The United States’ government is a two-party system, but Americans are becoming increasingly wary of this. A recent poll showed that 60% of voters support an option for a third party or multiple political parties. With a high level of support like this, it would be expected that third parties would capitalize on this dissatisfaction. Instead, third parties in the United States are notoriously mediocre, as they struggle to win over voters with weak policy platforms and consistently achieve little to no electoral success.
The most notable third party in America today is the Libertarian Party. Although the party has nearly 700,000 members and has come in third place in the past three presidential elections, it is an absolute joke. The party promotes radical policy positions on its platform that make the House Freedom Caucus look moderate. Some of their most out-of-touch positions include having absolutely no restrictions on gun ownership and opposition to all taxes. It’s concerning that the national Libertarian Party would support these outrageous proposals on their platform. Sure, they pose some good policies, such as support for marijuana legalization and freedom of speech, but it’s pretty hard to take the party seriously when the state party affiliates announce their support for child labor in 2021.
What makes the Libertarian Party worse is the candidates that they run. Most of their candidates are no-name local activists who don’t gain any traction with the voters; when they do get a decent candidate to run, they still can’t win. Take a look at Gary Johnson, the party’s nominee for president in 2016. The respected former Republican governor of New Mexico was polling as high as 10% that August as dissatisfaction with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton soared. Despite this, Johnson lost this momentum due to numerous gaffes where he appeared clueless on foreign policy. If a good candidate — by Libertarian standards — can’t get out of his own way, it doesn’t bode well for other Libertarian candidates.
But the Libertarian Party isn’t the only struggling third party. Another notable third party is the Green Party, which focuses on environmental issues. Their platform includes some good ideas, specifically on environmental conservation, but there’s a major issue — many of their ideas have been absorbed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. For example, the Green New Deal has been a staple of the Green Party for the last decade and attracted voters dissatisfied with Democrats’ climate policy. But now, an increasing number of progressive Democrats have rallied behind this proposal, and the Green New Deal is now associated more with the Democrats than the Green Party. With proposals like this one and others being championed by the progressive wing as their own, there’s nothing special about the Green Party. With the Democratic Party adopting more of their ideas, voters who would usually vote for the Green Party would in all likelihood support the Democrats now. Unless the party can come up with some unique policy ideas soon, it’s hard to see them having much political success in the future.
Aside from these two parties, there are numerous other third parties in the United States that have failed to gain any traction. Many of these parties often run perennial candidates who have run and failed multiple times. For voters, it’s hard to support candidates like Gloria La Riva, an activist from the far-left Party for Socialism and Liberation, after she ran for president four elections in a row and had no impact each time.
Though it seems that third parties and their candidates have a prime opportunity to win elections given the increasing dislike of the two-party system by many, they just can’t seem to get out of their own way. If they continue to run candidates and make platforms the way they are now, they will continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel of the American political landscape and toil in mediocrity.