Sep 24th 2016

Why a Vote for a Third Party Cannot be an Option for Progressives

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.

A small but significant group of Americans is considering casting their vote this fall for a third-party “protest” candidate.  Some are thinking they may not vote at all.  They say they don’t like any candidate enough to vote so they will “sit this election out.”

I realize many of the Americans considering a third-party vote – or sitting out the election – have sincere, deeply-held feelings that are driving their actions.  Some are just disgusted by what they think is a vitriolic tone of the campaign. 

Unfortunately the media encourages that kind of cynicism and disgust by presenting the attacks mounted by each side in the campaign as equally credible.

But while it is easy to understand the reasons that some people might be inclined to choose a “protest” vote – or decide to sit on their hands – the fact is that either of these actions will have one and only one result: putting Donald Trump into the White House. 

And “trust me,” the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States will have long-term consequences that will make it ever so clear why every voter has to overcome his or her cynicism, or personal likes and dislikes, and go vote – for Hillary Clinton.

History makes the results of third party “protest” votes in modern American elections crystal clear. 

In 2000, thousands of idealistic young Americans chose to vote for Ralph Nader rather than cast their vote for Vice President Al Gore.  There were 50,000 Nader votes in Florida.  Gore lost the presidency by 537 Florida votes.

Had Gore won, there would have been no Iraq War in 2003 – and likely no ISIS today.  There would have been no Bush tax cuts for the rich.  There would not have been the massive Bush-era deregulation of Wall Street that led to the Great Recession.

 And for those who care deeply about climate change, remember that it was private citizen Al Gore who, after losing the election, sounded the climate change alarm with his amazing film “An Inconvenient Truth.”  Had Gore been President, the United States of America would likely have initiated the battle to curb global carbon emissions over a decade and a half ago.

And you can bet that if they knew what would happen in a Bush presidency, many of those 50,000 Nader voters would have begged to reverse history and let them vote for Al Gore for President instead of cast the “protest vote” that cost us all so much.

Of course it’s not just the 2000 election where third-party protest votes have been decisive.  The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 –- and the whole right wing “Reagan Revolution” -- would likely never have happened, were it not for the third party candidacy of John Anderson.

Remember that none of the 2016 third party candidates has any credible chance whatsoever of becoming President of the United States.

Someone who casts his or her vote for one of these third party candidates must be betting that the results of their own “protest” are more important that the consequences that a Donald Trump Presidency would have for the country – and for their lives.

But I would wager that a significant number of those 2000 Nader Voters ersonally suffered from the consequences of Bush’s two terms in office.   Odds are good that many of their families lost loved ones in Iraq, or that their home values collapsed in the Great Recession, or that they lost their jobs or their pensions, or saw their college loans explode.  Many suffered from rising health care costs that Bush failed to address through any form of health care reform. 

I’m betting that many of those voters would agree today that whatever momentary sense of power they felt by sticking it to the system and protesting their presidential options in 2000 is now far outweighed by the regret they feel at the consequence of what they did.

If you’re considering casting your vote for a third party candidate, or simply abstaining from voting entirely, please think seriously about how you’ll feel about that vote next year, or ten years from now – if, like the Nader voters of 2000, your votes determine who will be President.

It’s one thing to cast a “protest vote” or decide to stay home, if you think the election is already decided.  A month ago many people thought Hillary Clinton would run away with the election, so why not vote for a third party candidate? Not so today. 

 That’s exactly what happened in Britain during the Brexit vote earlier this summer.  Many voters – especially younger voters – who opposed Britain leaving the European Union -- thought they didn’t need to go to the trouble to vote because Brexit could not possibly pass.   The day after the election, they were shocked to learn they were wrong – and then it was too late.

 Polls showed that young people overwhelming opposed Brexit. But many of them didn’t take the time to vote.  Now they wish they did.

 Today, most millennial voters oppose the bigotry of Donald Trump.  They also understand that a man with Trump’s temperament has no business with the country’s nuclear launch codes. 

They want lives of commitment for themselves. They honor the sacrifice of leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Congressman John Lewis who were willing to lay their lives on the line for the welfare of others.  And they understand that Donald Trump is the antithesis of a leader who has devoted his life to others and to the common good.  They know that Donald Trump is a man who has done nothing in life but look out for himself – no matter who he hurt, no matter whose lives he ruined.  

But if Donald Trump is actually elected President, that division, that hatred, that bigotry, that selfishness and the impetuous childish insults will define America.   They will be our future.

In a close race like this one, no one can afford to make a “protest vote” that may end in that result.  No one can afford to say: “my vote doesn’t matter.”  No one can afford to allow their own disappointment with the result of the primary – or their wish that someone who is more to their taste were the candidate -- to contribute to such an historic disaster for America and the entire world.

In many states, early voting – or mail balloting -- starts in a matter of weeks.

If you were thinking about casting your vote for a third party – or staying home from the polls -- please think again. You, your children and maybe even your grandchildren, will be glad you did.

Join us in stopping Trump.   And in the process, help make history by electing the first woman president of the United States.   Cast your vote for Hillary Clinton.

    

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book:  Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.



Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."