2016 will certainly go down in U.S. history as having had one of the most tumultuous, frustrating and unnerving presidential contests in decades, featuring a party that stupidly backed into its own white supremacy rhetoric to nominate an unqualified, misogynistic, racist, failed billionaire… against a party that worked behind the scenes to block a reform candidate that had captured the hearts of the American youth, in favor of its pro-establishment known entity.  And these are the two most prominent parties of the nation.

As a result, a significant portion of the American public (the 58% portion that actually votes, at any rate) is actively looking for alternatives to the Democratic and Republicans,  parties which seem to have lost touch with the pulse of the American public, not to mention a healthy dollop of reality.  And I agree: It’s time for a shakeup to the two-party system (or, at the very least, these two parties).

America has had many political parties, but for over a century, they have been dominated by the Republican and Democrat parties.  The two parties haven’t always stood for the things they stand for now, though the Republican party has always been considered the pro-business party, and the Democrats have always been considered the pro-equality party.  Other parties have never been able to garner enough support to last; and as the country’s election process has come to be dominated by well-financed media (that is, well-financed by the Republicans and Democrats), the other parties have been relegated to the deep, dark shadows of popularity.

But with the emergence of social media, especially among the younger populations, those shadows have begun to lighten.  We saw it in the last year with the rise of Bernie Sanders’ run for the Democratic nomination; and before that, the incredible surge of support through social media that helped enable Barack Obama to take the White House.  And now, with so much dissatisfaction with the major parties, we have the chance to see other parties rise in prominence and popularity through the non-traditional media outlets.

In fact, there are a wealth of parties in the U.S., about 40 major and minor parties at last count.  Are you surprised?  That, in itself, is not surprising, as most of these parties are never mentioned in the popular media.  But wikipedia lists them—many of them have a good social media presence—and as American citizens, it’s worth your time to investigate them.

What’s significant about the other parties is that they represent ideologies that aren’t necessarily drawn along the expected lines popularized (or maligned) by the Democrats and Republicans.  Also, some of them place much different priorities on ideas that other parties might espouse.  But some of them are very similar to the existing major parties, with only a difference in methodology to make them distinct.

In the past, since the rise of the Democratic and Republican parties, these differences have not been enough to create a significant votership; even the other major parties have voter roles at a fraction of those in the D and R camps.  But now, with large groups of voters on both Democratic and Republican parties having publicly refused to vote for their party’s candidate, there’s a great opportunity for another party to step up and make inroads with those undeclared voters, perhaps to forge the first significantly large third party in over a century.

Possibly the most significant of these should, by all rights, be the Green party.  The party, which is the country’s fourth-largest by membership, promotes environmentalism, nonviolence, social justice, participatory grassroots democracy, gender equality, LGBT rights and anti-racism.  The Greens have had a sizable following for years, and when the well-known candidate Ralph Nader ran for the Greens, he secured enough popular votes to significantly deplete the voting numbers for Al Gore, effectively handing George W. Bush the presidency.  (Thanks loads, Greens.)

The Green platform is similar enough to the Democratic platform that, when Bernie Sanders’ campaign was beginning to flag again Hillary Clinton’s state delegate wins, The Greens asked Sanders to run on their platform, but he declined to run Green.  Now, after the reveal that the DNC actively blocked Sanders’ campaign run, 10% of “Bernie or Bust” Democrats have decided not to give their vote to Clinton, but instead to go Green and vote for candidate Jill Stein.

Unfortunately, with the present voter numbers,  such a move will likely replicate the 2000 Bush vs. Gore elections, when Independent Party candidate Ralph Nader garnered enough votes—largely from Democratic voters—to cost Gore the election by a hair-thin margin.  This time, that will mean putting Trump in the White House (now there’s something to look forward to—thanks again, Greens).

<publicservicemessage>For this reason alone, I echo Sanders’ plea to his followers to avoid going Green, and to vote for Clinton, if for no other reason than to avoid another 2000 election and make sure Trump does not win the presidency.  </publicservicemessage>

That being said… now (or possibly just after the elections) is the moment for the Green party to step up and put its best foot forward.  Stein and her followers are in a perfect position to reach out to America’s voters and bring them into their platform.  Though their efforts cannot possibly bring Stein a win in 2016, the next election will be theirs to win or lose.  As Obama showed America how to use social media to their advantage, the Greens can become a mighty presence in social media, using the next four years to build their party, reach out to the masses, and push beyond traditional media systems.  When they become enough of a social media presence, they will see traditional media reach out to them, as traditional media has done with every significant (and many insignificant) social media movement.

In short, the Green party should be acting right now to get ready for 2020… a nice, round number for a historic election, no?  And depending on how this election goes, America might be literally screaming for better party options in four years.

I suspect the Greens are in a better position to take advantage of it than any other party; they can already appeal to most of the Democratic base, if they can demonstrate that they have a better way.  But this advice obviously applies to all minor political parties, not to mention any new parties that might try to make a splash.  America has grown and developed a lot in 200 years, and it’s time to look at a new set of priorities for this country, such as preserving the environment of Spaceship Earth, ensuring equality and sustainability for all people, improving social services, putting science to work to improve our quality of life, acknowledging our changing biological diversity, and ensuring a better future for Mankind.

And as for the Democrats and Republicans?  It might be time for one or both of them to accept the fact that they no longer represent the American people, but rule only because they carry the loudest voices.  But thanks to social media, even the quietest voices can now be heard nationwide.   We’ll soon see how that will change the American political landscape.