Something to keep in mind as you size up the third-party candidates.
Back in 1992, a weird, engaging firecracker of a man captured the hearts and minds of a lot of Americans who were sick to death of the two-party system. He had a lot of great ideas, some controversial ones, and some bad ones, too. Whatever magic this man had, it appealed to a significant number of Democrat and Republican voters. He appealed to many independent voters as well. For most of 1992 this man created a third-party alternative that got people excited. Even the media took his campaign seriously. At one point, in June of 1992 he was the actual front runner in the polls. He had more support as a third party presidential candidate than anyone since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.
Despite some setbacks and a bit of a meltdown toward the end, H Ross Perot managed to earn 19.7 million votes representing just shy of 19 percent of the popular vote. It was the largest third party grab since George Wallace in 1968.
He won several counties.
But no states.
No states meant no electoral votes.
Keep in mind that George Wallace won less than half the number of votes Perot earned in 1992. Wallace ran on a platform of racism and hate. It earned him five states (all southern, naturally) and 46 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
Before that, the most impressive outing came from the Bull Moose Party. 88 Electoral votes and second in the year that Woodrow Wilson won in a landslide. That candidate was bad-ass Teddy-fucking-Roosevelt.
After ten months of campaigning and $64 million dollars, H Ross Perot ended his 1992 campaign no closer to the White House than you or me. He was the last third party candidate to campaign on an equal playing field with the major parties. His 1996 campaign didn’t have the same shine. He was damaged goods and little more than a footnote.
The next time a third party candidate had such a significant impact on a Presidential race was 2000. In Florida. And you know damn well how that turned out. The popular vote nationwide was clear. The electoral votes based on one state determined the fate of the world. After Ralph Nader’s never-had-a-chance campaign, we were left with a split vote and a Supreme Court decision.
It’s all about the electoral college, folks.
Now does this mean that a third party candidate victory is impossible? Well… No. You might actually be struck by a meteor on your way to the bathroom today, too. It is possible. Likely? I can’t think of a competent mathematician or student of probability who would tell you to bet your life on it. Or our country’s future.
In 1972, the Libertarian candidate for President received ONE electoral vote from Virginia. ONE. And it was from an faithless delegate in a state where the Libertarian wasn’t even on the ballot. Since then, the third party candidates for President earned, collectively, ZERO electoral votes.
Whose fault is that? Well, yours of course. If you waited until this moment to suddenly decide to go to war against the establishment, you’ve already lost. You have 100 days to change the world. What the living fuck took you so long? If I were a Green or a Libertarian, that’s the first question I would have for you if you showed up to volunteer tomorrow.
We’ve all known with a growing certainty over the past several months that Donald Trump was going to be the GOP’s train wreck nominee. He was the most entertaining exhibit in a macabre sideshow of freaks. And while Bernie Sanders had a great ride, the corruption of the DNC made his downfall a simple matter of when they wanted to pull the rug out.
Ross Perot began his ’92 journey at the end of 1991, testing the waters and getting himself in front of cameras, crafting a message and a strategy to gain voter confidence. He announced when he found a foothold. And he fought a hard campaign.
But here we are. Just over 100 days until the election. Trump was a lock almost three months ago. Clinton was a high probability for a longer period. I haven’t heard a lot of love for “Plan B” candidates except from the faithful. I mean, I’ve heard a lot of “I’ll jump to a third party” but that third party savior might as well have been an actual Bond villain for all we’ve heard about them. Sure, I’ve read up on them but I haven’t read people speak with the same enthusiasm FOR them as I’ve heard AGAINST Trump or Clinton.
Don’t get me wrong. They will LOVE to have you and your money. They need it. In 2012, when Mitt Romney ran against the so called “worst President in the history of ever” Obama won by 122 electoral votes and over 5 million actual votes. Third parties? Libertarians had 1 percent of the popular vote. The Greens? Just over a third of one percent. That represents a huge jump for both parties from the 2008 election. And still no electoral votes.
Elections aren’t won by being there to catch the disenfranchised voters. Elections are won by strong candidates with messages that resonate and capture the hearts of the people. Just voting isn’t going to do anything. If you really want someone else, you’re going to have to fight for them. You are going to have to spend the majority of your next 100 days getting out a message of hope and opportunity. You are going to need to start a movement that ignites the passion of Millennials and mainstream Red/Blue voters. You will have the responsibility of building – in under four months – the kind of campaign Bernie Sanders built over fifteen months.
I’m not saying it is impossible. I’m saying you can’t just dedicate your vote and expect change. You have to change the American political landscape. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do that. I’m saying that if you’re not prepared to go the distance, you’re just looking for a way to tell people that nothing is your fault because you voted for someone other than the eventual winner.
The liberal idealist in me wants you to go out and change the world. GO. Find that political Messiah. Fix this bad situation. That’s the voice that nearly died after the 2000 election when Bush 2.0 won. Like the GOP, you, sweet voter, had four years to find and court a viable candidate. Now here we are. Vote your conscience. But remember that just because you lodged a protest vote doesn’t absolve you of your role in the outcome of this very important crossroads in American history.
Spoilerific. Be Warned.
Non-spoiler review: It was a fun, well-made movie. Better than Ghostbusters 2. Go see it.