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Joseph Kaminski

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September 20, 2019

Mitt Romney Endorses Gary Johnson? What Does This Mean for Third Parties?

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for this election cycle, is pretty much the last hope for anyone looking for a third party candidacy worth a damn. For independents angry with both established parties in this bipartisan-controlled government, longtime Republicans who feel as if their party has been hijacked by Trump, and progressives who feel disillusioned enough to vote third party just to make Hillary Clinton cry, the guy on everyone’s mind is Gary Johnson.

The former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson is a former Republican turned Libertarian who ran for president on the Libertarian ticket in 2012. He’s picked former Massachusetts Republican Governor William Weld as his third-party “running mate”, and he managed to survive the freak show of the Libertarian convention in Orlando.

Even with Jill Stein on the Green Party ballot, the Libertarians and Gary Johnson are currently the closest third party / spoiler party candidacy to the required fifteen percent (15%) to enter the first debate. Jill Stein, even with a significant spike in the polls from progressives after Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton, won’t be anywhere close to the required fifteen percent in time.

Now let me make this clear: third parties have never been welcome in this bipartisan society. Think of 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt absolutely trashed the Republican chances of success. Ross Perot in 1992 is considered the most successful third party candidacy in history, with 18.9% of the popular vote and 0 electoral votes. Ralph Nader, the previous Green Party candidate in 2000, gained about 2.75% of the popular vote (and 0 electoral delegates); and to this day party loyalists enjoy blaming him for Bush.

In fact, people within the parties were so afraid of third party spoilers after Ross Perot that in October 2000, Ralph Nader was actually barred from being near the actual site of the presidential debate. Despite Nader obtaining a ballot status in nearly all 50 states, he was not allowed to debate. A sympathetic student from Northeastern University had given him a ticket to be a spectator at the event, but Nader was not welcome to even step foot in the audience.

Now, though, we live in a different type of society. A new political era, if you will. More people than ever are looking for a candidate that isn’t Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Hillary and Donald are the two most disliked candidates in recorded history. Clinton is a slightly-further-to-the-right-than-Obama, business-as-usual, oligarchist-establishment, black-tie-endorsed, war-hawk; and Donald Trump is a wild-card-wielding, unpredictable, pathological-lying, racist, sexist, misogynistic fascist.

With those two candidates on the ballot, we might see a candidate take over as the most popular third party candidacy in history.

There is some speculation going around that Mitt Romney is planning on endorsing Gary Johnson; and this is kind of important in terms of swaying some votes. In an election cycle where people are kind of upset with the choices, big-name endorsements (no matter how pathetic they might actually be) could in fact raise the stakes to 15% for Gary Johnson. Personally, I believe the establishment parties would just raise the 15% requirement to something around 30% to keep Johnson out regardless; but a step is a step for the Libertarian candidacy.

Now hear me out, here: I don’t believe a third party will win. Not this election cycle. In a bipartisan society, the legislative branch (Congress – the House and the Senate) is controlled by the two corporatist parties. These parties tend to be party loyalists. In order to break that bipartisan stronghold, third parties need to flood their candidates into Congress.

Why? Well, it’s simple. With a third (or maybe even forth) party breaking into double digits on the final ballots this November, no candidate from any party would be able to reach the required electoral count of 270 to be nominated the next President of the United States. In a bipartisan-controlled House of Representatives, no third party has a chance. So, let me get you a hypothetical situation:

Clinton vs TrumpImagine a two-person race with the disclaimer in mind, between Clinton and Trump.

Hillary Clinton (D): 344
Donald Trump (R): 194
Total: 538

Who wins? That’s pretty obvious.

Realize that this electoral map is absolutely randomized so that there would be no electoral votes uncounted for or for a third party candidate. It’s relatively up-to-date in terms of major states, but there would of course be obvious changes to what the map would look like. This is not a prediction for what the election would look like whatsoever.

But…now let’s throw in a scenario with Gary Johnson, if this endorsement from Mitt Romney manages to spike his ratings, get him into the debates, and manage to make some sort of splash (unlikely, in my opinion). Realize, please, that this is entirely made up in terms of states. This is a highly hypothetical situation with randomized winners just to use as an example of what would happen afterwards.

Trump vs Clinton vs JohnsonHillary Clinton (D):
Donald Trump (R): 132
Gary Johnson (L): 158
Total: 538

So, that’s our hypothetical situation that we’ve concocted here. Of course, I don’t believe this would even happen. The states were randomized from the previous scenario just to make sure the scenario actually happens. For example, I don’t think Utah would go for Johnson — especially after his most recent religious comments.

At first glance, who wins? By numbers, it looks like Clinton. But, since no candidate reaches 270, guess what happens? It’s sent to a Republican based House of Representatives, where they immediately decide it’s between Johnson and Trump. Who wins? It’s hard to say. Party loyalists would want Trump, but the Party loyalists’ big donors that line their pockets? That’s a different story.

Honestly, I don’t think at this point during the election that a third party candidate has a chance of winning any state at all. But that could easily change for Johnson if more and more speculation comes from his campaign.

Here’s an interesting video by Secular Talk for his opinion on the subject:

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