EDITORIAL: Current party system dominates politics
Third-party candidates aren’t given chances to make their case
Why can’t third-party candidates participate in presidential debates? Yes, we have a two-party system and people say that a vote for a third party is a vote down the drain, but seeing a third party on stage for debates doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to vote for them. It just means you’ll be hearing them out. Maybe you’ll be persuaded, but maybe you’ll only reaffirm your conviction of not voting for them at all. There's little to lose, but insight to gain.
During this week’s presidential debate, the Green Party’s presidential nominee, Jill Stein, was escorted out of Hofstra University's campus for what she calls as a display of “civil disobedience” and protesting how third parties are barred from nationwide presidential debates. The other prominent third-party candidate is Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson, who chose not to make a public appearance at the week’s presidential debate, but instead took to Facebook to get in touch with supporters and disseminate policy proposals.
Just as expected, support for third-party candidates is low with Stein averaging 3.2 percent and Johnson averaging 8.4 percent, missing the Commission on Presidential Debates’ arbitrary threshold of 15 percent, which would qualify them to join the two parties major and take the national stage. To reach the 15 percent mark, third-party candidates need more exposure — but to get more exposure, they need the 15 percent mark to get there message across the nation. It’s a cyclical problem that poses high barriers.
Many feel distrust for the government and don't feel represented. There has been a growing movement of more people registering as independent and more states displaying pluralities. With that in mind, the current presidential nominees of the two major parties are the most disliked in history. The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton with a 57 percent unfavorable rating and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump with a 59 percent unfavorable rating. Much of the public is exhausted by the establishment, but also terrified of a perceived psychopath.
A USA Today/Suffolk University survey from February exhibited the nation’s dissatisfaction with the two-party system, showing that 53 percent of voters expressed desire for three parties or more. To help the third-party candidates’ case for their participation in presidential debates, most constituents actually want to see them on stage. Another USA Today/Suffolk University survey shows that if a third-party candidate is certified by a majority of state ballots, 76 percent said they should be included in presidential debates and only 17 percent said they should not be included. People want to see more options in candidates and options in terms of policy initiatives.
The display of third-party candidates is needed more than ever. When Bernie Sanders ran for the Democratic nomination, he was relatively obscure, but running within the two-party system gave him a platform even if his media presence was minimal (Trump was getting as much as 23 times more coverage). His message resonated with millions of people, making Clinton nervous about how securely she could obtain the Democratic nomination.
She was eventually pressured to shift to the left and account for the great portion of the public who cared more about issues about income inequality, social justice and global trade deals. Without Sanders pushing her to create an agenda that’s representative of the larger public’s desire, then her policy proposals would’ve remained of arguably lesser quality
It doesn’t matter whether you did supported Sanders, Clinton, or anyone else. The point is that the people who are contenders for the most powerful position of the land need to be sufficiently challenged, and a plurality of ideas needs to be represented.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.