Third Parties: Another Perspective on the National Election

While many college voters consider themselves politically independent, studies find few actually know about third party alternatives.

A survey by the Pew Research Center conducted in July established the top 14 issues voters are concerned with in the coming presidential election. The survey broke down the results by age group and found the most important issues to young adults — ages 18 to 29 — is the treatment of minorities, specifically the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities as well as the treatment of LGBT individuals.

The Green and Libertarian parties are the most popular alternatives to the two major political parties, and area representatives for these parties want to inform college voters about their platforms, including their stances on education, environmental issues and diversity issues.

The Green Party is for the abolition of student debt, the use of sustainable energy, the preservation of the environment and the protection and progression of rights for minorities, according to its website. The Libertarian Party is against government-run environmental agencies and government interference with diversity issues and is for the removal of the Federal Department of Education, according to its website.

gradecard2-4-page-001Green Party

Benjamin Conover, Missouri campaign coordinator for presidential candidate Jill Stein, says college students should consider voting for the Green Party because it is the only progressive party left in American politics. He also says he thinks the core values of the party — democracy, social justice, ecological wisdom and non-violence — are important to college students.

The American Green Party, part of Global Greens, is focused on using renewable energy alternatives such as wind or solar power, and Conover says Stein’s current plan, the “Green New Deal,” focuses on creating more sustainable energy sources in America.

Conover says the Green Party is the party most concerned with social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, while the main parties only pay lip service to social movements. He also mentions the party is interested in the rights of Native American communities such as with the Dakota Access Pipeline, which the party is helping fight against.

Libertarian Party

Randy Langkraehr, Missouri Libertarian Party secretary, says the Libertarian Party stands for lower taxes and less government control while supporting the importance of personal responsibility. He says college students should vote for the Libertarian Party to combat the huge waste of funds created by both major parties.

While the party seeks to get rid of government involvement in education, Langkraehr says that state-funded colleges and universities should not be affected, as more competition exists in higher education in the form of private versus state institutions. He says the purpose of that stance is to create competition in education at the grade school and high school levels, rather than relying on just public schools.

“[Government officials] set acceptable levels for pollution and everything, and we believe there should be no pollution,” Langkraehr says. “But, you know, the government allows corporations and everything to pollute up to certain levels and put food out there that’s not labeled, you know, that allows GMO’s out there. And quite a bit of the abuse of our environment comes from the government.”

Why Are Third Parties Important?

Political science professor Michael Rudy says the American political system is focused on two parties primarily through what is called Duverger’s Law. The law explains that plurality systems force people together on issues that they might not otherwise agree on. This means the party system favors moderate views, as most American voters are moderate.

Rudy says the most important thing third parties do is bring up issues that the two major parties don’t want to discuss. By drawing voters away from major parties on certain issues, he says it forces major parties to discuss these issues. For a long time, immigration was this kind of issue, as neither party wanted to lose the Latino vote, he adds.

Rudy says third parties can change elections by taking votes away from major candidates. He says Ross Perot may have lead to George H. W. Bush’s loss in the 1992 presidential election, and Ralph Nader affected the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000.

“But therein lies the paradox, too,” Rudy says, “We know that, as an individual, your single vote won’t change an election. However, if many individuals view that and they say, ‘well, I’m just [going to] vote for my third party,’ then that can actually change the election.”