“The role of Third Parties in American politics is to sting like a bee and then die.”—Richard Hofstadter
In their collective wisdom, the 18th century framers of the U.S. Constitution saw fit to invent a system of government which would eventually require that the United States of America be chopped up into 435 little pieces.
That’s 435 separate entities. That’s 435 separate units, each with its own unique history, geography, economy, and demographics, each with its own prejudices, self-deceits and self-interests, each with its own elected representative, and each with its own political agenda. Welcome to the U.S. Congress.
All of which makes it so tiresome when people express outrage or despair over congressional “gridlock.” Finicky observers act as if the most natural thing in the world for 435 politicians to do—even with each representing disparate constituencies and disparate geographical regions (and each at the mercy of voters every two years)—would be to reach one happy consensus after another.
Indeed, rather than decrying how little gets done, we could just as easily be appreciative of how much gets done. Which reminds one of Samuel Johnson’s remark in response to seeing a dog walking on its hind legs: “It’s not that it’s being done well that’s impressive, but rather that it’s being done at all.”
Which brings us to Bernie Sanders. It is astounding that there are people going around grousing about how Bernie isn’t the “real” socialist he claims to be. Or whining about the fact that he hasn’t been enough of a “dove” when it comes to America’s military adventurism, or that his anti-Wall Street rhetoric isn’t “strong enough,” or that, being Jewish, he has been too “uncritical” of Israel.
Jesus, Mary and whatnot….are they serious?? Are these people serious? Given the history of the U.S.—given the fact that the U.S. has demonstrable never been anything other than a centrist or right-centrist country—people have the nerve to quibble with Bernie Sanders for not being a “pure” lefty? That is beyond absurd.
Yet people glibly talk about Third Parties as if they were a viable option, as if forming a Third Party would be a perfectly reasonable step for disgruntled left-wing Democrats. While they proudly note that Ross Perot received more than 19 million votes, in 1992, running on a Reform Party ticket, they fail to mention that he got zero electoral votes.
If we want evidence of how “progressive” the United States is, we need to focus on Third Party candidates who managed to garner electoral votes, because without them you can’t be elected. Since Teddy Roosevelt ran as a Bull Moose, in 1912, and got 88 electoral votes, only two candidates have made any noise. In 1948, Strom Thurmond received 39 electoral votes, and in 1968, George Wallace received 48. Both were vehement segregationists.
As a lifelong Democrat, when I freely admitted to people that, if Bernie Sanders loses, it will be difficult to vote for Clinton in the general election, I’ve had Sanders’ critics accuse me of being a “closet sexist,” of being anti-feminist, of being secretly opposed to a woman president.
They couldn’t be more wrong. If Bernie fails to get the nomination, I will very likely vote for a woman. But contradicting everything that I’ve previously said about the futility of Third Parties, it will be Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein.