2016, and another presidential election – my seventh – is upon us. I’ve known many people, myself included, who’ve had to “hold their nose” to vote for one candidate just so they weren’t voting for the other. This year may feature more of the same as we are presented with choosing between a totally corrupt, power-hunger pathological liar and an unhinged, sociopathic narcissist. Great job narrowing it down to these two; can I hear a chant of, “USA – USA – USA!”
The biggest problem is that most people are ignorant of the fact, or just don’t acknowledge the reality, that there are MORE THAN JUST TWO CHOICES FOR PRESIDENT. Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson (my pick) is on all fifty ballots, Green Party Candidate Jill Stein is on the vast majority of ballots, and Constitution Party Candidate Darrell Castle is on most ballots as well. Even beyond those three, there are still many more candidates on different ballots, even, possibly, Vermin Supreme.
But the electorate has been conditioned to believe that only the two big parties have a chance to win and, therefore, you must “hold your nose” and vote for one of them or you’d be “throwing away your vote.” The Republicans and Democrats are master fear-mongers setting up the game in which you vote for their terrible candidate to prevent the other, worse candidate from winning. It’s the game the two-party system wants you to keep playing. But if you keep playing the game you will keep being played by the game.
I’m not playing that game anymore.
One of the biggest myths is that a non-Democrat/Republican cannot win the White House. I’ll admit that it’s an uphill battle, but it’s not impossible. Even though the polls are set up to keep the “third party” candidates off the radar, we can get them the votes they need for some real change. (Actually, I was called the other day by a polling group. After answering lots of general questions they finally got to the Presidential election. I was given the choice of Trump, Clinton, another candidate, undecided, or not voting. After picking another candidate I was then asked if it was a two-person race would I vote for Trump, Clinton, undecided or not vote. Um, why can’t I have my say for Gary Johnson, and why can’t others have their say for Jill Stein, Darrell Castle, Vermin Supreme or anybody else?)
I’ve done some simple research and have identified a way a third party candidate has a shot at winning. (My methodology will be explained at the end.)
With our dominant two-party system we see election results where the winner gets typically over 50% of the vote. However, looking more closely at the elections in my lifetime, the winners only received between 25 and 30% of the eligible vote; 30% being broken only thrice in my lifetime and one-third never having been attained by a candidate. In a two-party system, failing to get one-third of the population to vote for you just flat out sucks. It certainly isn’t the political referendum they want you to think it is.
Let’s break down some of those numbers…
In 2012 President Obama was re-elected with only 29.7% of the vote eligible population (VEP), second place behind the 41.8% who voted for nobody.
In 2008 Senator Obama won his first term with 32.6% of the VEP (highest in my lifetime, congrats President Obama), but still second to the 38.4% of nobody.
In 2004 President Bush won re-election with 30.5% of the VEP, second to 39.9% of nobody.
In 2000 Governor Bush won, via Electoral College votes and not popular election, with 25.9% of the VEP. The 45.8% for nobody was way ahead of both him and Vice President Gore.
In 1996 President Clinton (hopefully our last) won re-election with 25.5% of the VEP, well short of the 48.3% for nobody.
In 1992 Governor Clinton won his first term with 25% of the VEP, once again short of the 41.9% for nobody.
In 1988 Vice President Bush took a promotion with 28.2% of the VEP, well behind nobody’s 47.2%.
In 1984 President Reagan pummeled his competitors yet still only received 32.4% of VEP, while 44.8% voted nobody.
In 1980 Governor Reagan won with 27.5%, still second to 45.8% nobody.
And in 1976 Governor Carter won 27.4%, even though, like all other presidents named above, still lost to nobody who earned 45.2%.
President Obama in 2008 and President Bush in 2004 are the only two even within striking distance of “nobody,” yet still well behind.
Now let’s make an assumption (based on no empirical data whatsoever) that 10% of the vote for both big party candidates are of the “hold your nose” variety. (I think that’s a low figure, personally, but it’s where we shall start.) Then, take one-half of the nobody vote and throw it into a third-party candidate and you can see things get REALLY interesting. Yes, the eventual winner still beats them out (except for 1996 and 2000), but the margins for the general election are razor thin. And there will always be detractors who point out Ross Perot’s failed bid as a popular third-party candidate who didn’t really do much in the general election. My contention is that I do believe when election time came nearer, the old philosophy of “only two options” took over the mindset of many voters. I may be wrong, but it’s my assumption.
Yeah, you’re thinking, this numbers game is neat, but what does that mean for this, or any, election? Well, imagine if 80% or more of the VEP actually bothered to vote; specifically for someone other than the two big parties. All of a sudden the reported numbers for those candidates would be truly reflective of about one quarter of the population really supporting them as opposed to the very misleading figures of 55-60%. Even though the current two self-centered big party candidates wouldn’t consider that a statement against them, perhaps the rest of the Democrats and Republicans will notice those numbers and listen more to the people and less to the party line. They all need to be put on notice. Heck, perhaps Johnson, Stein or Castle can win some states here and there, wrecking havoc on the electoral map. Especially if any of the nose-holders vote for one of them along with some of the 45% who haven’t been voting in past elections.
Now, what if you don’t like any candidate, the ones I’ve mentioned or the many others I haven’t? Then do what I’ve done for 1 Presidential, 1 Gubernatorial, and 5 other offices and write your own name in. That way a vote is being cast and NOT counted towards a candidate who didn’t earn it, thereby taking us back to my previous point of generating election results which accurately reflect the VEP’s dissatisfaction with the candidates offered up.
In a nutshell, don’t hold your proverbial nose to vote. Get out there and vote for who you really and truly want, or yourself. Just vote with both hands.
A note on my methodology…
I pulled up statistics on the percent of the voting eligible population which actually voted from this page. After that, I pulled up final election results from this page. Then, I took the percentage of votes from the second page and multiplied it by the VEP who bothered to vote to determine what percent of the VEP actually voted for the winning candidate.