An eager reader sends me Reason’s Hit & Run blog post on the third parties, which Jesse Walker leads by saying, “Yesterday’s presidential election produced the strongest showing in 20 years for third-party and independent candidates.”
This statement is mostly meaningless. No third party or independent has caught fire since H. Ross Perot, and Perot lost badly and made no difference in who became President.
Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Evan McMullin, and Darrell Castle made no news on Tuesday. Libertarian Johnson never broke 10% in the Real Clear Politics four-way polling average; Green Stein never broke 5%; both sank as the fun of crabbing about the Big Two gave way to the reality of casting votes for President of the United States. Johnson and Stein both won a percentage point less in actual votes than their final RCP polling numbers. Johnson didn’t break 10% in any states, either. Even in his home state of New Mexico, which he governed, Johnson topped out at 9.34%.
Walker lists the thirteen states in which the indy/3 crowd collectively won more votes than the Trump/Clinton spread—six went for Trump and seven went for Clinton—and finds that the Green Stein vote exceeded a Clinton loss margin only in Michigan and Wisconsin. The 279 Electoral Votes already assigned to Trump by press accounts do not include Michigan’s 16. Take away Wisconsin’s 10, and Trump is at 269, but when Arizona finishes counting ballots, they’ll put 11 back in Trump’s column. No electoral math can show Jill Stein cost Hillary Clinton this election.
In South Dakota, the Libertarian Johnson/Weld ticket won 5.63% of the Presidential vote, his fifth-highest take in the country. Johnson’s best South Dakota county was Lawrence: Spearfishers and Deadwoodies (Deadwoodens? Deadwoodsmen?) gave Johnson 7.89% of their votes. Meade also went more than 7% for Johnson; the Libertarians broke 6% in Pennington, Brookings, Miner, Clark, Minnehaha, and Marshall.
The new leadership of the South Dakota Libertarian Party did a good job of distinguishing itself from morally unacceptable Trumpist lies and aggression, but only 5.63% of South Dakotans saw their Presidential ticket as a reasonable alternative to a sexist, racist, fascist pig. SDLP Chair Jon Boon McNutt cheers that tally as exceeding the national goal of 5%, but a single-digit non-factor is still a long way from wielding the electoral clout necessary to make the SDGOP nervous.