Third parties have long been scapegoated for losses in American politics. Ross Perot and Ralph Nader are two prominent examples of major third party candidates being blamed for a race going in a certain direction. In Maine, liberal Independent Eliot Cutler was blamed for the election of Republican Governor Paul LePage. Beyond this, the examples are numerous.
But is this fair?
In recent memory, Republicans have feared the third parties. When former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney lost in 2012, libertarians and the Ron Paul grassroots were blamed. While a number of them wrote in the former Texas Congressman or just stayed home, there was considerable support for former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson as well.
In the end, the quest for 5% fell short, with Johnson finishing at .99%. Still, this is a progress for the Libertarian Party, after finishing with .40% in 2008 and .32% in 2004.
The Libertarian Party didn’t change the outcome of 2012, with Romney finishing almost four points behind President Barack Obama. Despite this, the fear among Republicans still exists.
Republicans shouldn’t be as afraid of Johnson as the Democrats, however.
Probable Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump leads Independents at 32%, according to a new poll. Runner up among self-identified Independents is not media-anointed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but rather Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.
That is quite significant, but not entirely surprising.
Democrats have a unity problem and Hillary Clinton has an integrity issue. Through the use of a superdelegate survey by the Associated Press, the Democrats were able to shutdown their nomination race and finally reject a candidate who was actually more favorable than Clinton. Clinton has only a 42% favorability rating among registered voters, while 56% of them do not have a favorable view of her. By contrast, Senator Bernie Sanders had a 54%-41% favorable/unfavorable difference.
Why would political independents want to vote for Clinton or the questionable Democratic operation under Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz?
Independents aren’t registered to a party for a variety of reasons, but ultimately do not appear to agree with either party and do not want to be apart of the partisan games. They’re looking elsewhere, just as the Senator Sanders supporters will be.
Senator Sanders appears to still be on the fence about throwing his support behind Clinton, but the consensus among his supporters is stronger. They won’t.
The media would like to lead a narrative that the Republican Party is divided, but Trump has actually commanded a strong overall total of votes during the primary process. It’s been some time since Governor John Kasich and Senator Ted Cruz dropped out, leaving the party time to solidify.
Ultimately, Republicans appear united to stopping Hillary Clinton. Senator Sanders’ supporters also stand committed to not giving into the former Secretary of State who arrogantly trampled them through this primary, which is more accurately described as a coronation.
The answer for many of those Republicans who won’t vote Trump or Democrats for Clinton is Gary Johnson. His brand of libertarianism has a left tilt that will attract libertarians, but also give Democrats and Republicans alike something to catch onto.
With a divided party and a chunk of their grassroots opposed to the candidate the media just nominated for them, the Democratic Party is losing ground among their own. But what will be a huge boost for any party is the group of self-identified Independent voters who don’t believe in the two major parties and their partisan politicking.
It just won’t be the Democrats receiving that boost, because Gary Johnson has them beat.