Third party candidates hope to break binary

Man+on+the+side+of+the+road+with+Donald+Trump+endorsement+posters+on+Oct.+8.

Man on the side of the road with Donald Trump endorsement posters on Oct. 8.

Grace Dorsey

For many, the path to finding a political party to support is pretty simple. There are two main roads, liberalism or conservatism, left or right, Democratic or Republican. A person simply picks one or the other and goes on their merry way; collecting lawn signs and car stickers to show support for their candidate as they go. This picture, however, fails to include the paths less followed, in other words, the political third parties.
To Jay Dow, a professor of political science at University of Missouri-Columbia (MU), this image isn’t shocking. He asserts that the way the representative system’s foundation was built back in America’s beginning is what shaped the country into a two-party system.
“The main reason [why third political parties aren’t strong] is the way we elect representatives. We use single district systems [which means] only one person wins the election. So the difference between first and second place determines who wins, the difference between second and third does not,”  Dow said. “That tends to reinforce focus on the two major political parties. It’s actually called Duverger’s Law it explains a lot about why the U.S has a two-party system.”
In Dow’s eyes, this exclusion of minority parties just isn’t likely to change. The bilateral system is well-fueled by most voters as well as the overarching structure of the government. Evolution isn’t impossible though, as development of the two major political ideologies has and will continue to occur.
“There is very little likelihood that we will see multiple political parties competing. What we have seen is in fact the disappearance of one political party replaced by another,” Dow said. “For example in the beginning of American political parties in the 1830s, there was a party called the Whig party and it was effectively replaced by another party, the Republican party, right before the Civil War. We’ve seen parties disappear and new parties emerge, but it would be very surprising to see strong third parties.”

Skyler Froese/ Source: insidegov.com
Skyler Froese/ Source: insidegov.com

For third party contenders, such as Constitutionalist Tori Proffer — a candidate running for the Missouri House of Representatives —  it can be tough to even get voters’ attention through the press. To Proffer, the issue is clear; media bias.
“Our main stream media, in my opinion, has been bought out. In fact, our candidate for president, Darrell Castle,  has received little to no attention. It is all spent on the main two-party race, which I believe to be a ‘sham’,” Proffer said. “All parties should receive equal coverage.  The issue is the special interest funds, which are collected by candidates. This means that they are already paid off before they are elected. To have free and unbiased elections, these corporate donations must be eliminated.”
Unsurprisingly, other proponents of minority parties agree that there’s a lack of representation by the broadcasting world. One of these people is Julie George-Carlson, the Statewide Campaign Coordinator for Missouri Green Party. George-Carlson believes that it isn’t just voter disinterest in splinter parties that has stopped them from succeeding; it’s the fact that journalists distort these parties’ images either through slanted coverage or no coverage at all.
“The mainstream media and major political voices marginalize third parties by calling them irrelevant at best, and spoilers at worst. Contrary to popular belief, Ralph Nader did not cost the Democrats the 2004 election. Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee by a large margin and he lost thousands and thousands of democratic voters to George W. Bush in Florida,” George-Carlson said. “It is false narratives such as these that make it difficult for the average voter to hear the truth through all the noise of the political machine. [Also,] the media will not cover third party candidates because media companies are owned by large transnational corporations, which contribute millions of dollars a year to Democratic and Republican party candidates and super [political action committees]. It is in their best interests only to cover the two parties.”
Though some suspect that mainstream media is at least partially to blame for the lack of third party strength, there is also the fact that voters feel their options are limited to the parties that have a history and chance of winning. Junior Corby Clowe feels that this is the case.
“People aren’t voting for somebody that they really support, they’re voting for somebody they think is the lesser of two evils. [Just look at] the approval ratings of [Donald] Trump and [Hillary] Clinton. Nobody really seems to like them or trust them,” Clowe said.”I’d say that [the two-party system] limits the candidates that can run for office. They have to align with either Democratic or Republican ideals so they can’t be a mixture of the two and hope to win office.”
There is also the issue of party corruption through special interests, super political action committees (PACs) or corporations. George-Carlson believes that this conduct then leads to ideology that in turn isolates those fighting for change.

The two-party system is imploding at this time. People who have been marginalized by the system, or ignored by the policies of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress, are now making their voices heard.

“The two-party system is imploding at this time. People who have been marginalized by the system, or ignored by the policies of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress, are now making their voices heard. Movements like Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, No DAPL [Dakota access pipeline] and other large protest movements are beginning to coalesce around third-party candidates,” George-Carlson said. “They are particularly angry about the ongoing collusion between the two parties and the media to frame their issues as unimportant or as reactionary or revolutionary. The media uses fear tactics to marginalize the voices of the people.”
Not only does a two-party war result in marginalization, but for Proffer, it also causes a cycle of corruption.
“[The two-party system] limits voters, as it is used against them. I liken it to ‘good cop, bad cop.’ For eight years we get a Democrat and then the Republicans promise to fix what the Democrats have broken, rinse and repeat,” Proffer said. “[Until] finally there is an agenda in place that both parties are behind and we are where we are today, no more ‘rule of law’ and only the elite, one percenters of the nation have a say in our political landscape. The middle-class is all but eliminated.”
Of course, not everyone will cast the dual-party system as the villain. A look at the electoral framework as a whole reveals a grounding effect, at least this is what Dow has concluded.
“I think it promotes stability. One of the things we forget is the Democratic and Republican parties are very broad,” Dow said. “A lot of different people call themselves Democrats, and a lot of different people call themselves Republicans, and that tends to have a stabilizing effect on American politics.”
Still, voting for someone because of his or her chance at winning isn’t exactly what democracy is supposed to enforce. Clowe doesn’t think third party supporters should be discouraged by the overwhelming odds.
“I think people should vote for who they think should be president, not someone who is the closest to their beliefs that has a chance to win,” Clowe said. “They should vote for the person they think will do the best job and shares most of their beliefs, not just someone who has the best chance to win.”
Would you vote for a third party candidate? Leave a comment below.