For those of us still clinging to some some faint hope that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States, a few stories that appeared in the press Wednesday provided some straws to grasp at.
A couple of them were about polls showing that a significant percentage of the population would be willing to consider a credible third party candidate, which is not surprising given that all the other polls show both of the two major parties’ presumptive nominees are distrusted and disliked by significant portions of their own parties and unprecedented majorities of the country. One poll in New Hampshire had Mitt Romney earning 21 percent of the vote, within shouting distance of Clinton’s 37 percent and Trump’s 33 percent, which is somewhat more surprising given that Romney isn’t even running. A national poll found 58 percent of the country dissatisfied with the major party choices, 55 percent hoping for another choice, and 65 percent of the country “somewhat,” “pretty,” or “very willing” to vote for that third candidate. An eye-popping 91 percent of the under-30 set want a third choice, and the pollsters conclude that a credible third-party candidate would start out with 21 percent of the entire vote.
At this this late date it would be difficult for an independent candidate to be on enough state ballots to affect the election, and the few minor but-oh-so-sincere parties that have been diligent and organized enough to maintain that access usually nominate people who have been so far outside the political mainstream they have never held public office, but another story suggests this crazy election cycle might yet provide another exception to the usual political rules. The Libertarian Party won’t choose a nominee until its convention later this month, but the heavy betting favorite is Gary Johnson, a former two-term and well-regarded governor of New Mexico, the odds went up further on Wednesday when it was announced that ,his running mate would be William Weld, a former two-term and and well-regarded governor of Massachusetts, and if the party chooses this quite credible ticket it will be right there on the ballot in all 50 states.
It sounds crazy, to be sure, but as we grasp at such straws we can at least console ourselves that this has thus far been one crazy election cycle. This is a year when the Libertarian Party’s ticket seems likely to have a vastly more proven budget-balancing and government-restraining record than whatever the Republican ticket of a four-times-bankrupt-casino-and-strip-joint mogul and whatever he lackey he chooses as a running mate, and the Democratic nominee’s indefensible record as a First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State pretty much explains the national and bi-partisan “anti-establishment” mood that propelled the Republican to his nomination and could easily be exploited by a couple of former two-term governors running on a third-party ticket. The media might love this plot twist as much as they’ve loved all the presumptive Republican nominee’s surreality show, two or three capitalism-loving billionaires and a whole lot of disgruntled small donors and a small but diligent and well-organized and oh-so-sincere activists who have managed to keep their party on the ballot in all 50 states could provide a lot of further publicity and a plausible if improbable claim that to that hypothetical starting-out 21 percent of the vote.
At that point the craziest election cycle of our lifetimes, which includes the crazy three-way race of ’68, might get crazier yet.