2016 and the Curious Case of the Third Party Left

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I’ve been enjoying the political commentary on YouTube since I discovered it a few weeks ago, but I’m sorry to have to report a disturbing pattern. Previously I questioned the wisdom of Sanders supporters pushing voters to a third party candidate.  I was talking about a YouTube blogger that I haven’t mentioned on this blog, but I wasn’t aware that he had so much company. Normally I wouldn’t consider this a problem—everyone is entitle to an opinion.  However I think it’s a curious strategy for Bernie Sanders supporters.

Since then I’ve realized that this has been going on since the beginning of this campaign. I first saw it in the person of Chris Hedges, senior fellow at The Nation Institute, but I didn’t know how to fit it together.  Hedges often interviews Ralph Nader, and they both spend time shaking their heads over Bernie Sanders’ campaign. At first I thought he must favor Clinton. Now I know there’s another rationale, although it will probably end up helping Clinton anyway.

Hedges thinks that working within the Democratic Party is validating a corrupt party. He prefers third party candidates–the Green Party in particular. However in practice this means running campaigns that have no hope of success and believing that this will eventually topple the establishment. Never mind that the Green Party has been around for decades and still hasn’t managed to do what Sanders has done in one year.

While Hedges has a right to his opinion, I think pushing this agenda in the middle of a presidential election is either reckless or calculated. I would opt for calculated since Hedges can’t possibly be unaware of its effect on an election.  He’s seen it in action.

Ralph Nader participated in three presidential campaigns, two of them as a Green party nominee. His most recent effort was the 2000 presidential election, in which he won 2.74% of the popular vote. Some people claim he acted as a spoiler in that election, inadvertently helping to elect George W. Bush. (The Nader-ites deny this.) And there are hints that Nader holds a grudge against Bernie Sanders because Sanders tried to keep him from running.

The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund supports the Nation Magazine, among other publications and programs. Chris Hedges and The Nation Magazine are ardent supporters of Occupy Wall Street.  Occupy Wall Street has been taking credit for Bernie Sanders’ campaign but the connection doesn’t really fit.  Not only is the chronology wrong, Occupy gravitates toward the civil disobedience route like Chris Hedges, as opposed to the electoral route.

These people tend to blame the electorate for the mess this country is in, which in my opinion is a very serious charge that shouldn’t be ignored. The majority of Americans are trying to elect Bernie Sanders, the only candidate who promotes social and economic justice, so on that basis alone their accusation is hard to defend. But the most confusing part is how they seem to go back and forth between a strict party ideology and a tear-down-the-party ideology.  Or rather, they want to replace one party with another party on the one hand, and ignore the electoral process in favor of civil disobedience on the other hand.

This has never been about the Party for me. It’s been about taking advantage of the opportunity that Bernie Sanders represents. In my view he’s the right guy in the right place at the right time to address the threats we face. However Hedges and associates put party structure and political theory first.  They want a candidate who fits their ideology–not a real person like Sanders, who has been holding on to his principles while working within the system as he found it. They’re all theory.

Think about it this way. If Clinton’s and Sanders’ policies were exactly the same except that Sanders chose to run his campaign without corporate financing, I’d consider him the superior candidate on that basis alone. Campaign finance is a key issue and affects everything else.  Sanders was the only candidate willing to run without corporate help.

Or…if Clinton’s and Sanders’ policies were exactly the same except for the fact that Clinton chose to hide her actions as Secretary of State from the American people, I would vote for Bernie Sanders on that basis alone. That kind of secrecy while serving in such an important office is a red flag for democrats everywhere.

Ideological purity during an election takes on a different meaning than it would have had in the absence of an election.  And it raises serious questions about motive. Nothing Hedges says can qualify as neutral in this election because there’s an elephant in the room–the candidates who stand to benefit from his criticism of Bernie Sanders.

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