The Forgotten Third Option in the American Presidential Election

Staff writer Brian Cieplicki ’19 argues against the typical mantra that this year’s presidential election will be a choice between the lesser of two evils. He urges voters to consider the third option: the libertarian candidate. 

If Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are stranded on an island together, who survives?America.

Needless to say, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in history. You’ve probably heard multiple friends and colleagues say things along the lines of “I can’t believe these the best two options our country can find” or “I’m just going with the lesser of two evils”. As a passionate libertarian, such statements drive me absolutely crazy.

As American citizens, we are told to view our democracy as a system in which the people hold absolute power, meaning we decide for ourselves who we want to represent our interests in government. Through our education system, we are programmed to believe that we live in a free country, one where government exists to serve us, and we, as a group of citizens, are free to decide how we want that government to operate.

In theory, this American democracy sounds fantastic, but in practice, it does not live up to its promise. As citizens, we are a currently victims of an oppressive two party system that conveniently keeps all power and influence in the hands of the wealthy and powerful.

The flaws in our system are highlighted very clearly by the current presidential election. The two major party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are both exceptionally disliked. Trump is an outspoken racist, egomaniac and pervert, and Clinton is a pathological liar, threat to national security, and has committed federal crimes that would have driven a lesser-known politician out of office and into jail. According to polls from The Huffington Post, both Trump and Clinton currently have an unfavorable rating of greater than 50 percent.

Given such terrifying candidates from the two major parties, we would expect in a democratic system that a third party candidate would gain popularity and force the other two candidates to get their acts together. This, unfortunately, is not the case.

Gary Johnson is the libertarian party’s candidate, and he is arguably the most viable option for a threat to the two major parties’ candidates. However, Johnson has failed to poll the required 15 percent average to earn himself a spot in the nationally televised debates. Given the current dissatisfaction amongst the leading two candidates, it is remarkable that Johnson is not closer in the running.

A recent article by The Huffington Post titled “Voters Have No Idea Who Gary Johnson Is” states that 66 percent of registered voters have never even heard of Gary Johnson. It also states that amongst voters who have heard of Johnson: 35 percent favor him, 36 percent do not favor him, and the remaining 29 percent are not sure. Johnson’s strong favorability relative to Clinton and Trump begs the question: “Why haven’t more people heard of this guy?”

This question can be answered very simply: money and media coverage.

According to the GDELT Project’s Campaign Television Tracker, on Oct. 4th, Donald Trump was mentioned 5,525 times on national television networks. Hillary Clinton was 2,918 times. Gary Johnson? 76 mentions. This trend holds for all days reflected on the chart for this election cycle.

According to a recent study by The Center for Responsive Politics, there is also a great disparity in the amount of funds that each candidate has to work with. This piece highlights that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has raised a total of $516,791,763 for this election, Donald Trump’s campaign has raised $205,860,765, and Gary Johnson’s campaign has raised a meager $7,821,273.

By being an anti-establishment politician who seeks to defend the people’s rights rather than perpetuate the people’s oppression, Johnson lacks the appeal to large spending donors that major party candidates possess.

With far less resources and media coverage than Clinton and Trump are handed, it is miraculous that Johnson is polling even as high as he is, around 10 percent. However, it is completely unfair to the American people to deny them an alternative voice — one that actually supports them — simply because those in power decide that it’s best not to give that voice a real chance in the election process.

By: Brian Cieplicki ’19

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