Third-Party Candidates Need ‘Charismatic Appeal’ to Sway This Year’s Election

Candidates outside the Democratic and Republican spheres haven’t garnered huge waves of support in years past.

By Laura RiceAugust 2, 2016 11:36 am

There are 97 more days before election day, and this year the stakes are high in what some are calling one of the most unpredictable points in America’s political history. Although the round-the-clock convention coverage is in the rearview mirror, the conventions are not over.

Hundreds of delegates are en route to Houston right now, ready to make official the nominee for the next President of the United States for the Green Party.

Reports speculate the Green Party will nominate Jill Stein, a physician and environmental advocate from Lexington, Massachusetts. Stein is well-known among the party faithful, having been nominated by the Green Party in the last election cycle when she won 0.36 percent of the popular vote – a high-water mark for the party in presidential politics.

Michael Adams, a political science professor at Texas Southern University, says it’s possible they convention is set in Houston – an oil- and gas-friendly town in a state that’s not particularly supportive of environmentalism – to make a statement.

“It is kind of contradictory to many people that you have a Green Party platform that is anti-fracking,” Adams says.

Third-party candidates have not garnered huge waves of support in elections past. But this year the two major party candidates have negative ratings, which Adams says could make a difference come election day.

“We would have to look in terms of those states – the battleground states – where if they’re on the ballot, clearly both would be siphoned off,” Adam says. “I would predict it’ll be a very close election and I think the rust belt will be very pivotal – and also Florida may come back into play.”

Adams says there’s history of third-party candidates siphoning votes from Democratic and Republican nominees. Ross Perot in the 1990s may have stolen votes from George H. W. Bush, which some suggest contributed to the election of Bill Clinton. In the 2000 election, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader redirected votes from Al Gore.

The Green Party used to be hailed as the third party most likely to succeed. But now a lot of people are throwing their third-party optimism behind the Libertarian Party. Adams says that might come from voter dissatisfaction with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“If you look at some of the issues that Libertarians would probably favor,” Adams says, “I would suggest that some of those people – given the high negatives of both candidates in this particular race – may be more interested in terms of a kind of Libertarian platform than a Green Party.”

Adams says that part of the rise in third-party voters could also come from the idea that they should “vote their conscience,” but there are also those who see those votes as wasted.

“I think it’s inherent in a two-party system because of historical and institutional ties,” Adams says. “Most voters would think that they are throwing away or it’s a wasted vote when you cast your ballot for third party candidates unless you get somebody on the third-party ticket who has … charismatic appeal, third parties will continue to suffer a number of obstacles.”

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.