Third party candidates have gained much more visibility in this election than ever before. Petitions to include third party candidates in the normally two-sided presidential debates have gotten more traction as a result. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are perhaps the two most well-known third party candidates running in this election representing the Libertarian and Green Parties, respectively. Let's be honest though, could these candidates get enough votes to matter in the election, let alone become president? The answer is a firm no.
While scrolling through Facebook, one of my friends shared a transcript of Dan Savage's Savage Lovecast. It is fair to say that Savage and I are on completely opposite ends of the political spectrum. As such, I don't really read or listen to him when something pops up about him; however, the title caught my attention and I gave it a read. While I disagree with the diction used to explain his grievances with third party candidates, I have to agree with the points he made about how third parties operate in the US elections. I have said it would be a cold day in Hell when I agree with Dan Savage, so I hope Satan enjoyed his snow day.
This election has proved that many of us are tired of the two party system, yet we are so polarized we don't have much of an option if we really want our voices to be heard. Third parties can be a solution, but where are they? We see them pop up every four years, but what about in between those years? Currently, only 23 states have ever had a third party member of their state legislature. Presently, the number of seats for independent party members numbers in the single digits for all of congress. Even fewer are governors of a state. Since I became involved in politics in 2008, I have closely watched elections in Washington, Virginia, and Georgia. I have yet to see third party candidates campaign as hard for local and state level positions as I have seen them try for presidential elections. That is the point Savage and I agree on-- we don't see these candidates working from the bottom up. They are trying to climb to the top using a ladder that has no rungs.
This is not something that can be changed in the next four years. Third parties will need to unify and work from the ground up if they even want to influence the elections. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, this year will not be your year. Try again in the 2024 or 2028 elections when you have a better base built and America knows you better. We don't have to be a two party system forever, but it is up to the third parties and their constituents to get it together to make the change happen.