It should be no surprise to anyone that the level of voter dissatisfaction with the candidates presented to us by the establishment parties is at an all-time high. A huge number of people do not want to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. So what are they to do? An ever increasing number of people are considering voting for a third party candidate, but when discussing it with others, they start to doubt the validity of voting for a third party.
Sadly, the number one objection to voting for a third party is that people think they would be wasting their vote on a candidate that can’t win. With thinking like that, it virtually guarantees that no third party will ever become relevant and the political status quo will remain. How can a candidate ever get enough support to win if people are waiting first for everyone else to get on the bandwagon?
I’m sure you’ve all heard that if one person shares an idea with two people and those two people each tell two more people, and so on, that idea will spread very quickly. Mathematically speaking, this is called geometric (or exponential) growth. When doubling something each time, the math formula is based upon exponents of the number two, or in other words, the power of two. I bring it up now to end the narrative that a third party presidential candidate, specifically Gary Johnson, can not possibly win the presidential election and hopefully help convince people to vote their conscience and bring about political change in this country.
It’s Simple Math
For purposes of this exercise, let’s ignore the electoral college and simply surmise that it will take approximately 50 million votes to win in a three-way race (it would probably be closer to 47 million, but 50 is a nice round number). This assumes there would be about 130 million votes total, which would about equal the highest ever number of popular votes in a presidential election: the 131 million cast in 2008. Mathematically speaking, if we started with a single voter convincing two other voters, it would take only 25 “generations” of subsequent voters convincing other voters to reach over 67 million votes, far more than the 50 million needed. (The formula for computing the exponential sum of a number taken to a certain power is basically to calculate one power higher and subtract 1. So if 226 = 67,108,864, the sum of the powers of 2 up to the 25th power is 226 – 1.)
To put a timeframe around this calculation, what if we concluded that one voter could convince two other voters in a single day? Then it would only take 25 days to generate enough votes for a presidential candidate to win. If we slowed down the process and assumed it took two days to convince two voters, then that is still only 50 days needed to convince enough voters for a presidential win in a three-way race. Pushing the timeframe out to three days equals 75 days, which at the time of this writing is almost exactly the amount of time left before the election. That is plenty of time for enough people to become convinced to vote for any candidate, let alone one that already has growing popularity like Gary Johnson.
If you feel that convincing two voters every few days is not realistic, realize that we are not starting at one single voter. Gary Johnson received 1.2 million votes in 2012 (with ballot access in only 48 states) – the most ever for a Libertarian Party candidate. If we round down and make the starting point just 1 million voters, then it would only take 5 generations to reach 64 million votes, much more than the 50 million he would need. If we started with one million voters today, at the pace of convincing only two voters every week, that would only require five weeks. If we stretch that out to every two weeks, that would still be fast enough to get enough votes to win – with time to spare. Certainly persuading two voters over the course of a week or two must seem feasible.
Still not convinced? Consider these facts:
- Gary Johnson’s base of support has been growing steadily since he was officially nominated as the candidate of the Libertarian Party back on May 29th – over 12 weeks ago. As it became clear that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were to be the official candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties 4 and 5 weeks ago, interest in third party candidates including Gary Johnson increased significantly. Given the exponential growth possibilities, that is a lot of time passed in which voters may have already been convinced.
- If various polls are accurate (and they generally are skewed against third party candidates), with Gary Johnson approaching 15% of the vote, that is currently about 19 million out of 130 million votes. With that base of support, if those 19 million people each convinced just two other voters, that ALONE would be enough to go over the 50 million need to win in a three-way race.
- If Gary Johnson is allowed to participate in the presidential debates, a lot of potential voters could be convinced “spontaneously,” adding to the base of people who could convince other voters.
- Gary Johnson already has ballot access in all 50 states this election cycle. There’s no reason people won’t be able to vote for him if they so choose.
- What if one voter could convince three other voters? Suddenly, the number of generations shrink significantly. Assuming one voter to start, it would take just 15 generations to reach over 43 million votes, which is close to the rounded-up 50 million number needed (a 16th generation would reach over 129 million in theory). Assuming one million voters to start, it would only take 3 generations to reach 81 million votes, obviously well more than needed. At 19 million voters to start, convincing just three people each (a single generation) would be enough for 76 million votes, once again significantly more needed to win in a three-way race.
- In this day and age of social media, just how many other people can one person help convince? They don’t call it “going viral” for nothing. Suddenly, convincing just two or three other voters seems too easy. What if one voter could convince four or five other voters? Or more?
Now obviously, convincing someone to vote for a candidate isn’t a simple mathematical formula. It takes more than just merely telling someone about a candidate – although with the high negative numbers the two establishment candidates have this election cycle, it might not take all that much! This article is not proof that Gary Johnson is GOING to win. It simply is proof that it is entirely POSSIBLE for virtually anyone to get enough support to win a presidential election in a relatively short timeframe IF voters are willing to personally convince a few other voters. If we even allow for imperfect geometric growth on the power of two, there is plenty of time left at this point in this election cycle to convince enough voters for Gary Johnson to win outright, not to mention that this process has been going on for at least a few months and there is already momentum on his side.
You’ve Got to Do Your Part
Of course, convincing other voters requires people taking part in conversations and discourse – and that is the entire point! It does require some work and people need to be willing to put themselves out there a little bit. However, if you aren’t satisfied with the political status quo and want to effect substantive change, you need to put a little effort into it. If you feel like it is impossible to help a third party candidate win, that you can’t do much as one person, simply try to convince at least two other people to vote third party and make sure to tell them to each convince at least two other people. Feel free to share this article with them for emphasis. As this article shows, you might just start the ball rolling on real political change in this country. Even if you can’t vote yourself but you are politically inclined, as many teenagers and immigrants may be, you can help influence the votes of others. The two or more people you convince can start a tidal wave.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, when you are telling people about third party candidates like Gary Johnson, the first thing you’ll likely hear is that the person likes the idea of a third party candidate, but they don’t think they can actually win. Therefore they don’t want to waste their vote. Hopefully the information in article can be your first response to this objection and you can start to change a few minds. By using the Power of Two, it only takes a few people convincing a few other people and so on …