Editor’s Note: For the sake of anonymity, the four students interviewed will be referred to as student A, student B, student C and student D.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the incumbent Republican president Donald Trump are constantly in the news for the 2020 election cycle. Voters have been gearing up for months in order to cast their votes for one of the two prominent candidates, with pessimism about both candidates growing by the day.
However, there is an option available for those that do not align with either Biden or Trump but still wish to be politically active. This option is to vote for a third-party candidate in the upcoming election, such as the Green Party or the Libertarian Party.
There are countless reasons why people choose not to vote third party in elections, with many claiming that voting for third-party candidates is throwing away a vote and others not being fully educated on platforms outside of the Democratic and Republican parties.
“I think this aversion to voting third party is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said student A, a third-year studying economics. “That ‘If you vote third party, you’re just throwing your vote away’ and so no one votes third party, so they don’t get enough votes. It’s a feedback loop. The only way to get away from that self-fulfilling prophecy is to disregard it entirely so it ceases to be valid.”
For some, the 2020 election cycle evokes flashbacks of the 2016 presidential election cycle, which involved Trump and then-Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton. Two elections in a row have generated candidates that the general populace seems to be unenthused by, with a growing resentment evolving in voters that oppose the traditional two-party system.
“I like to consider myself moderate; I also hate the two-party system,” said student B, a first-year studying engineering. “I mean I’m registered unaffiliated for a reason. To say that I’d vote for a third party, I’m not quite sure because unless there were enough people to vote for a third-party candidate, it would just be throwing away a vote in my opinion.”
With more and more young voters beginning to resent the two-party form of government in the United States, candidates like 2020 Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen are drawing more interest by the day.
“It’s just what I align most with politically,” said student A, who is voting for Jorgensen. “Essentially the core philosophies being ‘What the government giveth, the government can taketh away’, so this emphasis on individual choice and small government, it aligns with my political philosophy.”
According to student C, there may be some Libertarian Party platforms that are agreeable and appealing to some voters, even if they aren’t necessarily voting Libertarian, like using tax dollars to bail out corporations.*
“The Libertarian view is that we should not be using taxpayer dollars to bail out corporations,” said student C, a first-year studying nuclear engineering. “We say we are for capitalism, but we are using taxpayer dollars to bail out airline companies who made poor decisions… Bailing out those people is something I don’t agree with. That is a third-party policy I would love to support. However, if I vote for the third-party candidate, they’re not going to get elected, so that change won’t happen.”
Another Libertarian Party position that stuck with young voters is the party’s stance on the legalization of marijuana. Bill Weld, who ran with then-Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in 2016 as a Libertarian and opposed Trump as a Republican in the primaries in 2020, was a huge proponent of the legalization of marijuana.
“Marijuana, specifically, I’m for the legalization of that,” said student D, a first-year studying engineering. “I don’t think that either Joe Biden or Donald Trump have that as a forefront of their campaigns. Also what’s concerning to me is that Joe Biden has Kamala Harris and her background as [attorney general] wasn’t really great because she locked up a lot of people for very petty marijuana possession charges.”
In 2016, Johnson and then-Green Party candidate Jill Stein received about 5% of the total vote combined, a significant dent in the election.
“Well, I mean, if you look at the registration of new voters in the past several years, and you’ll start noticing that those people are registering unaffiliated,” student B said. “So I don’t see the two-party system being anywhere near as powerful as it is currently. I could definitely see a third party start to rise.”
A common theme among all students interviewed was the desire for third-party candidates to receive more media attention.
“A two-party system itself isn’t technically bad, but when you have other parties that are perfectly viable, it does create a false dichotomy of choice,” student A said. “I think the duopoly is often perpetuated by lobbyist groups and the media. I mean when’s the last time you’ve heard Jo Jorgensen’s name on TV? Never. I think the lack of media coverage on third-party candidates sort of accentuates that.”
Student A and student D both made the decision to vote for the Libertarian candidate, Jorgensen, in the 2020 general election, but all four students expressed disgust with the bipartisan United States government as it exists now.
“The fact that in basically any given office we only have two choices is really disappointing,” student C said. “It really just proves we really need to overhaul the system. Whether that means breaking up the political parties or completely doing away with political parties. And, with that, there’s gonna have to be some major campaign finance reform and other stuff… But I do think that that would be a productive thing for our nation to do.”
There are many different candidates for voters to choose from in the general election aside from Trump, Biden and Jorgensen, including Howie Hawkins, another Green Party candidate; Brock Pierce, an independent candidate; and Don Blankenship, a Constitution Party candidate.
“There’s a need for greater diversity,” student C said. “America is such a diverse nation… We have a wealth of ideas and perspectives on political beliefs, but now we only have two choices. I feel like it’s really sad...especially with how much diversity this country does have, racially, ethnically and also in terms of straight up political ideas. There is a clear need for more diversity that is just not represented in the current two-party system.”
*Editor's Note: sentence edited for clarity.