Foreword: a former student has created a blog and published his own thoughts on the potential of a third party. I encourage you to read his post here: https://theinquisitivesamurai.org/2020/07/30/the-yoke-of-the-political-duopoly-and-how-to-break-it/
There are many different ways in which the Republicans and Democrats maintain a duopoly. The primary method is to promote the assumption that a vote for a third party is a wasted vote. This need not be the case, and any sense of waste could easily be eliminated with a ranked voting system. This would, of course, require that the two major parties act in the interest of a third. And so, it does not happen.
The presidential debates are controlled by a corporation owned by Democrats and Republicans. The debate commission has mandated that any candidate must poll at least 15% popularity before entering the debates. This is high enough that no third party has been able to enter the debates since this requirement was enacted. Even Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders admitted that this requirement was too high. It would be very beneficial, of course, for a third (and even a fourth) party to be welcomed on the debate stage. And, given the large number of debates, they could take part in only the first debate. This would permit the public to hear more sides without sacrificing the quality of the content. But, again, it does not happen.
Another method that the major two parties employ to reduce the probability of success of a third party is the retainment of campaign financing. In order for a third party to receive campaign funds, they must attain at least 5% of the vote in the previous election which guarantees $10 million in funding in the subsequent election. This is a self fulfilling prophecy, for without significant campaign funds a third party has much more difficulty spreading their message. Even so, Libertarian Gary Johnson came close in the 2016 election with 3% of the vote. The two major parties have now made it much more difficult to campaign this year.
Enough signatures must be collected in each district in order for a third party candidate to be on the ballot. Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians were the only parties that managed to accomplish this in every voting district in the 2016 presidential election. But now, Covd-19 is preventing the collection of signatures. Shelter-in-place orders and fear of contact is increasing the work required for a third party to be on the ballot. So we’re in a situation where the decrees are made by the two parties with power that are preventing third parties from even entering the race. Here’s a tweet by Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen on the issue:
One might argue that the laws were enacted for public safety rather than to maintain control, and this is probably true. But the two parties with power are not permitting the collection of signatures electronically, even during this anomalous time.
Note that this is not solely relevant in the presidential election. There is now a major campaign underway to recall Governor Newsom of California (http://recallgavin2020.com/). Newsom’s orders to shelter-in-place and social distance are preventing the collection of signatures required for his own recall. Again, he could permit the collection of signatures electronically for this purpose, but has not done so.
For the first time, the United States has a Libertarian congressman: Justin Amash. Amash has done an amazing job of illuminating the financial and humanitarian consequences associated with a political duopoly. For example, Amash’s End Qualified Immunity Act was rejected because, according to Democrats and Republicans, it did not accomplish enough. A similar response was given to the Justice for Breonna Taylor act submitted by Rand Paul. Instead, nothing has changed, and qualified immunity and no-knock warrants remain legal. Here are Amash’s thoughts on the issue:
If nothing else, a third party can meaningfully contribute to the conversation related to governance. But for the rules to change in favor of a third party, the rules would have to be changed by the two parties in power against their own self interest. The only other option is for the people to demand change so loudly that it cannot be ignored (perhaps by voting for a third party in presidential, congressional, and senatorial elections). In the mean time, when the election comes in November of 2020, realize that you have more choice over what flavor of spaghetti sauce you’d like to purchase in the store than which president should govern.