Recently, in my free moments, I have been thinking quite a bit about the necessity of political parties other than the two that have held sway for 160 years. I have been envisioning the evolution of the United States into a multi-party democracy more than usual.
Yesterday's entry featured my Twitter thread about how electing Joe Biden in 2020 practically assures a Republican victory in 2024. That's assuming he isn't replaced in the first half of his term by his running mate, who turns out to be FDR-level awesome and just what the nation needs.
The entry from the weekend before (25 July) featured a tirade against Jef Rouner's tirade against voting for third parties. Mostly I focused on the reasons many self-identified Progressives cannot in good conscience vote for Biden.
What I didn't get into very deeply is that there are some good, healthy, positive reasons for voting for non-Duopoly parties in the US. That's out subject today. Third-party voting isn't entirely a matter of casting a protest vote against both heads of the two-headed War & Wall Street Party; it's also about building a new system to replace the imperialist, corporatist system that, despite its imposing grandeur, is already crumbling around us.
The most obvious positive reason for voting for the Green Party, Libertarian Party, Socialist Party USA, Constitution Party, Peace & Freedom Party, or whichever party aligns with your values, is building these parties for the future. This is a slow process, given the political and media environments, but it is happening.
Here in Texas, in the 2016 general election, a Libertarian candidate for Railroad Commissioner broke the 5% mark, and a Green in the same race broke the 3% mark, against nominees from both heads of the Duopoly. (Way back in 1992, Libertarian RRC candidate Richard N. Draheim Jr., got almost 7% against an R and a D.) Together, Mark Miller and Martina Salinas received nearly 750,000 votes out of about 8.8 million. About one of every 12 voters said a resounding no to the Duopoly in that race.
It took the Greens 16 years to reach that level. Since 2000, we have had several statewide candidates who polled considerably higher—double digits even—in races with no Democrat running. The Libertarians have been contesting elections in Texas since 1980; they haven't thrown in the towel because they know that hundreds of thousands of Texas voters need candidates whose philosophies and positions reflect their own.
Ironically, the presence of Green and Libertarian Parties has strengthened the Democratic Party in Texas. After all those years of leaving holes in the statewide ballot, allowing the Greens and Libertarians to poll at 5% and retain ballot access, because they know they can't win statewide, Texas Democrats are now more regularly filling those holes, especially in presidential years. (Not 100% though: They didn't field a candidate for Court of Criminals Appeals, Position 8, in 2018.)
SIDEBAR: If you look back at recent general elections in Texas, have a look at races with a Libertarian nominee and no Democrat. It's impressive how many people who, in the absence of a Democratic option, choose the Libertarian rather than voting for the Republican or abstaining. Libertarians' percentages jump from 2's and 3's to 15's and 20's. (The number of undervotes in those races is still huge by comparison. It will be interesting to see what effect the removal of the one-punch straight-ticket ballot line will have on these results.) Yes, these votes are probably as much against the Republican as for the Libertarian, but the number of Democrats voting for the devil they don't know (and about whom mainstream media outlets almost never speak) is surprising.
Promoting Ideas and Policies
In turn, building up so-called third parties has positive effects. Whether or not the Green Party ever wins any seats in Congress, progressive Democrats are willing to adopt and promote positions in the Green Party's platform. There is no more salient example of this than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez waving the Green New Deal flag in Nancy Pelosi's face the moment she arrived in the House in 2019. Admittedly, it's a watered down version of the Howie Hawkins/Jill Stein GND, but at least it got people talking.
Greens also were calling for defunding and demilitarizing police forces (with attribution to our radical and progressive forbears, including the Black Panther Party) long before the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was coined.
But the appropriation of ideas and policies from fringe parties is nothing new. It was the Democrats' adoption of Populist Party positions and nomination of William Jennings Bryan that rendered the Populist Party redundant in the 1890s. Think also of FDR's adoption of positions advanced by the Socialist Party.
If the Greens and other leftish parties didn't pose a threat to the Democratic Party's left flank, these parties would never acquire any leverage, and their ideas would gain no traction.
Enhancing Democracy and Reforming Electoral Processes
We could talk here about how the Duopoly parties depend heavily on professional campaign consultants, how those consultants tell candidates what to say and how to say it, how the consultancy practice has become such an institution that they have arranged to make campaigns a perennial exercise in order to keep the money flowing their way. But I'd rather not. It's already leaving an unpleasant taste in my mouth.
Instead, I'd like to focus on the recent expansions of Ranked Choice and Approval Voting systems. The Greens have been talking about Instant Runoff Voting for decades, not just because IRV solves the spoiler effect, but also because it eliminates the need for costly runoff elections. (The consultants hate it when you talk about eliminate anything that might put the brakes on their gravy train.) Such systems are unnecessary in two-way races, but the Duopolists are increasingly seeing the benefits of such systems, primarily in local primaries that may attract large fields of candidates.
In Maine, even after Republican Paul LePage was elected governor with less than 38% of the vote, a lot of big-name Democrats resisted the Ranked Choice system that the voters there adopted in 2016. Since the Democrats have gained a Congressional seat there in 2018 thanks to RCV, they love it, and it's Republicans who are kvetching about it. (Too bad Texas didn't see the light after the 2006 election, when Rick Perry was re-elected with only 39%.)
I'm not going to list all the selling points for RCV and Approval Voting here. You can read all about it at fairvote.org and electionscience.org. However, once people latch onto these systems, perhaps they'll be more open to other reforms we've been talking up for decades—e.g., eliminating the Electoral College and switching to proportional representation.
As a certain Canadian poet told us, Democracy Is Coming to the USA at long last. It will not require a foreign military invasion to liberate us from the tyranny of late-stage capitalism. It will come from within, at the hands of the People, pushing the moral arc of the universe toward justice, toward peace, toward compassion. The Green Party is already playing a big part in its arrival.