Opinion: The third party con game

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2016 file photo, Green party presidential candidate Jill Stein in Oakland, Calif. 

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2016 file photo, Green party presidential candidate Jill Stein in Oakland, Calif.  D. ROSS CAMERON/ AP

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at a voter rally, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023, in Phoenix.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at a voter rally, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023, in Phoenix. Matt York/ AP


Published: 04-11-2024 4:38 PM

Wayne Fuller is a retired organizational consultant and facilitator living in Concord.

We live in a winner-take-all two-party political system where you can either vote for Biden or Trump. Many people who don’t want to vote for either think that they can cast a protest vote and vote for someone else. This is not true. Third party candidates are not viable candidates because in the winner-take-all system only the person who wins the most electoral college votes wins and the winner of each state gets all the electoral votes. These third-party candidates have no chance of winning and they know it so why are they out there?

Republicans know that their policies are deeply unpopular nationwide. The electorate isn’t clamoring for more large tax cuts for the super wealthy driving up the deficit, cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the undermining and destruction of our public school system, taking away a woman’s right to control her own health care decisions or have access to birth control, undermining unions, rolling back environmental policies, destroying our national parks and landmarks and selling them off to private investors to build exclusive resorts or drill for more oil.

On paper, people favor the policies of Democrats over Republicans by large numbers nationwide. Thus, for Republicans to win they must siphon off votes that would ordinarily go to Democrats in the swing states. This is why Republicans engage in gerrymandering their states and pass voter suppression measures aimed at Democratic voters. It’s why they seek emotional wedge issues and attempt to scare Americans into voting for them. However, another way they do this is by encouraging and then funding third party candidates and conning disaffected or purist Democrats to vote for them. In reality, third party candidates provide proxy votes for the Republican candidate because when they take away a vote for the Democrat, in our winner-take-all system, they are actually providing votes for the Republican.

Ironically, if you look at the platforms of the most prominent third party candidates over the years, they brought about the opposite of what they claimed they were trying to achieve. For instance, Ross Perot, who campaigned against NAFTA, helped elect Clinton who quickly signed NAFTA.

Ralph Nader’s campaign led to not a less corporate-run government but to a president, George W. Bush, who gave away huge tax cuts to the rich, deregulated corporations and oversaw the greatest financial collapse since the great depression.

Jill Stein, the so-called green candidate, took enough votes away from Hillary Clinton to elect Trump who was the most anti-environmental president possible.

This year we have three third party candidates being funded by, you guessed it, Trump-backing billionaires. Each alternative candidate is strategically placed to appeal to a certain demographic. For instance, Jill Stein poses as an environmentalist candidate as she runs on the Green Party platform. Cornel West is the candidate for disaffected African Americans and others who think the system is gamed against minorities. Robert Kennedy Jr., who trades on his famous father’s name, runs as the anti-vaxxer candidate who appeals to the more conspiracy-minded Democrat who thinks the main party is bought and paid for by corporations. Each of these candidates is actually there to do nothing but siphon off votes from Biden. Thus, voting for them is voting for Trump even if you don’t support Trump.

All of us must be aware of just how our political system works. It is a zero-sum, winner-take-all system. There is no viable third party alternative possibility like those that exist in countries with parliamentary systems. Maybe we don’t like our electoral system but it’s the system we’re stuck with and in this system we have just two choices: Biden or Trump.

If you’re a Democrat and you vote for a third party candidate you’re actually voting for Trump. This November, make sure you vote but don’t let yourself be seduced by the third-party candidate con game.