The 2016 Presidential Election will certainly go down as one of the most memorable elections in U.S. history. But more than anything, it seemed to signify the rise of something that many argue has been needed in some shape or form in U.S. politics for quite some time: the third party candidate.

While third party candidates are certainly nothing new, the magnitude of their popularity during the last election has never been seen before. The most popular third party candidate in U.S. history prior to the 2016 election was Theodore Roosevelt, who formed the Progressive Party after failing to secure the Republican nomination during the 1912 election.

He managed to receive 27.4% of the popular vote, while Ross Perot garnered 18.9% of the popular vote while running as a candidate for the Reform Party in 1992.

However, last year’s election marked a cataclysmic shift to the status quo of U.S. politics. Bernie Sanders, a lifetime member of the Independent Party, ran for the Democratic nomination against life-long Democrat Hillary Clinton and narrowly lost to her during the primaries. During this time, Sanders gained 43.1% of the popular vote which is unprecedented for a candidate who had previously been associated with a third party for his entire political career.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, a man with no political experience whatsoever, as well as no real connection the Republican Party prior to the election, managed to beat out Clinton who was a career politician.

Although, his victory during the election is proving to be a topic of immense controversy.

Despite this, it’s clear that the established order of U.S. politics is slowly eroding into an antiquated system. This begs to ask the question: what will become of the two-party system?

A changing of the guard

The voting habits of the two largest generations in the U.S., Baby Boomers and Millennials, paints an interesting picture of the 2016 election, as well as gives a very interesting indication as to the outcome of future elections.

Just for clarification, Millennials are defined as anyone between the ages of 18-34 while Baby Boomers are anyone between the ages of 51-69. As of now, the two of them each make up roughly a third of the total amount of eligible voters in the U.S. with 69.2 million Millennials and 69.7 Baby Boomers. Although, it should be noted that Millennials have recently surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in the U.S.

The reason this is important is because this is a trend that will only steadily increase. As the population of Millennials continues to grow, Baby Boomers will only decline. What this means is that Millennials will essentially dictate the direction of U.S. politics for the foreseeable future. Not to mention that as time goes on, more and more Millennials will be eligible to run for Congress and even president, a position that has been occupied by Baby Boomers for the last four elections.

A shift in values

During the election, the majority of Millennials supported Clinton as opposed to Trump, yet Trump ended up winning. So the question is: if Millennials make up such a large portion of eligible voters in the U.S., why did Trump win?

Most people would say it’s just simply because Millennials didn’t vote. Statistically, it’s a fact that less than half of Millennials who were eligible to vote actually voted compared to the roughly 70% of Baby Boomers who went out to vote. But the real answer is a bit more complicated than the misconceived notion that Millennials just don’t care about voting. The actual reason is because they didn’t really like neither candidates.

While it’s true that most Millennials preferred Clinton over Trump, it wasn’t necessarily because they actually supported her. Clinton was viewed more as a lesser of two evils, but an evil none the less. So what made Clinton so unappealing to Millennials? Well the answer is simple, she represented more of the same.

What I mean by this exactly is that she was essentially the embodiment of everything wrong with U.S. politics: Politicians who have been bought out by corporations, the financial industry, and Super PACs while being entirely disingenuous when it came to their own policies and values.

It was for this same reason that made Sanders so overwhelmingly popular among Millennials. In a sense, Sanders was basically the polar opposite of Clinton in which he represented the kind of change and progress needed in U.S. politics. Sanders supported reforms for civil rights, universal healthcare, corporate welfare, income inequality, climate change, foreign policy, and privacy rights against mass surveillance.

But arguably the biggest issue Sanders addressed was the need for campaign finance reform which he wholeheartedly backed up by refusing to accept massive donations from the business and banking sectors. In fact, when you look at his entire body of work, everything he supported truly felt genuine which felt remarkably refreshing when compared to other politicians.

Although Millennials didn’t come out to vote for the general election, they certainly showed up during the Democratic primaries. Sanders actually received more votes from Millennials during the primaries than Clinton and Trump combined. While it wasn’t enough to beat out Clinton at the time, there’s no doubt that this is something both parties should worry about.

The fate of the two-party system

It should go without saying that the 2016 presidential election didn’t turn out the way either party wanted. Two unorthodox candidates who were essentially outsiders to their respective parties got much farther than anyone expected with one of them now occupying the White House. While Trump is certainly not the change the U.S. needs, he could very well be the final nail in the coffin for both the Republicans and Democrats.

While Trump is considered the face of the Republican Party right now, he is very much a product of corruption from the DNC as well. Despite claiming to be neutral, a mass email leak from the DNC’s servers, complimentary of Wikileaks, seemed to suggest otherwise.

Not only did the DNC display blatant favoritism for Clinton during the primaries, but even conspired to undermine Sander’s campaign. But worst of all, both the DNC and Clinton campaign actively pushed to elevate Trump to become one of the favorites for the Republican nomination thinking it would be in Clinton’s best interest to run against him.

Not only did that plan horrendously backfire, but now the rest of the country must suffer partially thanks to them. The 2016 election has certainly left a bad taste in most people’s mouths, especially with Millennials. Both the Republicans and Democrats proved to be reprehensible in their actions which resulted in the majority of Millennials not even bothering to show up at the voting booths.

The combination of this as well as the massive popularity of Sanders with Millennials has culminated into a very uncertain future for the both parties.

Common sense would dictate that based on an array of statistics ranging from voting habits to population growth, it would seem as though both parties could use much needed reform. However, in order for this to happen, campaign finance reform is paramount which is something neither parties will abide by. Although the two parties have gone through several ideological changes throughout U.S. history, the one thing that has stood the test of time is the all-encompassing impact of money on elections. The foundation of both the Democratic and Republican parties has been built upon by the strong relations between career politicians and the wealthy elite. It’s a monolithic system that’s never been more transparent than in the 21st century.

Based on Sander’s popularity, it’s clear that Millennials are not only aware of this, but are sick of it. While a prominent third party may not necessarily rise from the ashes of the 2016 election, the very same core ideology of Sander’s campaign could very realistically resonate throughout U.S. politics for the foreseeable future. The idea of having more and more politicians, who aren’t part of the inner circles of neither the DNC nor RNC, run for Congress and president, while doing so based on grassroots campaigns, seems to be the sort of trend that Millennials could easily get behind. What the 2016 election seemed to signify was the beginning of the decline of the old two-party system, and the birth of an entirely new wave of U.S. politics.