Final Thoughts on Third Parties in the 2012 Election

Posted by tobymuresianu on Nov 7, 2012 in Politics, Thoughts |

Well, the election’s all said and done – and assuming they reject my petition to recount Ohio in case Gary Johnson makes a comeback, I guess it’s time for a few final thoughts.

I’m a little disappointed in the third party showing in the election, though maybe more than that in the lack of coverage they’ve gotten yesterday and today.

Even on sites which have run articles about third parties and when discussing close races I haven’t heard them mentioned. On CNN they’re lumped into a hard to see yellow color at the end of their exit poll bar graphs. The best I’ve found is Politico, which includes third party polling by state though not overall. Obama & Romney together now have 98.4% of the popular vote, so we can deduce that 1.6% went to third parties. Gary Johnson appears to have taken the most third party votes (including over 3% in the swing state of New Mexico), followed by Jill Stein.

So while it wasn’t the 5% necessary for a third party to get federal funding, it’s more than the 0% you might think from watching the news. In real numbers, that’s nearly 2 million votes. Maybe all third party supporters should move to Wyoming, Vermont, DC, North Dakota and Alaska – we’d have 15 electoral votes.

There is also a little hope for third parties when looking at the exit poll breakdowns – they took 3-4% of the population under 44. If these generations maintain their tilt going forward, it would bode well for third parties in future election cycles. In less optimistic news, third parties seem to represent a mostly white enterprise, with little minority support. Given that both parties are generally anti-immigration (before the election-year DREAM act, Obama’s administration had deported more people than any other), one would think there’d be an opportunity among Hispanic voters as most third parties (Libertarian, Green and Justice, though notably not the Constitution party) are much more pro-immigration. I suppose like most things it’s a question of money, volunteers and awareness.

I must say I’m a little pleased that the GOP – generally the more obstructionist of the parties – lost. And there was certainly a lot of talk about ending partisanship. If it sounds familiar, though, it’s because it pretty much happens every election as the winner wants to govern as smoothly as possible while the loser seeks to appear gracious and angle for concessions. You also can’t help but notice how vague the talk of “supporting bipartisanship” and “reaching across the aisle” is, though – once it gets into specific issues like health care, it’s all back to “principles” and “taking a stand”. And it doesn’t look like the ideological lines have drawn any closer together. Still, Obama had a good speech and hope springs eternal that this time will be different, perhaps due to the visible and high-stakes fiscal cliff looking and ever-heightening dissatisfaction with partisanship and congress.

I guess my final thought is that I’m happy I started writing this blog and grateful towards people who have read it. I started because I felt like there were some important things that weren’t being said, and after writing them, I was really pleased to hear from a number of people who agreed, some of whom changed their votes. Though the third party vote overall was not as strong as I would have hoped, it’s also worth noting that those votes are still counted and used to inform the political debate, and there would have been proportionally less impact having voted for Obama or Romney; for those who say it’s important to vote for someone with a chance of winning, Nate Silver has an interesting index of the value of a vote for either candidate by state (check the right sidebar). I believe that if you choose to engage in this peculiar institution of voting – and you should – it’s important to vote for what you believe in, because simply, you might as well.

Anyway, looking forward to taking a small vacation from political thought and getting back to writing about being drunk in exotic places or whatever it is I do. Thanks again for reading and being openminded and awesome, everybody!

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