Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Third Party Delusion And How It Props Up The Corporate Establishment by Anthony McCarthy

In the past month there have been a few mentions of a revival of the disastrous “Nader trader” idea of 2000 on the blogs. I thought it might be worth looking at what the Greens are saying this time. Not much has changed since the last time I looked. Though its interesting that since the last time I wrote about their record of electoral “success” it’s harder to find that information. You get the feeling that they’re trying to hide something they’re not proud of.

After a quarter of a century of getting a lot of attention and the devotion of more people on the left than they deserve, the Greens of the United States need to be looked at in the harsh light of day.

Anyone who believes that they can become a viable national party, supplanting the Democrats, has had a long period of time to evaluate their effectiveness. It is a record without a single positive accomplishment on the national level and, as has been pointed out before, it has had a grand total of exactly one person elected to any of the 50 state legislatures.

I’ve said here before that I liked the Green who has achieved the highest office in his parties history, John Eder, the FORMER legislative representative from his district in Portland Maine. Former because he lost his seat as the Maine Greens gave their all for the fourth place finish of their candidate for Governor that year. In typical Green fashion, the national Greens lauded her fourth place finish, behind an independent candidate who managed to get a decisive third place without having the advantage of a party to back her. Fourth place in the Maine Governorship as a great success, that could serve as a dictionary example of the word “failure”, if not “fraud”, if not “nuts”.

And even on the local level their record is pitiful for a party that has had the publicity, financial and volunteer resources it has had for more than two decades. Many of its touted successes were in non-partisan races. The one and only third party which has succeeded in the history of the United States, the Republicans, had already been governing the country for about two decades by that point in its existence.

And yet their website absurdly talks about their prospects on the national level this fall. Let me propose an experiment to you, one which will just about certainly have a 100% success rate. Look at a group of people you just happen to see, point to one of them. That person will have exactly the same chance as Cynthia McKinney to become President of the United States in January. January of this year or any other. Running a candidate for president who has no chance of winning is pointless and self-indulgent. After one of your previous candidates helped put a man in office who made real the opposite of everything you support, running another in a close race is an act of grotesque irresponsibility. It is a total and fundamental betrayal of your principles and your supporters. In a tight race, as the one this year is looking to become, it is dangerous, reckless and pathologically narcissistic .

Symbolism has no rational place in how serious people vote. If you vote symbolically, “to send a message” or “to teach a lesson”, no one in the entire world but you will care about what your intended symbolic vote stood for.* They will be too busy dealing with the results in the real world. Voting is a serious thing, it has a profound potential to change how the world works, how people live. Voting is a life or death matter, it isn’t the equivalent of trying to interpret the vague game you think an author might be playing. Serious people know the difference. Voting for a Green on the presidential ballot is a vote for McCain-Palin and the policies they will put into effect.

Greens record on the national level has been a disaster. The Greens get trotted out nationally every four years in hopes that they can again play the spoiler and put a Republican in the White House. In some states they are used by the Republican establishment in the same way, mine for instance. They have no function in the left other than to discredit us with more successful progressives, we should marginalize them as often as necessary.

Libertarians, perhaps even more a failure in electoral politics, exercise massively more political influence than the Greens do through the influential guess pool, The Cato Institute. Their ‘research’ is constantly promoted on NPR and other media venues, though they never say a thing you couldn’t guess before their place on the guest lineup is announced. As an aside, I wonder, if it always and inevitably ends up supporting the pre-existing Cato ideology, how can anyone keep pretending that what they do is research? Through their constant appearances as a part of the respectable spectrum of opinion, the libertarians have been able to make the most absurd and easily contradicted assertions function as if they were real ideas in our politics.

The difference is in the purpose they serve for the corporate establishment. Greens are used as spoilers, libertarians as a means of keeping conservatives with kinky personal tastes attached to the overtly fascist wing of the Republican movement, though they would destroy libertarians ability to do what they want to if they ever really achieved power. In order for that ruse to work they have to be kept voting for Republicans. Their use of the Greens is to keep Democrats out of office, which they have shown they can do. They’ve been useful for nothing else in our national politics.

* The same goes for “principled non-voting”.