For the first time in American history, the two least popular candidates have been nominated by the two major parties for President.
Think about that for a moment.
Voters don’t want Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Yet somehow the Democrats and Republicans put them both up, anyway.
How is that possible? Don’t people have to vote for these candidates in the primaries? If they’re so unpopular, how did enough people choose them over other more popular politicians?
The answer is simple: the system has failed.
On the Democratic side, the process has been co-opted by party elites. When a populous wave lifts a candidate like Bernie Sanders, the people at the top crush him with media collusion, voter suppression and other tactics of dubious legality. On the Republican side, the primaries draw such a disproportionate number of radicalized voters that only the furthest right demagogues have a chance. Moderates become radicals just to stay competitive, and with each cycle they move further right until they’ve morphed into outright fascists.
To cope, voters have begun internalizing the dysfunction as if they could somehow fix it through the sheer power of their own conformity. Republican moderates go along with the most radical candidate because he’s leading in the polls. Democrats, likewise, go along with the party’s favorite daughter for the same reason. It has little to do with either candidates’ merits, it’s just that no one wants to back a loser.
The result is an entrenched status quo. Democratic party leaders aren’t reprimanded or replaced for coopting the primary – they’re empowered. Republican extremists aren’t shunned or ostracized – they’re legitimized.
And all of this is because of the tendency of voters on both sides of the aisle to shut their eyes and go along with the perceived majority like lemmings running at full speed toward a cliff.
It’s football mentality as democracy. It’s pragmatism as suicide pact.
When we were children, our parents told us not to blindly follow the crowd. “I want a lollipop because Billy has a lollipop!” we wailed. And our folks said something like this: “Would you jump off a bridge if Billy was doing it?”
As adults that’s exactly what we’re doing – jumping off a bridge, arm-in-arm, congratulating ourselves for being so politically savvy.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are other candidates running. We don’t have to vote for Clinton or Trump. The only reason more people don’t take advantage of this option is their perceived notion that few people will take advantage of it.
As a Republican, you really don’t have a lot of options. Gary Johnson has some things to recommend him, especially when compared to a demagogue like Trump, but he isn’t really a serious candidate. He doesn’t have the knowledge needed to actually do the job.
However, as a Democrat, you have quite an excellent alternative to accepting four more years of neoliberal rule. Jill Stein is running for President under the Green Party banner. Her policies are light years ahead of Clinton’s – maybe even better than Sanders’. In our schools, she promises to stop endless high stakes standardized testing, end school privatization and fairly fund all public schools. She’s vows to provide free college and end all student debt. She’s in favor of single payer healthcare paid for by cutting our bloated military budget with no raise in taxes. She wants to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, stop giving weapons to Israel, freeze terrorist-funder’s bank accounts, end the War on Terror and engage in a policy of peace. Moreover, Stein plans to use the savings from slashing our biggest federal expenditure to fund a New Green Deal, creating full employment and a living wage all while transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2030!
Regardless of your personal politics, enacting this platform would be incredibly positive for the nation. It would give us a new lease on life. But we’re afraid to vote for it in case it hurts Clinton and boosts Trump.
Imagine if the two major parties nominated wolves one of which claimed “I’m going to eat you now,” and the other claimed, “I’m going to eat you later.” Would it be crazy to vote for the candidate who said, “I’m not going to eat you – ever”?
Yet so-called progressives will foam and rave at me because I’m promoting a “spoiler candidate.”
If people do as I suggest, they say, it will steal votes from Clinton thereby possibly giving Trump the lead.
Wait a moment. Why are those votes assumed to belong to Clinton? If the Democrats don’t put up a real progressive candidate, why are you assuming progressives will vote for her? Because of the brand underwhich she’s running?
This may be hard to understand, but take a deep breath and consider it. I know you’ve been told it’s impossible, but a third party candidate can actually win a Presidential election.
I know. It’s inconceivable, but close your eyes for a minute and let’s conduct a thought experiment.
Let’s say Jill Stein gets a majority of the vote. She’ll win, right?
No, she has to get a clear majority of electoral votes. She needs 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win. And, yes, there are a handful of states where she’s not even on the ballot. Is it then impossible for her to achieve the requisite 270?
No, it’s not. We’re told it’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible. So if enough people in the right states vote for Stein, she’ll win. It’s a statistical possibility.
You say my vote for Stein spoils Clinton’s chances. But who’s really the spoiler here? From my point of view, when you vote for Clinton, you’re spoiling the chances of MY candidate winning.
Why should I give up my vote to increase the chances of your candidate winning – especially when so few of you would choose her if she wasn’t running against Trump? If you’re honest and you knew who Stein was and what she stands for, you’d rather have her win and her platform enacted!
But you refuse to even consider there is any choice except dumb and dumber.
It’s a media-fostered mental illness. We’ve been told this spoiler propaganda story for so long, we’ve internalized it, and the result is this nasty, demoralizing election that everyone just wants to end. We just want to vote for a person we don’t really want and then go take a shower.
We have painted ourselves into a corner. If we keep voting for the lesser evil, the choices will only continue to get worse. The Democrats will pick further right neoliberals. The Republicans will pick further right neofascists. And there will be no stopping it because if you don’t vote against the one that is slightly less nauseating, you’ll be empowering the truly execrable one – as they each get worse and worse every devolving election cycle.
As a nation, we need benevolent aliens to descend on us in their flying saucers and give us all a strong dose of psychoanalysis. We need a way out of the mental mouse trap.
Hear me: as a single voter, you are not responsible for the entire election. You are responsible for your own vote. Don’t give it away because of a perceived notion of what others are going to do. Have the courage of your convictions. Vote for the best candidate.
And if in the end that means Trump gets into office, rise up and overthrow him. Because otherwise the course you’re running will eventually and inevitably lead to fascism. We can fight a weak petty fascist like Trump today or a strong dictator in the Nazi mold somewhere down the line.
However, why dwell on the worst case scenario? Just imagine if everyone threw off the shackles of the two-party system! Imagine if the best candidate actually won! Imagine voting and not feeling dirty afterwards! Imagine living in a functioning democracy again!
As John Lennon might say:
You may say I’m a spoiler.
But I’m not the only one.
Why don’t you come and join me
And we can live together as one.
14 thoughts on “Voting Third Party is Not a Wasted Vote – Voting First Party Is”
Reality: Trump or Clinton will win. Reality: one is a thin skinned small little man with no self-control that doesn’t understand why we don’t use nuclear weapons and if elected will have the power to use them…that is horrifying. You clearly don’t grasp its seriousness. Hilary will turn the Supreme Court more liberal and therefore America. Stop with the blather. You can only ride your high horse because enough people like me in Pennsylvania will vote for the only one who can beat Trump.
Respectfully, let’s say Hillary wins in November, and she’s almost exactly like Obama – not bad overall but fairly neoliberal. Things continue to slowly slide into the toliet. Then in 4 years we’re faced with re-electing Hillary or voting for the GOP nominee David Duke. Obviously we have to vote Hillary, so another 4 years of Wall Street friendly policies as the middle class shrinks even further. Then after Hillary has served her 8 years, the Dems put up Corey Booker – an even worse neoliberal who wants to turn all public schools into charters. We don’t like that, but the Republicans put up a reanimated clone of Adolph Hitler. Well, I guess we have to vote Booker… Don’t you see? It never ends and it just keeps getting worse. This cycle is unsustainable.
this is the most naive thing I’ve read yet on this election, Steven. I’m deeply disappointed.
Mrobmsu, where exactly would your comment appear on Sonia Nieto’s conceptual model for understanding diversity? I think it wouldn’t even crack the bottom rung of tolerance. What have I written here that is so unforgivable? Did I recommend racist, sexist, or other prejudicial action against my fellow human beings as Trump has done? No. Though you clearly disagree with me, did you offer a valuable critique of my argument showing me where my logic has gone astray? No. Instead you called me ‘naive’ without explanation and threw guilt my way with how ‘disappointed’ you are. I guess you were right – the biggest losers of this election will be respect and tolerance, though perhaps not solely from the targets you mentioned.
If the Green Party which has been around for a while actually did any real grassroots organizing and showed some promise of building roots as a 3rd party. But what has happened since Nader in 2000? No movement at all. So your argument is a pipe dream. Yes it will never end – 2020 we will face the same thing. But the Bernie movement offers something different. Can we build grassroots progressivism in the Democratic Party? Probably not. But unless there is a massive breakaway party from the Dems after this election voting Green (where is Jill Stein between elections?) is even more wasteful than voting for Hillary.
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it would come in at Critique, Steven. and the fact that you don’t see that shows how little you are actually hearing from me and other critiques of this childish, petulant approach to voting.
Our votes belong to us. Our votes do not belong to one of the 2 political parties who have been alternating control of our government. The line of thinking that anyone can spoil an election because they vote for the 3rd party candidate of their choosing is absurd. No one is taking votes away from Clinton (or Trump) because the votes are not theirs to begin with. The votes belong to the individual voters and we are free to give our votes to whomever we want. Suggesting anything else is the spoiler here. it spoils what we stand for as Americans—the right to voice our opinions in the voting booth.
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Just early voted. Stein 2016!
To continue the John Lennon theme, imagine a world in which everyone voted their conscience not the “lesser [sic] evil”. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
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The future of our country depends on the irrelevancy of your vote.
At this point it looks like your vote mattered. May God have mercy on us all.
TeachingEconomist, I never said it didn’t. Are you implying that the 1% of voters who chose Jill Stein gave Trump the election when 45% of registered voters didn’t even cast a ballot? The bottom line is this – you can’t expect progressives to vote for your candidate if you don’t actually provide them with a progressive choice. Democrats made it clear who they wanted in the primary, but party elites would not listen. They put their fingers on the scale for Clinton when all the energy and passion was for Sanders. Shame on them. They deserve the lions share of blame not progressives like me who dared to choose the best candidate on offer.
HRC lost Pennsylvania by 68,236 votes out of about 6 million cast. Only 48,912 people in Pennsylvania voted for Jill Stein, so Pennsylvania would still have gone for Trump unless over 10% of the Gary Johnson voters or most of the Darrell Castle voters also voted for HRC. You and the other 48,911 voters for Jill did not, in the end, impact the election.
HRC won the primary vote by over 3 million votes, a pretty clear margin of victory, so I dont know why you think that democrats did make it clear who they wanted in the primary.
Make up your mind, TeachingEconomist. First you say my vote mattered and now you say it didn’t. As to the primary, I suggest you do a bit of research. Feel free to start with my own articles on the subject.
I said it looked like your vote, along with the other Jill Stein voters, mattered. As it turned out, they didn’t. The small fraction of the electorate that voted for Jill Stein voters was not of any importance in Pennsylvania.