Should We Be Supporting “Third-Party” Candidates in the 2012 Presidential Election? Good Question…

I wrote the following essay as a response to an email on the Chico, CA Occupy the Dream (part of the 99% movement) list, in regard to a post about Americans Elect, and their admirable effort to get viable, public-sponsored candidates onto the presidential ballot (and other ballots), this November.  It’s really an interesting group, and for those interested in doing so, I recommend checking out what they’re trying to do–though, as you’ll read below, there are certain risks/considerations you should at least think about before doing so (in my not-too-humble opinion).

So, should we support such efforts at this time?

Short answer: I don’t know; but I do know that it’s a very large gamble.  There high risks, and potentially high–or disastrous–rewards.

Much longer answer: Read everything you see below!  🙂

This is an interesting topic that I’ve given a lot of thought.  Those in the former Rebuild the Dream–Chico, CA group (later renamed to distance ourselves from the Democratic Party’s propaganda-and-funding group by the same name; see references at the end of this document) may recall that when Rebuild the Dream got started, I mentioned Americans Elect as something to take note of.  I’ve since revised my opinion somewhat, and I venture to say that the following is worth considering.

First, to be clear: I’m 100% “in favor of” getting more candidates on the ballot, and in positions to actually get elected.  That being said, here is how the 2012 presidential election will play out, if AE and similar groups manage to get enough popular support to have an impact on the election.  Please note that while certain parts of this analysis are pretty scary (and may look far-fetched, at first glance), the end result may ultimately be worth it–and it also might not be.

(Note: I’m not an expert in government legal processes, and I don’t claim to be.  Just how the below will be accomplished, in a legal sense, is for the politicians, lawyers, and judges to figure out; but I’m certain that they will find a way, given enough impetus.  The D.C. folks certainly have a history of misinterpreting the wording of laws in order to make things happen as they want/need them to.  Review the Bill Clinton impeachment debacle if you need a reminder.)

How It Will (Likely) Happen
(I realize that this might work better as a flow-chart, but I don’t know how to make one easily.)

1) Multiple centrist-to-liberal candidates will play a “spoiler” role to Pres. Obama, causing a Republican candidate to be elected, despite getting a low percentage of the vote.
2) This will cause mass civil unrest, and millions of people will call for the election result to be invalidated by various means.  It’s possible that some unhappy citizens will become violent, but this would be a very tiny minority, I think.  (Nevertheless, it could have a nasty impact on the freedoms to protest, etc.)
3) Eventually, the public will settle on a “best method” to remove the Republican president, most likely via some form of recall, which (if I understand correctly) will require a certain amount of new legislation or legal wrangling to happen at the federal level.  Impeachment might also be tried, but I’m pretty sure it would fail, unless there’s irrefutable evidence of actual felonies being committed.
4) After a protracted, heated, and highly divisive campaign, there will be some kind of “final showdown”–perhaps a court battle or call for a 2/3 majority vote by Congress (to overrule a veto).
5) If the above effort fails, further options will be tried, but momentum for removing this president before his first term is over will fade somewhat and be transformed into further social dissatisfaction among the general population.  Some of this will “spill over” into the 99% movement, but will be ultimately ineffectual for the remainder of the president’s term.  This may ultimately lead to large-scale violent actions by some factions, which would have disastrous consequences.  (I see civil war as an eventual possibility, should the 99% movement ultimately fail to be satisfied/placated; but currently, this isn’t something I consider “inevitable,” and is a much too complex theory to discuss here.)  If things manage to remain peaceful, return to step “1.”
6) If the above legal action DOES succeed, there will be a sort of “re-do” of the election, probably with (A) the new president excluded from the list of candidates; or (B) both the new president and Pres. Obama excluded from the list.  (The latter is preferable, as explained below.  It is, however, less likely, as I see it.)
Important Note: The option of ending up with a “do-over election” without Obama or the Republican candidate on the ballot–which would produce the best results, as far as I can tell–is only feasible if the election goes to a Republican who didn’t get many votes (percentage-wise), and the 3rd party candidates got more, combined, than Obama did.  Unfortunately, this is pretty far-fetched, compared to the Republican or Obama winning outright, or the “do-over” resulting in a win for Obama, and all that would follow (see below).
7) If option “B” is chosen, we’ll have the first worthwhile election in about 100 years, and a “third party” candidate will become president.  If the public then pressures that new president  and Congress to implement legislation to prevent a similar debacle from happening again, we’ll probably achieve an end to the two-party system, or at least an easier path for “third” parties to get into an election as almost-equals.  Depending on the level and type of social pressure, we may end up with a Condorcet (preferable) or IRV (good but less preferable) voting system.  This is, of course, a “best-case” outcome.  (Depending on the disposition of this new president and his/her party, he/she/they might or might not be in favor of bringing any party other than their own into their new position of equality with the D. and R. parties.  Therefore, public pressure would be required, here, in any case.)
Further note: the legal wranglings above would basically have the effect of creating a very expensive, protracted, one-time-only “Instant-Run-off Vote,” when all is said and done.  This would create some momentum for making that system quick, painless, and standard, by eliminating the the electoral college and/or implementing IRV (or similar) for all federal elections.
8) If option “A” is selected, Obama will be elected again, and will work (semi-covertly) to prevent IRV, Condorcet or other reforms that would remove his party from its present position of relative dominance.  Public pressure could combat this, but we’d essentially be back at step “2,” above.  It’s unlikely that reform of a truly proper, significant kind will happen until his term ends–which may well be after the 99% movement is pacified/placated/satisfied enough to (essentially) remove its political “teeth.”  This is probably the worst option, short of civil war.  (Incidentally, I believe that both parties are currently seeking to create a situation wherein the 99% movement will be easy to pacify/placate whilst requiring the fewest significant concessions from the current holders of power.  This is another theory too complex to discuss in this post.)

Alternate Outcome: Of course, Obama might win the election despite all the spoiler candidates.  This would be somewhat preferable to “8,” since it won’t require a long, protracted battle to get Obama re-elected in spite of support for the third parties.  Essentially, since the public won’t have had to “work/fight” to get Obama re-elected, there will be less sense of “owning” his re-election–which would cause the public to be more active in opposing his bids to keep “third parties” out of power, in addition to maintaining reasonable pressure in opposition to the various bad/stupid things he does in the future (as he–like any recent president–is bound to do).  This will basically be an advancement of our current “waiting game” for the proper impetus for real change in our election practices.

So, I guess what I’d call the “bottom line” is this:

Supporting the introduction of “spoiler” candidates into the 2012 presidential election is a very big gamble that would result in one of three(-ish) probable results:
1) Major, meaningful reform of the federal election system.  (Probably the best-case scenario.)
2) Stalemate with regard to the above change, with the Democratic and Republican parties being given ample reason (and some opportunity) to “dig in” and defend against future threats to their power.
3) Catastrophic social upheaval that could (A) end the 99% movement (possibly by the application of armed force against it); (B) result in multiple large-scale armed conflicts between government personnel and dissatisfied citizens (possibly leading to civil war); or (C) create a more energized and effective 99% movement that would result in many protestors being confronted by armed forces (police, national guard, marines, and/or air force), but ultimately result in overwhelming victory against the current government’s way of doing things.  (The rationale for this conclusion is pretty lengthy, but it basically relies on historical observations of how populist movements against their governments have gone in the past.  This doesn’t necessarily denote any particular wisdom in whatever government comes next, mind.)

I honestly don’t know whether it’s best to support AE or other such efforts, and can’t even say with certainty whether the latter option “3C” would be worse or better than what we might obtain without such conflict.  I can, however, say it would be a lot scarier and more harmful to individual protestors.  (Obviously, I’m not advocating violent conflict; I’m only attempting to predict what the outcome of such conflict might be.)

One thing’s certain, though: the whole gambit is risky.

I know that much of the above sounds like nay-saying and doomsday predictions, but I honestly don’t intend it that way.  This is what I’ve come up with after months of thinking on the topic.  Please forward this on to your friends (via the buttons below, emails, etc.) if you think it’s worth doing so.  In any case, it’s something that I would like people to truly think about and consider before making any decision about whether to support a “third party” candidate (or organization), or to seek to re-elect President Obama.

Note: I’m working under the premise–which I wholeheartedly believe–that electing a right-wing candidate at this time is a very bad idea for all but a privileged-few Americans–even if many of the rank-and-file conservatives don’t yet realize it.  While I actually respect many of the “planks” upon which most conservatives find virtue in the Republican party (including some positions on sexual morality, and the “conservation” vs. “preservation” argument–though they’re not typically called by those terms, these days), my present position is that the Republican party has basically gone mad (from the top down), and the Democratic party isn’t very far behind them–but is, as often, the “lesser of two (very, very, very) evil choices.”

References with regard to the nature of MoveOn, Rebuild the Dream, etc. (PDF)

I could (and may, yet) post my previous essay to the local group on this topic, to my blog; but for now, I’ll only assure you that MoveOn, Rebuild the Dream, and other supposedly “progressive” groups (especially those affiliated with “Van” Jones) are basically “patsies” for the Democratic party, and as such, the 99% movement would to well to avoid them.  Please keep any comments on the topic of “third” parties in the presidential election, since that’s the main thrust of my post, today.

Thanks for reading!


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