With Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump among the most disliked presidential candidates in U.S. history, John Oliver isn’t surprised that a segment of the population is seeking a third party candidate to lead the nation.
“It’s true: Americans are so disillusioned by the major party candidates it seems many would prefer to vote for Kevin Kline’s character from the movie Dave or the ghost of Martin Luther King Jr., assuming he only said the three quotes that white people like,” said Oliver on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight. “This disenchantment may explain the high interest in America’s third parties, because when your two main options are depressing, any third choice seems good. If you’re at a KFC-Taco Bell and you see a bunch of pigeons eating something in the parking lot, you might well think, ‘Hang on, what have they got over there?’ And luckily, there are a great many third party options out there.”
Oliver presented the list of alternative candidates, including those from parties based on beliefs about marijuana and alcohol, plus a guy named Joe Exotic, who filmed a campaign video with wild animals and insists he won’t cut his hair should he head to the White House for four years. “Joe Exotic is truly the candidate you’d want to sit down and have a beer with, then another beer, and then several more beers until you’re drunk enough to try meth for the first time,” joked Oliver. “The point is: Joe Exotic, make America exotic again.”
Then you have Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, for whom more than a third of young voters said they are considering voting in a poll last month, Oliver pointed out. “So they’re worth taking seriously,” he said, adding how third party candidates are criticized for having the power to syphon off votes from another candidate with an actual chance of winning.
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However, “just dismissing third party candidates as spoilers shuts down debate,” said Oliver, who played a clip of a passionate Johnson going after a reporter who brought up the topic. “And while the argument that the only thing that stops Trump is a vote for Hillary Clinton is a powerful one, so is the argument that people should vote for the candidate who most closely shares their values. So let’s vet these candidates, not as spoilers or as protest votes, but as legitimate potential presidents.”
Oliver started with Stein, an internal medicine doctor who has two percent of the vote in polls and wants to “cancel student debt.” But Oliver said her plan is a “non-starter” and found it troubling that she would believe the “president has the authority to cancel the student debt using quantitative easing.”
“That is absolutely wrong,” said Oliver. “The president does not have that authority, only the Federal Reserve does. And it does not take marching orders from the White House because that would be extremely dangerous. You don’t want to give presidents the power to just create new money whenever they want to.”
Not to mention that “quantitative easing does not apply here,” Oliver said. “Stein’s implying that it was used to cancel bank’s debt [in the bailout], and that is absolutely not what it did. Using it the way that she’s describing amounts to a president unilaterally passing a new law and printing money to fund it, and the dangers of that should be pretty obvious.”
Add to that Stein’s comments on Brexit, vaccines and autism, and “The 9/11 Commission Report,” plus the music from her ’90s folk-rock band Somebody’s Sister. For Oliver, it’s more than enough to write her off.
Polling around 6.1 percent, Johnson has a better chance of becoming president, but Oliver found fault with a few of his gaffes: how he didn’t know about the Syrian city Aleppo, couldn’t name a world leader he admires, pretended to have a problem with his tongue while speaking with a reporter, and compared climbing Mount Everest to looking up a woman’s skirt.
Embarrassing statements aside, Johnson has a lot of appealing policies for some voters: He wants to legalize marijuana and ditch the death penalty and opposes civil forfeiture and police militarization.
“But scratch beneath the surface, and there are some positions you may be less comfortable with,” said Oliver. “For instance, he opposes having a minimum wage and when he says he’s for smaller government, he’s not kidding around.”
Indeed, Johnson wants to get rid of the education, commerce, and housing and urban development departments, but had a tough time explaining on MSNBC which of the departments’ duties the government would still fulfill. “Whoa there, he’s giving up government agencies left and right,” said Oliver. “This is Sophie’s Choice if she hated all of her children.”
Oliver also laid into Johnson’s proposed overhaul of the tax system and stance on climate change before noting that the candidates might actually benefit from the amount of news coverage they receive, saying “their key proposals begin to crumble under the slightest bit of scrutiny.”
He continued: “Look, I would love for there to be a perfect third party candidate. I even understand the argument that a third party candidate can put a new issue or a new solution on the table, but it is hard to make the case that that is what’s happening here.”
Watch Oliver’s full remarks in the video below.