For the last 164 years, a Republican or a Democrat has been President of the United
Since Millard Fillmore stepped down as the last Whig party president, no third party
has ever come close.
Theodore Roosevelt, who had already been president as a Republican, couldn’t even win the 1912
election under his own Bull Moose Party.
Yet thousands of people vote for third party candidates every four years, so does a third
party really have any chance of winning the election?
Well, polling from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News show that in fact, 47% of Americans
would consider a third party candidate in light of the 2016 election.
And as relatively recently as 1992, Independent candidate Ross Perot received nearly 19% of
the popular vote against Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.
But winning the presidency isn’t just about support, it’s about working within election
rules, and that pushes a lot of third party candidates out.
One major block is that Democrats and Republicans are automatically listed on the ballot in
all states, while third party candidates need thousands of signatures.
Additionally, third party candidates must get at least 5% of the vote in a general election
in order to receive federal funding the following election cycle, which hasn’t happened in
over twenty years.
In the 2016 election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein is required to raise at least $100,000
across at least 20 states in order to receive access to the federal Presidential Election
But the biggest reason third party candidates usually have no shot at the Presidency is
because of “first-past-the-post” voting, which is how the US elects candidates.
Basically, the president is elected from a set number of people on a ballot, and whoever
gets the most votes wins.
But according to a political principle called “Duverger’s law”, this system invariably
leads to a two party majority.
This is because by casting only one vote for one winner, backing a candidate who might
lose would be throwing away your vote, and third party candidates threaten to divert
support from the other two parties.
So, instead of voting third party, people often end up voting against the candidate
they dislike, ensuring two parties stay in power.
However, other countries, like the UK, have proportional representation.
Instead of voting for the Prime Minister directly, citizens can vote for members of parliament
from different parties.
The majority party then appoints their leader as the PM.
But as opposed to the US, voting third party isn’t an automatically wasted vote.
Third party representatives are often elected as MPs, where they have political influence
regardless of their party’s small size.
But chances are, such a system wouldn’t be implemented in the US, as the Republican
and Democratic parties are massive establishments with huge amounts of money and power behind
them, and they’re the ones setting the rules.
Despite popular support, as long as those rules favor a two party system, chances are
there won’t be a viable third party candidate for a long time.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter in the current election, and if you want to
keep up with all the candidates, not just Trump or Hillary, you can catch me and the
rest of The Young Turks live on YouTube Monday through Friday at 6pm eastern/3 pm pacific.
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