Home | Forums | Articles
Democratic Underground
 

Click here to donate to Democratic Underground

In Association with Amazon.com
Visit the DU Bookstore!

DemocraticUnderground.com

 

The Case For Unity
June 22, 2001
by Jonathan Lilienkamp

Sunburn cream stings when it's put on. Cold medicines have the flavor of artificial cherry and feces. Alcohol hurts when placed on a cut. It is hard to get excited about moderate Democratic presidents. Then again: Sunburn medicine reduces the soreness from the burn. Having a cold is miserable. An alcohol sting is less painful than an infection. Republican presidents equate to a halt or regression of progress. (One need only look at the last few months to see the capacity for danger in this.) In each case the cure is, in fact, far better than the "disease".

I am a liberal Democrat. I prefer Democrats on the left, and typically vote for the most liberal candidate in primary and caucus situations. Personally, I always come home to the Democratic Party in presidential elections no matter how moderate the candidate might be. Why? Because I enjoy winning. I may not have all of my wishes fulfilled. Some of my goals at least will on the agenda if the Democrat I vote for wins. In all likelihood, I'll get the reverse of what I want if a Republican comes into office-and agenda that completely opposes my viewpoints.

Below I make the case against casting your vote for a third party presidential nominee. By discussing a few realties, this study proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that third-party presidential vote is a wasted vote at best, and terribly counter productive.

First lets dispel the myth that it is possible to be elected as a third party presidential candidate. Electing a third party presidential candidate is impossible. Period. If you believe otherwise, and feel that I am just uttering "the two-party mantra", then please consider this: no third party candidate has been elected in over 170 years. That's right - 170 years (my research stops at 1832, so this figure may be larger).

To provide proof, let's look at the elections involving third party candidates from 1832 to president. Listed below are the years that third party candidates who garnered at least 1% of the vote ran for president, the candidate that ran, and the actual winner of the election.

Year     3rd Party Candidate          Winner

1832     William Wirt                 Andrew Jackson
1840     James G. Birney              John Tyler
1844     James G. Birney              James Polk
1848     Martin Van Buren             Zachary Taylor
1852     John Hale                    Franklin Pierce
1856     Millard Fillmore             James Buchanan
1860     John Bell                    Abraham Lincoln
         John C. Breckinridge             
1872     Victoria Woodhull            Ulysses S. Grant
1880     James B. Weaver              James A. Garfield
1884     Benjamin Butler              Grover Cleveland
1888     Alson J. Streeter            Benjamin Harrison
         Clinton B. Fisk              
1892     James B. Weaver              Grover Cleveland
         John Bidwell                 
1900     Eugene V. Debs               Theodore Roosevelt
         John Wooley                  
1904     Eugene V. Debs               Theodore Roosevelt
         Silas Swallow                
         Thomas Watson                
1908     Eugene Chafin                William H. Taft
         Eugene V. Debs               
         Thomas Watson                
1912     Arthur Reimer                Woodrow Wilson
         Eugene Chafin               
         Eugene V. Debs               
         Theodore Roosevelt                
1916     Allan L. Benson              Woodrow Wilson
         Arthur Reimer                
         J. Frank Hanly               
1920     Eugene V. Debs               Warren Harding
1924     Robert LaFollette            Calvin Coolidge
         William Z. Foster                 
1928     Norman Thomas                Herbert Hoover
         Verne Reynolds                    
         William Z. Foster                 
1932     Norman Thomas                Franklin D. Roosevelt
         Verne Reynolds             
         William Z. Foster            
1936     Earl Browder                 Franklin D. Roosevelt
         John Aiken                       
         Norman Thomas            
         William Lemke              
1940     Earl Browder                 Franklin D. Roosevelt
         John Aiken                       
         Norman Thomas                 
1944     Claude Watson                Harry S Truman
         Edward Teichert               
         Norman Thomas                 
1948     Claude Watson                Harry S Truman
         Edward Teichert                   
         Farrell Dobbs                 
         Henry A. Wallace              
         Norman Thomas                   
         Strom Thurmond                 
1952     Darlington Hoopes            Dwight D. Eisenhower
         Douglas MacArthur               
         Eric Hass                        
         Farrell Dobbs                   
         Henry Krajewski                 
1956     Darlington Hoopes            Dwight D. Eisenhower
         Eric Hass                       
         Farrell Dobbs                  
         Henry Krajewski                
1960     Eric Hass                    John F. Kennedy
         Farrell Dobbs               
1964     E. Harold Munn               Lyndon B. Johnson
         Eric Hass                   
1968     Dick Gregory                 Richard M. Nixon
         E. Harold Munn               
         Eldridge Cleaver              
         George Wallace             
         Benjamin Spock               Richard M. Nixon
         E. Harold Munn                  
         Gus Hall                          
         John Hospers               
         John Schmitz             
1976     Gus Hall                     Jimmy Carter
         Lyndon LaRouche                 
1980     David McReynolds             Ronald W. Reagan
         Ed Clark                         
         Gus Hall                  
1984     Earl Dodge                   Ronald W. Reagan
         Gus Hall                     
         Lyndon LaRouche            
1988     Earl Dodge                   George Bush
         Jack Herer                  
         James Warren              
         Lenora Fulani            
         Lyndon LaRouche         
1992     Earl Dodge                   William J. Clinton    
         Isabell Masters              
         Jack Herer                  
         James Warren                   
         John Hagelin                     
         Lenora Fulani                    
         Lyndon LaRouche                  
         Ross Perot                        
1996     Earl Dodge                   William J. Clinton
         Harry Browne                     
         Isabell Masters                 
         James Harris                     
         John Hagelin                  
         Monica Moorehead              
         Ralph Nader                     
         Ross Perot                        
2000     David McReynolds             George W. Bush
         Earl Dodge                      
         Harry Browne                     
         James Harris                     
         John Hagelin                  
         Monica Moorehead              
         Pat Buchanan                 
         Ralph Nader                     

Success Rate: 0%

(Source: Third Party Presidential Candidates)

Note that even past presidents could not get elected as third party candidates. Why is it so hard to get elected as a third party candidate? Two words provide the answer: Electoral College. Though there are third party candidates (listed above, such as George Wallace and Strom Thurmond who managed to win electoral votes. They obviously did not win enough to do any good. Third Party candidates need "upsets" in enough states to garner 270 electoral votes. How likely is that? If you need to, look again at the list above. A college level course in statistics is not required to understand the evidence it presents. When you cast your vote for president, please remember the president is selected through the process of a republic, not a democracy. This is an important distinction from the other races you vote in. Like it, or not, the fact is undeniable, the evidence is irrefutable. The system is geared to a two-party presidential race.

Okay, so you know your candidate won't get elected, but it really isn't a wasted vote, is it? By voting third party you send a message! Yes, third party votes do send a message, but it isn't received with the same meaning it was sent. It may be meant as "hey, listen to me!" But often, when votes are bled off from a friendlier candidate and the candidate loses, what good is the message then? It comes out more like "I am willing to completely sacrifice my agenda if my agenda cannot be met completely."

In many ways it is no different from the Biblical story (1 Kings 3:16-28) where two women argue over a child. The solution posed entailed cutting the baby in half, and giving part to each mother. This represents exactly the message of a third party presidential vote. Is that what you really want? Because that is, in effect, what you are achieving. By cutting the political baby in half, we assure one thing: Failure. It sends another message as well. It says, "you can forget about my vote, no need to represent me at all". If the left supported the moderate candidates, by showing up at the polls, and by voting Democratic, the Left of the party receives inherently more voice. But if the vote totals from the left aren't present, then you are forcing the party in the other direction. If the left won't vote Democratic, then the Democratic Party has to go to the center to win. The Democratic party has to go with what supports it. If the left doesn't vote, or votes third party, the Democrats cannot depend on the votes from that spectrum of the party. We can push to the left and "get back to our roots" when the roots start voting. Otherwise, we lose.

Far be it for me to tell anyone to vote against his or her conscience. But please be sure you are willing to live with you conscience and the consequences. I simply ask that reason be employed. Whomever wins the presidential race for the Democrats has to be able to sustain an open and inviting party, even to those on the our right of our party. We are different brands of progressives, but we do pull in the same general direction. For presidential elections, we need majority support in a majority of states. We are not going to get that unless we have broad and accepting appeal.

The time to push for more liberal (and even third party candidates) is in local elections. This includes, but is not limited to Governors, State legislatures, and Federal legislatures. Democracy rules these elections the are not constrained by the rules of a republic. These are where regional tastes are represented. In the states were the Democratic Party is moderate, elect a moderate governors, representatives, etc., and where the Democratic Party is liberal, elect liberals to office.

If we cannot learn from the mistakes of the Republican right, we are going to suffer the same consequences. For example, you may not like Zell Miller on all of his votes, but I am sure you like the one he cast for Daschle as the Majority Leader. If Senator Miller is as liberal a Democrat as Georgia can keep in office, then I'll take him. Consider another possibility: Senator Barr? Then again, Minnesota can elect Senators Wellstone and Dayton. Democrats there have enough support to put forth a more liberal-minded candidate. Understand the distinction. We need to find common ground between those who vote in Minnesota and those who vote in Georgia when it comes to the republic system involved in the presidential election. Simply put, if we don't - we lose.

So what can we do?

Understand that we need to find someone acceptable to some degree to all Democrats or those who would vote for the Democrats. Whoever the choice is, be assured he/she will not share your entire agenda. The need for cross regional broad appeal requires this. Understand that the all or nothing strategy typically results in nothing. (Just ask Trent Lott about his success as majority leader in 2001.)

Elect the most liberal local officials you can, but be willing to sacrifice to get a Democrat from any part of the progressive political spectrum into the White House. If we cannot find unity in the most basic way, how are we going to be unified enough to resolve the tougher issues? It is my hope that we can turn a successful Democratic party more leftward, but we must get the wheels rolling first.


Printer-friendly version
Tell a friend about this article Tell a friend about this article
Discuss this article
 
Want to write for Democratic Underground? Click here.

View All Articles

 
© 2001 - 2004 Democratic Underground, LLC
 

Important Notice: Articles published on the Democratic Underground website are the opinions of the individuals who write them, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Democratic Underground, LLC.

Home  |  Discussion Forums

About DU  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy

Got a message for Democratic Underground? Click here to send us a message.

© 2001 - 2011 Democratic Underground, LLC