Washington, D.C. — In an age of hyper-partisan political polarization in the United States, Americans are closing in on a 2016 presidential election that features two of the most disliked candidates in history. While the majority of the public dislikes both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, there must be a reason they both have solid bases of support, right?
People must think Trump is going to be good for the economy by building a wall on the southern border, killing multinational trade deals, and ratcheting up tariff trade wars with China, right?
And people must think Clinton will help out the poor, uplift minorities, and bring equality for women in the workplace through government mandates, right?
A Pew Research survey published on September 21st shows voters’ biggest reason for supporting a candidate is not actually their policies, but because they’re not the other candidate. Sounds confusing and illogical, right? Well, that’s because it is.
America’s political system is so broken and divided that the strongest factor driving voters’ decisions is that their candidate is not the other candidate. According to Pew:
“This ‘opposition as support’ takes place in the context of an election campaign that is far more likely to be viewed in negative than positive terms: Majorities of Americans describe themselves as ‘frustrated’ and ‘disgusted’ with the campaign, while few declare themselves ‘interested,’ ‘optimistic’ or ‘excited.’ And these negative takes have only become more widespread over the course of the summer.”
With so many voters casting a ballot against both Trump and Clinton, you’d think independents and third-party candidates would have a strong shot at competing in this election, but that isn’t the case. Though between Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, there is a higher level of support for other options now than in recent memory, these candidates are written off by the media as simply spoiler candidates who can either help or hinder the chances of Hillary or Trump.
Despite third-party candidates’ immense popularity, the Commission on Presidential Debates has barred them from participating in the highly-anticipated debates. The first takes place tonight and, coincidentally, is governed by operatives from the Republican and Democratic parties. This is despite the fact that 50 percent of Americans favor the inclusion of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein in the debates. This is because in the United States, voting isn’t about choosing someone you agree with anymore, it’s about not choosing someone you don’t agree with — and that should be a wake up call to us all.