A Trumponder is a literary form that came into being in 2016 in which a person offers assorted (possibly contradictory) responses to the recent POTUS election based on half-baked grasp of what is going on.
Working out what difference McMullin, Stein and Johnson made to the result is a fools game. Remember that for every person who voted for somebody other than Trump or Clinton there are THREE other scenarios:
- they could have voted for Clinton
- they could have voted for Trump
- they could have not voted at all.
In US elections option 3 is always a powerful spoiler candidate. In so far as turnout promotes turnout, somebody choosing to vote rather than not vote because there was a third party candidate they liked, probably helped Clinton a tiny bit.
Can a third party ever hope to win a US Presidential election? Sure but they would need a lot of money, a lot of luck and be an awesome candidate. Which pretty much means, no a third PARTY couldn’t win but somebody attached to a third party possibly could. Even so, it would be either a one-off or be part of realignment in which one of the other two parties was departing the national stage.
Given the all-or-nothing nature of the POTUS election, a three-candidate dynamic is not going to be common. The existence of established parties allows people to coordinate their choices – i.e. in an imaginary universe in which Trump ran as the Trump Party candidate, he would be at a disadvantage to whoever was the Republican Party candidate because any right-leaning person could be more confident of the existence of other Republican voters. Not impossible but hard.
In broader terms, even parliamentary democracies tend towards two-party dominance. Voting systems that reduce the impact of wasting votes on a third party help make such parties more viable. So the UK is (largely) two-and-a-bit party system, Australia with more sophisticated voting systems is more complex (two main parties but one of the two is a coalition and third parties and independents play a role).
The degree of electoral and constitutional reform needed to make the US have a viable three party system is enormous.
However, third parties can have bigger impact at a local or a regional level. In the UK, nationalist parties in Wales and Scotland have played a significant role, even prior to greater regional autonomy. It is notable, that the impact of third parties at a state level is not substantial in the US either – given that, it isn’t likely to happen at a presidential level at all (short of either the Republicans or the Democracts deciding to quit the politics game and rebrand as lifestyle consultants).