly because they’re not the other candidate. Despite this, the controversy of voting for a third party or independent candidate is as prominent as ever. To help WHS students find candidates and parties that truly represent their interests, I seek to debunk several myths about third parties and present students with all of their options.
Myth #1: “Voting for anyone but Biden is a vote for Trump.”
For starters, this myth is not limited to the Biden v. Trump election. The idea of third-party candidates “splitting the vote” has been around for decades. However, with defeating Trump as top priority for a majority of Biden supporters, this idea is gaining even greater traction this year. Biden supporters claim that third-party candidates are “taking away” votes from Biden. This claim falls under the false assumption that supporters of third parties prefer Biden over Trump. Historically, the third party vote has split evenly between would-be Democrats and Republicans. In the 1992 election, independent Ross Perot secured an astonishing 19% of the popular vote, making him the most successful third party candidate in the past century. At the time, Perot was blamed for taking votes from incumbent George H.W. Bush and allowing Bill Clinton to win the election; however, exit polling shows that, of Perot’s voters, 38% would’ve voted Bush, 38% would’ve voted Clinton, and 24% would not have voted. Similarly, in 2016, most polls resulted in the same number of victories for Trump and Clinton with or without third party candidates included.
Myth #2: “A vote for a candidate other than a Democrat or Republican is a useless vote.”
This myth assumes that winning is the only important factor in an election. While that may be true for the two major parties, who don’t have to prove their relevance, there are several benchmarks of the popular vote that allow third parties to gain relevance, even if they don’t win the election. If a party obtains 5% of the popular vote, they receive federal funding in the next election, getting more funding the more of the vote they get, up to 25%. At 25%, that party is considered a major party and receives equal treatment as the Democrats and Republicans in the next election. Additionally, if a candidate is polling at 15% or higher, they’re guaranteed a spot on the general election debate stage. Besides these benchmarks that give a direct boost to third parties, more votes means more recognition, which means more exposure, which means more votes.
Each voter has a unique perspective on politics and the election, so suggesting their votes inherently help any candidate besides the one they voted for is both ignorant and historically incorrect. Additionally, voting for a candidate with a low chance of winning still helps their party in the long run; thus, the only “useless” or “wasted” vote is one for a candidate who you don’t think will improve the country. The two most prominent third parties, the Libertarians and the Greens, are covered thoroughly in the main article on the election. Two other parties have also made the Illinois ballot this year.
The American Solidarity Party is an appealing option for devout Christians who don’t feel either main party represents their values. They support socially conservative laws such as an abortion ban while also standing for more left-wing ideas like stronger welfare programs. Meanwhile, the Socialism and Liberation Party fully commits to far-left policies. The party believes that capitalism is beyond reform and that the U.S needs to embrace socialism: an economy completely owned and controlled by the government. There are many other parties and candidates out there that cover all kinds of views. So if you’re tired of the same two parties winning every election, don’t be afraid to explore other options. Your vote counts, no matter who it’s for.