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.