Beyond Red and Blue

Beyond Red and Blue

As we approach the much-anticipated 2024 presidential elections, the spotlight again falls on the often-overlooked world of political third parties. With registered voters contemplating their choices, it’s natural to wonder about the place of these alternative movements and how they will influence the trajectory of American democracy in the upcoming elections.

According to the U.S. Department of State, many experts believe that the 2024 elections will be tight, giving third-party candidates potential influence on voters. 

Building upon this anticipation, it is worth considering the historical precedent, which sheds light on the potential influence of third-party candidates in close elections. For example, when Ross Perot’s independent presidential campaign in 1992 gathered substantial support and significantly affected the dynamics of the race, Perot secured about 19% of the vote, the highest number that any third-party candidate has received since Theodore Roosevelt. 

Similarly, the 2000 race between Al Gore and George W. Bush is another example of how third-party candidates can have an impact on elections. It was a tight race, and the Green Party’s candidate, Ralph Nader, gained more than 2 million votes. Democrats blamed Nader for causing Gore’s defeat by redirecting votes simply because of his presence in the race.

“Ralph Nader got about 3 percent of the vote nationally, but that 3 percent came almost entirely from people who would have otherwise voted for Al Gore,” said Daniel Chand, Associate Professor of Political Science. “So, if he hadn’t generated the buzz that he did in 2000, the reality is Al Gore would have won. Al Gore lost the state of Florida by about 536 votes, and, Ralph Nader received thousands of votes in Florida. So if Ralph Nader hadn’t run, we would have had President Al Gore in 2000 as opposed to President George W. Bush.” 

According to the Pew Research Center, 28% of Americans find both the Republican and Democratic parties unfavorable, and 49% want to completely replace Biden and Trump all together.

In Ohio, third parties have specific rules they need to follow to get on the ballot. According to the National Association of Secretaries of State, third parties are required to tell the secretary of state who their presidential and vice presidential candidates are, along with their electors, 90 days before the election. Independent presidential candidates have to collect at least 5,000 signatures from registered voters and give them to the secretary of state by the same deadline.  

“We’re excited to see Ohioans have the chance to vote on the Citizens Not Politicians Amendment, an initiative that would ban politicians and lobbyists from drawing voting districts to benefit themselves by creating a citizens commission,” said Elisabeth Warner, Communications Coordinator, with the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

“It would be made up of 5 Republicans, 5 Democrats, and 5 Independents, finally giving voters who don’t identify with either party the chance for real representation in Ohio.”

said Warner

Third parties tend to bring new ideas to the table and to bring societal issues to light. They give a voice to people who feel overlooked by the two-party system and provide more options for voters to consider. 

“Voting for independent or third-party candidates can be a way to show support for issues Ohioans don’t see either major party leading on. On the other hand, voting for independent or third-party candidates can divert votes from major parties that share more of their values, potentially undermining the power of their vote,” said Warner. 

According to the Center for Election Science, the spoiler effect occurs when a third-party candidate gathers sufficient votes from a major-party candidate, possibly changing the election results. This commonly happens in tight races, leading to worries among voters about wasted votes and strategic voting tactics.

“The United States has what’s called a winner-take-all system. Let’s say we have three candidates running for a seat. They’re all strong, and they all have support from a significant number of people. One candidate gets 32%, one candidate gets 33%, and one candidate gets 34%. Well, that means the public is roughly equal between who they support for that race. But that candidate who gets 34%, wins the whole thing,” said Chand.

Beyond the typical party lines, the 2024 independent presidential candidates are Jill Stein, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Cornel West. With a focus on independent thinking, their presence in the race highlights a desire for diverse representation and innovative solutions in the political landscape.

Some third parties, like the Greens, Reform, Libertarians, Constitution, and Forward Party, continue to evolve in the political landscape and offer alternative visions that challenge the status quo. Here’s a brief overview of how each are advocating for distinct policies and values:

  • The Libertarian Party: They advocate for limited government intervention and individual freedoms, favoring policies like free markets and civil liberties.
  • The Green Party: They prioritize environmental sustainability, social justice, and grassroots democracy, supporting policies such as renewable energy and universal healthcare. 
  • The Reform Party: They focus on government reform and reducing special interest influence, advocating for measures like campaign finance reform and term limits for officials.
  • The Constitution Party: They advocate for strict adherence to the Constitution and limited federal government, emphasizing individual rights and traditional values. 
  • The Forward Party: They aim to bridge partisan divides and promote pragmatic solutions, advocating for universal basic income and ranked-choice voting. 

“We’re in a very, highly polarized and partisan environment. So the ability in that environment for a third-party candidate to have an impact, especially at the national level, is very slim-“

It’s much more difficult for a third-party candidate to be successful now than in 1968,”
said Chand.

According to the Pew Research Center, an overwhelming majority of Americans, 86% believe that politics is characterized by a focus on partisan conflict rather than problem solving.

Picture of Anita Rio

“When I got involved in the Green Party, I had just come out of being a mental health case manager. I was elected to head the union, and I realized that nobody consults us…”

said Anita Rio, member of the Ohio Green Party

“-And the result of that is that we have a system that does not serve our communities. So with that mindset, I took a look at what is going to fix this problem for our community, ” Rio said. 

To run for president as a minor or third-party candidate in the US, you need to meet certain criteria, such as getting at least five percent of the popular vote in the general election, according to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Achieving this allows candidates to qualify for public funds. However, it’s tough for them to reach this due to limited resources, media coverage, and support compared to other major parties. 

Despite these barriers, the conversation around voting for third-party candidates is gaining momentum among many Americans. As the upcoming election approaches, this debate holds significant implications for the nation’s political landscape and the potential for broader representation beyond the traditional two-party system.

According to GALLUP, 61% of respondents believe a third party is necessary. Since 2013, 57% to 60% of respondents have shared a similar view. While only 34% think the Republican and Democratic parties suffice.

Many Americans desire additional political parties to choose from, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2022. The viewpoint is supported by about 39% of respondents who agree strongly or very much, 32% who agree slightly, and 28% who do not agree at all. 

“I understand that people are frustrated at the two-party system. If you look at polling, the majority of people say they don’t like either party,” Chand said. “I understand that, but a lot of people think it’s because we have very powerful political parties and they keep third parties from developing. That’s not true. We have some of the weakest political parties in the world, in this country. That’s why the political parties are not very cohesive.”

20% of adults found profound partisan divisions as the primary issue plaguing the U.S. political systems. Other respondents highlighted a lack of cooperation among the elected leaders in Washington as a major contributor to this problem. Underscoring the widespread concern over the increasing polarization and dysfunction of American politics. 

As the 2024 presidential elections approach this November, 69% of voters strongly feel the significance of each candidate’s victory. Against the backdrop of deepening polarization, the question arises: will this election foster unity and progress or deepen existing divides?

“No matter what party or candidate voters choose to support, the most important thing is to vote in every election! Local elections especially have a huge impact on our daily lives– issues like school funding and public safety play a huge role in shaping the communities we live in,” said Warner.

Comments are closed.