by Peter B. Gemma
That’s the post election assessment of the American Solidarity Party presidential nominee Mike Maturen.
More than 11,000 votes were cast for Harambe on Election Day – Harambe is a dead gorilla – and the major party candidates were the two most unpopular presidential nominees in more than 30 years of ABC News/Washington Post polling. Yet, according to a November 15 Washington Post report, “Johnson and Stein never were serious threats to Clinton and Trump nationally or in any individual states. And they were far from the most successful minor party candidates in recent presidential history.”
A Wall Street Journal story published October 31 (“Signs Grow of Another Third-Party Fizzle”), predicted the outcome: “It appears increasingly likely that no outside candidate will take a meaningful chunk of the national vote, as seemed plausible in the early summer.” The piece concluded that, “The combined clout of [Libertarian Party nominee] Mr. Johnson and [Green Party nominee] Ms. Stein fell from 17 percent of registered voters in July to nine percent in the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The running RealClearPolitics polling average is even less generous, showing Mr. Johnson and Ms. Stein dropping from around 12 percent at various times this summer to just seven percent now.”
The final tallies have Gary Johnson garnering just over three percent of the national vote, and Jill Stein receiving support from about one percent of the electorate. Altogether, third party and independent candidates earned around five percent of the popular vote.
What went wrong?
According to Libertarian National Committee Vice Chair Arvin Vohra, it was “being excluded from the debates. Gary Johnson had a message that voters wanted: lower taxes, an end to the War on Drugs, repealing the Patriot Act, downsizing and eliminating federal agencies. Unfortunately, millions of Americans never got the chance to hear those important ideas.”
George Phillies, editor of Liberty for America, said the Libertarian Party failed to reach its potential because it didn’t “focus on steps that will build our party, but took steps to rack up votes without leaving a stronger party behind.” He also asserted his party should have run a presidential campaigns that “advocated traditional Libertarian issues such as non-intervention and civil liberties.”
Constitution Party Chairman Frank Fluckiger believes that “we did not have a candidate that brought with them a large amount of funds as we did in past elections. Presidential campaign donations were raised primarily from our party efforts, and although the amount of money raised was encouraging, contributions came in too late to get on more states.”
However, Constitution Party nominee Darrell Castle noted that among his frustrations was, “the failure to raise money from within my own Party.”
Political historian Darcy Richardson noted that, “given the unpopularity of both major-party candidates – Clinton and Trump were clearly the most disliked candidates in modern history – the biggest disappointment in this election was Gary Johnson’s relatively dismal 3.2 percent showing.” He went on to say:
If one is really objective about it, especially given the almost unprecedented media attention lavished on the gaffe-prone candidate – the kind of mainstream coverage the LP may not experience again anytime soon – Johnson’s showing has to be viewed as a huge disappointment to those who were looking for him to take the Libertarian Party to the next level. It didn’t happen. It was really inexcusable – he was seeking the presidency, after all. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has been needlessly squandered simply because the Libertarian candidate couldn’t be bothered with keeping himself reasonably well informed.
A Time magazine analysis of the Johnson campaign (“Third Parties Faded to the Background in a Shocking Election”) underlined Richardson’s assertion:
On MSNBC in September, revealing an apparent lack of knowledge about the center of the Syrian refugee crisis undermined his credibility on a national stage. ‘I’d say that he could have been better prepared for some of his interviews,’ Jonathan Martin, editor and contributor to Empowering Progressive Third Parties in the United States, said of Johnson’s main weakness as a candidate. ‘The media does leap on gaffes by third party candidates and it reinforces the existing image that they’re not serious.’
Rocky De La Fuente, the nominee of the Reform and American Delta parties, said “the Reform Party was only able to deliver a ballot line in one state this year, which was disappointing given its storied history.” He also stated that “there were a few states in which the American Delta Party attempted to gain ballot access that were rejected on technical grounds, and I’m sure that has to be viewed viewed with disappointment.”
Mike Maturen cited some specifics for his missed opportunities: “When the Secretary of State of Florida changed the rules mid-game regarding third party ballot access, we lost out on our attempt to be on the ballot in Florida. This would have been a huge win for us. It affected not only our ballot status, but that of several other third party candidates as well. We also missed out on ballot access in Louisiana and Missouri by only one signature each.”
Darrell Castle said his “biggest disappointment was the failure to achieve ballot access in my home state despite needing only 275 signatures for independent status.”
Prohibition Party nominee Jim Hedges observed two factors in his showing: “The Post Office return our Iowa filing marked ‘insufficient address’ the day of the filing deadline, although the address was exactly as shown on the website of the Iowa Secretary of State. Also, we failed in Tennessee because, after our filing was accepted because two of our electors were poached by other small parties.”
Frank Fluckiger essentially agrees with Hedges on the later point: “Many of our Constitution Party leaders held key positions but worked in behalf of other presidential candidates.”
Darcy Richardson summed up his view of the impact third parties had on the elections: “To be honest, from a third-party perspective, the outcome was really tragic because the country was clearly looking for an alternative.”