The importance of having options in a democratic process can be understood when we will know which third party candidates were the most successful in US Presidential elections.
As the best democracy of the world, The United States has a decent reputation for being accessible to different opinions. Throughout the history of elections, many candidates have come up to the voters and have been successful in convincing them in varying levels. Even though the recent elections have seen dwindling support for any party other than the Democrats and the Republicans, the third party candidates of the past were quite influential in the earlier ones.
There were different reasons behind the candidates opting out of the two mainstream party options. Some decided to go independent because of frustration towards the mainstream party structure. Others had differences in root political belief and so went into election under a separate banner. Among all of them, only Millard Fillmore managed to be the president despite not being from either Democratic or Republican party. But he was one of the very few presidents to not get nominated from his party for reelection and he failed to win back the presidency as a third party candidate. The other significant candidates had one common feature – they gained lots of popular vote from the different states, but their Electoral College vote count was very insignificant. For example, Theodore Roosevelt received almost 28% in popular votes in 1912 but captured only 17% of the Electoral College votes. Ross Perot received almost 20 million votes in total in 1992 but failed to win a single state.
The stories of the significant third party candidates are very interesting. If you want to learn about them, read Insider Monkey’s 11 Most Successful Third Party Presidential Candidates in History for more on this topic.