I can’t vote for Trump, but have reservations about Clinton. And I’m not alone — both the Republican and Democratic candidates have net unfavorable ratings in public opinion polls. An ideal environment, it would seem, for either or both of the Libertarians and Greens, parties that, like a shirt stain that neither spreads nor disappears, stubbornly remain on the fringes of American politics.
Going third-party isn’t out of the question for me. John Anderson in 1980, Ralph Nader in 2000 — seems like I cast a protest vote every 20 years. And whenever I consider Jill Stein’s Green Party or Gary Johnson’s Libertarians, it’s like being on a blind date that’s going well. Hey, I don’t know much about you, but I dig some of your ideas. End the war on drugs! Abolish torture! Let women make their own reproductive decisions!
But then you ask a few more questions — seriously, you don’t believe in mandatory vaccinations? — and then some hard truths become evident about that person sitting in the Applebee’s booth across from you:
- Some of their ideas are just plain wacky. Stein believes Wi-Fi signals are a threat to students, and Johnson believes our nation’s gun laws are too restrictive. Well that’s…unique.
- They haven’t accomplished much, and their prospects for the future are dim. Both the Green and Libertarian parties have been around for decades, and they’ve never threatened to break the threshold (15% support in the polls) required to get on the presidential debate stage. And despite near optimal conditions this year for expanding their appeal, they have had no impact on the campaign. Maybe all you need is a some good luck.
- Fool me once… I was voting for the first time in 1980, and was politically naive; gimme a mulligan that year. Twenty years later, I was living in a state with a non-competitive race, and hoped my vote would propel the Greens to the debate stage in 2004. I don’t believe my vote enabled Bush the Younger to become President (he lost my state by a half million votes!), but this year, I’m not taking any chances. Hey, thanks for the invite, but I feel like I need my own space tonight.
In the current election cycle, third-party candidates had their opportunity in the summer, after the two major parties had their conventions and both of their candidates remained mired in their net unfavorable ratings. But Labor Day has passed, and the alternative parties have failed to broaden their appeal. I really do wish them well, and hope either or, ideally, both can make a serious challenge four years from now (when I will have entered what appears to be my cicadan rhythm for voting third party). But this year — sorry. Not happening.