At what point do we, as voters, say enough and begin to choose candidate over party? At what point do we stop looking at the spray tan and altered mental rhetoric being thrust upon us and choose to pull the lever on a third candidate?

A Washington Post article from 2016 sums up the quandary: “Is it ethical to vote one’s conscience (i.e. rejecting the two main candidates and voting for a third party)? Or are those who support a (third-party) candidate “wasting their vote” or (and there is a third opinion for those who choose not to toe the party line) by voting for a third-party candidate, are they effectively giving the candidate they like the least a free vote?

Now that was four years ago and the options for third-party contenders were Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party.

In this election, while President Donald Trump and Joe Biden are getting a glut of the publicity there is a third-party alternative, relatively unknown Jo Jorgensen, who is running on the Libertarian ticket.

For years, I always voted as an Independent because that’s how my views lined up: socially liberal, fiscally conservative.

The gays should be allowed to marry, divorce and have all the babies they want. Marijuana should be legalized, taxed and sold at gas stations, smoke shops and other various retailers right night next to the auxiliary USB cables and the national government has no business being in the business of education. Also, church and state should be two separate entities. There is no need to pray before a business meeting. Stay in one long enough and folks’ll be talking to God on their own: “Please God let this end. Christ, how much longer? Sweet Jesus, is this guy ever going to stop talking? Jesus, Mary and Ralph, this could have been an email.”

Mom, Dad … you can stop shaking your heads at this. Look, the Baptists are already praying for me. But not in that revival way — in that see each other outside Aunt Betty’s Closet (the ABC Store) kind of condescending “I’mma pray for you” kind of way.

On the conservative end of the spectrum: Don’t tax me any more than already being done; as a matter of fact, let’s do away with the IRS in general. I want to be able to take home more money in my paycheck and to be at a point wherein 10 years I’m making 20 or 25 grand more than I’m making now. Smaller government is key and not every situation can be solved by a committee or a new regulation. Some are necessary, I get that — but others are just meaningless red tape created by bureaucrats with overstuffed pockets.

My personal politics and issues with religion aside, let’s focus on the topic at hand — does a third-party candidate ever stand a snowball’s chance in Arizona of being elected to the highest seat in the land?

Referencing a How Stuff Works article from 2018: “…even if American voters are fed up with the two-party system — 68% said in 2018 the two major parties don’t represent their views and that a third option is needed — could they ever actually agree on a candidate? And more importantly, is the U.S. electoral system engineered so that any presidential candidate without a D or an R after their name doesn’t stand a chance of being anything other than a spoiler?”

Ralph Nader, for years, tried to be that guy and so did Ron Paul. But with both of those folks running and campaigning hard just to be included in the conversation money becomes an issue. They don’t have the backing nor the powerbrokers that the big two have.

So to answer my question, no I don’t think a third party will ever have a chance to win the Oval unless he or she falls upon a topic that can unite the country. In 1856 slavery was the issue that brought the Republicans to the fore and left the Democrats and Whigs speechless.

According to Georgia State professor Daniel Franklin: “Neither party (The Dems or the Whigs) would touch the topic of slavery with a 10-foot-pole. And in 1860 that gave Abraham Lincoln a political lane to the White House.”

The problem today is there isn’t that one unifying topic. Sure there are things we’d all love to agree one: better healthcare, a better minimum wage, the abolition of the Big 10 as a football conference, a joint Senate resolution forcing Notre Dame to join the SEC for 10 years and then drop back to FCS obscurity, ban the production of those weird and gross pink hot dogs that you can buy for $.99 that may have been made out of broken-down donkey lips and armadillo underbellies, bringing back NCAA football for the PlayStation 5, but nothing as universally unifying as the overarching principle slavery is bad.

Ross Perot, who to date, has had the best chance of pulling off the upset because he was rich and crazy enough to not really care what the other parties were saying, focused on the deficit in 1992. He focused and hammered on shrinking it so much Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush made began to include it into their own talking points.

Once that happened, it was game over for ol’ Ross.

In this election, Jorgensen has the right ideas (she’s Libertarian, so some are going to marry the right and others with the left) but not enough political capital to be more than an also-ran at the ballot box. Realistically, an Independent could shake things up in the Senate and in the House if enough of them ran and were elected. By electing someone not affiliated with a major party to a seat, the voters are literally telling the two parties enough with their shenanigans. We are tired of it.

Come to think of it … maybe term limits need to be the thing to focus on. Get some of these career public servants out of the office and back to the districts they have been failing to serve publicly. I could live with that.

I know I’m sounding like a broken record with the Twain quote, but I feel like it needs to become an election year mantra: “Politicians are like diapers and should be changed as frequently.”

We are now in the short game in terms of the national election. Don’t blindly follow the pack because they have an R or a D next to their name. Look at all the candidates. You may be surprised at the information and how it aligns with your views.

Or we can just wait for the zombies to rise and sort the whole thing out. Be prepared either way.

It’s that simple. 

Griffin Pritchard is a Tallassee resident and regular columnist for TPI.