Presidential election season is here again. MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN will soon run “Election Central” segments non-stop. This can get a bit repetitive, especially once the primary candidates are nailed down and suddenly America knows everything there is to know about the two candidates.
The two-party system in America is a relatively new concept. President George Washington, in his farewell address, warned of the dangers of political parties.
In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate and won 27.8% of the vote, even beating out incumbent Republican President William Taft. In the same year, Eugene Debs won 6% of the vote while he was in federal prison.
Even as recently as 1992, Independent Ross Perot won 19% of the votes. Because he grabbed many votes that might have normally gone to President Bush, he is credited with having swung the election to Clinton.
But now, third-party candidates have considerably less to do with the election process. Look at the 2012 Presidential Election. Other than President Obama and former Governor Romney, could you have named any other candidate that ran for president?
Few could. The leading third-party candidate, Gary Johnson, won around one million votes or just under 5% of the vote. Johnson is a member of the Libertarian Party, a political faction that has been growing rapidly in recent years due to Ron Paul’s cult popularity.
The Green Party, headed by 2012 Candidate Jill Stein, had its Presidential Convention in Baltimore. Stein received less than 2% of the votes.
There was also Virgil Goode, who ran for the Constitution Party, Rocky Anderson for the Justice Party, and Peta Lindsay for the Socialism and Liberation Party. They all combined to win 1% of the vote.
The third-party candidate’s legitimacy has become more and more damaged over recent elections. And, it doesn’t help when Perennial Candidates like Vermin Supreme or Jimmy McMillan (of The Rent is Too Damn High Party) who are some of the most recognized candidates.
Jokes aside, third-parties in Presidential elections are integral to the process. As the United States grows larger and larger, a wider range of political opinions needs to be represented.
Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and maybe a handful of other people could, inevitably, be the next president, and that’s fine. The fact of the matter is, however, that third-party candidates inspire finer-tuned candidates, more defined platforms, and ultimately better presidents.