Thank you for such a thoughtful and detailed response! There’s a lot in here that I agree with, especially your point about how both parties are moving farther away from the center and the impact that’s going to have on how Americans (and third-party voters in particular) think about voting. I think it really comes down to the issue of globalization. If you’re a third-party voter who hates the idea of increased globalization and everything that typically comes with it (free trade + lower prices for consumer goods + job offshoring, increased immigration and/or open borders w/ neighboring countries, increased involvement in int’l orgs like the UN), you’re probably feeling more pressure than ever to vote for the GOP in 2018 and Trump in 2020. And if you’re heavily in favor of a more globalized society, you’re probably feeling more pressure than ever to vote for Democrats in 2018 and 2020. And that pressure will most likely become even more difficult to ignore if either Trump wins again in 2020 or the emerging democratic socialist wing of the DNC becomes a legit force in Washington and pulls Democrats even more to the left.
“…there has always been a sense that third parties are built in response to something the two major parties are or aren’t doing…”
There’s a lot of truth to this as well, IMO. And this is where protest votes come into play. Out of all the different groups represented among third-party voters, I think it’s the “protest voters” who are most likely to switch their support to Republicans or Democrats in the midterms. They’re not as invested in the policies and platforms of third parties as dyed-in-the-wool Libertarians and Greens. As you pointed out in your comment, their only real incentive for voting for third parties is to express their discontent w/ the GOP and DNC. Now that the differences between Reps and Dems have become so striking, they may feel inclined to throw their support behind one of the two major parties, even if it’s only temporary.
“So a whole lot of third party members are thinking about issues that their third-parties never really spent that much time on because they don’t feel they an take these issues for granted any more.”
I think this definitely applies to the protest voters we were just talking about, but I’m not sure how much it apples to genuine Libertarians and Greens. Admittedly, this is just my own personal observation, but most Libertarians and Greens I’ve interacted with over the years have been well-informed, thoughtful voters who spend a fair amount of time thinking about and discussing a broad range of issues. Their priorities are certainly different from those of the average Republican or Democrat, though.
And those are really the types of people who I feel we shouldn’t be scapegoating. They vote according to their principles and beliefs, and I can’t fault anyone for that even if I don’t always agree with those principles or beliefs.
“ We saw it a few years ago when libertarian candidates started actively campaigning to get Republican Party nominations and we are now seeing it with Democratic Socialists campaigning for nominations on the Democratic ticket.”
This, to me, is the really interesting thing to keep an eye one. I 100% agree with you about how the last few years have proven that both major parties are indeed capable of changing. And now that that’s been shown to be the case, I do wonder how that will influence moderates, centrists and third-party supporters.