Third party runs in the United States are like a Greek tragedy. Polls consistently show that many Americans want to see a third or more parties.
And yet not only do they continuously lose every single time but they always end up being portrayed as the spoiler candidate, the villain that got the other one in. Simply put in the electoral system of the US it’s practically impossible for a third party candidate to have a chance. The most successful attempt in history was in 1912 and that required the former president Theodore Roosevelt, and even then he only won 88 electoral votes and 27% of the popular vote.
That doesn’t mean that third party candidates are electorally insignificant. Third party candidates that are successful could end up swaying the election in very competitive swing states where the difference might come down to a percentage. The most notorious example being Ralph Nader who was accused of being a spoiler for Al Gore in the 2000 elections in the hotly contested Florida. Furthermore many third parties usually run not with the expectation to win but to simply spread their ideas and offering an option for those that can’t get themselves to vote for either two.
The 2016 election also saw third parties gaining a lot more attention and results than what is usually expected. With two very polarizing candidates and the advent of social media campaigning some candidates gained a lot more traction. The most notable ones being former Governor Gary Johnson running on the Libertarian Party, Physician Jill Stein running on the Green Party and former CIA operations officer Evan McMullin running as an independent Never Trump conservative.
So while the third parties are still doomed to lose they’ve seen some more mainstream growth. But will they see that growth again in 2020? Many seem to be saying that this election cycle is not the time for a third party candidate. Last election saw two unpopular candidates and no incumbency position being at stake. But now Democrats are adamant at beating Trump and Republicans have strong united to keep Trump in. So it is very likely that notable third party candidates will see a lot more backlash this time around.
So between the Republicans being Trump’s party and the Democrats having a 20+ candidate free for all who are the people that are willing to risk running as a third alternative? We’re going to be looking at candidates that are running, candidates likely to run and ones that have potential.
Among all the potential candidates former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has been the most high profile person who has been very serious about exploring an independent run and early in 2019 was already receiving media attention as if he was a candidate already.
Schultz pretty much presents himself as a Bloomberg-style centrist. One that combines fiscally conservative issues such as balancing the budget with socially left-wing issues on immigration and gun control. He pretty much tries to present himself as the sane centrist in the race between Trump-style populism and Bernie-style socialism. The issue for him however is that while he may see himself as the sane moderate between two extremes the reality is that his views seem to represent an out-of-touch neoliberal consensus that voters are moving more and more away from.
You may find a lot of people who are socially progressive and fiscally conservative in the Cato Institute but among the average American voter it’s a relatively small base.
That said Schultz would represent a notable threat for the Democratic party and they are very much aware of it. His attempt to run was met with massive backlash. An old white rich neoliberal trying to steal the thunder of the more left-wing diverse candidates as well as the fact that he could gain moderate Democrat votes made him the number 1 villain of the Democrats even more so than Trump at some point. All his tweets were met with negative replies and he even got heckled in interviews.
Of course for the Democrats the worries are warranted, even if he may not be popular he has a massive cash stack he can use to start a campaign with a very high profile and if only a few percentages of more upper class moderate Democrats go for him it would sway competitive states to Trump.
On the other hand some have argued that it could be Trump that gets spoiled with the possibility of moderate socially liberal Republicans voting for him.
2016 seemed like the year for the libertarians to make it big. They had two experienced former governors on their ticket against two polarizing candidates that were unpopular. But a humiliating national convention and an under performing campaign later and the party finds itself back on square one and is now struggling with infighting and an incompetent chairman.
Currently the libertarian primary has a poor line-up of candidates. With the exception of a state representative the candidates are either joke candidates, hold very fringe views or are running while being in exile.
Currently the candidate with the highest profile is John McAfee the founder of that anti-virus program who is running more of a troll campaign while being in exile in Cuba for tax related felonies. That being said this is pretty usual for the party as the more high profile serious candidates tend to announce much later into the primary and it is likely more will appear.
The candidate that is speculated the most is Michigan Representative Justin Amash. A former Republican who has been raising his national profile and showing some red flags that indicate a potential third party run. For one he gained nationwide attention for claiming that Trump engaged in impeachable conduct which made him an enemy in the Republican party including his partners of the Freedom Caucus. After that he left the party to become an independent. All of these could be signs that he’s planning a third party run. At this point he would have nothing to lose since he’s unlikely to get re-elected as a representative by this point. Other than his recent moves he has also been strongly speculated as a candidate due to his strong libertarian credentials, being regarded as the most Ron Paul-like Republican in congress. He would be someone that would neither be too moderate like Gary Johnson nor too radical as an anarcho-capitalist.
If he were to run it could end up spoiling Trump’s chances in Michigan which is a very vital and competitive state for his re-election bid.
Another candidate includes former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee who was a minor Democratic candidate in 2016 but switched to the Libertarian Party this year. He would likely however face criticism for being a Bill Weld style moderate and having switched parties 4 times by now. Mises Institute senior fellow Thomas Woods who has been very critical of the party’s current chairman has also be considered by activists.
The Greens have always been notorious for being accused of playing the spoiler for the Democratic party. That said with the increasing demand among Democrats to have a progressive candidate the party could take advantage if they end up nominating someone like Biden. Unfortunately for them Jill Stein the party’s face for the 2012 and 2016 elections has declined to run leaving them with no big names.
The most notable candidate so far is Youngstown board of education member Dario Hunter, an “openly gay black son-of-an immigrant Jewish rabbi.” Yes you read that right. Other candidates include Howie Hawkins a co-founder of the Green Party who won a humble 1.7% in the 2018 New York gubernational election and 2016 Green Party candidate Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza Curry.
Another potential candidate includes former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura who was able to win a gubernational election as a third party candidate and has flirted with the idea of a presidential run before. His run could make Democrats sweat as it could spoil their chances in Minnesota which they barely clinched last time.
The Green party could also potentially get minor Democratic candidates on board if they fail to win the nomination such as Marianne Williamson who’s reputation as a weird spiritual author would perfectly fit the party or Mike Gravel the 88 year old former senator running a semi-serious campaign backed by Chapo Trap House fans who could continue to spite the Democratic establishment through a Green bid. Other than that the Green party does seem to lack notable all-start candidates.
The Constitution Party is the smallest of the three major third parties and as of now does not seem to have any candidates running for its nomination. It appears that Trump’s candidacy has largely taken over the party’s paleoconservative base as former candidates like Chuck Baldwin and Virgil Goode both endorsed Trump in 2016 over their own party’s nominee.
That said there are some potential candidates. The main one that comes to mind is coal baron Don Blankenship. Blankenship who calls himself “Trumpier than Trump” ran in the Republican primary for West Virginia Senate during the 2018 midterms where the GOP targeted Senator Joe Manchin. He was quickly denounced by Donald Trump as an unwinnable candidate over numerous controversies including calling Mitch McConnell’s wife a China person. After getting third place in the primary with nearly 20% of the vote he went for the nomination of the Constitution Party instead but was denied ballot access due to sore loser laws that prevent losers of a political primary from running on a different party.
Someone like Blankenship that can effectively out-Trump Trump himself alongside the name recognition could put the Constitution Party on the map especially for Trump voters that have found his first term disappointing.
Other potential candidates could include their 2016 presidential candidate Darrell Castle and Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller.
Other Minor Parties and candidates
Beyond the three main third parties there are a number of minor parties with little ballot access that are also expected to put forward candidates. The most notable one is the American Solidarity Party which is a relatively new political party based around European style Christian Democracy advocating social conservatism and mixed economics. The party actually has 3 candidates running in it’s primary such as Joe Schriner a perennial candidate that has become known as “Average Joe”, a Jeopardy finalist called Joshua Perkins and a 2018 independent candidate Brian T. Caroll. The Prohibition Party which is the oldest third party in existence and still to this day is trying to ban alcohol nominated an obscure writer called Connie Gammon.
There is still a long way to go before 2020 and more third party candidates and independents are likely to appear. But it remains to be seen how much their impact will be this cycle.
- John Hickenlooper Drops Out Of The 2020 Presidential Race - August 15, 2019
- White Nationalist Augustus Invictus Issues Primary Challenge Against Donald Trump - August 14, 2019
- The Potential Third Party Candidates Of The 2020 US Elections - July 17, 2019
- 10 Republicans Who Could Run In 2024 - July 4, 2019
- Labour Party holds Peterborough seat in incredibly close by-election - June 6, 2019