“This was the only debate for the New York U.S. Senate race, and it was held on a Sunday night competing against popular sports events for viewership. This was obviously a strategic move to allow Chuck Schumer to avoid criticism on his record.”
There I was standing outside of Union College, where the 2016 New York Senate debate was being held. The Green Party nominee and I had both been excluded from the debate, and I was handing out campaign literature instead of debating. When the debate was first announced, Time Warner would not get back to my campaign on the criteria, eventually announcing only candidates with certain poll numbers were invited. However, none of the polls had even included by name or the name of the Green Party’s nominee, which made my appearance in the debate nearly structurally impossible.
This was the only debate for the New York U.S. Senate race, and it was held on a Sunday night competing against popular sports events for viewership. This was obviously a strategic move to allow Chuck Schumer to avoid criticism on his record. Brian, my campaign manager and I were later removed from Union College Campus simply for reaching out to voters, even though I received more than 48,000 votes.
The Green Party candidate and I later organized two of our own debates on the Pantsuit Politics podcast and another live streamed from the NYLP Facebook Page, which both were civil and more focused on the issues than many of the debates that took place in 2016.
I was fortunate, however, even to be able to participate at all. Libertarian Party candidates did not have automatic ballot access in New York, which meant that we had to collect over 30,000 signatures just to get me and Gary Johnson on the ballot. The Republican, Democratic, and Green Party candidates did not have to collect a single signature, and this, of course, gave them a significant advantage from the get-go.
A lot of people dismiss third party candidates, but they routinely overcome challenges in ballot access, media access, and fundraising in order to blaze a trail. In doing so, they chip away at the major party duopoly that has left our country in a chaotic standstill. For the record, voters can accomplish a lot by voting third party. Let me highlight a few reasons:
The only way for a third party candidate to win is to get votes. Even if winning is unlikely in a particular election cycle, larger vote counts help to remove ballot access barriers in many states. It also attracts the attention of the media and donors for future elections.
Strong third party showings act as clear signals of the changing values of the country. It demonstrates that establishment parties have long ago given up their quest to have a clear set of principles or values. Instead, they often compete trivialities and one-liners rather than on clear sets of values or principles. Often, these major parties speak in such a vague terms that they allow anyone to see or hear what they want.
Voting third party discourages the lesser of two evils mentality. If the two major parties know that they can no longer win simply by claiming only to be better than the opponent, we might avoid debacles like the 2016 election. Many Americans were voting against one candidate rather than because they agreed with the candidate for which they cast their ballot.
The 2016 election cycle gave third parties more attention than ever, which was caused in large part by the growing dysfunction of the two dominant parties. We must recognize that third parties provide paths to change the current system and make the two-party duopoly more accountable to voters. We need to blaze a trail and develop the third-party path before things get worse.
Alex Merced was the Libertarian Nominee for New York State’s 2016 U.S. Senate Race. He is currently running for NYC Comptroller in 2017 and is the host of “The AlexMercedCast” podcast and other media at AlexMerced.com.