Unlike many Americans, Libertarians are excited about the 2016 presidential elections. And with good reason.
Voter disdain for the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates creates an opening for the Libertarian Party.
“It’s going to be a dynamite year for us,” Rob Hodgkinson, chairman of the Kansas Libertarian Party, told the Topeka Capital-Journal.
And stronger third parties, including the Green Party, could help invigorate the democratic process.
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Almost no voters have a positive opinion of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and only about a third have a favorable view of either candidate, according to the Monmouth University Polling Institute. As a result, many voters are facing a choice of voting for a candidate they don’t like and respect.
But that’s not the only option. Gary Johnson is running for president with the Libertarian Party, and Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate. Some states also will have candidates on the ballot from other parties, such as the Reform Party.
For Libertarians, this election presents as especially strong opportunity. Many Republicans already share libertarian views on less government and more individual freedom. If they don’t support Trump and can’t bring themselves to back Clinton, voting for Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, could be a viable alternative.
A key hurdle for Johnson is qualifying for the presidential debates, which would dramatically elevate his campaign and the Libertarian Party. The Committee on Presidential Debates requires candidates to average 15 percent support in certain polls in order to be part of the debate. Currently, Johnson is polling at about 10 percent.
As voters become more frustrated with Clinton and Trump, they may become more open to Johnson and other candidates. Already, 37 percent of voters say they would consider voting for a third-party candidate, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
The interest in alternative candidates could extend beyond the presidential contest. In Kansas, there are Libertarian candidates this year in each of the four congressional races and the U.S. Senate race. And for the first time since 1936, two independent candidates are running for Congress.
The Kansas Libertarian Party is also looking beyond 2016. If a Libertarian candidate for governor can garner 5 percent of the votes in the 2018, the party will earn “major party” status, the Capital-Journal reported. The would mean fewer restrictions on ballot access and the ability to take part in August primaries.
“I really do believe this is a steppingstone, a building block to major party status in 2018,” Hodgkinson said.
Many Republicans and Democrats are reluctant to vote for a third-party candidate, believing it ends up benefiting the other party. They blame third-party candidates for helping elect Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
But if voters can’t stand Trump and Clinton and think both would be bad for the country, why not explore third-party options?