Repost: The Myth of Third Party “Viability”

I posted this a while back, but with all of the talk of voting “Third Party” lately because some are having hissy fits about Hillary, it’s worth re-reading. Jill Stein and Gary Johnson will not win; only Clinton or Trump will. And no, it is not a “lesser of two evils” election. You may think it makes you look cool to trash Hillary, but it’s called lying, and I’d like to think we liberals were above that. The key to winning is not being like right wingers.

Anyway, please read…

Once again, I get it. Reality is not everyone’s friend. I mean, really, I wish I was better looking, younger, richer and in perfect health, too. But the reality is, I’ll be 58 in May, my 40th high school reunion is coming up later this year, I don’t have very much money and I need a minor-but-necessary operation.  My wishes and dreams aside, all of those are reality.

So, I was listening to the podcast of this morning’s Stephanie Miller Show a few minutes ago and some guy called in to opine that he “disagreed” with the contention that Bernie and Hillary were the only choices for liberals this year. And he asked the million-dollar stupid question:

“Why isn’t Green Party candidate Jill Stein a viable candidate?”

Wow. Right?

Yes, Jill Stein and the Greens are a choice this year. However, the “viable” part? Not so much. Sorry, but as of 2016 in the United States of America, there are TWO viable political parties. Again, the key word is “viable.” There are actually 134 registered political parties in the country, but only Democrats and Republicans qualify as “viable.” You may not like that, but blame democracy. In a democratic system, there are almost never any more than two viable parties because of basic math. Put it this way, if you have three viable political parties, then the one that can manage 40 percent will always win. If you have four, then the one who can manage 33-35% will probably win.

That works another way, too. One reason the minority party, the Republicans, keeps winning an inordinate number of elections is because their voting base is fanatical and will obsessively vote for anyone from their party. (You know, like Donald Drumpf?), which means a lot of people like this guy voting for a “third party” unwittingly give the GOP’s votes more strength. In a system with three or more viable parties, a voting bloc of 25-30 percent of the population turning out to vote at a 90 percent rate will always have an advantage, especially when turnout is low. Unfortunately, “progressives” like this guy, who seem to have no concept what the word “viable” means, operate under the delusion that any party that says what he likes to hear is somehow “viable” and they have no idea that a vote for, say, Jill Stein, is effectively a vote for a Republican. And with the two most likely Republican nominees being Drumpf and Cruz, that should be a non-starter.

Ironically, it’s the Green Party’s fault that their party isn’t closer to viable. In 2000, they ran Ralph Nader. Unfortunately, he and the “progressives” who made up his strongest supporters did the same thing in 2000 that they’re doing with their support of Bernie Sanders in 2016; for some stupid reason, they decided that a great strategy was to attack the Democratic candidate far more vigorously than they attacked George W. Bush. Sorry, but that is so politically tone-deaf, it’s hard to take them seriously.

See, here’s the thing…

If Ralph Nader had worked WITH Al Gore in 2000 and they had tag-teamed their complaints about Bush, the Green Party would have gotten the five percent they were supposedly shooting for (and possibly even a lot more), which means they would have permanent ballot status AND we could have avoiding having Dubya as president. However, for some reason, these people, who self-describe as “political junkies,” seem to think that attacking the party or candidate that is ideologically closest to them will somehow draw that candidate closer, ideologically speaking. You know, because your good friend calling you a “worthless loser” is how they make you their best friend, right?

In a democratic system, your goal can’t be to become a viable THIRD party; you have to become a viable SECOND party. And you do that by going after the current SECOND party, not the current FIRST party. And when I say that, I don’t mean you attract the right. You attract the left by going after the far right and, in doing so, you marginalized the far right. All the Greens did in 2000 and 2004 was to confuse most voters. Instead of going after George W. Bush and telling everyone how horrible he was, the Greens went after Al Gore and made voters think he was as bad as or worse than Dubya. It probably made some people vote for Bush rather than Gore, but just as importantly, it probably made a lot of voters just stay home, since they didn’t think it made any difference which one they voted for.

No matter how many times our side loses, these same people never seem to learn shit. It’s frightening. In a democratic system, you have to do two things; you have to make people want to vote and you have to make them want to vote for you. You don’t do that by making voters who already think Republicans are dipshits think that Democrats are dipshits, as well. People want to vote FOR something good or against something evil.

That’s right, folks; if you’re trashing Hillary or you’re planning to vote Green, both strategies are equally likely to make it more likely for a Republican to win. Only two parties are “viable” as of now. If you’d like to make the Greens viable, then do it. Run some Greens in local races and look for support from your ideological allies in the Democratic Party. Create an alternative. But don’t just assume they’re “viable” just because they say what you want to hear.


  1. The other think to say might be that 3rd parties NEED to run new candidates. New blood, so to speak. Ralph seems like he was around forever. Gary and Jill seem NOT to be new, you know. Just a few years of being around.

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