Political primaries in the United States are largely controlled by the two major parties. The only way to get a party’s nomination for an office is to be affiliated with that party. Third-party candidates, however, have found a workaround to this primary system.
Third-party candidates are nominated from outside of the two main parties and can run in political primaries. In the past few election cycles, third-party candidates have seen a huge increase in their numbers and popularity.
These candidates represent an alternative to the current two-party system and often present progressive ideals that aren’t being represented by either of them. They are also operating as a challenge to how American politics generally functions as well as what policies are supported by both parties.
Since there isn’t much information about these third parties, we will go over some of their pros and cons to give you a better idea of who they are and whether or not you should vote for them in future election cycles.
What is a third-party candidate?
Third-party candidates are independent candidates who run in political primaries and campaigns. This is different from independent-leaning candidates, who run in general elections in a “safe” Democratic or Republican seat. Third-party candidates can be nominated from outside of the two major parties and run in primaries as independents.
Many third-party candidates, especially those with libertarian leanings, choose to run as independents to highlight their political independence from the two major parties. Some third-party candidates may also choose to run in general elections as independents.
This is usually done by those with no chance of winning the Democratic or Republican nomination because they want to highlight positions that are less likely to be acknowledged by either party. For example, a candidate might focus on marijuana legalization to highlight differences between the two major parties.
Pro: Independence from the two-party system
One of the biggest benefits of third-party candidates is that they have the opportunity to run outside of the two-party system. This provides more independence from the other two party systems and can lead to more progressive ideas being championed.
Third-party candidates can often make their case for independence from the two parties. Libertarian Gary Johnson, for example, ran for president as an independent. Johnson argued that he was an alternative to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as an independent candidate. He also ran on libertarian issues such as legalizing marijuana and reducing the role of the government.
Con: More confusion for voters
There is a lot of confusion around third-party candidates. Many voters aren’t entirely sure what a third-party candidate is or what they stand for. This leads to confusion among voters when they look at the candidates and don’t know which one they should pick. This can be especially true in open primaries, where voters may not know which party is the right one to vote in.
In general elections, third-party candidates can add to the confusion of the election by splitting the vote and allowing one party to win a seat in the Senate or Congress. This has already happened in 2018, with the election of a Democratic senator from Massachusetts from a district won by President Donald Trump.
Pro: Shows support for progressive ideals
Third-party candidates can often be found running on progressive ideas, especially those with a strong libertarian bent. This can include issues like marijuana legalization, strengthening government transparency, and reducing the influence of corporations.
Many of these progressive ideas are often not being championed by either the Republican or Democratic parties. For example, marijuana legalization is supported by just 28% of Republicans, compared to 77% of Democrats. Reducing the influence of corporations is supported by just 14% of Republicans, versus 78% of Democrats.
Con: Less voter turnout
Another issue with third-party candidates is that they can often be less effective at turning out voters than the major parties. One of the biggest advantages that the Democratic and Republican parties have is that voters are very loyal to them.
This sense of party loyalty is vital for the success of both parties. It helps to bring out the vote from voters and increases turnout overall. This is an advantage that major parties have because they often have long histories and many voters have tied their identities to the party.
Third-party candidates can often be found outside of the major parties, making them less familiar to voters. This means that they are less likely to receive the same sense of loyalty that the major parties do. This can lead to less voter turnout overall, especially in primaries.
Pro: Provokes discussion about American politics
One of the best things about third-party candidates is that they often bring up issues and policies that are rarely discussed in American politics. This can lead to a lot of discussion about what the government should or shouldn’t be doing. This can often lead to more informed voting decisions. Many third-party candidates have also pushed for policies that are supported by a majority of Americans.
This includes policies like marijuana legalization and reducing the influence of corporations. Both of these policies have majority support from Americans. This can often lead to a lot of debate about the policies and issues that candidates bring up. This can be especially true for third-party candidates, who have less allegiance from major parties.