In an unprecedented circus of an election, Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and Hillary Clinton’s dishonesty scandals have provoked widespread discontent throughout the country and beyond. Thus, the rise of third-party candidates as an alternative in this election does not come as a surprise. However, because there is not enough media coverage to spotlight third-party candidates, we cannot accurately gauge their suitability for presidency.
In past elections, third-party candidates have failed to generate adequate support and make their mark on the presidential election, but as traditional Democratic and Republican candidates continue to disappoint voters this year, people are turning to candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. The problem is that third-party candidates tend to maintain low profiles and go unscathed by the media. While this is not inherently bad, third-party candidates don’t undergo the same public scrutiny and aren’t held to the same critical standards as the other candidates.
Gary Johnson is a prime example of this lack of media coverage on third-party candidates. People assume that Gary Johnson is inevitably better than the other nominees because we fail to see his shortcomings as a candidate, such as his failure to name a single world leader outside of the United States, his ignorance on international issues like the bombing of Aleppo, his support of the legalization of prostitution, or his inappropriate habit of smoking marijuana, which he stopped only three weeks before he launched his presidential campaign. He is also the owner of an edible marijuana company.
We fail to accurately evaluate third-party candidates like Governor Johnson because the media only focuses on the Democratic and Republican nominees, steering smaller party candidates away from both praise and critique. With this media bias, two problems arise: the American public does not pay due attention to capable candidates, and the flaws of such candidates are not adequately explored.
This is a problem that pertains not only to older voters, but also to teenagers. As the most vocal participants on social media, we students have the agency to steer conversations and provoke meaningful dialogue. As such, despite many of us being ineligible to vote, we are also affected by the lack of information on third-party candidates.
While the binary system makes information on third-party candidates less readily available, it is still important for us to scrutinize Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and any other third-party candidates in the same way we would consider Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It’s true that some of the fault lies with the media, or with politicians currently in power, but Andover students have the means to educate themselves on every candidate that is running for the office of the president. On campus, the dialogue is centralized on critiques of Trump or Clinton and rarely strays into the realm of third-party candidates. When it does, we fail to thoroughly and seriously consider them as candidates.
In an election in which information is currency, and Trump and Hillary are under constant scrutiny, third-party candidates are in a profoundly different playing field. They seem to be merely alternatives to two unlikable candidates. But as citizens, permanent residents, or just students who attend school in the United States, we have a responsibility to examine third-party candidates as fully and critically as we do Republican and Democratic candidates.
Tanvi Kanchinadam is a two-year Lower from Andover, MA.