Third Party Fantasies

I hear a lot of brave talk about how the Greens and Libertarians will combine to finally “crush the duopoly” in 2016. We’ve heard it all before. It never happens. Our electoral system is inhospitable to third parties *and* the duopoly crushers only come out of the woodwork in Presidential election years. Parties aren’t built from the top down, they’re built from the bottom up. Ralph Nader tried the top down model with the Greens in 2000, failed to build a party infrastructure, and moved on down the road. If you haven’t read Michelle Goldberg’s great piece at Slate about Nader 2000, please do so.

This time around, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are having some success wooing younger Sanders supporters who bought that campaign’s overheated rhetoric about the race being “fixed” or “stolen.” Even Comic Book Guy eventually admitted that argument was made in the heat of the moment. Sanders himself called the system “dumb not rigged.” That pragmatic message did not resonate with those thrilled by the heroic rhetoric earlier in the campaign. Some of those folks are flirting with the notion of voting for Stein and, even more, mysteriously Johnson.

Paul Krugman wrote a marvelous column that focused on young Berners who say they might vote Libertarian,   Vote As If It Matters:

Does it make sense to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president? Sure, as long as you believe two things. First, you have to believe that it makes no difference at all whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump moves into the White House — because one of them will. Second, you have to believe that America will be better off in the long run if we eliminate environmental regulation, abolish the income tax, do away with public schools, and dismantle Social Security and Medicare — which is what the Libertarian platform calls for.


Why are minor candidates seemingly drawing so much support this year? Very little of it, I suspect, reflects support for their policy positions. How many people have actually read the Libertarian platform? But if you’re thinking of voting Johnson, you really should. It’s a remarkable document.

As I said, it calls for abolition of the income tax and the privatization of almost everything the government does, including education. “We would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government.” And if parents don’t want their children educated, or want them indoctrinated in a cult, or put them to work in a sweatshop instead of learning to read? Not our problem.

What really struck me, however, was what the platform says about the environment. It opposes any kind of regulation; instead, it argues that we can rely on the courts. Is a giant corporation poisoning the air you breathe or the water you drink? Just sue: “Where damages can be proven and quantified in a court of law, restitution to the injured parties must be required.” Ordinary citizens against teams of high-priced corporate lawyers — what could go wrong?

I apologize for indulging in the lazy quoting of other writers, to paraphrase the late Greg Peters, but Krugman nails it. The Libertarians are okay on social issues but totally wackadoodle on the sort of economic issues that were the focus of the Sanders campaign. Massive privatization won’t do anything to reduce income inequality. If you like Randian free market solutions to *every* problem, by all means vote Libertarian. But don’t throw away your vote just because the dude wants to legalize weed.

Gary Johnson aka Governor Weed is at least genial. Jill Stein, however, is a nasty piece of work who continues to make the sort of cynical arguments that led me to dub her the Crunchy Granola Machiavelli. Here’s some of what Stein had to say the other day in a Politco podcast:

But her contempt has a more cutting quality when she talks about Clinton. She mocks Trump as braying menace; Stein thinks he’s, at heart, a bumbler who will be neutered by his own party after being elected. But it’s Clinton who poses the greater threat, in Stein’s estimation, because she knows how to move the levers of Washington. “Donald Trump, I think, will have a lot of trouble moving things through Congress,”

Say what? In addition to the desire to preserve their majorities, McConnell and Ryan are aboard the Trump crazy train because they want a President to sign the regressive legislation they hope to pass. Trump has no known policy views or convictions, he’ll sign their bills then take the credit. Then there’s the matter of the open Supreme Court seat. The Insult Comedian will appoint a Scalia soul mate and the right will hold their majority on the Court. It’s not a pretty picture.

It’s time for Team Clinton to move on from fracturing the Republicans to wooing young Sanders supporters. Some of it will happen quite naturally: third party candidates tend to fade in the last weeks of any Presidential campaign. It’s hard to imagine genuine Left-Progressives wanting Donald Trump to be President but if they need convincing, that’s what campaigns are all about.

In the end, elections are not vehicles for personal expression. They’re about the country, not about individuals. There are only two candidates with a chance to win: one is an experienced and competent Democrat, the other is an erratic, bigoted, and mendacious Republican. My choice is obvious but, then again, I don’t live at what Charlie Pierce calls, “…the intersection of Fantasy Street and Purity Boulevard. (“Left Turn Only” reads the sign.)”

It’s hard to top Charlie so I won’t try. That is all.

2 thoughts on “Third Party Fantasies

  1. I don’t think Libertarians are socially progressive at all except for weed. Their platform seems pretty anti-choice to me.

  2. Libertarians are the Born Frat Boy Party. Their governing philosophy is that government only exists to prevent them from achieving their inherent awesome. This lends itself perfectly to the conviction that other, less deserving types, are doing better than you because they get special protected class policies that you do not. They are not ‘really’ racist or misogynist, they just can’t stand it when women and non-whites are doing better than they are.

    As for Jill Stein, this election cycle has convinced me that my regular support for the Green Party has not even succeeded to the point where I have a better option on the ballot. I am unregistering as a Green after decades of support and campaigning in local races. Thanks Jill; you were a bad option in 2012, but you are absolutely the worst option on the ballot in 2016.

    Time to fix the Democratic Party I guess.

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