Can A Third-Party Candidate Ever Become President?

For the last 164 years, a Republican or a Democrat has been President of the United States Since Millard Fillmore stepped down as the last Whig party president, no third party has ever come close

Theodore Roosevelt, who had already been president as a Republican, couldn’t even win the 1912 election under his own Bull Moose Party Yet thousands of people vote for third party candidates every four years, so does a third party really have any chance of winning the election? Well, polling from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News show that in fact, 47% of Americans would consider a third party candidate in light of the 2016 election And as relatively recently as 1992, Independent candidate Ross Perot received nearly 19% of the popular vote against Bill Clinton and George HW Bush

But winning the presidency isn’t just about support, it’s about working within election rules, and that pushes a lot of third party candidates out One major block is that Democrats and Republicans are automatically listed on the ballot in all states, while third party candidates need thousands of signatures Additionally, third party candidates must get at least 5% of the vote in a general election in order to receive federal funding the following election cycle, which hasn’t happened in over twenty years In the 2016 election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein is required to raise at least $100,000 across at least 20 states in order to receive access to the federal Presidential Election Campaign Fund But the biggest reason third party candidates usually have no shot at the Presidency is because of “first-past-the-post” voting, which is how the US elects candidates

Basically, the president is elected from a set number of people on a ballot, and whoever gets the most votes wins But according to a political principle called “Duverger’s law”, this system invariably leads to a two party majority This is because by casting only one vote for one winner, backing a candidate who might lose would be throwing away your vote, and third party candidates threaten to divert support from the other two parties So, instead of voting third party, people often end up voting against the candidate they dislike, ensuring two parties stay in power However, other countries, like the UK, have proportional representation

Instead of voting for the Prime Minister directly, citizens can vote for members of parliament from different parties The majority party then appoints their leader as the PM But as opposed to the US, voting third party isn’t an automatically wasted vote Third party representatives are often elected as MPs, where they have political influence regardless of their party’s small size But chances are, such a system wouldn’t be implemented in the US, as the Republican and Democratic parties are massive establishments with huge amounts of money and power behind them, and they’re the ones setting the rules

Despite popular support, as long as those rules favor a two party system, chances are there won’t be a viable third party candidate for a long time But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter in the current election, and if you want to keep up with all the candidates, not just Trump or Hillary, you can catch me and the rest of The Young Turks live on YouTube Monday through Friday at 6pm eastern/3 pm pacific Thanks for watching Seeker Daily, make sure to like and subscribe for new videos everyday

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