In Defense of Third Party Voting–and Yet

Sixoh6 has been quiet for some time now, due to a combination of factors but a lot of it due to deep discouragement with US politics. The railroading of Joe Biden through the Democratic primary to the nomination was, to me, deeply discouraging. My liberal and moderate friends will likely disagree, but I felt hopeless seeing Biden, a very weak candidate with a poor record on the most important issues of the moment, move forward as the nominee. My sadness was more about the state of the Democratic party, which fears progressives so much that it would rather lose than move left, as it was about Biden himself. At that point, I was concerned both that Biden would not win (a concern that has diminished not because Biden has shown himself to be a better candidate than he was this spring but because Trump is melting down quickly) and that, if he did, he is uninterested in addressing the reasons why 60 million people voted for Trump (which remains true; his campaign has gone out of its way to reassure elites that Biden isn’t going to push for economic justice).

Now, I’m concerned that a Biden presidency will lead to an exhausted American people to pretend that Trumpist fascism was a blip rather than a constant current in American culture and a predictable outcome of Obama’s failures to address income inequality, malfeasance among bankers, the housing crisis, out-of-control college debt, gerrymandering, mass incarceration, and the opioid epidemic; Obama built the infrastructure that allowed Trump to turn his racism toward immigrants in concentration camps. I’m concerned that the desire to return to normalcy will result in a failure to address the causes of American fascism or to hold its perpetrators accountable for it.

Biden is, in short, part of the problem, and he’s been clear that he doesn’t support the solutions required to turn Trump voters away from Trumpism: universal healthcare including the decriminalization of addiction, universal basic income, complete college debt forgiveness and free college, and an infusion of support for rural America including hospitals, infrastructure, and investment in wind and solar energy along with job training to support high-wage careers in renewable energy.

What is worst, he doesn’t have a bloodlust for fascism, which is what we need now.

I have a lot of bad feelings about Biden, and while I think, at this point, that he’s going to win, my anger at what I see as his campaign’s laziness (true during the primaries, true this summer, true now), entitlement, and reliance on the labor of voters desperate to end the tide of hate that Trumpism has unleased on the US hasn’t dissipated.

In short, I think that Biden is the second-worst (only above Bloomberg) candidate the Democrats could have nominated. He is the epitome of a man who has been given power beyond his abilities and is now convinced that he merits it. I’m disgusted at how hard people most threatened by Trump have to work to elect someone as lazy as he is.

In almost any situation, given that I live in a predictably red state, I’d be fine voting third party.

Before you complain that third party voters cost Gore and Clinton the 2000 and 2016 elections, just don’t. First, the only way that they could have “cost” Gore or Clinton the election is if third party voters in swing states would have voted for the Democratic candidate instead of the third party. This is more obviously not the case for 2016, but it was also not the case in 2000. While Nader received more votes than the difference between Gore and Bush in Florida, the state that delivered the electoral college win for Bush, this doesn’t mean that the 97,000 voters who chose Nader would have otherwise chosen Gore. Gore’s post-election focus on climate change and Bush’s disasterous presidency has perhaps made us forget that there was significant liberal unhappiness with Gore, and Nader may have captured votes of people who didn’t want to vote for Gore and might have otherwise gone to Bush, as 191,000 Floridians who identified as liberals voting for Bush did. Further, Bush won by fewer than Nader’s number of votes in Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin; again, rather than assuming that Nader’s voters would have selected Gore, we must recognize that many of them were voting for Nader as a vote against Gore and would have otherwise chosen Bush (or, of course, some other third party candidate).

If “Did Not Vote” Had Been A Candidate In The 2016 US Presidential  Election, It Would Have Won By a Landslide – Brilliant Maps
Your problem isn’t third party voters. It’s nonvoters. Ask them why they feel that their vote won’t result in an improvement in their lives. Then run candidates who address their reasons for hopelessness.

“But a third party vote is wasted.”

Alerting the two major parties that people are dissatisfied with them both is not “a waste.” You can’t be both incredibly upset about Nader and Stein “costing” Democrats the presidency and also think that third party voting is a waste. Which are third-party voters: fools whose votes don’t matter or the entire reason we have a disastrous War on Terror?

“Voting third-party is a sign of white privilege.”

Third-parties are far more likely than mainstream parties to run candidates of color. Left third-party voters consistently put forward platforms that are more racially just. And remember: Biden was VP because the Democratic party needed to assure white voters that a Black man on the top of the ticket would be tempered by someone who they felt more, uh, comfortable with. In other words, it was Biden’s sexism and racism that Obama needed to assuage worried white voters. And now we get to see him run 4 years later. Thanks, Obama.

“Voting third-party is a way to tell vulnerable people who would be hurt by a second Trump term that you don’t care about them.”

Is Trump worse for Black, queer, indigenous, Latino, Asian, and Jewish people; women, children, and immigrants; and all other vulnerable people than Biden? Yes, obviously.

But I cannot also deign to tell any of those people to vote for Biden. The Black man who lost his right to vote forever because of Biden’s policies of mass incarceration? Should I tell him to vote for Biden? The young adult whose college debt overwhelms them and for whom Biden promises no relief?* Those who will never recover from the Great Recession?

If it hurts them to see me vote third-party, how do they feel when I vote for someone who supported deportations, opposed school busing, and has a reputation for unwanted touching of women? It hurts less, I guess, but that is not the same thing as care.

I understand that neither choice here is good and that one is much worse than the other. But voting for Biden is not an expression of care for the vulnerable. Creating a system in which candidates compete for the votes of the most vulnerable would do that.

And yet.

I’ll be voting for Biden this election. It will be the saddest, most frustrated vote I have ever cast.

If you’ve been hammering your third-party voting friends about how they’re going to be responsible for a Trump re-election, I beg you to stop. First, if you are a moderate or liberal who put forward Biden over Sanders, you have an obligation to instead go harangue all the moderate Republicans and swing voters you were sure the Biden/Harris ticket was going to bring to the polls. While you are out there, work on the many, many nonvoters, including those who sat 2016 and midterms out, because they think the current crop of Democrats are garbage. After you’ve done your duty there, you can talk to the progressives you decided to alienate by nominating Biden.

Then, come back here later this week and find some talking points that might work. Because the guilting, shaming, calling people insensitive to the needs of the vulnerable, etc., isn’t going to work.

*Yeah, I’ve read this plan. It’s terrible.

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