The United States has a two-party system. However, a candidate can still run for president without representing either the Democratic- or Republican party. Such a candidate is either running for a small third party or as an independent with no party affiliations. Yet, rarely do such candidates gather a lot of votes and they are in most cases considered to be activists rather than serious contenders. In fact, the last and only time a president was elected without being affiliated with a big party was George Washington, the very first president.
Nevertheless, there have been times where a candidate from neither of the two big parties have challenged the other candidates or influenced an election. In 1992, the billionaire Ross Perot, who ran as an independent, long polled around the same as the Democratic and Republican nominees Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush and, ultimately, Perot ended with getting almost 19% of the popular. Yet, even though almost one out of five voted for Perot, he did not win a single state and, thus, received no electoral votes.
However, the most famous example of an independent or third party candidate is probably Ralph Nader (pictured above). He ran as an independent three times (1992, 2004 and 2008) and for the Green Party twice (1996 and 2000). Especially Nader’s 2000 campaign have gone down in history. Republican candidate George W. Bush won the election with the tiniest of margins over Democratic candidate Al Gore, with a recount in Florida having to settle the election. Yet, many agree that if Nader had not run and won the 2.7% of the popular vote that he got, those voters would most likely have voted for Gore and won him the election. However, the controversy surrounding the recount in Florida and Gore losing both his home state as well as many democratic voters in Florida also contributed to Gore’s defeat.
If focus is turned to the 2016 presidential election, there are long lists of Third Party Candidates and Independent Candidates. However, none of these are currently considered to have a chance to win more than a few votes compared to the Democratic and Republican nominees. Although, it cannot be ruled out that one of them could emerge as a more serious candidate, later in the race. Another possibility for an independent or third party candidate to influence the 2016 election is if one of the “dropouts” from the Republican or Democratic races decides to run anyway. Democrat dropouts Jim Webb and Lawrence Lessig have both mentioned the possibility of running, without the Democratic nomination. However, such campaigns would probably hurt their former party more than it would help their own policies, as with Nader in 2000. A third possibility is that a big outside candidate might join the race later on, such as former mayor of New York (2002-2013), Michael Bloomberg has been rumored to do. Nevertheless, as it stands now no third party or independent candidate seems to stand a chance against the Democratic and Republican nominees.
When or if a serious contender should appear among the third party- and independent candidates, it will be covered on this page.
(Photo credit: Wikimedia)