As the November presidential election draws closer, Americans seem trapped between two choices for president, each belonging to increasingly polarized parties. While Obama and Romney may differ radically over policy and ideology, both men are locked in a struggle to win the votes of independents and moderates. And while their (often) factually-challenged personal attacks and punch lines may rile up their respective party members, their rhetoric may do little to win over independent voters who are not staunchly inline with either mainstream party. Understandably, then, important issues to voters across the political spectrum have found their way onto many third party candidate platforms in hopes they might garner a larger audience in this election year.
According to a Gallup poll released on August 30, Romney has a 48 percent favorability rating among Americans. In contrast, Republican candidate John McCain enjoyed the favorable opinion of nearly two thirds of Americans during the same time in the 2008 election. While 61 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of Obama in August 2008, only half approve of his job in office as of September 8.
These statistics paint a dismal picture of the faith voters have in the Democrats and Republicans, making it a great year for independents to explore what third parties have to offer. Despite independents' distinct bipartisan politics remaining the focus of the mainstream media and, as such, occupying the majority of brain space amongst voters, third party candidates also work fervently to appear on the presidential ballot and are important political players with which voters should familiarize themselves.
Bio and Platform
Gary Johnson is probably the most recognized of third party hopefuls. After he dropped out of the Republican race last fall, he has gone on to win the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination. Johnson has an impressive resume. An entrepreneur, he built a large construction company out of his one-man handyman service. He also served eight years as New Mexico’s extremely fiscally conservative governor. Johnson plans to reform regulations on businesses, replace the current extensive tax system with a flat 23% national sales tax, end the prohibition of marijuana, bring the troops home, and radically shrink the federal budget to rein in national debt.
The presumptive Green Party nominee, Jill Stein is a Massachusetts physician and Occupy activist. She served as Town Meeting Representative, District 2, for Lexington, Massachusetts for two terms. Despite her lack of experience in public office, she has contributed to the public good extensively as an environmentalist movement activist. Stein has authored several reports on green living and testified before many governmental committees on subjects ranging from the toxic byproducts of coal plants, to the effects of mercury poisoning in women and children. Stein proposes a far-reaching economic plan, called the “Green New Deal,” which would root the American economy in social democracy, economic equality, and environmental stewardship.In accordance with the plan, Stein would introduce higher taxes on the wealthy and new regulations on big banks and corporations, with the aim of preventing the 2008 Wall Street debacle from repeating itself. Jill Stein’s vast knowledge of the environmental threat that global climate change poses to America gives her an edge with environmentalists, and her commitment to social justice makes her a champion of the Occupy movement. However, she will likely face the same issue among voters that ended Herman Cain’s run: she has no real experience in federal or even state government.
The former Republican U.S. Representative from Virginia’s fifth district makes the appeal to staunch conservatives and Tea Party constitutionalists. Goode’s foreign policies revolve around ending the war in Afghanistan, reducing dependence on foreign oil as a means to keep the American military out of the Middle East, and scaling back American involvement in global organizations such as the United Nations. He strongly opposes free trade agreements such as NAFTA, claiming that they take too many jobs off American soil. Goode holds socially conservative views (he proudly touts his lifetime 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee), and plans to build up the national border patrol and end birthright citizenship. Lastly, while in public office, he made several Islamophobic remarks that seem out of touch with a growing number of Americans.
Running on the Justice Party ticket, a group he created as a more progressive alternative to the Democrats, Anderson seeks to take a more pacifist and humanistic approach to governance. He served two terms as the liberal Mayor of Salt Lake City from 2000 to 2008, often stirring up controversy in the deeply conservative state.While mayor, Anderson triumphed gay rights, prioritized public planning and mass transit, and worked with unions in support of collective bargaining rights for city workers. Most controversially, he denounced the Iraq war and called for the impeachment of George W. Bush.Anderson’s plans for the country’s highest office include promoting civil liberties, clean energy, and implementing diplomacy over military action to engage unfriendly governments.
While these candidates fall all over the political spectrum, they importantly offer valid alternatives to the mainstream platforms. Their participation in politics, however little recognized, is imperative to maintaining American’s democratic process. It may be a long shot, but if either of these candidates gathers enough support in polls, they may be able to take the stage with Obama and Romney and thus provide independent voters with a more vibrant, diverse ballot this November.