Our current election status with two major party candidates and high disapproval ratings has produced a group of Christians whose convictions will not allow them to vote for Clinton or Trump. I share your concerns. They will either write-in a candidate or splinter their votes between one of the four third party candidates. So let’s look at the history of third party candidates. Should Christians vote third party?
The most successful third party campaign launched in American history was by Theodore Roosevelt. As a Republican who served two terms as president from 1900 – 1908, he formed the Progressive Party after failing to win his party’s nomination in 1912. As a former incumbent, he only grabbed 27% of the popular vote and 88 electoral votes.
Historians agree that Roosevelt’s 1912 candidacy took votes away from the Republican candidate, incumbent President William Howard Taft, allowing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win with just 41.8 percent of the popular vote. If the Electoral College required runoffs in states where one candidate does not get a majority of the votes, this election might have turned out differently. We see, however, that third party candidates can contribute to a president being elected without the majority of popular votes. And sometimes third party candidates are those who failed to get their own parties’ nomination.
Ross Perot ran as an Independent in 1992 garnering 18.9% of the popular vote (highest ever for third party candidate who’d never held the presidency before). He received no electoral votes. He ran again in 1996 only obtaining 8% of the popular vote. In some people’s eyes, his efforts only gave us eight years of Bill Clinton. Nonetheless, we elected another president without a majority of the popular vote.
Ralph Nader (Reform Party) was credited by many throwing the 2000 election to George W. Bush. Although he only received 2.74% of the popular vote, his votes in the swing-state of Florida, where the election hung in the balance until the Supreme Court ruled, proved critical. And who could forget those hanging chads! This presidential election was one of the closest in history, and also the fourth election in U.S. history where the eventual winner failed to win the popular vote. So in close elections, a third party candidate can influence the outcome.
One of the current third party candidates, Gary Johnson, was the least impressive of the 2012 Republican primary candidates when he dropped out to run on the Libertarian ticket in 2012. He ended up with 1% of the vote. In order for a candidate to earn the right to debate on stage, the Commission on Presidential Debates requires candidates to: 1) be constitutionally eligible for the presidency; 2) be on the ballot in enough states to win a theoretical Electoral College majority; and 3) receive at least 15 percent support in an average of five major national polls.
With Johnson (Libertarian) currently polling at 7.2% and Jill Stein (Green Party) at 2.4% (both down about 1% since first debate), neither of the front-runners of the third party candidates made it into the first debate, and unless major changes occur, they won’t make it to the second or third debates. Evan McMullin (Independent Party), a beneficiary of the “Never Trump” movement and someone I ranked closely with when I took the isidewith.com poll, was unable to get on the ballot in a majority of states. Although Johnson will pull from both Clinton and Trump (more from Trump), Stein will impact Clinton, and McMullin will take votes from Trump. Darrell Castle (Constitution Party) is not making enough waves to show up on the radar.
Here’s my advice for those whose consciences won’t allow them to vote for Clinton or Trump. One week before the actual election, if your third party candidate has not polled enough to make it onto the debate stage and is not polling nationally at 25% – 30%, you might consider shifting your vote to where the real race lies—between Clinton and Trump.
It would also be helpful if Christians would pull together behind one, third party candidate, rather than spreading out their votes and writing-in names that have no statistical chance. As Christians wane as a majority, we may well see our only power in a third party status.
Since the Electoral College is part of the original design of the U.S. Constitution, it would be necessary to pass a Constitutional amendment to change this system. Third parties have not fared well in the Electoral College system, and there have been more proposals for Constitutional amendments on changing the Electoral College than on any other subject. Making these important changes may well benefit us down the road.
Historically, third party candidates have only delivered a message or signaled a shift to the two major political parties, while never obtaining more than a five percent overall average of the vote. A third party candidate has NEVER won the presidency. And it is highly unlikely that any of the third party candidates running this season will make it into the debates, much less capture the presidency.
With an election as close as this one, third party candidates might be the reason one candidate wins over the other. They might also throw the race to the candidate Christian’s dislike the most, and they can contribute to a president winning without a majority of votes. Need I remind you our entire country is hanging in the balance.
We have a choice. Should we make a statement or help to decide the future of this country? Don’t fall for the delusion that third party candidates can win.
What is God saying to us when many Christians are displeased with both major party candidates, and then can’t find a strong favorable choice with any of the third party candidates? God is speaking, but are we listening?
Our main job as Christians is to be salt and light in a darkening world. If we had made this a priority when we were a majority, we might not be in this position. But such is the downside of abundance and prosperity.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
In the next article, we will look at what respected Christian leaders in our country are saying about our predicament.
To learn more about Ginny Dent Brant, visit her website.
Click to read Ginny’s recent article on the election, Ten Questions for Christian Voters to Consider