Lesser of 2 evils: 3rd-party candidates could affect presidential race

If you’re getting tired of considering how to vote for the lesser of two evils in this presidential election, then this article is for you. There are alternatives. Two third-party candidates who have gained traction during this campaign are Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green Party).

According to a Gallup poll, since 2007 a majority of Americans (58 percent) have called for third parties. Between that and much overall dissatisfaction with both major candidates, now just might be the time that the stage is set to overthrow our current system of Republicans vs. Democrats.

One sentiment I hear is that voting for anyone who isn’t in one of the major parties is just throwing your vote away. I’m no political scientist, but I have to ask: How will third-party candidates ever make an impact on our government unless we vote for them?

True, it might be several elections down the road before one of these types of candidates wins a major election. But numbers speak. If voters cast their ballots for someone in an alternative party, politicians will sit up and take notice. Changing your voter registration to another party, or even to “unaffiliated,” will also show up in statistical analyses.

After all, Democrats vs. Republicans hasn’t always been the norm. The Federalists were one of the early American parties, and the Whigs were influential in the mid-19th century. The Anti-Masonic Party was mostly a single-issue party but is considered the first of the third parties. You can probably guess what hot topic the Prohibition Party espoused.

The Socialists at the turn of the 20th century were associated with the women’s suffrage movement, and they were also a champion of child labor laws. The Populist Party also had some clout around this time, and these two parties collaborated to standardize the 40-hour work week, resulting in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

The Democrats have been around since 1828 and are considered the oldest active party in our country. But the Republicans didn’t show up until the time of Abraham Lincoln. It could be argued that he was the first third-party candidate to win a presidential election.

Interestingly, these two parties have changed positions on various issues over the years, so it could be argued that they are not really the same parties as they were when originally established, apart from the names. Certainly who belongs to each party has changed over time.

In the Civil War era, Democrats were those who wanted to keep the status quo, and the Republicans were the ones associated with abolition and reconstruction.

As for current independent parties, the Libertarians have been around since 1971. They consider themselves more culturally liberal then Democrats and more fiscally conservative than Republicans. The Green Party was established in 1984 and focuses on environmental and social justice issues and favors grassroots involvement.

I found a great website that lists all four candidates and a comparison of their stances on various issues. There also is a handy quiz that asks you your views on these same topics and as a result gives you the percentage of how much you agree with each politician.

This can be useful to help you discern with whom you truly have the most beliefs in common, and who is most likely to represent you as a voter. This is helpful so as to not get sidetracked by which party you think you should endorse, nor distracted by one’s attraction to/repulsion by the personalities of the candidates.

The site is 2016electionprocon.org. May we all be prepared for November.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website, www.stephaniehaines.com.