Independent Candidates Can Have Influence


One advantage of traditional political parties is that they have existed for more than 150 years

With a year to go before the presidential election, Americans’ displeasure with the seemingly inevitable candidates, Democrat Joe Biden and Republican former President Donald Trump, is reflected in what appears to be a great deal of curiosity about possible independent or third-party candidates.

The U.S. press reports that the independent candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. attracts the attention of up to 22% of voters; and two others, the African American leftist academic Cornel West and the ecologist Jill Stein for the Green Party, provoke curiosity, although not many popularity points.

Neither has a real chance of winning. The U.S. political-electoral system poses a considerable number of obstacles, including the fact that they must register in all 50 states, which would also indicate the not-so-simple task of creating at least a basic infrastructure in each of them.

In exchange for having little chance of victory, independents have the ability to influence the outcome of the election since the voting is done state by state to elect delegates who will in turn vote for one of the challengers.

One of the advantages of traditional political parties is that they have existed for more than 150 years and are largely a coalition of state parties, bound by similar principles — albeit sometimes with divergent emphases — and coordinated by a national committee.

That means that an independent challenger can affect the vote for one or the other of the candidates, something that has happened before.

Most notable is the 1912 election, when President Theodore Roosevelt challenged the presidential reelection bid of his presumed co-religionist, but much more conservative, William Taft and launched an independent candidacy: Roosevelt won 27% of the vote to Taft’s 23%. Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the presidency with 41.8% of the vote.

In 1992, conservative Ross Perot ran as an independent against Republican President George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton. Perot won 19% of the national vote to the detriment of Bush, who garnered 37 % to Clinton’s 43%.

Jill Stein, for example, was the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2016 and won about 1% of the vote nationally, but her votes in the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were more than candidate Trump’s margins of victory over Hillary Clinton.

Displeasure with the current inevitable candidates in the current election may drive votes to independents, especially Kennedy, and increase his impact.

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About Stephen Routledge 168 Articles
Stephen is the Head of a Portfolio Management Office (PMO) in a public sector organisation. He has over twenty years experience in project, programme and portfolio management, leading various major organisational change initiatives. He has been invited to share his knowledge, skills and experience at various national events. Stephen has a BA Honours Degree in History & English and a Masters in Human Resource Management (HRM). He has studied a BSc Language Studies Degree (French & Spanish) and is currently completing a Masters in Translation (Spanish to English). He has been translating for more than ten years for various organisations and individuals, with a particular interest in science and technology, poetry and literature, and current affairs.

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