“What is Aleppo?”


This question, posed by Libertarian Presidential Nominee Gary Johnson, tells us a lot about where the 2016 election season has taken us. It’s certainly been a wild ride. From Emails to Socialism to memes to a new Great Wall, it has been a mind-boggling wake up call for the American political system. And it begs the question, “what comes next?”


Rising from the ashes of the war-zone between two of the most disliked candidates in recent history, a so-called savior has emerged. This savior is the third party candidate. An answered prayer for many who cannot trust Hillary Clinton and are scared to ignite the loose cannon that is Donald Trump. Where will they turn? Many will run to Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, the two other somewhat-relevant options left in the race. “A candidate separate from the labels ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican’,” some believe, “is the only way out of a corrupt binary system.” These candidates are often perceived as more trustworthy, dedicated, and level-headed when compared to Clinton and Trump. But how unclouded is that perception? How far do we allow their influence to reach before we decide “inexperienced” isn’t enough of a justification for their shortcomings? When does an “outsider” become “unqualified?”


Aleppo was once a historic metropolis, the largest Syrian city and third largest within the Ottoman Empire. It is now war-torn, broken, split between the government-held west and rebel-held east. The Syrian Civil War has seen much of its bloodshed in Aleppo since the fighting began there in 2012, and the civilian population has decreased to roughly ten percent of what it was a decade ago. Many residents were forced to flee or be killed; others are still trapped starving, dying, and trying to survive, as resources dwindle. Now that the recent ceasefire in Syria has ended, thanks to the Syrian Army, the bombing continues.


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This, Gary Johnson, is Aleppo.


“What is Aleppo” perfectly displays many of the issues surrounding the ignorantly idealistic view of third party candidates in the present political climate. With the absence of a media platform to investigate these candidates, they often allow certain policies and influences to creep into their platform, unbeknownst to the average voter. They simply are not the saviors they are made out to be.


For example, Gary Johnson, who attracts voters because he supports the legalization of marijuana, believes the federal minimum wage should be abolished. Jill Stein, the eco-friendly, Harambe-loving Green Party candidate is skeptical of vaccinations, when it is clear there is no scientific evidence to back up any anti-vax claims. Now, I’m not saying the mainstream candidates are perfect, but at least we know what we disagree with them on. Although one may not agree with all of Clinton or Trump’s key points, it’s worth mentioning the third party options aren’t perfect either-they are just examined with less scrutiny.


It is difficult to make a case for a presidential candidate being “unqualified” considering that argument is being used from both sides of the extremely polarized political spectrum. Even outside of 2016’s specific circumstances, being “unqualified” to be President of the United States is very hard to define. After all, as seen in this election, that’s one of the stipulations behind the Presidency: no experience necessary.


However, I believe it is safe to say that the President should have some knowledge of foreign affairs. Many arguments I have seen defending Johnson after this incident have been that he’s primarily focused on domestic issues. Unfortunately, that’s not all the President is allowed to focus on. The President should have a considerable amount of knowledge on the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today. This is not a simple error, but a lack of the basic knowledge needed to become President. The Presidency isn’t exactly a “learn on the job” position.


Some argue the issue with third party candidates is the votes they take away from the traditional two-party race. That, in and of itself, illustrates the problem exactly. In order to been seen as legitimate, the third party candidates’ votes should not be considered as a waste, but as an actual, normal, vote. What third party candidates need is a spotlight. Unless they receive equal consideration, which implies equal scrutiny, a third party candidate won’t be able to rise to the top. It is time we allowed candidates their respective time to shine, and at the right cost. But that’s not a price the system is willing to pay just yet.


While I do understand the thought behind a protest vote, I cannot say this is the appropriate time for one. Our country is facing possibly the most consequential election in our lifetime. Perhaps the only qualification to be President is to give up any bit of privacy and be criticized for every mistake you make. “This is Aleppo” is a glimpse into that world in which third party candidates are attacked justly, and their mistakes are examined.


“The lesser of the evils” argument becomes illogical when the “least evil” candidate has no real shot at making it into the White House. The battle for the Presidency simply doesn’t include third party candidates today. After both Johnson and Stein failed to qualify for the debates, it’s apparent their chances at winning are very slim. For now, it’s time to move past disillusionment and give your vote to a candidate with a real shot at winning.


So, what does come next, America? It seems we have some waiting to do. It’s hard to alter a political system that’s been in place for nearly 300 years with one election. Even so, no matter how you identify politically, this election has already made great changes in the political world. Third party candidates are a part of the conversation, albeit not as scrutinized as they perhaps should be; and that is a good first step. Many Americans are tired of Republican versus Democrat elections. I have confidence we will see something different very soon. Whether that is instigated by the divide in the Republican party accelerated by Donald Trump, or inspired by the grassroots movement led by Bernie Sanders, change will come.



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