Although it’s been over a week since America learned that Donald J. Trump was to be Her next president, the country is still reeling in shock at the result. For some, the outcome of this election couldn’t have been better. Conservatives are ecstatic at the idea of the Trump moving into the Oval Office and are eagerly awaiting his upcoming term. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, many Democrats are devastated about the new presidency. Protests and riots have sprung up across the country, while #NotMyPresident started trending on social media.
However, what about those who don’t fit into the categories of conservative or liberal?
It’s an unfortunate fact that the record-breaking tensions between conservatives and liberals have once again placed third parties onto the metaphorical back-burner. However, considering the 2016 election proved historical for the Libertarian Party, is this really where third parties deserve to be? After all, polls show that presidential candidate Gary Johnson earned 3.24% of the popular vote, or 4,133,106 total votes, making him the most successful third-party candidate in the past 20 years. It also placed him seventh on the list of the most successful third party presidential candidates in all of U.S. history.
In light of these numbers, many on the left are frustrated with third party voters. A larger portion of Democrats wish to blame the Libertarian party for pulling votes away from Clinton in battleground states, thus theoretically ensuring Trump’s victory in the Electoral College. Others pin the whole of the election on third parties, leading to further conflict between the various parties.
A senior at the University of South Carolina, Rachel Bradford tells Fresh U that she is fed up with this kind of hatred and blame.
"It’s amazing how, in every election, the third parties always wind up the scapegoat. It’s never the candidate’s fault for not appealing to voters or mobilizing the people. It’s mine for voting my conscience."
Rachel believes the outcome of the election can be attributed to two simple problems plaguing the country — the first being a lack of responsibility. According to Rachel, this is what destroyed the political system to begin with. Right now, those on the left don’t want to take responsibility for the failings of their candidates or their party, Rachel explains. They also refuse to acknowledge that they lost the election through their own actions. The result, Rachel says, is that when their candidates don’t win, both parties look to something or someone else to blame, and it’s always the third parties.
The second issue Rachel highlighted was a general lack of understanding.
"When people learn that I voted Johnson, they immediately grew angry. 'Why couldn’t you just vote Hillary? You’re the reason Trump is president.' And I have to ask myself: do they not understand anything?"
"They tell you to vote Hillary so you don’t get Trump, or they tell you to vote Trump so you don’t get Hillary," Rachel laments, "but they don’t understand that I couldn’t support either candidate." She explains that, in her eyes, Trump was truly no different than Clinton and that they merely represented different threats. "Trump threatens me socially," she explains, "while Clinton threatened me economically — where's the solution in that?" However, now that Trump has won, she shares that many of her fears center around the sanctity of civil rights and the belief that the U.S. debt will continue to spiral out of control.
"I’m not happy with this outcome, but it also wasn’t my fault. The establishment parties have become so polarized that many people my age are getting left behind. Unlike the rest, I just wasn't willing to sell my ideals. Apparently that makes me the bad guy."
Another Libertarian, Doug Braff at New York University, also shared his sentiments on the election. In regards to Trump’s presidency, Doug explains that he is very concerned that civil rights — such as marriage equality and the Fourth Amendment — will be under attack. He also believes that America will continue to deteriorate fiscally and that new foreign policy will isolate the US from Her allies, particularly those in Europe. "Even though Hillary’s predictability would have made me feel better than Trump’s unpredictability," Doug explains, "I would still have serious concerns about her fiscal and foreign policy."
Additionally, like Rachel, Doug shares his frustration with the blame being pointed his way. "Contrary to what Facebook would lead you to believe," Doug says, "third parties did not elect Donald Trump." As he explains, Clinton lost because she was a weak candidate from the beginning and didn’t get enough electoral vote to win the presidency.
"People on the left are only blaming third parties because they did not want to blame their own candidate or their own party for shooting themselves in the foot, and they have a skewed belief that somehow Clinton is entitled to all of their votes."
"They [liberals] have an obsession with saying third parties 'stole' her votes," Doug explains. "Yet, by saying this, they are assuming Clinton somehow owns the votes of everyone who voted third party." According to Doug, this is nothing short of pure arrogance. He says that Democrats look at states such as Florida and New Hampshire, where the third party vote was larger than the gap between Trump and Clinton, and assume that without a third party candidate, those votes would have gone to Clinton.
"This logic is flawed since it is impossible to assume and very unlikely that those votes would have gone to Clinton because Johnson pulled more from Trump and many of those voters would have not voted at all. Clinton still would have lost if third parties were not in play."
Nevertheless, Doug feels like election has had a great impact on the third parties, citing that the Libertarian Party received the most votes during this election than it has in its entire history. Additionally, Maine voted yes in its referendum to change its voting system to the instant run-off system. This, Doug says, will allow for third parties to build on the momentum they've had this election.
Next, Fresh U interviewed Montana State University freshmen Payton Taylor. Similar to the other two interviewees, Payton says he is mostly concerned about Trump’s dual approach to economics and immigration. He fears that with Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate, some of Trump’s "crazier" policies might be implemented.
Economically, Payton explains that the tariffs Trump proposes against China and Mexico will greatly increase the price of goods due to added cost of cost and production. Additionally, his immigration policies will also harm the country economically. Payton says that immigrants play a huge role in America’s agricultural industry since Hispanic immigrants make up a large percentage of workers. With statistics showing that 78 percent of crop workers were not born in the US and 77 percent come from Mexico or Central America, Payton's beliefs are hardly unfounded.
However, even with these reservations, Payton still believes that a Trump presidency is preferable to a Clinton presidency, albeit very slightly.
"Some of Clinton's policies, such as her position on the Second Amendment, are unforgivable to me."
Finally, on the role of third parties in this election, Payton explains that it isn’t as extreme as the media reports. "Even if Johnson did steal votes from Clinton," Payton says, "he would have stolen a similar amount from Trump."
All in all, Payton attributes Trump's win to Clinton's clear corruption, which he believes played a key factor in breaking the "blue wall" this year.
"Trump's victory says more about Clinton than it does about Trump. Also, the idea that any candidate is a 'spoiler' is absurd and is only used to enhance and enforce the two party system instead of working to defeat it."
Finally, Fresh U checked in with Scott Ernest at Montana State University, Bozeman. Scott explains that his biggest concern with the upcoming Trump presidency is that he finds Trump to be "incompetent." Additionally, he also fears Trump’s "hypocrisy" and how this could affect the policy the President-elect will propose. "Trump claims to be pro-LGBT," Scotts says, "yet his allies clearly are not."
However, though he may not be pleased with the result, Scott still isn’t horrified by the election.
"Neither issue is enough for me to shed a tear like many in this country. Yes. I think Trump is an incompetent scammer. But to me, Clinton is corruption incarnate."
Furthermore, Scott doesn’t believe the third parties had nearly as much of an effect in the election as the nine percent of Democrats that flipped. "If anything," Scott explains, "the third parties drew away from the Republicans and that's what made the election more of a nail biter."
"This election shows that Democrats need to figure out why their party chose a candidate that would chase urban Democrats from the Rust Belt away and not worry about [third parties].
I also think that more and more people are going to reject the established parties. This election was a farce."
All in all, Fresh U heard a variety of opinions from these third party college students. While some, such as Rachel and Doug, believed civil issues may come under threat during Trump’s presidency, others focused more the economic consequences soon to plague America. Yet, even in these differences, they all carried the same message: stop blaming the other side.
Whether it’s accusing third parties of spoiling the election or attacking the character of the "other side," the worst thing America can do is to further divide Herself on the basis of political affiliation. As Rachel explained, a dialogue needs to be opened and an understanding must be reached.
"'Unfriending’ people on social media for having different opinions or attacking ‘the other side’ is what led to these polarized candidates to begin with and will only further the madness."
Simply put, a middle ground must be found and compromise must once again be established. Otherwise, 2020 will bear the same fruit and you will have no one but yourself to blame.
Lead Image Credit: Connie Ma via Flickr Creative Commons