The 2016 presidential election is inching closer by the day and as Congress and President Obama watch their approval ratings plummet, one must ask whether it's time to ditch the two party system.
At Midnight on October 1st, 2013, Democrats and Republicans were unable to come to an agreement and the federal government was put on pause and for 16 days was shut down. Recent polls show Congress holding a pathetically low 10 percent approval rating and President Obama has seen his approval rating drop to a two year low of 43 percent. Democrats and Republicans continue to point fingers at one another, deflecting blame back and forth like a game of ping pong. While Democrats have offered a much more rational solution to the country's fiscal problems, the American people seem to be getting tired and fed up with all politicians in Washington and at a local level.
As both major political parties find themselves in the doghouse with the American people, the thought of a third-party making noise in the upcoming election is, if nothing, intriguing. The first and major obstacle a third-party candidate would have to endure is the most obvious, money. Before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United in 2010, essentially giving corporations the right of free speech and the ability to spend unlimited money in elections, a 3rd party candidate had trouble getting through to the American people on a national level.
The last third party or independent candidate to receive major national support was Ross Perot during the 1992 and 1996 elections. During the 1992 presidential election, Perot received 18.9 percent of the popular vote, approximately 19,741,065 votes. Though he didn't receive any electoral votes, Perot was the most successful third-party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt ran in 1912 as the nominee for the Bull Moose party. Perot ran again in 1996, this time as the founder and nominee of the Reform party. Perot didn't fair as well as he did in 1992, but still received a respectable 8 percent of the popular vote.
In 2000, Republican George W. Bush defeated the Democrat party's nominee Al Gore. The result was controversial and actually ended up in the hands of the Supreme Court. When George W. Bush was declared the winner by less than 1 million votes, many Democrats pointed to the Green Party nominee Ralph Nader as the reason for the Gore defeat. Whether the more liberal Nader was a spoiler or not, he did receive 2.74 percent of the popular and made a definite impact.
In recent years, conservative libertarians have urged Sen. Ron Paul (R-TX) to run independent of the Republican party, but have been unsuccessful in doing so. With Paul now 78 years old, his time for running for president seems to be all but over. Recent third party candidates haven't fared as well in support like Perot or Paul, with the most notable being Gary Johnson, the 2012 presidential nominee for the Libertarian party. Johnson and running mate Judge James P. Gray received 1.27 million votes, amounting to 0.99 percent of the popular vote, enough to make it the best third party showing in a presidential election since 2000 and the best showing for the Libertarian party in its history.
An interesting name that has been making news for a possible run in 2016 is former Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura. Ventura got his start in politics in 1991 when he was elected Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. In 1998, running against Republican St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman and Democrat Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III, Jesse Ventura became the new Governor of Minnesota as the nominee of the Ross Perot's Reform Party. Over the last few years, Ventura has voiced his open opposition to both political parties, releasing a book in 2012 titled 'DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government.' Jesse Ventura has stated on multiple occasions that he would be open to running as an independent in 2016 if he would be allowed to debate the opposing candidates. Ventura simply noted: "If I can debate them, I can beat them."
History has shown multiple independent and third party candidates making an impact in presidential elections. Rewinding time back to the 1800s shows just that. In 1896, former Nebraska Congressman William Jennings made history by becoming nominated to run for president by three parties: Democrats, Populists and Free Silver. Jennings had a strong showing, 45.8 percent of the popular vote, but in the end, fell short to Republican William McKinley. Jennings eventually became Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson and as a devout Christian, was a prominent voice during the infamous "Scopes Monkey Trial" to prosecute John Thomas Scopes for teaching evolution in public schools. Five days after the trial ended, Jennings died in his sleep.
Another independent who made a name for himself was former Senator La Follette who ran for president in 1924 on the Progressive Party ticket. His 16.6 percent of the popular vote was impressive, but wasn't enough to prevent Republican Calvin Coolidge from moving into the White House.
Moving the clock forward to the 1960s shows another independent who made an impact in a presidential race and his name was Alabama Governor George Wallace. Wallace, who ran under the American Independent Party ticket in 1968, pushed for segregation and a withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. Wallace pulled in 13.5 percent of the popular vote, carrying 5 southern states. Wallace attempted to run again in 1972 and 1976, but the man that once stated "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," couldn't regain his racist magic.
Like Gov. Jesse Ventura has noted in recent interviews, if an independent were to run and win the presidency in 2016, they would be the first president with no party affiliation since the first president of the United States, George Washington. The chance of a third-party candidate actually winning the presidency in 2016 is slim, but the opportunity to hear another voice should be something that is welcomed from all of the potential voters.