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Third parties are the key to democracy

Gary+Johnson+speaks+during+the+Libertarian+Party+presidential+candidate+debate+at+the+Embassy+Suites+in+Orlando%2C+Florida%2C+Saturday%2C+February+11%2C+2012.+
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Third parties are the key to democracy

Gary Johnson speaks during the Libertarian Party presidential candidate debate at the Embassy Suites in Orlando, Florida, Saturday, February 11, 2012.

Gary Johnson speaks during the Libertarian Party presidential candidate debate at the Embassy Suites in Orlando, Florida, Saturday, February 11, 2012.

Stephen M. Dowell/MCT

Gary Johnson speaks during the Libertarian Party presidential candidate debate at the Embassy Suites in Orlando, Florida, Saturday, February 11, 2012.

Stephen M. Dowell/MCT

Stephen M. Dowell/MCT

Gary Johnson speaks during the Libertarian Party presidential candidate debate at the Embassy Suites in Orlando, Florida, Saturday, February 11, 2012.

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As the Millennials—or Generation Y—reach young adulthood, they are beginning to hit the polls. This generation is different from any other: Teens and young adults (with the help of smart phones and social media) are now far more connected to the world around them, allowing them to keep in touch with the latest news developments and educate themselves on any topic imaginable. The political landscape has begun to shift, and non-traditional parties are gaining more attention.

In 2012, the Libertarian presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, received about 1 percent of the popular vote. However small this may seem, it is a step up from the 1 percent received by all third-party candidates combined in the 2008 election. Fast forward to Nov. 4, when the country headed out to the polls to vote in the midterm elections. Robert Sarvis, the Virginia Libertarian candidate for the Senate race, received about 2.5 percent of the votes—53,396 voters checking him off to represent the Commonwealth. This is a significant leap from the 2006 Senate election, when third parties in Virginia received 26,102 votes, merely one percent of the popular vote.

This shift leaves many Virginians—and Americans as a whole—wondering what is causing more people than ever before to vote for neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. It is simply the result of our generation being born into a culture of vicious partisanship in Washington. We’ve grown up constantly subjected to the tendency of both parties to blame the other side for the U.S. government’s failures, along with brutal attack ads during election season and constant negative campaigning. We’ve also experienced both Democratic and Republican administrations, Senate majorities and House majorities. One thing we have yet to experience, however, is a significant change in the political climate of the country. We grew up during the recession and generally bad economic times, and have yet to experience a thriving country.

Our generation is turning to third parties as a fresh, new solution to end hard times. It is the result of many new voters feeling let down by both sides of the aisle and simultaneously feeling ready for new ideas in our nation’s capital. In the future, our generation could be the one to contribute to the transformation of a third party into one of the two most prominent parties in America—or maybe an entirely new three-party system, where the third is not shrugged off by the media and most of the country. For now, however, this generation’s growing support for third parties is merely a reflection of the thirst for change in America, and could be the ones to make it in the future.

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