Thinking about voting for a third party candidate? You might want to reconsider.
With both the major-party candidates scoring some of the most appalling favorability scores in recent memory, it should come as no surprise that frustrated voters (especially millennials) are threatening to shun both the DNC and GOP and “vote their conscience” for a third party candidate.
It’s a trend that has many a political pundit harkening back to the days of Ross Perot in the early 90’s- another election cycle famous for mass voter disappointment in candidate choices.
But there’s a problem with this comparison.
Neither Gary Johnson or Jill Stein have anywhere near the popular support that Perot did in 1992. While Perot was leading both Clinton and Bush with 3 9% of the popular vote in the summer of ‘92, he eventually ended with only 1 9% of the vote- and no states.
Compare this with the most recent combined polling numbers of Johnson and Stein, which have already fallen from 17% to below 9%, and it doesn’t take a statistician to see that the math on this isn’t going the way of a major-party upset.
There are many reasons for the lukewarm support third party candidates have been given during this election cycle, and I would venture a guess that very little of it has to do with the electorate warming up to the political attitudes of either Clinton or Trump.
In fact, according to Pew Research data, Americans have never been less on the same page as they are now.
For all the talk about how dissatisfied voters are with their choices of major-party candidates, the numbers suggest that ideology is becoming much more aligned with partisanship than it has been in the past. It’s not so much that voters want Clinton, it’s that they despise Trump, or vice versa.
Those on the left of the spectrum are moving further in that direction in increasing numbers, and those on the right are echoing this trend on their own side of the spectrum. The share of Americans who hold exclusively conservative or liberal values on key issues has doubled in the past two decades from 10% to 21%.
In short, we are seeing a dwindling of ideological overlap in our political system- and it’s eating the middle out of the nation’s compromise Oreo. Growing animosity on both sides has lead to
the belief that not only is the “other side” an unfavorable choice, they are a threat to the nation’s well being.
So what is one to do? What should the country do?
Unfortunately, I don’t think these are questions that we can reasonably expect answers to in this election. We’re coming at this from too far apart.
Much like the Democratic and Republican parties themselves, Americans at large need to do some serious soul-searching if we are to discover how to restore faith in our institutions, as well as decide how we want to proceed as a nation.
However, at the present moment the choice remains- Democrat or Republican? I won’t tell you how to vote, but I do think we need to be realistic. The fact is that one of these two parties will once again own the White House for the next four years, and the pragmatist in me says the closer the outcome, the worse off we’ll be.
We need to address the more fundamental problems facing our nation from a place of clean political air, at least in terms of a new administration. That can’t happen if we’re worried about a too-close-to-call presidential race- which may happen if we throw away votes on candidates that we have no good reason to think can win this election.
So as much as it pains me to say it, we’ve got two choices. In either case, the lesser evil is the necessary evil, at least for now.