It’s hard to deny that both of our main presidential candidates are less than ideal. Faced with the prospect of choosing between "the lesser of two evils," many people are seeking another option: third-party candidates. In the past, third-party candidates have never really been serious contenders. But it seems that in this election, they’re getting a lot more attention and consideration.
Many people believe that the third party candidates could be the happy medium between Clinton and Trump’s polar opposite policies. But voting for a third party candidate isn’t the perfect compromise that you’re seeking. I hate to break it to you, but there really isn’t a way to compromise. Voting for a third party candidate in this election isn't going to do any good.
Now, I’m not saying that Jill Stern and Gary Johnson are bad candidates. They might align more closely with your values than Clinton or Trump does, and that’s great. Under different circumstances, even Bernie Sanders could be a great option for a write-in.
I’m not trying to limit your freedom of expression either. If you really want to vote for an alternate candidate to make your voice heard, I can’t stop you. In this election, however, it’s not going to do much good. It’s too late in the game to make a difference.
Statistically, it’s next to impossible for a third party candidate to win. In fact, the last president to win by running as a third party was George Washington. In 1789. And a third-party candidate hasn't managed to win any states since 1968. The latest numbers show that about 48 percent of Americans support Hillary Clinton, and 37 percent support Trump, with Gary Johnson and Jill Stein holding the remaining 7 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Johnson and Stein would have to sway the opinions of millions of decided voters in a matter of days. To even be allowed to take the stage during a debate, a candidate must be polling nationally at 15%, and neither Johnson nor Stein has managed to do that.
Voting for a third party candidate won't help that candidate, but it will hurt one of the two main candidates. Voting for a third party candidate causes something called the “spoiler effect.” Essentially, votes for third party candidates take away from the votes of the major candidate on their end of the spectrum. And while this kind of voting is great for rebelling against the system, it’s not so great for electing a president to run the country.
Maybe the Independent, Green, or Libertarian parties will push out the Republican or Democratic parties in the future. Maybe our political system will change to allow for more parties to be serious contenders. But right now, we have a two-party system, and that isn’t going to change in the limited time before this election. So while you may enjoy the small moment of rebellion voting for a third party, when you wake up the next morning, either Clinton or Trump will still be the new president. This system all we've got, and it works better when you play by the rules and vote for one of the two main candidates.
If you're less than thrilled about the choices for president, keep in mind that the president can't get anything done without the approval of Congress. And guess what? You can vote for the members of Congress! So make sure that you vote for your state representatives on this year's ballot, because they're the ones that will make sure the new president hears your voice.