Barring some unforeseen excitement at the Democratic and Republican conventions, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will compete for the presidency of the United States on Election Day. And yet recent polls suggest that more than half of American voters are dissatisfied with either choice. Is this the year that a viable third party candidates could make a successful run for the White House?
If history is any indications -- and it is -- the answer is a resounding nope. Current election rules make it virtually impossible for a third political party to even get on the general election ballot. As such, America's political system is a de facto duopoly. The reason is pretty straightforward: Democrats and Republicans take up nearly every seat in government, they make the election rules, and they like the status quo just fine.
Nevertheless, several third party candidates will give it the old college try this year. In this election cycle, the most popular third party candidate so far is former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, representing the Libertarian Party. The third largest political party in the U.S., the Libertarian Party promotes itself socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Libertarians tend to favor lower taxes and smaller government. During his two terms as governor, Johnson reduced taxes fourteen times, and cut state spending by vetoing nearly 750 bills.
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Scooting further to the Right, Tennessee attorney Darrell Castle represents the Constitution Party, which is often aligned with the Tea Party movement and all of those angry men on AM radio. Castle has big plans: If elected president, he's pledged to close the Federal Reserve and pull the U.S. out of the United Nations.
Meanwhile, over on the Left, physician and activist Jill Stein is running on the Green Party ticket. Stein has promised to improve public health policies and create renewable energy jobs through the Green New Deal, an update to FDR's famous New Deal initiative after the Great Depression.
There is currently no official Hypothetical Party in the U.S., though there may as well be: Even the candidates will tell you that third-party presidential campaigns are less about actually winning the election and more about nudging the national political conversation during election season.
-- Glenn McDonald
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