Liberal Column

Third-party candidates not worth protest vote

/ The Daily Orange

In this divisive presidential election, many voters reject the idea of having to settle for the lesser of two evils. With many of them being first-time voters, these rebels see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as disappointing options and have turned to third-party candidates as an alternative.

Voters have never elected a president from a modern day third party and this year likely won’t be any different. Still, the two biggest names on the third-party roster — Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein — have received more than enough support to sway the outcome of the election.

Many see voting for a third-party candidate as a “protest vote” — a way to cast a vote without voting for a major candidate. But protest votes like these often gloss over the specific policies and positions of minor-party candidates.

Further examining the platforms of the Libertarian and Green party candidates makes it clear why they have struggled to garner broader support. Both Stein and Johnson have put forward policy positions seemingly out of touch with the nation as a whole, which undecided voters should understand before casting a vote for either of these individuals.

Jill Stein, currently polling in the low single digits, represents the ultra-liberal end of the electorate. Her platform mirrors that of Bernie Sanders, including universal healthcare and breaking up large banks. Because of this, Stein has positioned herself to attract many dissatisfied Sanders supporters.

Among other things, Stein supports reestablishing a national bank — see Alexander Hamilton’s Bank of the U.S. — to cover all mortgages, 100 percent tuition-free college with debt forgiveness and the guarantee of a living wage for all. These proposals would be funded by a more than 50 percent reduction in the U.S. military budget along with the closure of every one of the more than 700 U.S. military bases on foreign soil. Stein would also raise taxes on the rich, while cutting taxes on the lower and middle class.

If elected, Stein would have to work with an American electorate that is on average more moderate on many of the above issues and with a Congress that will likely contain no members of her own party.

Across the aisle, Johnson has been polling just under 10 percent on average, which are the highest totals for a third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. Johnson’s platform espouses many of the standard principles of center-right politicians, such as a guarantee of a 100 percent balanced budget, decreasing regulation to increase job growth, and the utmost support for our veterans.

Beyond a focus on a small federal government and  increased personal freedoms, a closer look at the Libertarian party platform shows the following: It opposes the federal income tax and would abolish the Internal Revenue Service. It opposes the Department of Education and Social Security and would do away with both. And it doesn’t condone government regulation or subsidies for any energy sources or other means of addressing environmental damage.

In addition to Johnson’s dangerous party platform, he lacks knowledge and experience with foreign policy — one of the primary roles of the presidency. When asked by MSNBC correspondent Mike Barnicle in September how he would address the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, Syria, Johnson now-infamously responded, “What is Aleppo?” In a later interview, Chris Matthews asked Johnson to name a foreign leader he admired. He could not name a single one. Even Johnson described it as an “Aleppo moment.”

It is often said that you should vote your hopes, not your fears. Vote for the candidate that represents what you stand for. If you truly believe in the policies of either the Green or Libertarian parties, casting your vote for either Stein or Johnson in respectable. But voting for either of them for the sole reason of not having to vote for Clinton or Trump shows a short-sighted understanding of our electoral process.

It is important to address the overall stakes of the election. We are electing a president in just over a month, and it is going to be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. While this doesn’t mean you should only vote for one of these two, it should make undecided voters think twice about using their vote as a form of protest rather than the tool of democracy it was intended to be.

Cole Jermyn is a sophomore environmental resource engineering major and economics minor at SUNY-ESF. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @Cjermyn8.


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