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  • Krithika Bharadwaj

The Impact of Third Parties

This country is constantly changing for the better or for the worse, but what has remained relatively stagnant is the dominance of the two-party political system. Democrats or Republicans have consistently been reigning in big-ticket wins in congressional and presidential elections.

Third-party candidates are often overlooked in elections. The notion that voting for a third party is a waste of a vote is not a controversial statement to make in the realm of politics. In fact, it’s reinforced by Duverger’s law, a popular concept in the field of political science, which affirms the idea that voters refrain from “throwing away” their vote on an independent candidate.

Our country has had a number of political parties from the Whigs to the Progressives.

Their policies and support eventually merged into that of our famous two-party systems’ ideologies. So, many of the third-party platforms align with either the Democrats or the Republicans.

Many people are actually unhappy and agitated with the lack of choice on ballots and the rigidness of elections. Third parties are never shy of members running; so, what’s the problem? Their success rate is hindered by the difficulty of winning.

Our constitution is responsible for third parties rarely holding official positions high in office. Elections such as that of the electoral college are of the ‘winner takes all’ style. This style of election has been commonly known to promote the supremacy of the two-party system.

They rarely garner votes in presidential elections and if third-party candidates are lucky to do, it usually falls in the single-digit spectrum. Third parties simply don’t hold the recognition and ‘name’ that Democrats or Republicans do. Their ideas may reflect those of many Americans, but they just don’t have the support.

Since the winner takes all in the electoral college, if an independent won 10% of the popular vote, it is very likely that he/she still may have not won any electoral votes. This was the case for Presidential candidate Ross Perot in 1992. Despite gaining 19% of the popular vote, Perot failed to obtain any electoral votes.

There’s also closed primary elections which inevitably denies power to third parties. In open primaries, a voter does not have to be affiliated with a specific major or minor political party; however, this is not the case for thirteen states and Washington D.C. The latter bars independents from voting in primaries and can be thought of as a tactic to garner support and additional members for either one of the major political parties. Open primaries also tend to have more voter turnout. This shows a positive and direct correlation between third-parties and increased voter turnout.

The Pew Research Center finds that roughly 92% of Americans identify with one of the two major parties. Just based on this information, it would seem blasphemous to pour thousands of dollars into a campaign to run for the presidency as a third-party candidate.

Third-party candidates can also be used to ‘steal’ votes from either the Republican or Democratic party. One such candidate, George Wallace knew that he wasn’t going to win in the election of 1968, but he used his platform to hold votes from either major parties. Though Wallace’s campaign was rather chaotic and controversial, he wanted to emphasize his policies and separate himself from the herd mentality.

In our near election, many progressives are warning against voting for a third party as it will only help Trump to be re-elected. There was a substantial amount of backlash against rapper and designer, Kanye West who recently announced his candidacy as an independent. They believed that his new and unqualified campaign would only hurt Biden.

New third-parties have arisen since the beginning of this country, but little have had success in winning elections. If people want more choices in upcoming elections, the constitution has to be amended, as that will be the only way that third-parties get a fair right.

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