Less than 1 percent of all voters in this presidential election voted for a third party candidate. As I have often noted, third parties attract few actual voters except for extraordinary situations. And in those instances the movements are short lived. And don’t give me the tripe about how the GOP was once a third party. I’ve covered that ground many times previously.
The fact is that for most of the history of this nation, there have only been two major parties at any given time. The question is why this is so. While it is true that the two major parties work hard to disenfranchise any would-be competitors and to keep the public focused on issues of their choosing, this cannot be the most significant reason for paltry third party support.
Politics is unavoidably a game of power and everyone knows it. People tend to vote for the candidates that are most likely to win. Psychologists know that almost all voters will usually go for the most viable candidate that seems to be closer to his/her own value system over a ‘more principled’ stance of voting for an unserious candidate merely to send a message. People play the politics game to win. Being a sideline heckler in the game simply doesn’t appeal to most people.
Thus, third parties face the significant problem of having to fight against human nature. On very rare occasions, a third party has tapped into an unmet desire among the voting populace, and has offered a well organized, well financed candidate. Such candidates often influence the debate, but they rarely win. And when they do win they have no support system. They end up either becoming pariahs or becoming de facto members of one of the major parties.
So, as much as some would like to see more third party vibrancy to address the problems inherent in our two-party system, that’s a major uphill battle. I can’t say that this will never change, but historical precedent suggests that it is unlikely.