The political atmosphere of America has reached the highest level of polarity it has seen in decades. Pew Research found that 50 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of Democrats find discussing politics with opposing party members to be “stressful and frustrating.”
This state of affairs has given rise to great unrest. In turn, that has led some to believe that the nightmarish 2016 electoral cycle created momentum for a third-party challenge in 2020. It seems a likely year to successfully make some waves. It is not unfair to observe that a third party’s traditional goal has been to make waves in the United States.
In recent history, several of those waves have been tsunamis.
During the summer of 2015, the editor of Millennial Democrats found that a simple Google search of the very word “nader” would instantly direct you to a Wikipedia article called “The Spoiler Effect”, which since the year 2000 has also been known as The Nader Effect.
These terms are used to describe the ghastly effect third parties tend to have on crucial elections. The United States has now had five Presidential races in a row that were absolutely key. As a result, third parties have had the chance to do more and more harm to causes they claim to advocate.
They ruined us in 2000. They hurt us in 2004. In 2008 Nader was the most hated man on Planet Earth. And in 2016, Nader passed the Spoiler’s Torch to Bernie Sanders, eager as his 2012 Green Party successor Jill Stein was to secure that role for herself. Bernie and Ralph, of course, are old friends.
No third party has ever managed to get a candidate of their own elected. What they have done, though, is to pull off dramatically awful effects on major elections, and therefore the political foundation of the country. They cause the major parties real harm. They sometimes get them to adapt and to change. But much more often, they bring the candidates they have the most in common with crashing down. To the overwhelming detriment of everyone.
Third-party candidates can impact the national outcome if they capture just the right percentage of votes in the right states, which is precisely how Ralph Nader was able to do such harm to the Democratic Party in the year 2000.
He insisted, against the dictates of all reason or common sense, upon campaigning for crucial swing states such as Florida, the state that cost Gore the election, by 537 votes. As the Greens are a left-wing party, they compete for votes with Democrats.
For this reason, the 97,000 votes that Nader won make it clear that George W. Bush would never have made it to the White House without him.
GOP strategists knew it, too, which is why they were paying to run swing state ads for Ralph Nader in 2004, slandering John Kerry on his behalf. Nader, who has made a career out of complaining, was strangely silent on this repugnant issue.
Barbara Perry is the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and co-chair of the center’s Presidential Oral History program. She made a crucial point last year when she said that Bernie Sanders supporters leaning toward supporting Jill Stein over Hillary Clinton have to ask themselves an important question: “Are you willing to accept that your third party vote may help someone you utterly disagree with?”
The answer, sadly, usually ends up being yes. Stein and the Greens were invaluable to Trump against Clinton. It’s essentially certain that why she was at that famous meeting with Putin and Paul Manafort was to discuss her party’s part in ruining the chances of Hillary Clinton. And Nader is said to have been secretly jubilant at the knowledge that he’d ruined the chances of Al Gore.
Revelations came out last month about the ways the Russians used Facebook ads to hurt Hillary Clinton. Politico reported last month that some of the ads explicitly endorsed Jill Stein, and Bernie Sanders.
Left-wing third-party energy is all but completely limited to out of touch white leftists with no real interest in or ability to organize beyond their immediate circles. They tend to adopt a fanatical and uncompromising stance on every issue, and they tend to lack diplomatic finesse.
They call themselves progressives, but this is a misnomer. In order to call yourself a progressive, you have got to demonstrate you can make progress. That takes cooperation and communication. All or nothing will not suffice.
We realize there are good people out there who share many views with us, people who would like to be allies but not formal members of the Party. We would like to thank those people for what help and support they are willing to offer. But we ask that they keep out of our way.
Progressives of every stripe have got to realize that their best chance of seeing their goals achieved is to give all the support they can to Democrats. Those are the folks who’ve been looking after the people of this country, ever since Franklin Roosevelt passed the New Deal. This is why we have spent the last hundred years getting rid of all the racist reactionary elements out of our apparatus.
When Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he carried the South because of it. Lyndon Johnson continued to push through civil rights legislation, although he was warned that in so doing he would lose the South for Democrats for a generation, a prediction that proved more than accurate. Didn’t matter. It was the right thing to do, and so we did it. It was a big part of how Democrats became the People’s Party.
The next election is going to be even closer than 2016 was, in all these battlegrounds. The bitterly divided parties, the high degree of partisan and ideological polarization, and the people confused and bewildered. Moving forward, we have got to pour light on this strategy.
Third parties cannot work in the United States. What will work is to highlight and draw enthusiasm toward exactly what we’ve been doing. The Democratic Party is currently in the process of continuing our decades-long transition towards a nationwide, liberal, labor oriented coalition. We will not let ourselves be distracted from this goal by the pipedreams and fantasies of third-party Utopian dreamers. We have a good idea of where we’re going. And we’ve got a decent plan as to how to get there.