Third-party candidates have never had significant luck breaking into the political landscape. No third-party candidate has ever won the presidency, and only a small number have been elected to Congress. In the 2016 presidential election, third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein won a collective 4.9 percent of the popular vote a relatively high percentage for third parties. 

While there is a prominent focus on the race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, there are two third-party candidates running alongside them: Jo Jorgensen of the Libertarian Party and Howie Hawkins of the Green Party.

The Green Party platform

Howie Hawkins, the 2020 Green Party presidential candidate, has run unsuccessfully for various public office positions for the party throughout his career, including Syracuse mayor, city auditor and New York governor (which he ran for three times).

As co-founder of the party, his platform reflects many of the party’s progressive ideals. In an interview for GovSight’s podcast series “CheckIn,” Hawkins advocated for campaigns like the Green New Deal, which would fund renewable energy and lower fossil fuel usage, and Medicare for All, which would provide a publicly funded health care plan.

“We have life and death issues that we’re facing,” he said. “And I think this coronavirus pandemic has exposed for everybody to see that the two governing parties in this country are presiding over a failed state.”

He also called for more police accountability, as well as defunding police departments while distributing those funds into areas like affordable housing for people that are homeless. These policies have been highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd.

The Green Party, which was founded in April 2001, is known for its left-leaning political stances, with its policy platform featuring such reforms as increasing the national minimum wage and lowering military funding.

Hawkins, a retired teamster and construction worker, and his running mate Anglea Walker received endorsements from organizations like the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Demand Universal Healthcare and the Socialist Party USA. Hawkins will appear on presidential ballots in half of states in the 2020 election, including New York.

The Libertarian platform

Founded in 1971, the Libertarian Party is the third-largest political party in the United States, and Jo Jorgensen, a psychology professor at Clemson University, is the party’s first female presidential candidate.

According to the Libertarian Party’s official website, the party aims to “challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.” The Libertarian party platform includes support of full freedom of speech and expression, LGBTQIA+ rights, gun ownership rights, pro-choice policies and ending government subsidies in businesses.

Jorgensen advocates for ending campaigns and policies like the war on drugs, qualified immunity and no-knock warrants; more generally, Jorgensen has said that the government has gotten too big,” arguing against the stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic. She hopes to “turn America into one giant Switzerland” by assuming a position of neutrality in wars and by decreasing reliance on fossil fuels while increasing the use of nuclear energy.

Jorgensen has received criticism surrounding her running mate Jermey “Spike” Cohen, who promised all Americans free ponies as a joke and said that under his leadership there would be Waffle Houses on all street corners. Jorgensen confirmed the notions were jokes and told NPR, “That's not our platform … now that Spike Cohen has joined my team, we've got a combined platform that is mine.”

Cohen is the co-owner of the podcast platform Muddied Waters Media and hosts podcasts titled My Fellow Americans and The Muddied Waters of Freedom.

Jorgensen ran for U.S. Vice President in the 1996 presidential election alongside Harry Browne and was the Libertarian Party’s candidate for South Carolina’s 4th Congressional District in 1992. She received an endorsement from Rep. Justin Amash, a Libertarian congressman from Michigan.

Contact the author at