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Trejos: Third-party candidates are just as bad as Trump, Clinton

Jose Trejos, Columnist

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The 2016 election is unique in part due to the historically unpopular presidential nominees of both parties. Recent events have served to highlight each major party candidate’s significant weaknesses: Donald Trump childishly lashed out against a pastor objecting to Trump’s hateful speech, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign was caught lying yet again after she collapsed from an illness she had tried to hide. It is unsurprising that this election features historic support for third-party candidates such as Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, particularly from millennial voters. Unfortunately, the third-party candidates this year appear to be even more unpalatable than Trump and Clinton.

The Libertarian Party features a platform that embraces both left- and right-wing ideas which, in a year of radical candidates, has proven effective at growing the party into a more consequential force in U.S. politics. The renewed relevance of third parties among college students is reflected in the whopping 44 percent of the vote Stein and Johnson captured among millennials, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Johnson has positioned himself as a liberal on social issues such as abortion and marijuana legalization, seeking to appeal to left-leaning progressive voters distrustful of Clinton. He also adopted important right-wing positions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and tax cuts, and promises to balance the federal budget, which appeals to Republicans concerned with Trump’s left-leaning economic policy.

However, Johnson’s superficial appeal belies deep flaws with his candidacy that make it impossible to consider him a responsible alternative to Trump or Clinton. Johnson recently made comments disparaging religious freedom laws and depicting Mormons as a delusional and violent group, and he wants to ban Muslims from wearing some religious attire. This should be deeply disturbing not only to social conservatives but also to liberals drawn to his supposedly accepting attitude. His plans to balance the budget involve cutting U.S. government spending by 43 percent in his first year, a number that even right-leaning experts consider reckless. Such spending cuts would require deep cuts to or outright abolishment of almost every progressive government program, which make it almost impossible for any liberal to support him as president.

While these plans may seem to make Johnson an ideal candidate for fiscal conservatives, his record shows deeply disturbing failures that cast doubt on his lofty promises. As Governor of New Mexico, Johnson raised government spending by almost twice the national average, and almost tripled the state’s debt. Most disturbing is the fact that despite these failures, he still claims to have balanced the state’s budget, since he used an accounting trick to nominally make it so. Johnson’s fiscal record demonstrates that his plans to balance the budget are likely no more reliable than Trump’s desire to make Mexico pay for his wall. Finally, Johnson has also demonstrated himself to have a very limited understanding of foreign policy, notably through his “Aleppo” gaffe that demonstrated a lack of basic knowledge about Syria. Whether liberal or Conservative, voters should not seriously consider Johnson as a presidential candidate.

Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, holds a narrow appeal among some on the left, which is further limited by her often-radical positions. Stein has previously expressed support for anti-vaccination conspiracies and for the labelling of genetically modified foods, which has caused anger among the scientific community. The state of North Dakota is pressing charges against her for committing vandalism during a recent environmental protest. Her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, co-authored a book with a Holocaust-denier and is known to blame “Zionist Jewish Oligarchs” for instability in the Ukraine. Even when her proposals are taken seriously, Jill Stein’s ideas are radical enough to strain credulity. Her proposal to end student debt is the best example: She hopes to pay off $1.25 trillion of student debt by simply instructing the Federal Reserve to print $1.25 trillion to pay for it. This proposal would cause catastrophic inflation, and she refers to it as an accounting “hat trick,” in a hilarious and terrifying display of monetary irresponsibility. Jill Stein stands out as a far left candidate, but even to very Liberal voters, should be written off as out as irresponsible and unqualified.

No matter who is elected president this November, they will inevitably be someone disliked by the majority of the American people and potentially will be either corrupt or incompetent. Third-party options might seem an appealing way to escape this seemingly doomed election. However, the Green and Libertarian parties have failed to nominate serious candidates and offer no reprieve from this election’s cruel reality.

Jose Trejos is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be contacted at josetrejos2019@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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