Young  white man  with tousled brown hair wearing a blue T-shirt that says BEXLEY in white letters and he's waving a very tiny flag and kind of sneering at the camera in a bored way

In Ohio, the 2018 election held consequences for the third party candidates for governor – both myself (the Libertarian Party candidate) and Constance Gadell-Newton (the Green Party candidate) had to earn at least 3 percent of the vote to secure ballot access for our political parties over the next four years, due to the latest restrictive ballot access laws made by Republicans in the statehouse.

Unfortunately, we both failed to meet those margins, even with our vote totals combined. While there is a legal precedent for the Libertarian Party of Ohio to challenge any ruling from the Secretary of State that we are no longer a recognized political party (both the language of the law and a previous court case in the Sixth Circuit proves that minor parties get two statewide elections to meet any ballot access requirements) it’s hard to say if our Republican overlords who now firmly run this state will allow that to happen. Secretary of State-elect Frank LaRose, while hailed in several newspaper endorsements as someone who has worked “across the aisle,” is probably just another Ohio GOP shill ready to do their bidding.

The post election autopsy for Libertarians has not been pretty – not just for us here in Ohio, but nationwide. We always get the usual hate from the left and the right, both blaming us for potentially swinging the election to the “more evil” candidate. Some of us even get hate from other Libertarians for not being serious or “libertarian” enough. Despite some relatively good media coverage of our campaign from Labor Day until November, over $30,000 being donated and spent appropriately, hours of traveling and speaking on the campaign trail with genuine interest pouring in from thousands of folks not satisfied with their two major party options, we saw our vote totals come in just short of 2 percent on Election Night. Heck, even the polls got it wrong – so what happened?

While most politicians and campaigns first reflect on went wrong internally (and there has been plenty of that) it should be noted that we are not living in typical political times. According to the latest addition of Ballot Access News which recapped the 2018 election, it’s clear that minor party and independent vote totals for the top offices in states across the country were the lowest since the midterms of 1982 (before I was even born.) In fact, out of 23 other Libertarian gubernatorial candidates in the U.S., my vote totals of over 77,000 placed fourth amongst my peers and my vote percentage of 1.8 percent placed seventh nationally. These were not good enough, especially for a third political party that was seeing serious growth and interest after 2016.

According to Ballot Access News, “it seems obvious that the vast majority of voters now fear one of the two major parties. Therefore, the voters who might normally have supported an independent or minor party candidate instead voted for the major party that is not the major party they fear.”

In other words, in the age of Donald Trump, fear wins elections. Not only that, but the usual third party “protest” vote now goes to Trump and the Republicans, although these people looking to buck the establishment with their protest votes are ironically just voting for the establishment. Naturally, as President Trump made his stump speeches in Ohio and across the country, he continued to put forward these politics of fear – that Democrats would undo everything he’s done and a caravan of immigrants would infiltrate the country and so on. The fear works, too. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked by Ohio voters about Trump’s wall, illegal immigrants or Sharia Law – all federal “issues” that a governor has very little control over.

So it goes – the history of third political parties in America certainly has its ups and downs, but the notion that a movement of people can start a new political party in any election year is not something that is completely lost yet, at least not in other states. While the 1982 election reflected the repercussions of Ronald Reagan and the reactionary voting based on his administration’s policies, it also led to over 30 years of decent third party turnout and independent candidates doing better than usual, with Ross Perot garnering some of the highest third party presidential totals ten years later. Trump and the fear he brings to our electorate is not the end of the independent voting streak in America, although it does make it seem more difficult. After all, independence and change are what our country was founded on.

One thing is certainly clear – if John Kasich thinkshe can seriously mount a third party presidential run in 2020, he’s got his work cut out for him.

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