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Third Parties: Not a Solution for the Left


Scott has said much of what needs to be said about Jennifer Roesch’s Jacobin article calling for the “radical left” to break with the Democratic Party. The problems with this article are numerous, for it blithely avoids providing useful historical context or examples of how third parties work in the United States, what the constituency for a left third party would look like, how such a third party would actually succeed (or indeed, what the goals would be other than punishing Democrats), or really, an understanding of the incredibly complex society of the United States in 2014.

The third party has long has been how the American left has sought to punish Democrats for their various crimes. From Henry Wallace to Ralph Nader to really great lesser known activists like former Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers executive and so-called “Rachel Carson of the Workplace” Tony Mazziocchi, when activists get frustrated with the corporate domination of the Democratic Party, they have sought to create a left alternative. It never goes anywhere. When your benchmark of success in the modern Green Party, you know this is a strategy to irrelevance. Putting together political parties takes a huge amount of work, labor better spent actually helping people live better lives. The problem all of these people have also faced is that, frankly, most Americans don’t like their policy ideas. Whether that’s because they are racist or have false consciousness or are tools of capitalist media propaganda or whatever, it doesn’t much matter here. The point is that the organizing on the ground hasn’t happened to make a third party viable. For people who talk so much about bottom-up change and organizing the masses, it’s quite interesting that the solution they fall to for their lack of success is presidential third party runs, as if one daddy from the top will finally bring success.

To be fair, Roesch doesn’t quite come out and call for a leftist third party candidate in 2016, although I strongly doubt she would opposed it. Instead, she mostly focuses on local races. Where can “third parties” work? There are situations where something outside of the Democratic/Republican box can develop. Roesch mentions two, but in fact, they aren’t very useful for her project. The labor ticket in Lorain County, Ohio was a local insurgency against a terrible Democratic Party that used unions for their money and GOTV efforts while pursuing politics actively hostile to them. Nationally, labor doesn’t have the power to fight back against this reality. In Lorain County, it does and it did and it should have. If organized labor was strong enough in this country to challenge and defeat bad Democrats without electing Republicans, I would support that 100%. It is not and it knows it.

Sawant’s victory in Seattle was not a third party victory. It was a second party in a one-party district. In situations where one party is so completely dominant that the primary is all that matters for a victory, then insurgent challengers that present voters with a real option can make sense. Such was this Seattle city council seat. But that’s hugely different than a national campaign. Another Nader or whoever building a national political party of the left might present voters with more choices, but the effect of those choices is going to be electing Republicans, overturning Roe v. Wade, repressing black voting, Sam Alito-style Supreme Court judges, eviscerating environmental and workplace safety restrictions, etc., etc. Those calling for a national third party cannot ignore this. They have to take responsibility for what such the implications of such a party would be on the nation. The only exception is if the leftist party can actually win elections, which would only happen by essentially replacing the Democratic Party in our two-party system. And good luck with that.

It is a situation like Sawant’s victory that explains the closest thing we’ve ever had in this nation to a third party success story, which is the Populists. Rural anger over capitalist exploitation (not that most farmers were anti-capitalist, but they were increasingly opposed to the system of Gilded Age capitalism that openly took advantage of them and doomed them to poverty) led to a number of rural organizations becoming the Farmers Alliance in the 1880s and running a presidential candidate as the People’s Party in 1892. The Democrats co-opted part of their platform in 1896 after nominating William Jennings Bryan and the Populists disappeared. But even here, as the historian Jeffrey Ostler discovered in his book on state-level Populism, the success of this so-called third party depended on whether there was a functioning second party. In states like Iowa where an already functioning two-party system existed, the Populists could not gain ground because farmers found a responsive political outlet in one of the parties. It was only in states like Texas without a Republican Party or like Kansas without a Democratic Party that the Populists succeeded as a state-wide organization. In other words, they were filling the role of the second party.

More problematic is Roesch’s seeming contempt for how politics actually operate, whether in the U.S. or anywhere:

In most cases, independent campaigns are unlikely to actually win. Therefore, in the majority of situations, the primary goals are to raise the need for a political break with the Democrats, to amplify and strengthen existing movements and to engage a wider audience in left-wing ideas. Even in cases where independent candidates are able to win, like in Seattle, success can’t be measured on the usual terms of bourgeois politics, such as making deals to pass legislation or building alliances with other legislators.

The usual terms of bourgeois politics, such as making deals to pass legislation. You mean, how change actually happens? There is not a single social movement in American history that has not needed the usual terms of bourgeois politics to win change. Not one. The labor movement required the National Labor Relations Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, and much additional legislation. The environmental movement needed the Wilderness Act, various Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, etc. The civil rights movement needed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The gay rights movement is succeeding because of its brilliant legal strategy. I guess this is all just bourgeois politics since deals had to be made and legislation was weakened through those deals that allowed them to get the necessary votes to codify change. All of this isn’t the pure politics of working class solidarity (which is disconnected from most of the actual American working class but what does that matter to ideology) and, well, what exactly? What the goal of such a party is if not to pass legislation goes totally unmentioned It’s just purity and punishment.

And then there’s this:

Once in office, left-wing activists who try to carry on their struggle while representing the Democratic Party ultimately end up having to choose between making deals with and accommodations to the existing power structure, or becoming marginalized and unable to accomplish their goals.

I’m sorry, has there ever been a state with functioning democratic structures, capitalist or socialist, where making deals with existing power structures has not happened? No. This is called governance. If socialists do get elected and they can’t govern because they refuse to, they will be quickly and rightfully swept from office.

So where does this lead us? Rosech identifies places where left alternatives to Democrats make sense and I don’t disagree with most of them. It’s possible that a socialist run against Andrew Cuomo could be a good idea. Certainly a left candidate for mayor of Oakland has logic behind it. Rhode Island in 2014 is a state, like Texas or Kansas in the late 19th century, that is an effective one-party state where the only thing tying the party’s elected officials together is the need to be in the party to have personal power. Without a functioning Republican Party, Rhode Island could be an interesting place to experiment with a state level left alternative to the Democrats. But ultimately, this again would just be filling the role of the 2nd party. And whatever form it takes, it will have to make compromises and won’t pass anyone’s purity tests. Because that’s the real world.

But a national third party alternative is a disastrous idea that would a) elect Republicans nationwide and b) take up so much energy and resources that leftists would have to ignore actual community organizing in order to focus on this. Is this is the best use of left energy? I’d argue not. Instead, I’d look to our past to see how people on the streets moved political parties through protest, lobbying, and organizing.

Instead, like how radical conservatives took over the Republican Party from within beginning in the 1950s, leftists would have much better success turning the Democratic Party into a more left-leaning organization. I don’t think this necessarily should be the focus of left organizing efforts, but people who want to put the energy into creating a third party would find it much better spent here. I mean, they’d have to deal with the Laborers union willing to sell out potential allies for years over a few jobs, business owners, anti-abortion Irish Catholics who vote Democratic for economic issues, and all the other complexities of modern America. But the United States is not a nation of people who go to socialist meetings. It’s a nation of people who watch football. The American kind of football. No left political movement can succeed without recognizing the complexity of the American populace and make compromises with those groups with which they are uncomfortable. Otherwise, they will win nothing.

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  • Third parties: political declaration of people who only like bands that almost nobody’s heard of, and only until they sign with a major label.

    • Another side of the same point: parties are more about interests and affiliations, not policies. People who push leftist third parties feel a tribal bond with people who like to think they’re different. Most Americans would rather be bonded with larger segments of society. Most third party people just can’t accept that they don’t get to have everything they want in a two-party system, and with our constitution and our electoral systems, the math and game theory inevitably pushes people in to a two party system, even if, as Erik explains, one is the Democratic party and the other is some local niche party, like Seattle socialists.

      And all this discussion doesn’t even get in to how a party builds an infrastructure, as if that’s done by a bunch of people passing at hat at a meeting in a Painters union hall.

      • IM

        Most third party people just can’t accept that they don’t get to have everything they want in a two-party system,

        Or indeed in a ten-party system.

        At the end of the day you have to build a coalition, even if you travel a different way.

    • Scott Lemieux
      • Hadn’t seen that. Yeah, he’s got it down cold wrt the self-absorbed indie ethos applied to third parties. That’s a good piece, although I disagree with one of his starting premises, I actually don’t think anyone who wants to run for president should run for president, for reasons I laid out here, in particular Weber’s argument that

        … man who believes in an ethic of responsibility takes account of precisely the average deficiencies of people…he does not even have the right to presuppose their goodness and perfection. He does not feel in a position to burden others with the results of his own actions so far as he was able to foresee them; he will say: these results are ascribed to my action.

        One of the most annoying and frankly ethically irresponsible aspects of third party wankery is that 99% of its advocates blame everything they don’t like on others, but refuse to ever ponder the fact that if their third party wankery makes things worse, that they are in any way responsible.

        • [Ugh, don’t know why it didn’t close the italics…]

        • junker

          It’s actually interesting to see the Nader supporters try and shift the blame for the Bush administration away from Nader. That was exactly how heightening the contradictions is supposed to work, and yet they can’t run away enough from the alleged success of the strategy they pushed. Either this sort of outcome is desirable or it’s not.

          • Scott Lemieux

            It is, in fact, very instructive that most Nader dead-enders prefer the strategy of playing troofer about whether Nader through the election rather than trying to actually defend the impact of his campaign.

            • wengler

              Yes, because the fact that Gore won Florida is just a wild-eyed conspiracy theory…

              • The fact that he lost NH by much less than the number of votes for Nader and had he won it Florida would have been irrelevant IS NOT ALLOWED TO BE DISCUSSED BECAUSE THE TWO PARTIES ARE THE SAME!!!

  • Davis X. Machina

    But the United States is not a nation of people who go to socialist meetings. It’s a nation of people who watch football

    It’s a nation of people who shop.

    You have to look at this transaction from the customer’s perspective.

    Much of the American what-passes-for-the-left is a consumer product. It’s a brand. Roesch is offering us a chance to get onto something before everyone else does, and ruins it. Could just as well be a band, a party, a clothing label… Like Crocs.

    (Much of the American right, for that matter, is a consumer product. If you could go to town hall and register as “Cabela’s/Carhartt” the Republican party would empty faster than a popped balloon.)

    • Certainly I see much of modern American politics, especially on the left, as often framed as a serious of consumer choices to create your personal brand, so I’ll buy this construction.

      • Davis X. Machina

        The way forward is to enter the Ford F-150 in a series of early Democratic primaries.

        • Gwen

          Replace Congress with “hands on a hardbody” — winner gets to be dictator until the next year’s model comes out.

    • cpinva

      “(Much of the American right, for that matter, is a consumer product. If you could go to town hall and register as “Cabela’s/Carhartt” the Republican party would empty faster than a popped balloon.)”

      what, no love for Bass Pro Shops? but yes, we’re talking about the “disaffected left”, who can’t quite figure out that Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is fiction, not a story about an actual guy, who goes to congress and, by dint of a righteous soul, changes everything. that isn’t how politics works in the actual world we live in.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Bass Pro Shops is still pretty thin on the ground up this far north. There’s one over in Hooksett in (Sales Tax) Free or Die New Hampshire. But we do have a Cabela’s over in South Portland. It’s where one of the Tsarnaev brothers got his gun.

        Helluva store. It’s the only place I know where you can get infant onesies in mossy-oak camo.

  • shah8

    I am suspicious that the vast majority of third parties to the left with noise are inorganic and formed to subvert democracy (by reactionary forces) rather than enable it. Perot ’92 is something of a rarity, but not surprising, since it’s a 1% doing 1%’er approved campaigning.

    • Warren Terra

      Also, Perot started out with a lot of credibility, by which of course I mean money.

      • I think Perot really could have won in ’92 if he had a little more charisma and a lot less crazyification.

        2016 would be a great year for a Perot-type challenger, if there were one out there. The GOP is going to nominate some kind of Tea Party-approved hot garbage and the Dems are almost certainly going to run Hillary. Some rich, charismatic bastard could slip right in there and make a game of it.

        Elon Musk, anyone?

        • Zombie Steve Jobs.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          but again, how does someone like Perot staff the bureaucracy, let alone work with congress?

          my guess is it wouldn’t look much different than the Obama admin: a mix of dems and what few non-crazy repubs still exist, and congress remains as dysfunctional as it is now

          • Jordan

            Well, if its someone like Elon Musk or Zombie Steve Jobs, I’m guessing its Silicon Valley goes to Washington.

            Which, of course, would work out *great*.

            • You say that like you don’t believe we can all be replaced by cheaper, more efficient citizens from China.

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                you might be onto something so far as congress is concerned… and they would all be ChiComs! win-win situation

          • I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a disaster. I’m just saying there’s an opportunity.

            Either way, it would probably be damn entertaining. Would President Business be hamstrung because he’s got no allies in the legislature or would he be actually be able to get deals made because he has no existing allegiances or enemies? I expect it would be the former, but who knows.

            Also, Musk is out. He was born in South Africa. Any other candidates?

    • Pat

      Since 2000 I have suspected all leftist third parties as being bought and paid for by Rove, Inc.

  • Manju

    Also, to be talking about splitting the Democratic Coalition at a time when the Republican one is ripe for Divide and Conquer just strikes me as grabbing the proverbial defeat out of the jaws of victory.

    I mean, they just put Cantor’s head on a stick and Dick Cheney can’t keep even fucking Megyn Kelly on the reservation.

    The Left should be salivating.

    • Gwen

      Indeed. When Megyn Kelly and I can agree that Santa (whether he be white or black or brown) will leave coal in Cheney’s stocking this year, I think we have won some kind of victory.

      • Johnny Sack

        Cheney is really easy to attack too. He is entirely without charisma. Bush at least had an “aw shucks” semi-friendly air about it. Cheney is completely unlikeable.

      • Anonymous

        Fox/Republicans need a fall guy for the most disastrous presidency in modern times and Cheney is it. Cheney is odious and has been wrong about everything since Team B, but notice how Kelly personalizes the failure instead of dealing with the idea of preemptive forever war.

        But time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir. You said there were no doubts Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You said we would greeted as liberators. You said the Iraq insurgency was in the last throes back in 2005. And you said that after our intervention, extremists would have to, quote, ‘rethink their strategy of Jihad.’ Now with almost a trillion dollars spent there with 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say, you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?

        • cleter

          It’ll be fun when Jeb goes all Sister Souljah on Cheney in the primaries.

        • Manju

          I noticed that. But to me it almost had a Wilsonesque “You Lie” feel to it, except her righteousness was warranted.

          It was almost rude, like she was putting the boy in his place. I liked it.

          And I think your take is too defeatish. The base loves Cheney and his disrespect for Obama. To cross him is to bring out the savages, for this is a very hard pill for them to swallow. A lot of them won’t.

  • Aaron B.

    There is not a single social movement in American history that has not needed the usual terms of bourgeois politics to win change.

    Well, there’s one. It started out with throwing some tea into a harbor.

    • If the modern left wants to start a second American Revolution to win change, that’s one thing. But Roesch is placing her call directly within the current American political system. So the first American Revolution is basically irrelevant here.

      • MAJeff

        And the folks actually calling for that second revolution today are primarily on the Right.

        • AB

          another missed opportunity

        • JoyfulA

          Howard Dean said it first! I’ve still got my “The Tea Is in the Harbor!” T-shirt.

      • But it would have a similar immediate effect: fracturing of centralized power in to what would essentially be a confederacy that protects the racist prerogatives of reactionary southern whites, but with the addition of the GOP’s current goal, which is to curtail any progressive change in the parts of the country in which they’re not close to a local majority.

        • Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’d support a revolution. I’m saying it’d be a different argument with a different set of historical relevancies.

          • I wasn’t attributing that to you, just following the implications a bit further.

    • I’m pretty sure the bourgeois of the American colonies were pretty damn important to the organization of the Revolution – I know the indoor vs. outdoor Revolution hypothesis was quite popular for a while, but c’mon.

      The Boston Tea Party was directly aimed at a Tea Act that was undercutting the interests of Boston merchants who were smuggling in cheaper tea from the Dutch and undercutting the East India Trading Company. The Sons of Liberty had a strongly bourgeois background, perhaps upper ranks of the artisan class at best.

      • Gwen

        I’m pretty sure that most revolutions are brought about the petit bourgeois, at least until things get crazy enough for the sans culottes types to take over.

        For that reason I’ve always thought that it’s been essential for the Democratic Party to have a healthy dialog between more-affluent moderates and liberals (who can generally get sh*t done) and less-affluent populists (who can get the votes).

        I wonder how Roesch et. al. feel about the upstairs-downstairs coalition.

        • affluent liberal

          Those less-affluent layabouts would accomplish nothing without us. They need our direction and leadership.

          • Bilbo

            Oh look. JenBob sets fire to another straw man.

            • Captain C

              While projecting.

        • Dave

          The sans-culottes are, precisely, the petit bourgeoisie. Even the great Marxist historian Albert Soboul was clear on that. Please don’t use terms with real historical meanings when you so obviously don’t understand them.

          • IM

            I did understand Soboul so that the sans-culottes were indeed proletarians but that the political leadership was provided by the jacobins and that the member of the jacobins were petit-bourgeoise.

            creating indeed differences in the preferred economic policies and in the end fracturing the coalition of sans-culottes and jacobins.

            • elm

              I think you’re right. On p. 40 of his book on sans culottes, Soubul describes the Parisian vanguard of the movement as made up of merchants and others fearful of being reduced to the proletariat. But his description of the broader membership suggests they were the proletariat. Other historians are even clearer on the point that the sans culottes, onthe whole, were working class citizens.

            • Lee Rudolph

              Jennifer Roesch should clearly be writing for Sans-Culotte!

      • Aaron B.

        The responsibility of the bourgeois for revolutionary change in some instances doesn’t really bear on the point at hand because it doesn’t occur through existing power structures. Revolution is, by definition, not “bourgeous politics” because politics as usual is put on hold when the barricades go up.

        • Hogan

          Bourgeois revolutions are fought precisely in order to institute bourgeois politics. It wasn’t an option in pre-revolutionary France or the British colonies.

    • cpinva

      “Well, there’s one. It started out with throwing some tea into a harbor.”

      who was it that you suppose came up with the plan to dump that tea to begin with? it was not a bunch of farmers out in their fields, it was a bunch of bourgeois business people, who saw their livelihoods threatened, because that particular tea got special tax exemptions. the revolution was fermented by the local bourgeois, who then managed to convince enough of the uneducated class to go along with them. the same thing happened 20 odd years later in france, only with guillotines as an extra, added attraction. then the slave-owning bourgeois attempted the same thing in the US, in 1860.

      the lower classes generally tend to be used more as cannon fodder for revolutions, not as the leaders of them.

      • Sherparick

        John Hancock was the richest merchant in Boston and the leader of the “Sons of Liberty” at the time of the Tea Party. The leaders of the Patriots cause were many of the leading merchants and shipowners of the city. http://www.bostonteapartyship.com/the-final-straw

        At least in New England and New York, the Loyalist were those attached to the families who held and pass between them crown offices.

        In the 1960s, a significant group of America’s elite became disenchanted with the Post-WWII establishment. What people did not realize a the time it was the right wing discontent that demonstrate a mass movement that would dominate the next 50 years. Since the Great Recession saw a rebirth of energy in that right wing movement, an energy encouraged by huge amounts of cash, the Democratic Party serves still as the coalition that prevents the triumph of an extremely reactionary politics in this country, even if it means an association with some really rotten people.

    • Sly

      The Boston Tea Party was seen as moderately counterproductive or was outright reviled in the Continental Congress by pretty much everyone except some members of the Massachusetts delegation (i.e. Hancock and the Adams cousins). What got the Congress, and the other colonies, up in arms was not the protest itself, but the British overreaction to it.

  • Paul Gottlieb

    Has anyone ever stopped to think what a horrible president Ralph Nader would actually make if he ever elected? He might well have been worse than Bush. If your answer is a vindictive, narcissistic, bully who has always shown nothing but contempt for the issues affecting women and minorities, maybe you’re asking the wrong questions

    • I’m sure he would have been an effective bargainer with Congress, what with his disdain for intransigence and belief that the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    • Manny Kant

      I remember how during the Dem primaries in 2004 and 2008 there would always be “what candidate should you vote for” quizzes, and whenever anyone I knew took it, we would always get Dennis Kucinich.

      The official reason to ignore this was always “Dennis Kucinich has no chance.” I was frequently alone in arguing that, in fact, the reason not to vote for Kucinich is that a president is more than a series of ideological positions, and Dennis Kucinich would clearly be a terrible, terrible president. I was only intermittently successful at getting this point across.

      • Redwood Rhiadra

        The reason not to elect Kucinich is because he’s a wacko who believes he was abducted by aliens. Elect him, and next thing you know, we’ve invaded Canada in order to destroy the secret Reptiloid refuelling bases.

        • Bruce Baugh

          I find that a vastly preferable and less dangerous view than the one where God’s been talking to the candidate and telling him to kill more darkies and make life worse for women, queer people, etc. The space overlords aren’t instructing Kucinich and his fellow believers to get weapons into the hands of more fear-ridden hatemongers and celebrating the ensuing deaths as what freedom is all about, nor explaining that a proper respect for the power of Rigelians includes poor people suffering and dying in large quantities.

          • I find there to be and to have been more than just those two options.

            • Bruce Baugh

              Oh, sure. I just find his views distinctly less awful than some that are way more common.

        • Tristan

          next thing you know, we’ve invaded Canada in order to destroy the secret Reptiloid refuelling bases

          At least it would take care of Harper.

          • Warren Terra

            Or at least prevent him from refueling.

        • cpinva

          “Elect him, and next thing you know, we’ve invaded Canada in order to destroy the secret Reptiloid refuelling bases.”

          you’d think those bases would be in mexico, or central/south America, not a cold place like Canada. reptiles, being cold blooded, would tend to be a bit more energetic, in warmer climes. this would be helpful, if you’re attempting to take over the planet earth.

          • Warren Terra

            They’re sneaky like that.

      • Jordan

        The funny thing about those ideology-based quizzes is that taking them to thei logical conclusion, the answer would always be “yourself”.

        • cpinva

          are you kidding me? I’d make a terrible president. I’d be nice to people I liked, and a complete jerk to people I didn’t like. I’d arrange for putin to visit, and make sure he tripped, walking down from the plane. I’d use an executive order to have solar panels placed on every federal building in the country. I would loudly suggest that those GOP controlled states, that insist on passing voter ID, and non-medically necessary, anti-choice laws, might want to seriously reconsider their positions, as the time for making the budget is fast approaching.

          ok, basically I’d be as much of a pain in the ass to the rightwing as I possibly could, but with a smile on my face, all while availing myself of the opportunity to go salt water fishing as much as possible. to bad they sold the presidential yacht.

          • Gabriel Ratchet

            You’ve got my vote!

    • cleter

      He would have been terrible, but he wouldn’t have been able to get his terrible shit through Congress. Bush was worse than any Nader because he was able to get terrible things through a compliant Congress.

    • joel hanes

      *Anyone* who aims at the Presidency of the United States as his first-ever elective office should be disqualified out of hand, no thought required. (I’m lookin’ at _you_, Jesse Jackson)

      • Elihawk

        Well, Washington and Eisenhower though.

  • Anonymous

    How can anyone talk about third parties being a solution or not being a solution without mentioning the voting system? I just can’t understand it. I mean yeah, OK, it’s a geeky issue; but anyone worrying about third parties is at least a little bit of a geek. And yes, it’s a long shot… but harder things have been done before, and it would be about 100 times easier if people would just acknowledge the fucking issue. And if you did it right, it could be a change that would stick and even earn interest, which is better than 90% of the political fights out there.

    So, why? Seriously, can someone explain this to me? It’s enough to make me start using that cliche about the pachyderm in the chamber.

    (And yes, if you want me to reciprocate, I’d be happy to go and geek out about how plurality voting is holding us down, man, and the steps it would take to change it, and the alternatives, and all that. But most of you have probably heard at least the elevator version of all that already, so I’m not going to do it right now unless someone asks.)

    • Gregor Sansa

      Oops, that was me, obviously.

      • Scott referred to it in his post:

        What good can come out of third party politics in a first-past-the-post system, let alone benefits that could justify the massive downside risks?

        • Gregor Sansa

          Oops. Sorry, Scott, I guess I blinked.

          • jkay

            Gregor, just how often do I have to ridicule you repeatedly before you get a clue on proportional voting, or at least even respond constructively?
            Aww, poor fascist. You must be since you want the way Nazi Germany happened to repeat here.
            Gregor, this seems most weirdly unlike you!

            There are REAL vital voting problems, BTW – radical gerrymandering and
            overtrusted evote. That’s been a specialty of mine since the evoting wrong started.

            • Anonymous

              Look, proportional voting does not automatically lead to Nazi Germany. If you have, say, a 5 or 6 percent cap below which parties can’t enter Parliament, it’s relatively easy to keep the nutjobs out. And, frankly, there is no evidence that FPTP would have kept the Nazis from gaining power. Hell, with it present, a plurality of votes, as they gained multiple times, might have been enough to give them a majority!

              When lunatics gain immense public support, there’s not much you can do within the confines of democracy to stop them. The only surefire way to prevent them from gaining power is to ban them, and that opens up all kinds of problems.

            • elm

              PR is used in the vast majority of European democracies. Nearly all of them have been stable, functioning, and non-fascist. Saying, “PR existed in Weimar Germany and we got Hitler, so PR is bad,” is akin to saying, “Hitler was a vegetarian, so Vegetarianism is bad.”

    • Davis X. Machina

      Paradoxically, the chances of getting it done get much, much, better if you can get a major party behind it.

      Can be done — sort of. The long series of Reform Bills in 19th/early 20th c. UK come to mind.

      • But that’s in a parliamentary system, where candidates were assigned jurisdictions in which to run. If you’re an African-American Dem in a 80% Dem district, why would you open yourself up to the possibility of losing outside the Dem primary? Same as if you’re a Republican in Utah or Idaho or western Kansas.

        • Gregor Sansa

          Actually, major party candidates in clearly, but not overwhelmingly, partisan districts are one group that would benefit from voting reform, since the only way they could lose is third-party spoilers. Fix the spoiler problem, make voting actually (small-d) democratic, and they have less to worry about.

          (It’s going to be really hard to get entire major parties behind voting reform, but many individual politicians could be convinced, either by self-interest in some specific situation such as the above, or just by the irrefutable underlying logic.)

    • wjts

      Haven’t there been some court cases that threw out various not-pluarality-balloting systems? I think I remember that being the case, and if so, it would make adopting it difficult. Also, I think balloting reform is a tough sell. Even for systems that are actually pretty straightforward, descriptions of them often end up reading like, “Each voter has four votes, and candidates ‘bid’ for votes in a sequence of three round-robin voting ‘auctions’. Voters may allocate as many of their votes as they like to any given candidate, but must allocate at least 3/8s of a vote to each candidate in the first round-robin auction and 7/32s of a vote to any surviving candidates in the second auction. After the first round-robin auction, any candidate may ‘buy’ votes from one or more other candidates in a side-auction where bidding precedence is established by a simple Condorcet vote taken among the candidates. In the second round-robin… hey, where are you going?” “To vote for my guy in a plurality election. I like my guy.” Lastly, I think ballot reform is pretty easy to demonize. “One man, one vote is the cornerstone of democracy, but this new system just gives away votes!” “Single Transferable Ballot is just a fancy way of saying they’re going to make you vote for the other guy.” None of this goes to the actual desirability of reforming the voting system, but I do think it’s kind of a quixotic battle.

      • Yeah, 1998 SCOTUS denied any right to have fusion voting for federal office. iirc either Breyer or RBG voted with the 6-3 majority.

        • wjts

          The never-wrong Wikipedia tells me that two (unnamed) states found Bucklin voting to violate their state constitutions and a Minnesota court ruled that Bucklin voting was unconstitutional.

          • Gregor Sansa

            That’s double-counting; Minnesota is one of the two. And it was based on reasoning that was mathematically illiterate at the time, and anyway doesn’t apply to modern voting system proposals (including modern Bucklin voting such as Majority Judgment, which is actually one of the best proposals; second only to SODA voting for voter satisfaction efficiency in the face of informed one-sided strategy).

            From one perspective, the fact that the courts overruled it is actually good news, because it means that in the progressive era, this issue was salient enough to actually get traction and pass in a couple dozen cities. 100 years later, it can happen again.

            • wjts

              From one perspective, the fact that the courts overruled it is actually good news, because it means that in the progressive era, this issue was salient enough to actually get traction and pass in a couple dozen cities.

              Not for nothing, man, but this sounds a bit like “Good news for John McCain!”

              • Gregor Sansa

                I’d take “it happened once, but stopped for reasons that are irrelevant today” over “that’s never happened”. Of course I admit “it happened, and it’s still going on” would be even better.

                (Not the only positive, though imperfect, example of voting reform by a long shot. It’s just the one we’re talking about.)

                • wjts

                  Ah, I got you. What I’m wondering is whether or not the reasons for stopping it are irrelevant. Understand I’m going off That One Wikipedia Article I Read Once and Dana’s comment above here*, but it seems to me that there might be sufficient legal precedent to knock down any given type of balloting reform. Note that I’m not saying that this hypothetical decision would be good or even correct, but it wouldn’t be the first time a court made a bad ruling based on a misinterpreted precedent.

                  *These qualifications obviously make the Internet’s leading expert on the subject.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  The two states are Oklahoma and Minnesota.

                  In Oklahoma, they were using a particular form of Bucklin which required voters to fully rank the candidates. This requirement was held unconstitutional, and rightly so; it’s not part of any modern reform proposal.

                  In Minnesota, the case is Brown v Smallwood. Probably the money quote is: “A qualified voter has the constitutional right to record one vote for the candidate of his choice, and have it counted one. This right is not infringed by giving the same right to another qualified voter opposed to him. It is infringed if such other voter is permitted to vote for three opposing candidates.”

                  This logic is directly opposed to other findings of other courts, beginning with, Orpen v Watson, NJ. It’s also just stupid from a mathematical point of view. And it probably doesn’t apply to IRV or Condorcet voting. Finally, it’s only binding precedent for lower courts inside Minnesota.

                  In terms of hurdles for voting reform, a 100-year old precedent, which is obviously politically-motivated and is contradicted by other precedents both before and since, is really not worth worrying about much.

      • Gregor Sansa

        Re: complexity.

        Approval voting is the first step, and it’s actually simpler than plurality. Instead of “vote for one”, it’s “vote for one or more”; the only difference is, you just count “overvotes” instead of throwing them away.

        As for the further improved systems, I admit they’re a bit more complex. But they’re a hell of a lot simpler than the rules for sports tournaments that plenty of people can easily understand. For example:

        Majority approval voting: Each voter grades each candidate A-F; blanks are counted as Fs. Tally all the As for each candidate; if anyone has a majority, they win. If not, add in the B’s, and check for majorities; etc. If two candidates get a majority at the same time, whichever had more votes before they got to a majority wins.

        (Or, equivalently: highest median wins, with ties broken by above-median votes.)


        Simple Optionally-Delegated Approval (SODA) voting: You may vote for one or more candidates, as with approval voting. If you vote for only one, that counts as delegating your vote to that candidate. Once the votes are tallied, a candidate who sees that they are not going to win may add their delegated vote total to any other candidates’ approval totals. Candidates with more approvals assign their delegated votes first.

        Both of the above resolve the main issue with approval, that you can’t support your favorite more strongly than your compromise choices. But even just approval voting gets you 90% of the benefits of voting reform; these further improvements are relatively minor.

        Proportional representation systems are inevitably complicated. But who cares how they work, as long as the end result is proportional? Certainly not most of the hundreds of millions of people who use them in most of Europe.

        Finally… the demonizing argument. Yes, “one man one vote” is a slogan that bleats well (“one vote good, two votes bad”) as a way to demonize reform. But such arguments rest on the unfamiliarity of other systems. Anybody who’s used approval voting (“raise your hand for as many options as you want”) can see that it’s actually fairer than vote-splitting plurality.

        When I explain approval voting to people, complexity isn’t the problem, it’s unfamiliarity. And that can be overcome.

  • DocAmazing

    Certainly a left candidate for mayor of Oakland has logic behind it.

    Yes,and that’s why the national Democratic Party apparatus would squash that candidate’s campaign. That’s what happened when a left candidate ran for mayor of SF: several tons of out-of-town money swamped the race, and we got Gavin Newsom, the Getty towel-boy.

    • Then organize the voters to win. If leftists can’t win the mayor’s race in Oakland, they can’t win anywhere and this conversation about third parties becomes even less relevant.

      • DocAmazing

        Because money is irrelevant in a political campaign, right?

        • If you are going to blame money for everything, then you will always lose. It’s a cheap and easy excuse that’s not real relevant for the Oakland mayor’s race. That’s an easy race to win if you are organizing on the ground. If you aren’t, then you will lose. But just running a candidate isn’t actually organizing. You have to be out in the community, getting the unions and churches and everything else on your side.

          Again, if you can’t win the mayor of Oakland, you can’t win anything. You can win that race. You just have to actually organize. Which might take years. That’s what third party campaigns will really take and that’s why I don’t think they are good use of organizing resources.

          • cpinva

            what Loomis said. also, I’ve noticed that “third party” talk tends to revolve around a single issue (single-payer health insurance, voting rights, reproductive rights, etc.). while these are important issues, they rarely grab a large enough bloc of voters, by themselves, to rate even being referred to as a “third party”. this is why such as nader & perot, one with solid name recognition, the other with lots of money, always fail to make much of a dent at the national level, simply not enough people wholly committed to that single issue, to the exclusion of all others.

        • Murc

          Are you looking for a moral or a practical response here, Doc?

          Morally, yes, you’re absolutely in the right. You guys got fucked over by national Democrats who are either mewling cowards or actively hostile to leftists. They trucked in a bunch of money and threw their weight around. That was wrong. It shouldn’t be allowed. In a just world, elections would be publicly-financed.

          But from a practical standpoint, you got two effective options: you can organize on the ground and win within the system, or you can stock up on shotguns and start the revolution. There really isn’t another viable way forward.

          But you’re a pretty smart guy, and it seems like you already know all that. So I kinda dunno what your point is here.

          • Serious question to all “the national Democrats screwed over the leftists in a municipal election” people: can you describe who “the national Democrats” were, the reasons for their decision, and the process for arriving at their decision and the methods used to influence the race?

            • DocAmazing

              1. The Democratic Party.
              2. Not in that decision-making loop, so I can only guess; probably has to do with keeping large cosatal cities on the Dem reservation.
              3.Robo-calls from many different national dem figures, up to and including President Clinton; large quantities of in-kind and other undeclared donations; old-fashioned on-the-ground political shenanigans from Willie Brown’s appointees

              • WHICH Democratic party? The Manistee County, MI Democratic club? The Florida State Democratic party? The DNC? The Manhattan Stonewall Democrats? The Kansas Democratic Party’s Farmer’s Caucus?

                There isn’t a central command of the Democratic party. Which, is, you know, the simple fact that destroys almost every assertion about “The Democratic Party.”

                • DocAmazing


                  There isn’t a central command of the Democratic party.

                  Then Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is gonna get pretty pissed when her checks stop clearing.

                • Dude, the DNC is not a central executive in the same way that, say, the German Social Democratic Party is organized.

                  Do some basic political science research on the structure of American parties – the DNC does fundraising for presidential elections. It doesn’t have command and control over the DSCC and the DCCC, let alone state or local parties.

                • Steven, we need a third party because it takes too much effort to understand the two we have.

              • Brien Jackson

                Being in Maryland and watching our current gubernatorial race, as well as being close enough to have kind of sort of seen Cantor’s defeat unfold…I’m going to call bullshit on this and assume, unless shown otherwise, that you (in the royal sense) didn’t actually do nearly as much work as you think you did to organize voters.

                • DocAmazing

                  The endorsement was sufficient, however, to allow the California Democratic Party to spend $153,000 on anti-Gonzalez mailers and bring in both Bill Clinton and Al Gore to endorse Newsom, with DLC member Gore giving a counter-to-type endorsement in which he announced he was “passionately in favor of Gavin Newsom.”


                  Yeah, there was plenty of organizing of voters, but we just couldn’t get any presidents.

                • Hogan

                  Have you ever met anyone whose vote was influenced by a robocall?

                • Murc

                  DocAmazing kind of has a point here, guys. When popular ex-Presidents are giving endorsements to the corporate tool in a mayoral race, and the state party is kicking in north of six figures to knock down the progressive candidate, it is not unreasonable to be pissed off at the party in general.

                  I know that if Bill Clinton had shown up where I live to endorse some of the TRULY shitty Democrats who have run for county commissioner, and the state pols in Albany were kicking in beaucoup bucks, and the response from other national and state-level Democrats was crickets… well, I’d be especially livid at the party as well.

                • Aimai

                  Well, this story strikes me as bizarrely off point. How did Brat win over Cantor–does anyone think if Bush I or II had made a robocall for Cantor he would have won?

                  If DocAmazing thinks that his policies and his candidate were both anti-Democratic establishment *and popular* then logically neither Bill Clinton nor Al Gore would have made a difference. Those voters, like the tea party voters, are either in rebellion against the mainline party or they aren’t.

                  What DocAmazing seems to want is for the Democrats to lie down and play dead, or maybe even in the spirit of fairplay Gore and Clinton should make robocalls for a green party challenger? I’m not getting it. You can’t have it both ways–either the voters are there and they want to be represented by your revolutionary candidate and will crawl over broken glass to do so or they are really just normal, run of the mill, Democratic habitual voters who you are trying to appeal to but who, in the end, vote a party line ticket.

                • Jordan

                  If DocAmazing thinks that his policies and his candidate were both anti-Democratic establishment *and popular* then logically neither Bill Clinton nor Al Gore would have made a difference. Those voters, like the tea party voters, are either in rebellion against the mainline party or they aren’t.

                  Well, this doesn’t seem right. It is certainly logically possible that there were sufficient voters for DocA’s candidate who were persuaded by the endorsements, or what the money brought to the race.

                  What DocAmazing seems to want is for the Democrats to lie down and play dead, or maybe even in the spirit of fairplay Gore and Clinton should make robocalls for a green party challenger

                  But this is what the front page posts and many commenters are demanding of the greens! I mean, either you say something like:

                  1) people ought to do what they can to pursue progressive/left interests. Then, running spoiler green party candidates is a very bad idea, and you should support the democrat. However, in non-spoiler situations, supporting the more conservative democrat is also generally a bad idea. That is what DocA is complaining about here, and I’m with Murc that DocA has a legitimate reason to complain here.


                  2) Parties are just gonna do what is best for their own interests. If so, of course the democrats aren’t going to just lie down and not support one of their own. But, also, of course the greens aren’t going to just lie down and not support one of their own.

                  Combining both positions, though, doesn’t seem quite right.

                • The voters have the final say. If tbe program you ate espousing doesnt appeal enough to them to get them out to vote you either have to gigure your candidate/progrzm isnt what they want or you dont want these voters. A false conciousness/stupid voters model is all that is left. I would argue that serious leftist politics remain a niche market with little popular appeal. While i would prefer them, myself, over corpartist trimming and lies the voters dont, or not in the numbers needed to actually get candidates into office. If the fucking left had the balls of the tea party we’d be better off as a country. As proof id like to offer the fact that the tea party has taken the republican party iver from the inside while the various real third party right wing groups like the constitutuon party languish on the outside.

                • DocAmazing

                  And we’re back to this.

                  The Tea Party was and is astroturf. Most of their organizations are very well-funded by a host of corporate-backed right-wing organizations. This mythology that any leftist can run for the school district unopposed and under the radar because that’s what the right-wingers did fall apart when you recognize that a) the leftist is never going to be under the radar–she will be attacke both from the right and from the institutional Dems, and b) the leftist will never be offered the funding and support that a modestly successful right-wing candidate will.

                  The two situations are not comparable. The Republican Party has big-dollar funding; the sources of cash have fractured a bit, leading to debacles like the unseating of Cantor, but this was not due to brave little right-wing organizers; it was due to competition between giant donors. The Democratic Party also has big-dollar funding, and it is never ever ever ever going to go to the candidate who is likely to derail the gravy train.

                • Thats really not true of low level positions. Lots of places people run unopposed or if they bring their own voters they get in. The tea party started as astroturf and needs money to survive but in some localities they have a significant voter base. A base that dedpises the jnstitutional republican party but that votes and operates within it. If the greens did the same they could take over some localities and positions and force the dems to work with them. I dont know what magic you think happens when your party expends its energy trying to forge an all new brand identity and get one person in here or there. Sensible voters who want to get some shit done are for the most part keep voting for an actual party or for people who promise coalitions.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  it was due to competition between giant donors.

                  Bart, in fact, had massively less money.

                • William Butler Yeats

                  If the fucking left had the balls of the tea party we’d be better off as a country.

                  The best lack all conviction, while the worst
                  Are full of passionate intensity.

                • DocAmazing

                  Bart, in fact, had massively less money.

                  And free media exposure courtesy Laura Ingraham et al.

        • Barry

          “Because money is irrelevant in a political campaign, right?”

          You might want to read what he wrote.

        • joel hanes


          Honda managed to repel the primary challenge from Ro Khanna.

          • DocAmazing

            True, but Khanna’s campaign was a random mess.

      • FlipYrWhig

        This is what I never got about the Lincoln/Halter race and so forth. Yes, of course “the Establishment” is going to fund and support the bland insider. So… beat them. If The People like your candidate as much as you think they do, or should, then cash in those votes and stick it to the Establishment all over again. That’s the bargain: win specifically when it’s hard. Like Brat did, or Donna Edwards, or this guy Barack Obama.

    • I always love these theories of “the Democratic cabal squashing true progressives.” It usually comes from people who think the Democratic party can’t do anything right, except, ironically, defeat them.

      San Francisco is one of the wealthiest places on earth, and like every city, plenty of people who don’t live there care about the politics because it affects them through business in which they invest, business they hope to get, property they own, etc. That SF would get a big redistributor of wealth who would wipe out the advantages and control of economic privilege is kind of a bizarre expectation.

      • DocAmazing

        San Francisco and environs are also a gargantuan ATM for the national Democratic Party, and it’s not accidental that they back corporate-friendly politicians locally.

        It’s kinda cute that you don’t even recognize that you are contradicting yourself (I always love these theories of “the Democratic cabal squashing true progressives.” contrasts nicely with plenty of people who don’t live there care about the politics because it affects them through business in which they invest, business they hope to get, property they own, etc.).

        The argument “you leftists need to stop whining and organize!” in the absence of the acknowledgement that “there actually are large monied interests fighting you that other groups do not have to contend with” is mere justification for the corporate-controlled Party.

        • Then you have to defeat the monied interests through organizing. There is no other way. It’s not like it hasn’t been accomplished before in U.S. history.

        • So if you don’t live there, you’re part of a cabal? I guess that cabal has about 310 million Americans in it.

          Seems like it would be a bit unruly for a cabal.

          BTW, your last sentence in no way supports what you’re saying about the Democratic party. Because you’re conflating so many things that it’s just a conceptional mush.

          • DocAmazing

            If you don’t live there and you’re actively pumping in money and influence to direct the outcome of an election, then you’re totally not part of a cabal.

            Is there anything that has a (D) attached to it that you won’t try to cook up a weird alibi for?

            • jeer9


            • yore gud at lodgic.

            • David M. Fauxporent

              Doesn’t the much greater degree of connectedness in the modern political economy show the need for a more nuanced view of elections, though? I’m having a hard time understanding what your underlying principle is here because it sounds like you’re arguing that the only people who should be allowed to participate in elections in any form are people who live in the are a being represented, and I honestly don’t think you believe that this is true. For example, were national Democratic groups wrong to try and participate in the recall election of Scott Walker? Is it wrong for national parties to spend resources on non-national elections?

              It seems like you have two threads here, where one of them is that it was wrong for the national party structure to not back your guy because he wasn’t leftist enough, and another to not back your guy because they don’t have any right to participate in local elections.

              Is there anything that has a (D) attached to it that you won’t try to cook up a weird alibi for?

              Is there anything that has a (D) attached to it that you won’t try to cook up some kind of attack on?

              • junker

                NYM FAIL. Fixed it now.

                • DocAmazing

                  Actually, it was fairly appropriate.

                  Yeah, it’s a desirable thing for the state and national party apparatus to back the corporate errand boy over an actual progressive. Pumping tons of money and high-level endorsements into a municipal election also shows a real commitment to democracy.

                  Meanwhile, Scott Walker is in office largely because of Koch and other large-donor money. Good to know that the Dems are above that sort of thing.

                • Aimai

                  All elections are national–why should any of us be “above” trying to influence winnable elections where we can? Am I not supposed to send money to Susan Collin’s opponent because the election of a Senator to a rarely available seat, one out of a 100 to rule the country, is a privilige that belongs only to Maine? What about citizens of DC–if they have any money should they not be allowed to spend it on campaigns in areas where there is Senatorial representation?

                • junker

                  I’m sure that had the state and national party apparatus supported your guy that you would have complained about how they were trying to influence the election. Right.

                  I live in Connecticut but last election cycle I cent $50 to the campaign of Elizabeth Warren. I guess I should have realized that I have no place in trying to influence Massachusetts elections.

                • DocAmazing

                  Well then, I guess we should all be supportive of the Kochs and ALEC, because they’re just trying to influence winnable elections.

                • That isnt worthy of you doc amazing. No one but you is making an argument like that. There’s no principle at stake here that looks like “support small dollar donations to liberal candidates and support kich brother donations.” Why should there be? These ghings are easily distinguished from. Each other.

                • DocAmazing

                  Read the linked piece on the SF 2003 mayoral election that the thread is about, Aimai. That wasn’t small-dollar donations. It was heavyweight money and bigfoot politics. It was exactly what the Kochs do.

                • But thats not the only election being discussed. You are stating a general rule: no outside money. I send money from my safe liberal state all the time to support progressive candidates in key elections . Why is this wring? If i didnt the kich brothers and the national homophobes would have free rein. The democrats are not the only enemy of the greens. And where there is a one party situation koch money comes in in other ways.

              • jb

                So, your contention is that it is illegitimate for the national Democratic party to monetarily support their preferred candidates?

                I mean, I could see your point if this is about large corporate donations, or “SuperPAC’s”. But there is nothing inherently wrong with the DCC or national Democratic politicians supporting whoever they want. They are under no obligation to support the most “liberal” candidate. (BTW, this goes for the national Republicans as well).

                • jb

                  Also, before you bring this up, yes the more liberal Democrats also have the right to vote or not vote for whoever they want. They even have the right to vote for a third party if they wish. The fact that voting for a third party would be strategically stupid in the vast majority of instances doesn’t mean they don’t have that right.

                  And there are some areas where it might not be stupid, (e.g. San Francisco).

                • Jordan

                  They are under no obligation to support the most “liberal” candidate.

                  I guess. But I don’t see how you reconcile this with the idea that the greens *are* obligated to support the most “liberal-but-also-electable” candidate.

                  Either you say: support the candidate that best advances liberal/progressive/left interests. Or you say: people aren’t obligated to do that, they can just act in the interests of their own party.

                  The first one seems right to me, but I don’t get how you adopt the second one while still retaining most (well, at least many) of the criticisms that are leveled at the greens by scott, erik and most of the other commentators.

                • junker

                  But it’s possible for reasonable people to disagree about the most liberal electable candidate, right?

                  I think the point your missing is that Erik and SL are arguing that third parties have no chance of winning as third parties in nost of the country. The reason for different strategies is because they have different opportunities.

                • Jordan

                  Yeah, I think I might have got mixed up in the threading here. I’m don’t think I disagree with Erik or SL about just about anything they’ve said in either of these posts, and particularly not about whether third parties are viable in many, many places (they aren’t).

                  I thought I was just talking in relation to DocA’s specific complaint about the San Francisco case.

                  (You could of course still reasonably disagree about the most effective, most liberal candidate who is electable. I think noted reasonable person Steven Attewell did just that!).

        • FlipYrWhig

          This reminds me of Homer Simpson trying to shoo away the bees on his sugar pile and complaining, “Ow, they’re defending themselves somehow!” Yes, that’s what they do. Insurgency takes work.

        • Brien Jackson

          How much money have you donated to Heather Mizeur?

          • norml

            I mean to, but then I buy more weed.

        • Bruce Baugh

          Erik has written as much as any blogger I can think about the regresssive, plutocratic, and just plain bad elements in the Democratic Party. It’s been illuminating for me, over the years.

          But even he hadn’t, is his advice wrong? Is there something other than informed organizing that can do the job?

          • Davis X. Machina

            Will. Steely determination. And focus.

            • Hogan

              And an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope Bob Avakian.

              • Davis X. Machina

                These things do go to the team that wants it more, right?

                • Hogan

                  Doesn’t everything?

        • Why would wealthy people stop dinating to the dems if the greens won one or two local elections? Under what circumstances would it stop being an “atm” for one of the two national parties? Wealthy people have national interests.

    • If we’re going to refight the 2003 mayoral election, maybe the left could gotten behind Tom Ammiano rather than backing a Green and actually elected a progressive?

      • DocAmazing

        Ammaiano ran in 1999. Wrong election.

        • junker

          According to Wikipedia, “Ammiano ran for mayor again in 2003, but did not win enough votes to make that run-off after Supervisor Matt Gonzalez entered the race, splitting the progressive vote.”

          I believe that Matt Gonzalez is who the green who Steven was referring to.

          • DocAmazing

            Yes, it was entirely unacceptable that a large part of a city should back a candidate unacceptable to a national political party.

            • junker

              I have absolutely no commentary on whether you or wikipedia or Steven is correct on the strategy for an election that happened eleven years ago. I’m just telling you that you were incorrect when you told Steven that he was thinking of the wrong election.

              Might be time to dial it back pal.

            • jb

              No, of course it was acceptable. And frankly, I was hoping Gonzales would win.

              But the national Democratic party had no obligation to support him, or even not to fight against him. And frankly, to expect them not to fight him would be rather absurd. Parties are going to defend their turf.

            • It’s not a question of acceptable to unacceptable. The question is: did (future 2008 Nader running mate) Matt Gonzalez’s run shift San Francisco politics to the left or to the right?

              • DocAmazing

                No, the question is: did massive monetary and other involvement of the state and national Dem party shift San Francisco politics to the left or to the right?

                • First, nice way to dodge the central question of whether third parties are a viable solution for the left. I’m still going to ask for an answer – did a run by a third party candidate move politics to the left or to the right?

                  Second, as people have pointed out – of course the Democratic Party is going to campaign for the Democratic candidate in the runoff election. A third-party strategy that assumes that a party won’t support its nominee is broken by design.

                • Aimai

                  The Democratic party is, I suppose, to “give” the election to the third party candidate. Kind of like a mercy fuck.

        • I was indeed referring to the 2003 election, which was the same election you were referring to. As someone whose consistent support for organizing from within the Democratic party is well-established, I was simply pointing out that Gonzalez’ run had the impact of shifting San Francisco politics to the right – which doesn’t make it a very good example for the third party case.

          • DocAmazing

            Yes, the state and national Dems had no role in that at all.

            • So? The two main political parties are always going to be a major factor in evaluating the viability of third party politics.

              If the only way third party politics work is when a political party decides not to back its own party’s candidate, then it’s never going to work.

              By contrast, let’s ask a hypothetical: if Matt Gonzalez had not run and Tom Ammiano had advanced to the runoff, would there be the same reaction from state and national Democrats?

    • UserGoogol

      It’s not like “money” is used to bribe the voters. It pays for various forms of advertising media. Advertising is a really nice thing to have, but it’s not magic. All money can do is give candidates the opportunity to make their pitch.

      • NobodySpecial

        Antonin Scalia likes this post.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Ask President Phil Gramm. Or President John Connolly.

  • jeer9

    Steve Israel and Debbie W-S running Dem primary strategy: Not a solution for the Left.

    • Heh. Again. The Democratic Cabal theory of primaries, believed by nobody I know in politics, but by anyone who reads Howie Klein.

      • jeer9

        Correction: Dems are working relentlessly to transform the Party into a more progressive caucus through the primary process.

        • “The (with emphasis on “the,” implying a monolith) Democrats,” a catch-all term, used as a pejorative, and never defined.

          • jeer9

            Steve Israel and Debbie W-S running Dem primary strategy:
            For the reading impaired.

            Jack Trammell must be really exciting to you.

            • “Assertion!”
              “Support your assertion”
              Assertion, why can’t you read!”

              Genius argument you’ve got there…

              • jeer9

                “Howie Klein is a conspiratorial lunatic.”
                “Jack Trammell is the best Dem candidate?”
                “Steve Israel and Debbie W-S are doing their very bestest, neener neener.”

                Now that’s a genius argument.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  “Look what you just did.”
                  “Straw man! Sarcasm!”

                  What’s next? Ad hominem? Or, argument by authority has been popular here lately… Step right up, folks, make your bets.

                • What do you expect them to say since they can’t refute what Howie says.

                • victory bonus

                  some of us need to get paid

            • What’s really funny is that Trammell is only on the ballot because what was supposed to be the sacrificial lamb couldn’t even turn his signature petitions on time. But then I suppose Dana Houle thinks he’s Mister Know-It-All. Maybe he ought to look at places like PA-08 PA-07 or PA-06. All suburban Philly district that we should win if Pelosi ever wants to become Speaker again.

              • I’m not Mr Know it all. I’m asking for explanations, and you guys can’t give me any except for shouting shibboleths like “Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” as if one doesn’t see that’s a self-evident explanation for everything you don’t like, that that person is beyond understanding.

                • She does run the DNC, and the Democratic Party in Florida(unofficially), doesn’t she?

                • So, assuming that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is the problem here, how does a third party do anything to solve it?

                • No, she’s the chair. If you think she runs the party, and not the Obama team…well, we’ve already established you don’t know anything.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  No, she’s the chair. If you think she runs the party, and not the Obama team…well, we’ve already established you don’t know anything.

                  Come on, everybody knows that in 2009 and 2010 Michael Steele was by far the most powerful and influential Republican in the country.

      • Is that why The Zombie-eyed Granny-starver never got a serious challenger forever despite being in a swing district? Is that why certain committee chairs(Fred Upton comes to mind) never got a serious Democratic challenger?

        • Fred Upton. Thanks for bringing up something I know quite a bit about, and I’m sure you know nothing about.

          Look up the names Dale Shugars and Fred Hogyndyke and Mark Siljander.

          OK, you probably won’t, so I’ll explain:

          Upton got elected when that area was heavy with what were called “Milliken Republicans,” moderate Repubs in the vein of former MI Gov Bill Milliken. Upton was actually one of them, working with Dems (especially John Dingell) on a lot of bipartisan legislation when he was first in Congress, in the minority. But it’s also important to know how he got there: he primaried Silander, probably the first Steve King/Michele Bachmann in Congress. He was fundied-up to his earlobes, and crazy as crap, and Upton won by getting a lot of Dems to vote in the GOP primary. And for years he gave them reason to believe he actually was a moderate, and in a district that was generally quite Republican, that made them happy.

          It also meant he got big primary challenges. So for years Dems would vote in the GOP primary to fend up complete nutjobs like Shugars. And it continued to reinforce the idea he was a moderate, even as he began to move right to not stand too far outside the GOP mainstream.

          Then, a few years ago, he threw all-in with the tea partiers, so he could get the chairmanship of C&E. At the same time, his district continued to vote solidly Republican; Gore pulled 46%, Kerry 45%, and in 2012 Obama got 48%. Sure, in 2008 Obama got 52%, but that was with McCain pulling out of Michigan in September but Obama treating it like a battleground state until the end. And all through this time Upton has consistently won by 12 to 30 points, and getting anyone to run against him has been very difficult, in part because the only place in his district that elects Dems to lower office is Kalamazoo, where the Dems tend to be very liberal, usually far more liberal than that district would support in a general.

          So, yes, GREAT EXAMPLE, the Democrats are awful because they won’t spend money in a solidly Republican seat with an incumbent who has a gazilliion dollars, like Susan Collins has his constituents convinced he’s more moderate than he actually is, and where the biggest problem almost every election is convincing anyone to run against Upton.

          Yes, you’ve totally convinced me.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            isn’t candidate recruitment almost the hardest part of the whole thing? locally (mostly republican district but with occasional possibilities) it is anyway. and this is well before national party bigfooting

            • Right. And what all these conspiracy nitwits fail to address is it takes an actual human being to make their own decision to run for office and fact the strong possibility or even likelihood that they will lose badly. Candidate quality for these guys is determined by only one thing, the purity of the person’s policy pronouncements. So if someone says stick it to the man, and they don’t win, the only explanation is “The Democrats” (whose Rasputin is currently Steve Israel, but have recently been Chris Van Hollen, Rahm Emmanuel, Robert Matsui, etc) sabotaged him.

              For every time the DCCC wants a particular candidate and gets her, there’s at least five who don’t run, and then a lot of time the candidate they want doesn’t get through the primary.

          • LOL! So the local Democrats rolled over for Upton? And people wonder why it’s a spineless party these days. And how do you know how liberal a Democrat a district would support? That’s the same BS we’re always supposed to believe. If you’re not getting paid money by the DNC, you should be. Remember the 50 state strategy? And whose fault is it that Collins and Upton are treated as moderates when they always toe the GOP line?

            Sure, in 2008 Obama got 52%, but that was with McCain pulling out of Michigan in September but Obama treating it like a battleground state until the end.

            And how many of those Obama voters also voted for Upton? Was the local party educating them about what scum Upton was?

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              have I missed the comments where you tell us about *your* successful party-building experiences?

              • Anonymous

                Tell us more about the importance of ethanol subsidies

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  well, they aren’t a good thing, overall, so I’d be lying to you. question for you: what do they have to do with Phil Perspective’s apparent lack of success organizing voters?

            • Look, if you still think the DNC has anything to do with Congressional races, you’re just willfully stupid (or stupid beyond your capacity to do anything about it). You bring as much to this conversation as a creationist brings to discussions of dinosaurs.

              • The DNC and DCCC/DSCC don’t work together? Who’s is the idiot? How come no one was held responsible for FL-13? You don’t think that was a Steve Israel/DWS production?

                • Well, since you asked, you’re the idiot.

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  all you’ve got is pissing and moaning, isn’t it. no matter what happens, it’s never good enough and what goes bad is always someone else’s fault

                  I was going to suggest you get your ass over to Janesville, or Maine, and put your money where your mouth is, but quite frankly it’s obvious you’re the kind of toxic person who’s only good for standing in the back bitching

          • Also, too, I notice you didn’t even talk about The Zombie-eyed Granny-starver.

            • ASV

              You mean the guy whose “swing district” hasn’t elected a Democrat since 1992?

              • And Paul Ryan had exactly how many serious contenders? Do you know what the PVI of his district was before 2010?

                • The question is, do you know (or anything else that you’re claiming)?

                  Gore lost Ryan’s old district by 6 points. Kerry lost it by 8 points. And it got slightly more Republican after redistricting. Obama lost it by over 4 points.

                  Has it ever occurred to you that your vehemence is quite out of whack with your knowledge and understanding?

                • Aimai

                  Isn’t that what vehemence is for?

                • If you don’t know, you should be more vehement is declaring that it is.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Gore lost Ryan’s old district by 6 points.

                  “But he couldn’t even win his own state!!!!1!!!!1!!!!!” — many idiots on the intarwebs

                • junker

                  Phil, could you say something about RAHM so I can finish my bingo card?

          • Davis X. Machina

            This is the Collins dynamic to a T.

            Collins won 60-40 in 2008 against a sitting 5-term US Congressman (Tom Allen, Portland native, Bowdoin grad), in an election where the state went 60-40 Obama.

            Collins won in 2002 60-40 against the second woman to serve as State Senate president — term limited, or could have done that forever — who now on her third term in the US House and walking towards a fourth (Chellie Pingree).

            Collins has defeated the best candidates that could be thrown at her. I’m a multi-decade town and county Dem committee member up here in far exurban Maine, and we were pleased with the caliber, and track record, of her opponents. No palookas.

            These things happen.

            • Why? Because dumb Democrats let her get away with it. In Pennsylvania, it used to be a given that a Governor would serve 8 years. Thankfully Corbett has proved to everyone that it was more a statistical fluke since he’s going to get drummed out after 4 years. What you get is what happens when you don’t challenge a GOPer and let “the liberal media” kiss the GOPer’s butt.

              • Davis X. Machina

                Why? Because dumb Democrats let her get away with it

                How, precisely?

              • Hogan

                So other than “LOL and denounce,” what’s your plan?

              • FlipYrWhig

                If “Dumb Democrats” actually like the Republicans they’re voting for, that’s kind of an important and difficult problem to solve.

                • Davis X. Machina

                  Collins, and Snowe, could not have recorded the majorities they did without a non-trivial moiety of registered Democrats voting for them.

                  A particular problem was Democratic women voting for them. They were both personally pro-choice, but represented a violently anti-choice party.

                  Take gender off the table? Run another woman? — did that, with Jean Hay Bright, against Snowe in 2006 (a sacrificial lamb, granted) and Pingree, against Collins in ’08.

              • “Let her get away with it” by running high-quality candidates against her?

                • Davis X. Machina

                  I’d expect the “Well, you just didn’t run anyone left enough, but Pingree’s gap job between her Senate run and her successful House run was running Common Cause. Hay Bright unenrolled from the Democratic Party altogether in 2009.

                  So we’re clearly looking at a couple of DLC tools.

          • mpowell

            Dana, it’s always great to hear from someone who actually understands how politics works and what is going on (in particular districts at least). Very informative. Also, very interesting since I don’t know how a person would learn any of this without following regional politics in meticulous detail over an extended period of time. It should be clear to a moderately intelligent reader which people actually know what they’re talking about in this discussion (which is repeated constantly).

            • LOL! Nice try at brown nosing.

              • Those who don’t recognize or understand courtesy might mistake it for “brown nosing”.

                • Johnny Sack

                  There’s courtesy and then there’s bootlicking. Obsequity is courtesy? Didn’t know that.

                • mpowell

                  It’s amusing to think that I could gain some benefit from brown nosing a psuedo-anonymous commenter on a website. I appreciate Dana’s comments for their informational value and just want to provide encouragement. Some people thrive on the vitriol of these kinds of fights but not everyone.

                • [psst, send me your address so I can send you your check. Use [email protected]om]

                • DickHeadinMI

                  Internet courtesy and Houle do not go together.
                  At one point, he may have been the biggest asshole on all the intrawebs.

                • Heh, you’re too addled with stupid hatred to realize he was referring to mpowell, not me.

            • All of us have areas of knowledge where, if it’s about something we’ve been doing a long time, we know a lot. It just happens that some things I know a lot about include some things we talk about here.

              As for the local detail, some of that is personal experience, yes; I worked on trying to recruit state senate candidates within Upton’s district. I’m out of date, but in the late 90’s/early 00’s I could tell you election results down to the precinct level. I couldn’t do that with Ryan’s district–I’ve never worked in Wisconsin–but once you know the kinds of things to look for in a few places, you can usually piece together at least a partial picture pretty quickly. But honestly, the way to know about this stuff down to the precinct level and have a tremendous amount of detail for the last ten years or so is read David Nir and his crew at Daily Kos Elections. They put out their daily campaign digest, and you can get it emailed to you every morning. If you actually are interested in this stuff, it’s the best resource around. Hotline, which is now (and maybe always was?) under the National Journal banner, used to be the only place you’d get that detail. It was crazy expensive, because before widespread internet use it took a lot of work, and a lot of phone calls, and a lot of scouring local and regional papers, to know what was happening in a particular Congressional district or under-the-radar governor’s race. It was mostly DC lobbyists, news organizations, and campaign consultants who paid for it (something like $2k per year, maybe more). A few years ago, when it was still subscription only, I asked a consultant friend of mine to find an article I’d seen referred to. He said he’d canceled his Hotline subscription; “why should I pay them a ton of money for what David gives me every day for free?”

              • Sharon

                Rob Zerban is running against Ryan this year. He ran against him in 2012. I’m not sure if he got help from DCCC,but he got DFA money and he has an Act Blue page. I’ve given him money. You should too.

                • No, I really don’t think I should. I have limited money to give to candidates, and there’s little evidence he can beat Ryan. I’d rather give money to people who have a chance.

                • He raised $2.4 million in 2012, which is quite a bit of money for a Congressional challenger–it helps when your opponent is essentially your fundraiser–and still lost by 12 points. It’s not unheard of for someone to lose solidly one time and win the next, but it seldom happens when the campaign was adequately funded the first time and it wasn’t close.

          • Ian

            Fred Upton. Thanks for bringing up something I know quite a bit about, and I’m sure you know nothing about.

            Thank you–that was both educational and entertaining.

            • I hope you’re referring to more than that one sentence. ;-)

              • Ian

                Sorry! I meant the whole shebang.

  • Nobdy

    Third parties are not a solution but a tool. They’re a tool with limited application but that doesn’t make them less of a tool.

    1) Third parties can help push specific policy agendas. For example both the Green and Libertarian parties have been advocating for drug law reform for years. This is an extremely important issue that’s not about middle class white people toking up in public but about the systematic imprisonment of poor and minority people for nonviolent crimes. Third party activism, debate performance, rallies etc… helped push this issue in the national consciousness and now we’re seeing real and important change. The third parties definitely didn’t do it alone, they don’t even get most of the credit, but I believe they helped. People who are members of third parties tend to be strong and articulate (if sometimes offputting) advocates for currently out of the mainstream positions, some of which eventually become mainstream.

    Voting third party often reveals yourself as a one-issue voter and mainstream politicians see those one issue voters and ask themselves what they can do to bring them back to the fold.

    The libertarians have successfully done this on a lot of issues (and succeeded in pushing the country in bad ways.)

    2) Third parties can help tug mainstream candidates to the left. The Working Families Party is an example of this, and it’s not always successful but it works sometimes and that’s a net positive.

    3) Third parties can get individual politicians who might not be in the mainstream elected and they can do some good. Bernie Sanders is, of course, the easiest example but there are others. Now you might claim that Sanders caucuses with the Democrats and is in many ways a default democrat, and that’s true, he’s definitely not pure, but he’s the leftmost democrat and he tugs the whole caucus left. He’s a force for good, not a force for purity.

    Now in situations where the democratic candidate is in a close race none of these 3 functions is worth risking republican success, but in other situations these are tools for positive change.

    • Do you have any evidence that third parties had anything to do with openness to legalization of drugs?

      • And BTW, Working Parties doesn’t apply in most of the country, and goes against the notion of a separate third party. Their influence is through fusion. Where you don’t have fusion, they don’t have leverage, because they don’t have anything to offer, so they therefore don’t have any leverage through threats of what they might withhold.

        • Nobdy

          I’m purely talking about positive ways I believe third parties can act as tools for positive social change. I am not advocating for a specific model of third party (and I think both the fusion model and the breakaway model have their place.)

          Most of the change third parties are going to give us is going to be marginal because the American political system is a giant, moneyfed, ungainly beast, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. I think the fusion model, where appropriate, can be a good one.

          • I think it’s the only one where they have the ostensibly desired effect. They can’t fix everything, but NY and CT are more progressive states because of them. But it’s hard to see Dems in other states voluntarily advocating fusion, since it potentially weakens their power.

            Certainly on the national level, third parties have always helped the side that didn’t split win. The only exception is 1948, but even then, it was the left AND the right of the Democratic party that split, but they did in different places, and not enough to help Dewey. Every other example in the 20th century–1912, 1968, 1980, (sorta) 1992, 2000–they helped the other side win.

            [I say 1992 as sorta because Perot had little influence in the South, most of his votes in the Industrial north would have gone to Clinton over Bush, but he did help Clinton win some states in the West, where the libertarian-minded Republicans voted for him, allowing Clinton to squeak out wins in places like Montana and Colorado.]

            • Nobdy

              Dems won’t advocate it, it has to be grass roots from people dissatisfied with Dems. And yes it won’t work in a Texas or a Florida or a Tennessee but the model could be imported to Massachusetts or California or Oregon.

              • LOL! They certainly couldn’t be less effective then the Democrats are in Tennessee, or a number of other places.

            • Manny Kant

              Hmm…I’m not sure 1968 and 1980 work in a pure way. In 1968, Wallace was, of course, nominally a Democrat, but in his absence from the race, his votes in the states he won would certainly have gone to Nixon. He arguably took votes away from Humphrey in some northern swing states, but I’m not clear what the net effect was.

              In 1980, John Anderson was a Republican who had actually been a Republican primary candidate earlier that year. He wasn’t even particularly liberal – he was almost certainly more conservative than Carter, who was not particularly liberal himself. It’s hard for me to see how he can be seen as someone splitting the Democratic Party. It’s true that probably a lot of his votes ended up coming from disgruntled Democrats who were unwilling to vote for Carter, but he also got votes from Rockefeller Republicans who didn’t like Reagan. I’m not sure he had much of an effect on the race.

              • Manny Kant

                Also worth noting that Anderson’s campaign wasn’t a message campaign to show that the two parties were equally unacceptable. Anderson really thought he had a chance to win as an independent by running against a deeply unpopular incumbent Democratic president (already greatly weakened by a strong primary challenge) and a Republican challenger whom a lot of people thought was too conservative to win. The point was to win the election, not to send a message.

                It didn’t work, which is an important lesson for centrist “America Elects” enthusiasts (Anderson, who was socially liberal and economically conservative, was pretty close to the ideal candidate of those assholes), but I don’t think it says much about the left.

              • The South wasn’t quite ready to go Republican in 1968. Maybe, but note that Carter still romped in the South just 8 years later, and even Dukakis didn’t lose the South by much more than he lost other parts of the country.

      • Nobdy

        Hard evidence? It’s very hard to get hard evidence of what lead to social change. But if you look at the people who were advocating marijuana reform for the last 20 years before it caught on, the people who pushed the issue until it entered the mainstream, a lot of them were involved with or members of third parties.

        It’s difficult to prove the effect this had. You COULD argue that marijuana reform was actually just the effect of baby boomers, who all smoked grass, taking over government and realizing how dumb it was to lock people up, or that it’s actually about state deficits, and all those arguments definitely have merit.

        It’s very hard to parse out what (if any) effect specific advocates for social change had. So no, I can’t prove it, but I believe that constantly raising the issue in debates, introducing bills at the local level, and just grass roots advocacy talking to the public had some positive effect.

        • If anything, I think they’ve delayed change, by marginalizing themselves in the libertarian group-grope, instead of trying to influence the Republican party.

          • Este

            I disagree. They had no chance of influencing the Republican party, which is too wedded to both moralism and incarceration. If anything, this is one of the rare situations where the third-party “independent” aura helped them make their case. Marijuana reform was seen as a cutting edge issue that was important but nevertheless unaddressed by major parties. That has a certain appeal to it. And certainly they were useful in raising awareness on this particular issue.

            I don’t think they’re useful overall, on a national level, but for particular issues in particular states, yes.

            • I don’t think anyone listened to them make their case, because other than people like us who mock them, few people who aren’t libertarians know much of anything about libertarians.

        • Hogan

          Let’s try this: are the Greens and Libertarians particularly strong and active in Colorado and Washington state?

          • DocAmazing

            On that one issue, yes.

            For many years, they were the only ones who were.

            • Hogan

              As political parties or as social movements? Were they running for office on a legalization platform and drawing votes? (Real question. I have no idea.)

              • DocAmazing

                More like sponsoring referenda and court cases.

                Can’t win against the Big Two, don’cha know.

                • Hogan

                  But that goes to the whole argument about movement organizing v. third party organizing.

    • Ken

      This is an extremely important issue that’s not about middle class white people toking up in public but about the systematic imprisonment of poor and minority people for nonviolent crimes.

      It’s always nice to be able to point to high principles, but I think if you could get honest answers out of a poll of the Greens and Libertarians, you’d find that it’s totally about middle class white people toking up in public.

      • Nobdy

        For many of them, perhaps. They definitely talked about mass incarceration at least some, but I don’t disagree that that may not have been the primary motivator.

      • DocAmazing

        I thought we all got past the “what is in their souls?” argument and concentrated on results.

        • Ken

          Good point. However, (and assuming I’m right) once we have decriminalization, there might not be much of a push for releasing the people who are in jail for possession.

          • Este

            I believe there has already been a push to that in New York State.

      • JoeMac

        There were always a few law enforcement (almost always retired) who supported at least decriminalization. For many it was about resource misallocation but there were a few who also pointed out the racial disparities surrounding the issue.

    • Murc

      Voting third party often reveals yourself as a one-issue voter and mainstream politicians see those one issue voters and ask themselves what they can do to bring them back to the fold.

      This is absolutely not true. People who vote third-party are generally recognized as being very strong proponents of ideological purity and are either written off entirely or regarded as completely reliable because what’re they gonna do, vote for the other guy?

      Political professionals look for three things in a poachable voter; someone who is politically engaged, votes in every election, but is on the centermost edge of an existing party, i.e a conservative Democrat or a liberal Republican. Those guys are the real, true low-hanging fruit, because their party loyalty is very low AND their ideology isn’t such that they already regard the other party as filled with vile traitors to the Republic.

      Ironically, actual low-information voters who vacillate between parties (people who voted for Reagan, then Clinton, then Bush, then Obama, for example) aren’t really regarded as easy pickings. Organizing those guys takes a shit-ton of time and effort. You rely on the fundamentals (is the economy good?) and standard campaigning (make my guy look attractive to their disengaged hindbrain by utilizing his charisma and working the media) to get at them, not policy proposals.

      It’s worth noting that the most successful third party in recent memory, the Reform Party? Yeah, those guys went right up the center, grabbing people from both parties about equally.

      • Ironically, actual low-information voters who vacillate between parties (people who voted for Reagan, then Clinton, then Bush, then Obama, for example) aren’t really regarded as easy pickings.

        These people really exist in any kind of large numbers outside of a few oddballs?

        • They make up about 10% of independent voters. The other 90% are strong partisans who just won’t admit it.

          • Murc

            Er… wait, what? How did we get to talking about declared independents?

            That specific note was in reference to genuine low-information voters, the sort of people who vote only once every four years and often only for President and Congress. Often those guys have a declared party affiliation but don’t strongly identify with it.

            And, yes, those people do exist in large numbers. They hold the balance of power in each Presidential election, in fact. They tend to vote reactively and respond to both the fundamentals and to the popular public perception of the candidates in question.

            • And I’m saying low-information voters make up about 10% of self-described independents.

              • Murc

                Oh, I get what you’re saying now. My apologies.

              • Aimai

                I really feel that there’s something wrong with the construction that “low information voters make up 10 percent of independent voters.” It seems…backwards. I guess I think of it more like a venn diagram–low information voters can be highly partisan–in fact they are low information because they prefer not to learn things that will disturb their ignorance and their party identification. So I’d rather know what proportion of swing voters (not independent, swing) are low information than what portion of independent/unenrolled voters are low information voters.

                • I think Steven is actually too generous. The people who are up for grabs in each election include some of each party’s usual base, some people who know a decent amount, and a lot of people who don’t know a lot about politics, not because they’re stupid, but because they just have too many other things in their lives that matter more. But because a lot of them aren’t stupid or stubborn, good campaigns matter, because they can influence those folks, and not just by appealing to lowest common denominators.

                • Murc

                  That’s not really what “low information voter” means in the technical sense, tho, Aimai. It refers to people who are politically and electorally unengaged, who have only a hazy idea of who their Congresspeople are, have no idea who their state reps or town councilpeople or local mayor are, and who really only vote every four years, and when they do don’t actually start paying attention to the election until the fall.

                  A passionate Tea Partier who thinks that Obama is comin’ to get his guns, the immigrants are takin’ our jerbs, Agenda 21 is a UN plot for global domination, and global warming is a plot by scientists to return us to a medieval standard of living (and who resists learning anything that contradicts that) is an ignorant fool, but they also aren’t necessarily a low-information voter. Indeed, they may be considered a very high-information voter, someone who turns up for every single school board election and minor bond issue vote and knows every liberal sin every potential candidate within a fifty-mile radius has committed.

                • HNPS

                  I guess I think of it more like a venn diagram–low information voters can be highly partisan–in fact they are low information because they prefer not to learn things that will disturb their ignorance and their party identification.

                  Hear, hear!

                • HNPS

                  Further, there are the voters who don’t seem to be able to–for whatever reason– discern between party talking points and actual fact.

                  I sure hope that the upcoming Working Families Summit, on Monday, June 23, 2014, in Washington, D.C., won’t be another example of this.

                  If anyone here blogs on this event (or the proposals discussed), I’m ready with the bookmark for one of the proposals.

                  All I ask is that people look at the proposed legislation, and that they don’t fall into the trap, again, of relying on politicians’ talking points.

                  Certainly, I have no grief with the feds “offering” voluntary social welfare programs to those who lack a particular benefit, and who wish to enroll in them.

                  But Dems need to make it clear this time–IOW, no more so-called unintended consequences–that their proposal may make some Americans lose a company-paid group benefit, only to be mandated to purchase the same benefit from the federal government.

                  OTOH, I am in full support of a sizable hike in the minimum wage.

                  One last thing, there are at least three more “Commissions” ready to report back AFTER the midterm elections, all of which will be making recommendations for further cuts to benefits, and/or proposing more mandates to require Americans to self-fund new social-welfare insurance programs.

                  [At least, this is what I was told Friday by the office of one of the bill co-sponsors.]

                • It seems backwards, but it’s supported by the political science research.

      • Nobdy

        They may not vote for the other guy but they may stay home and vote for nobody, or throw out a protest vote.

        It depends in part on which third party you support and whether it’s a single issue party or more complicated, but we’ve definitely seen Republicans reach out to pull libertarians back into the fold and adopt libertarian language and positions.

        • Murc

          They may not vote for the other guy but they may stay home and vote for nobody, or throw out a protest vote.

          And people who do that get written off. They’re regarded as unreliable and not easily reached, precisely because they tend to be strongly ideological and well-informed with regards to it.

          we’ve definitely seen Republicans reach out to pull libertarians back into the fold and adopt libertarian language and positions.

          Name three. Who aren’t lying and intend to follow through. And libertarian positions that are also conservative ones don’t count.

        • TrexPushups

          Ah Staying home. The absolute best way to be ignored by a politician for perpetuity.

          • runner-up

            being poor never wins

  • Ann Outhouse

    What we need in some areas, like here in Florida, where the state and local Democratic Party organizations are wholly corrupt and ineffective and keep giving us prize candidates like Alex Sink and Debby W-S, is a third party that agrees to back the Democratic nominee for senate, governor, president, no matter how repugnant, and any good Democrats for other seats, but posts their own candidate and organizes an effective GOTV operation when the Democrat is a Bad Dem, or when the Dems can’t or won’t find a candidate to run.

    The problem, however, is that lefty third parties tend to get taken over by one-issue types and/or radicals whose politics are too extreme to field a viable candidate, or by cult-leader types like Nader and Perot. We need a rational third party that is basically the “better Democrat” in local and state elections, and maybe House congresisonal races, and not a bunch of far-left radicals and single-issue morons. I’m not persuaded that, with some rare local exceptions, that this is possible or, if possible, sustainable in the long term.

    • Nobdy

      Agreement and purity are very hard to achieve let alone maintain.

    • Gwen

      I feel your pain being in Texas. Our Democratic Party has had internal strife in the past decade because even where we could elect a Democrat, half the time they’d turn out to be a nogoodnik Craddick-crat (Tom Craddick was the Speaker of the Texas House… the most powerful officeholder in the state (Rick Perry is just a doofus figurehead)).

      The solution so far has been to beat Craddick-crats and their latter day ilk in primaries. It has worked enough of the time to convince me it is the way forward.

      Just because the Democratic party today is ineffective and can’t win doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer a voice to the voiceless. It does.

      In 19th century Texas, the Republicans barely existed and where they did they were often either (a) black-and-brown or (b) snooty lily-white elitists. Neither one of these had any appeal to the grangers, hence the success of the Populist Party. The situation we have today is not quite like that — moderately liberal white Texans are not (as) racist, and the Democratic Party is not really an elitist organization. If anything I think the Republicans think we’re too… proletarian.

      I voted for Nader in 2000 and have regretted it. Since then attempts to build third parties just seem like malevolent, fart-sniffing, godd*mn hipsterism. Such silliness should quite rightfully be shamed.

    • FlipYrWhig

      But why would that be better accomplished with a new Better Democrats Party than with better Democrats working their way up in the existing Democratic Party?

    • Johnny Sack

      I think it’ll be hilarious if Crist wins in November. Our old one term republican governor, now our democratic governor after a one term hiatus. I don’t mind relatively sane republicans, but I’d prefer not to have them in my party. Whatever, I’ll take him.

      • C18

        Christ fits right in with 20% of your party.

        • elm

          I was polled during Crist’s first term (I think by a Mel Martinez-affiliated group based on the questions) and when we got to the favorable/unfavorable part of the poll, the woman asking me questions pronounced Crist as “Christ.” I’ve always wondered how much of an outlier Crist’s favorables were in that one poll and how many political decisions may have been based on it.

    • Wait, I just notice this: when did the “party” give you DWS as a candidate? She was unopposed in her primary when she ran for Congress, I’m pretty sure she’s never pulled under 65-70%, and she’s never run statewide.

      As for Sink, I don’t get why people say she was such a bad gubernatorial candidate. She almost won, in Florida, in 2010, against a guy who spent $75m out of his own pocket. I think other than Bill Nelson she’s the only Democrat elected statewide since Bob Graham retired.

      Not winning is a single, conclusive sign someone wasn’t a good candidate only in a realm of no context, with no complicating factors.

      • elm

        People think Sink is a bad candidate because she doesn’t have much charisma on the campaign trail and doesn’t really have any signature issues that people identify with her. She cam close against Scott and Scott was so clearly flawed in many ways, that people think if she had only a little more charisma or was more memorable policy-wise, she’d have beaten Scott.

        It might be true, I don’t know and it’s impossible to know. It’s certainly true that she’s a far from inspiring candidate, but inspiration isn’t as important as lots of people think it is.

        • Right. Kathleen Sibelius sure as heck doesn’t have a scintillating public presence, but having tried to elect who would have been her quasi-successor, I can tell you she’s a political powerhouse. She wasn’t really able to do much politicking as a member of the administration in 2010, but everyone I worked with in Kansas said there’s almost nobody who can command a room like her. My guess is Sink was much better in small settings like that, which are hugely important, because that’s where a lot of governing gets done, and that’s certainly where a lot of political deals are cut and especially where you build up financial support.

          I mean, it’s not like anyone ever called Bob Graham Mr Excitement. But people sure as heck respected the guy and he could have been reelected until he died if that’s what he wanted.

          • Aimai

            There’s just so much whining on the left about candidates. Even great people can lose. Great people lose all the time. Sometimes they lose because they are great. Sometimes they lose despite the fact that they have charisma. When a candidate like Alex Sink gets close to winning against a horrible candidate the person to blame is the fucking voter–because the voter has to have the ability to choose someone who really represents them and not just someone who they would like to have a beer with.

            But of course none of this is realistic–charisma, ability to work a room, great hair really don’t matter.Sometimes horrible people win because,despite having no charisma (really, have you people seen Mitch McConnell or Lindsay Graham?) they have the money and the suckupitude to get over on the voters and the money men both.

            • It also matters where they’re running, in which party, for which office, in which year. In 2002 or 2006 or probably in 2014 Alex Sink would have won. Same thing with Bill White in Texas.

    • HNPS

      Agree with much of what you say.

      But if I may ask, how do you define a ‘Better Democrat?’

      For instance, my understanding is that Markos is a proponent of this theory.

      And if I understand it correctly, he has advocated for turning out, or firing, “Third Way” Democrats, [which I support], yet he’s all but officially endorsed HRC.

      Recently, I’ve observed that even a mention of Senator Warren as a prospective primary challenger to HRC in 2016, often brings out staffers and regular bloggers who quite forcefully push back on the idea. And, believe me, the reaction is very immediate or swift, LOL!

      Further, the notion that PBO’s coalition will automatically work for HRC– is fanciful, at best.

      It appears that Senator Sanders recognizes this, but he is not ‘the messenger’ needed to carry a populist economic message to white working class Americans.

      Frankly, I tend to agree with Charlie Cook that: “There are no Reagan Democrats–they’re called Republicans now.” (paraphrased)

      I suppose that I could be wrong, but I truly believe that the effectiveness of the [many decades long] DLC/Third Label Democratic Party schtick, “Votes for us–we’re the lesser of two evils,” has pretty much run its course with a sizable chuck of the Democratic Party Base/Left-Leaning Independent Voters who don’t vote on narrow issues.

      It will definitely be interesting to see if the midterms prove to be a harbinger of things to come.

  • Gwen

    The way forward is for the left to organize and to control the Democratic Party. What we need isn’t for candidates to unilaterally disarm vis-a-vis special interest money, what we need are candidates who are getting countervailing pressure not to be controlled by it.

    The practical effect of third parties are usually:

    a) to make corporate whore centrist Democrats bigger and badder whores; or

    b) to cause Republicans to get elected, which goes without saying.

    Folks like Roesch need to realize that third party organizatins aren’t simply Democrat-defeating, or centrist-defeating. It’s self-defeating behavior.

    • Gwen

      I’d respect a politican more for taking donations from a PAC, wins and then voting against them, rather than one that runs on purity and loses.

    • HNPS

      Respectfully, I disagree. I simply don’t believe that it is possible to wrest control of the Democratic Party from the corporatist wing of the Party.

      Now, if the nation were in the same place as it was when the conservative movement began to take over the Republican Party, I’d probably agree.

      But let’s face it, we’re not in that same position. Nor are the times even vaguely similar.

      I’ll drop back later and see if I can post a C-Span video in this comment section. Although some readers may disregard DLC co-founder Al From’s words as he gleefully describes the DLC “insurgency,” I believe that at least some will takeaway the sense that it is far too late to “take our Party back” (as one rabble-rousing pol used to say).

      And then shortly after this Administration began,

      New ‘No Labels’ Movement Seeks Bipartisanship

      by Liz Halloran
      December 13, 2010 5:02 PM ET

      , , , One of the movement’s leaders, Jonathan Cowan, a former Clinton loyalist who heads the moderate Third Way think tank, said “No Labels” will use the organizational tools of the left and right to add a new voice of influence to the debate and to create a political-behavior watchdog corps of sorts. . . .

      “No Labels” not only has a weekly radio show on satellite radio, they are rapidly infiltrating the radio and TV airwaves–Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Abby Huntsman on MSNBC, and now Michael Smerconish, Sirius/XM Radio, formerly of MSNBC–but recently relocated to CNN. (May have a “No Labeler” at Fox, but I wouldn’t know since I don’t watch FNC.)

      I’ve seen news accounts that show David Gergen and David Brooks in attendence at “No Labels” events.

      And “No Labels” is already achieving much of its agenda which seems to entail further blurring of the lines between the Republican and Democratic Party’s (corporatist) agenda.

      You mention the conservative movement–I believe that it took more than a couple of decades for conservatives to usurp the power structure of the Republican Party

      Heck, with headlines from Yahoo Finance, like the one below [from the 2010 Census], left Dem Party activists don’t have the luxury of slowly taking control of the Democratic Party, IMHO.

      Census shows 1 in 2 people are poor or low-income

      Nearly half of Americans are low-income as rising expenses, unemployment shrink middle class

      Dateline: Associated Press, Washington, D.C., December 15, 2011

      Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

      The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays.

      The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families. . . .

      I’m not sure that I know what the answers are, but I definitely cannot rule out considering the formation of a third party if the right candidate were to step forward.

      I feel even stronger about this because of the presumptive coronation of Former Secretary Clinton. Actually, I’d feel this way about ANY nominee. This entire scenario strikes me as totally undemocratic. And more than one pundit on C-Span has opined that she will likely not announce her candidacy, if she does, until well into 2015 in order to preclude all potential candidates from having the opportunity to launch a viable run against her.

      In my lifetime, I’ve never seen anything like this–it’s surreal.

      Frankly, I can’t begin to imagine the Republican Party Establishment even daring to dictate their Presidential nominee.

      That has to tell us something about the state of the so-called “Left” in America.


      • HAHAHAHAHA, we’re supposed to fear no-labels? And they’ve achieved much of their agenda?


        • And this?

          I can’t begin to imagine the Republican Party Establishment even daring to dictate their Presidential nominee.

          Are you actually serious? Have you never heard of 1960, 1964, 1976, 1988, 1996 and 2000?

          • HNPS

            Let me clarify–“today’s” Republican Party.

            It’s taken a couple of election cycles now for the corporatist wing of the Repubs to even try to counter the Tea Party Wing.

            And Cantor’s defeat has the Establishment Repubs so fearful, they’ve all but conceded that immigration reform before the midterms is dead.

            They definitely have more clout with their leadership, than the Dem Party Base. That was my main point.

        • HNPS

          Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. And yes they have.

          OTOH, those–which may or may not include you, I don’t presume to know–who embrace “No Labels” austerity measures/agenda, should be quite pleased with this crowd.

          I’ll swing back a little later and post a “class picture” of these clowns. (if it will post here)

          It’s actually quite amusing that many of the No Labels “Problem Solvers” are thought [by some of the clueless Dem Party Base] to be ‘liberals.’


          • I assume when there’s a terrorist act and seventeen groups claim credit you believe all seventeen claims.

  • djw

    Sawant’s victory in Seattle was not a third party victory. It was a second party in a one-party district. In situations where one party is so completely dominant that the primary is all that matters for a victory, then insurgent challengers that present voters with a real option can make sense.

    Minor correction: Seattle races are non-partisan, officially, and the primary is top 2. It is not plausible that someone who would accept the label “republican” could finish in the top 2, unless the #1 candidate got 80% or more. Most races are between Democrats, but there’s no party apparatus endorsing them. (Coming out of the primary, no on really thought Sawant had a chance because she lost 49-35 or something). Sawant accepted the label “socialist” and she was, in fact, a members of some of the many tiny socialist party. But the party wasn’t something that has been any meaningful part of her political career in an organizational sense. In her previous run for Frank Chopp’s seat in the House she wasn’t on the ticket with SA, she got through the primary as a write-in. In an organizational sense her career has little to do with the activities of any 3rd party.

    • Col Bat Guano

      Yes. Her victory was due to her stand on the issues, mainly the minimum wage, not because of her socialist cred.

  • Gwen

    btw, Shorter Erik (with which I would agree): “There are two kinds of political parties. The sort of party that makes you strong, or useless parties. The sort of parties that are only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.”

  • I keep saying, any mag called Jacobin comes with its own warning label.

  • What “radical left”? You could fit all the radical leftists in the US into a football stadium and still have room for the Super Bowl.

    • The radical left that throws rocks at OWS actions in Oakland, thereby creating a backlash among liberals who would like the rule of law.

      • DocAmazing

        Ah yes, the “they were not unarmed” line returns. Thank you for reminding us.

        • jb

          Was that somehow not true? Were the local people just imagining the presence of genuine rioters at the protests, who were actively breaking storefront windows?

          Because, quite frankly, if you throw rocks through windows, you are going to get your ass beat. Deservedly so.

          • jb

            Sorry you’re.

          • Truth doesn’t factor in to his beliefs.

            • DocAmazing

              ‘Cause cops didn’t truly beat up protestors, and you aren’t truly making excuses for them.

              • Yes, cops beat up protestors…and you’re insinuating that none of them threw rocks BEFORE that…or that it doesn’t matter to your belief.

                Which is my point.

                • DocAmazing

                  And you’re excusing the beatings based on the rock-throwing (which jb characterized as breaking store windows, not an assault on cops). Even if that weren’t revolting, the cops hospitalized people who hadn’t been throwing rocks. (By the way, I’m sure you’ll have no difficulty linking to a video of people throwing rocks, rather than simple assertions.)

                  My belief is that cops have no right to beat up protestors, thrown rocks or no. I had thought that liberals who like the rule of law believed that, too.

                  Thank you for illustrating why “liberal” became a slur.

                • jb

                  So you think that the police should have reacted to hooligans throwing rocks at them, (not only at windows), with an air of calm detachment? Would you do that if someone threw a rock at your head?

                  My belief is that cops have no right to beat up protestors, thrown rocks or no.

                  So you think the police are obligated to treat looters and rioters with kid gloves? I’m sorry, I don’t agree at all.

                  A peaceful protest has the right to march and demonstrate all it wants. But a riot should be broken up with as much force as necessary. And if you participate in violent, riotous behavior, then you have no right to complain about “police brutality”.

                  And I don’t give a damn whether that makes me a “bad” liberal, or whether you think its “revolting”. I’ve seen what these bastards can do to a neighborhood. It is much better that a few “protesters” get bruises on their heads than that a whole city goes up in flames.

                • DocAmazing

                  Do you have any idea at all what the OPD did to people during the Occupy protests? For that matter, do you have any idea of the OPD’s history? Google “Oakland Riders” for a taste. They are an out-of-control bunch of rough-up artists and killers–even the Feds have come in to put a muzzle on them. They have run roughshod over the population of Oakland for decades–they are a large reason why the Black Panthers came into being.

                  And Mayor Jean Quan thought it was a good idea to turn them loose on protestors.

                  Ask Scott Olsen about “as much force as necessary”, and hope you don’t ever get crossways with the cops.

      • Wasn’t OWS avowedly non-positional? That is, neither left nor right?

        • Well, first, before generalizing, I’ll say it was a thousand different things in hundreds of different places. There were OWS rallies in places like Oxford MS, Massillon OH and Bend OR, and those groups were very different from the big groups, which themselves were very different between, say, DC, Manhattan, Denver and Oakland.

          Now, I’ll generalize, and say it was generally of the left, even if much more anarchist in some of its manifestations (NYC, Oakland) than traditional left.

          • DocAmazing

            And I’ll ask if you’re also generalizing that liberals that like the rule of law are in favor of beating the shit out of unarmed protestors (as a punishment for breaking windows, of course–they’re not authoritarians, after all!).

            • See above on your beliefs having little to do with regard for causality.

              • DocAmazing

                So they got what was comin’ to ’em.
                Very liberal.

                • jb

                  The peaceful protesters? No, you have some legitimate complaint there.

                  But the assholes throwing rocks and rioting? They absolutely got what was coming to them. You shouldn’t start fights with the police if you don’t want to end up with a serious beat-down.

                • Very reality.

                  You know, where “throwing rocks was the natural repercussion of being beaten for throwing rocks” is seen as a moronic “argument,” and “they lost people who might otherwise have listened to their message had they not delivered it by throwing rocks” makes perfect sense.

                • DocAmazing

                  And “they demonstrated their respect for the rule of law by supporting rampaging riot cops” is…what, exactly?

                  Still waiting for that video evidence. Skip the excuses; Occupy Oakland was extensively covered by the media and by amateur videographers.

                • Gawd, is this willful, or do you come by it effortlessly?

                • DocAmazing

                  Still waiting.

    • the damned ghost of Augusto Pinochet

      You could fit all the radical leftists in the US into a football stadium

      That would be a good start!

  • CatoUticensis

    This is generally why I support organizing an entryist effort outside of the Democratic party and then using it to take over the various diffuse organs of the party over the notion of creating a new party from scratch.

  • Johnny Sack

    She can’t even spell my mayor’s name right. DiBlasio? Are you kidding me?

    • N__B

      Given how many people seem to consider him to be just short of Pol Pot, we should be happy that she didn’t call him Citizen One.

  • Brien Jackson

    But to accomplish this, you have to NOT have total contempt for anyone and everyone who commits the mortal sin of not agreeing with you 100% of the time. Which disqualifies about 99.9% of “leftists” who fantasize about third party politics on the internet.

  • SamR

    GREEN= Getting Republicans Elected Every November.

    Support the most liberal Democrat in the primary, and then the Democratic candidate in November. If you can’t win the majority of the leftmost of the two major parties, why do you think you’ll be able to win a majority when Republicans are thrown into the mix?

    • Hogan

      Because I think all the people who don’t vote agree with me on everything and if they could just discover how awesome I am of course they would show up on Election Day. Why won’t the media report how awesome I am?!

      • Related: Sean Trende’s “missing white vote” thesis, that looks at all the white people who didn’t vote, assumes they’re Republican if they vote, adds them to the GOP’s total, and says that’s how they get a majority…but doesn’t do the same with the missing POC vote.


        • 90M

          If I was a leftist, I would be trying to register and turnout that large swath of missing voters –
          ~ 40% of Latinos, ~35% of those earning under $35K, more likely to be young, single, liberal, independent and not attend church.

          • Ghost of ACORN

            We used to do that kind of organizing, but then some creepy ratfucker doctored a bunch of videos and folks in Congress believed they were true…

            • joel hanes

              folks in Congress believed they were true

              Many pretended to believe, out of pure political cowardice.

    • Because PURITY!

  • Voting against the wishes of a contributor is pretty common, since inter-and-intra-industry conflicts come out in much of what Congress does, and most industries try to hedge their bets by contributing widely. Invariably a candidate has contributors lobbying opposing sides of an issue.

  • Heliopause

    I see how this goes. Centrist lib pols talk about raising the minimum wage two bits, then are praised to the heavens by centrist lib blogs if they achieve as much. Socialists and actual minimum wage workers (those are the people who serve you centrist lib academic types your bagels and cream cheese and lattes, then get snotty blog posts written about them if the order gets screwed up) manage to get a major American city to raise the minimum wage five or six bucks and centrist libs talk about what a wonderful accomplishment for centrist liberalism this was, all while reminding us how unrealistic the aspirations of socialists and minimum wage workers are. Ballsy, I’ll grant you.

    • That’s a great way to completely fail to understand this post.

      • NS

        The basic point seems about right: anything to the left of centrist dems is unrealistic, until it comes to pass, at which point centrist dems claim all the credit while continuing to refuse to join with and in most cases outright oppose those to their left.

        • Random

          The basic point seems about right: anything to the left of centrist dems is unrealistic, until it comes to pass, at which point centrist dems claim all the credit

          This formulation seems a bit flawed to me, seeing as how there aren’t enough left-of-center Dems to actually pass any form of policy change without centrist Dems supporting it in the first place….

          • DocAmazing

            Nah, just centrist Dems who get a chance to see the fruit of their labor (AUMF, NAFTA) and then notice that the left-of-center ones were right all the while.

          • Sherparick

            Also, contrary to what Roesch counsels, Sawant worked with the the liberal Democrats on the City Council ot pass a bill, e.g. building alliances and making deals (and I won’t mention the hypocritical incoherence of Sawant’s affordable housing policy) So even the example she gives is contradicted by what the person, a politician whether Socialist or Democrat actually does.

            1. The Left should primary Centrist and Right-wing Democrats in districts that can support a left wing Democrat.

            2. The Left in Republican districts should think about supporting the most reasonable Republican who can get elected.

            3. The Left should build coalitions outside of electoral politics to pressure the Democrats to the Left and the business and Republicans to the Center.

            Just as a side note, in the whole Jacobin article, I did not read anything in Loesch about how to win elections in places like Texas, Mississippi, Kansas, or Georgia? There are leftists who live in a bubble as much as those folks who watch only Fox News.

    • Random

      all while reminding us how unrealistic the aspirations of socialists and minimum wage workers are.

      1. A huge chunk of minimum and low-wage workers in this country would like to round up every single socialist and shoot all of them and bulldoze them into an unmarked grave. Lumping ‘poor people’ into some kind of unified political group, and then lumping that group in with ‘socialists’ broadcasts to all of us the fact that you and empirical reality don’t talk much.

      2. The reason we tell you that socialists’ aspirations are unrealistic in the US is because that is very much the case. See Point 1 for part of the reason why. About half the people you think are supposed to be your allies are right-wingers who regard your policy preferences as tantamount to cosmological-level evil.

      • Jordan

        A huge chunk of minimum and low-wage workers in this country would like to round up every single socialist and shoot all of them and bulldoze them into an unmarked grave.

        Do go on some more about this “empirical reality” where a huge chunk of low-wage workers are murderous psychopaths.

        • Davis X. Machina

          Someone’s listening to talk radio…

          • Random

            You mean talk radio that has millions of low-income listeners who are fanatically devoted to both guns and hating the unholy dog crap out of socialists?

            That talk radio?

            • Aimai

              I’d like to point out that its an illusion to think that Talk Radio listeners, however, devout and true believing, actually would act on any of the crap that Limbaugh spouts. For an interesting example take “Joe-Not-The-Plumber” who when given the chance instantly joined a union. Limbaugh’s job is to try to keep an unruly, miserable, badly paid, frightened, white male voting population under control. But they are quite likely to bolt if and when someone in the real world offers them a paying chance. And we are going to see that, going forward, with Obamacare which many of them will gladly take, especially under another name like Kynect, and then hang on to like a bulldog–just as they hang on to Social Security and Medicare.

              • Actually, Limbaugh’s job is to get listeners so he can generate ad revenue. It’s one of the GOP’s core problems, that their most influential persuaders have nothing at stake if the GOP fails, in fact, failure electorally probably helps their ratings. I think Frum’s “Conservative Entertainment Complex” is one of the most incisive political observations of the last decade.

            • Actually, 67% of Limbaugh listeners make more than $30k a year. 30% make more than $75k a year. That’s comparable to the income distribution of the Colbert Report.

              Poor people have low rates of involvement in politics, for obvious reasons. When they do vote, they tend to vote heavily Democratic.

              • Aimai

                I wonder how this skews around the country. I know a bunch of working class white guys who listened to Limbaugh a few years ago on work sites but they didn’t actually vote. They talked his line and wore those stupid ditto head shirts but they weren’t registered to vote. But I live in a blue state.

                • Bruce Baugh

                  It’s always possible they’ve moved on to other sources without any big change in message too, like truckers listening to satellite radio. Limbaugh in particular is a bit in decline.

        • Random

          On the one hand I intended my statement as hyperbole to make a point.

          But on the other hand, if an explicitly ‘socialist’ party somehow came to power in this country tomorrow, it would immediately spark a violent uprising of low-income people armed with tons of firearms the day after that.

          ‘Socialist’ == ‘Nazi’ for a huge chunk of low-income Americans. If you don’t know that then you are living in a self-contained bubble and need to get out more.

          • Jordan

            I will, of course, defer to your quite obviously excellent grip on empirical reality and rhetorically successful uses of hyperbole.

            • Random

              Probably a good move on your part.

              Seeing as how voters under 30k in annual income were as likely to vote Republican as Democrat in the last election and all, you’d probably end up looking pretty silly arguing that there isn’t a substantial chunk of them who hate socialists.

              • DocAmazing

                This guy had a few ideas on the subject:

                • Random

                  How could I have forgotten about the very popular and successful redneck-socialist alliance of 2012, and their famous and charismatic leader Joe Bageant that everybody has heard of?

                • DocAmazing

                  Still worth reading, unless you think the status quo is hunky-dory.

              • Scott Lemieux

                Seeing as how voters under 30k in annual income were as likely to vote Republican as Democrat in the last election and all…

                Uh, yeah, not even close.

                • Eh, irrelevant to his point, which is what sounds good to him is what he declares is reality.

              • Jordan


                First, as Scott points out below (above?), you are just making yourself look dumb by saying things like “voters under 30,000 were as likely to vote Republican as Democrat[ic] in the last election and all”.

                Second, if that is really your cutoff for low-income people, well, I actually don’t really need to get out of my bubble more. I live with one (that person is me).

                Third, and here is really the point: you responded to a claim that socialists and low-income workers worked to increase the minimum wage in Seattle. This is simply true. You used it to spout some argyl-bargle rage fulfillment fantasy, and then doubled down on the derp.

                Fourth, I have just come to realize that I think I’ve been trolled. Wamp wamp.

    • ZanyImp


    • Anonymous

      Yes, LGM is definitely a “centrist lib blog”.

  • NS

    I guess the question is, if you prioritize even the most basic tenants of democratic socialism, there is no rational reason to vote for the democrats. If you vote for them, your priorities won’t matter, ditto if you don’t.

    So who cares.

    • Aimai


      • joel hanes


        Thank you. As a pedant, I mostly grind my teeth.

        Also as a pedant:

        It’s properly toe the line, not “tow the line” (the metaphor is the start of a footrace)

        It’s properly home in, not “hone in” (the metaphor is the succesive-approximation flight of a homing pigeon)

        Yes, I spent years learning these ridiculous distinctions, and if you think calling me a prescriptionist will dissuade me or those like me, you are mistaken.

        • a prescriptivist

          No one should ever call anyone a prescriptionist.

          • a relativist

            Well, that all depends, doesn’t it?

          • joel hanes


            thanks for catching that.

    • Anonymous

      Sure there is. The Democratic Party has a coalition that includes socialists, even uncomfortably. The Republican Party’s platform is anchored in opposition to socialism.

      In practice, it is beneficial for the far left for liberals to succeed; it brings leftist policies closer to being achieved, and it makes leftist politics more generally acceptable in polite company.

    • Malaclypse

      Must be nice to be privileged enough not to see the difference.

    • junker

      The perfect alternative to the hard work of getting your views enacted: sitting in a dark room crying about how useless it all is.

      • FlipYrWhig

        “Doing things” is bourgeois politics, bro.

    • Bruce Baugh

      Which tenets of democratic socialism are advanced by Republican victories? Be specific.

  • Random

    Every single person who is ‘disappointed’ with the Dems or thinks they are a bunch of corporate sellouts should be forced to stare at this graph until it starts to sink in why that is the case.


    If you want a more liberal country, first make more liberals. The partisan apparatus is irrelevant in the face of that fundamental limitation.

    • DocAmazing

      Tribal identifiers. Go to the polls that show where people stand on actual issues (national health, increased minimum wage, control of pollution) and you find that the population is generally to the left of their representatives.

      That’s called a “teachable moment”.

      • In theory, yes, in practice, no.

        In isolation, each issue considered independently, people are more liberal than their representatives. But even Democrats when asked about tradeoffs are overly conservative.

        Take Obamacare.

        That’s proof that their representatives were actually ahead of them on this, a very major liberal issue.

        • DocAmazing

          Not the best example. There’s a fair segment that opposes Obamacare because it doesn’t go far enough in the direction of national health. We can spend all day perseverating about practical politics, but it still would not be an example of the representatives being ahead of their constitutents.

          • Anonymous

            8% of people asked opposed Obamacare because it was “not liberal enough”, but the distribution of such opponents was fairly well-distributed among ideological categories.

            Furthermore, only 10% of such opponents mentioned a more leftish alternative when asked.

            The sad truth is that only about 1% of Americans vehemently support single-payer to the exclusion of Obamacare. Most ‘liberal’ opponents of the ACA are barely informed, and most proponents of single-payer have fallen in behind the ACA quite a while ago.

        • jb

          The problem with citing that as evidence, is that based on the polls I saw, a relatively significant faction of the population (15-18%) were opposed to Obamacare because it didn’t go far enough.

          And when you combine that with the percent of those who supported the law (33-42%), you got a majority.

          The polls I remember were from earlier though (about from when the law was passed to 2012), so I don’t know whether that 15-18% is still there. And I couldn’t find a breakdown of the opposition (too far or not far enough), in the poll you posted.

          • Anonymous

            A plurality of “not liberal enough” respondents want government to be less involved in health care. They are also far less supportive of single-payer than ACA supporters (40% vs. 76%).

            That is: supporters of the ACA poll as far more liberal than people who supposedly oppose it ‘from the left’. It’s really useless data when you look at it.

            • Pertinent to the “low information voter” discussion above.

      • Random

        That’s called a “teachable moment”.

        Actually that’s called ‘hand-waiving away over 20 years worth of data because it strongly undermines your argument.

    • jb

      That graph is rather misleading.

      In almost every poll, a plurality of Americans will say they are moderate or conservative. But when you poll them on certain policy preferences, (minimum wage, universal health care, etc), they often turn out to be rather liberal (at least on socio-economic issues. A sizable percentage of Republican support raising the minimum wage, and are against cutting Social Security, for example. Hell, polls often get a solid majority for a “public-option”, or even single-payer healthcare. (at least in the abstract, any concrete plan is usually pretty easy to attack).

      That’s part of what frustrates people on the left of the Democrats so much. There is a genuine constituency for many progressive policies out there! Yet decades of right-wing propaganda, have managed to convince lots of people that all “liberals” are evil people who hate the flag, hate America, oppress Christianity, and eat babies! This means that many people who would be otherwise sympathetic to more progressive economic policies recoil from anything attacked as “liberal”, and vote for right-wingers, because of a general antipathy towards Democrats, as well as (in some cases) conservatism on other issues. Moreover, this tendency is so deep and widespread, that it seems insurmountable.

      • jb

        Moreover, even many Democrats who are more liberal than their incumbent Democratic representative wind up voting for him in the primary, because they think the Representative is more liberal than s/he actually is. As someone who worked for Marcy Winograd’s campaign against Jane Harman, I have some personal experience with this.

      • HNPS

        Unfortunately, DLC Dems are at least partly responsible for the denigration of the word “liberal.”

        Check out the C-Span video clip of Mr DLC himself, co-founder Al From, defining the DLC term “progressive” for C-Span Host Peter Slen. It’s worth a good chuckle. ;-)

      • Anonymous

        But when you poll them on certain policy preferences, (minimum wage, universal health care, etc), they often turn out to be rather liberal (at least on socio-economic issues

        Polling is virtually useless on politics. Construct a battery of questions about balanced budgets, family values, abolishing the death tax, and fiscal restraint and you’ll find a large majority in favor of “conservative”, “Republican” policies. The average person’s political position is that things that sound good should be supported and things that sound bad should be opposed, and that this is “common sense”.

        • jb

          Wow, you really think that most people are clueless idiots?

          Of course, you may be right.

          In fact, now that I remember some of the epically stupid initiatives the have passed here in CA, it definitely seems possible.

          • No, I think most people are not politically involved, and like most situations where humans are asked to make decisions about things they’re not deeply invested in, they’ll choose based on their gut — that is, based on analogy to things they understand, emotional appeals, and prejudice.

            This has nothing to do with overall intelligence; actually, most of the lefty third-partiers and libertarians I’ve met tend to be very intelligent and almost completely ignorant of politics.

      • Random

        That graph is rather misleading.

        LOL. No it really isn’t misleading at all.

        The fact that there have been around twice as many people calling themselves ‘conservative’ as ‘liberal’ for the last 30 years, combined with the fact that we have a representative form of government is kind of relevant to the fact that liberals haven’t solely determined our governmental policies for the last 30 years.

        • jb

          My point was that a lot of self-described “conservatives” don’t actually have conservative views on many things, particularly economic ones (you know, the issues on which we’ve been mostly losing for decades). So relying on self-descriptions is not actually a good idea, particularly when there has been a decades-long propaganda war by the right on the term “liberal”.

          Heck, your’e sounding just like those Republican pundits who after every Democratic victory, rush to proclaim that America is still “center-right”.

  • Tony Oakland

    left wing economic policies and third parties were semi popular when the threat of bolshevism loomed large on international scene. at core of bolshevism was the use violence as political tool. when political system will not listen or deal that is what you get. brace yourselves. we may get both right wing and left wing political violence.

  • scott

    I dunno. I’m agnostic on whether you do or don’t make a third party, but I think it’s a worthwhile point to keep in mind that the left and the Democratic Party as it’s operated on many issues for the last 4 decades aren’t friends. Whether the answer is working to reform the party or giving up on that and pressuring it from the outside is debatable. But I don’t think it’s wrong generally for the left’s attitude to the Democratic Party to be (especially when the latter asks for its support) to be, what have you done for us lately and what will we get for our support? And to extract a higher price from politicians in the party who say lots of nice sounding stuff and then do little to deliver on it. How you do that is worth talking about and listening to, but whether you should do it isn’t too controversial to me.

    • I don’t disagree with this per se. If we are talking about social movements, I don’t think focusing on the electoral system is really the way to make change. Eventually it has to be, but thinking of change in terms of a 4-year election cycle is often not real useful. However, if we are talking about the left that is disconnected from organizations creating change and is just isolated people angry at the Democrats, I don’t think it matters much. But certainly I believe that labor should not give money to candidates who don’t support labor’s preferred policies.

    • Scott Lemieux

      the last 4 decades

      When exactly was the time in which the left was fully in control of the Democratic Party?

      • FlipYrWhig

        It must have been when Stennis, Talmadge, and Eastland were still in office.

  • tensor

    Sawant’s victory in Seattle was not a third party victory. It was a second party in a one-party district.

    Overall, this is correct: the real electoral choices in Seattle are between the mainstream Democrat and the fringe-left Democrat. Technically, it is not true, because all City Council seats in Seattle are non-partisan.

    Sawant ran against Frank Chopp, Seattle-based Speaker of the State House, and lost. She then ran against Richard Conlin, City Council member who had voted against the progressive labor legislation of that year (mandatory sick time) and barely won. The simultaneous victory of $15/hr minimum wage in nearby Seatac provided impetus to her successful push for $15/hr in Seattle. That was a very tenuous string of coincidences, unlikely to be replicated on command anywhere.

    Does this make $15/hr illegitimate? No. Does it make her example difficult to follow? Yes.

  • Tony Lynch

    First you need a party of the left..

    • DocAmazing

      Then you put your Left foot in.

    • Davis X. Machina

      There are a dozen of them. Most of them could meet in a phone booth — remember phone booths> — and still have room for a cash bar and the DJ.

  • Bob

    I continue to laugh at your attempts to corral angry Democrats back into the Democratic fold. Many liberals and progressives are absolutely fed up with the center right Democrats who are running the party. There is no longer any room for us in a party that treat liberals (let alone leftists) as fools. All one needs to do is look at who Steve Israel is backing or how much trouble Cuomo is having with rebellious Democrats sick of his pandering to the right or how hated Quinn is in my home state to see how bad things have gotten. Or you can just take a look at the FTC or the FDA (just to name 2 federal agencies), who Obama has appointed to run these agencies and their continuous pandering to corporate interests to see why the average Democrat may be turned off by the party’s leadership. Or maybe you’d like to explain Obama’s continuous push for the TPP agreement when it would basically wipe out everything he’s done fiscally over the last 6 years and eviscerate US sovereignty to protect workers, the environment, and more.

    The bottom line is that interest in a third party is not about punishing the Democratic Party as much as it is about finding leaders who actually are willing to do everything they can to bring about real change. You clearly don’t like this but everywhere you turn Democratic voters are showing they disagree with you. As they say in California: lead, follow or get out of the way.

    • Ha ha, yes, people are just fleeing the Democratic Party. I’m sure in 2016, the Green Party will pull a solid 0.5% of the vote!

      • Bob

        Actually instead of helping with the change you supposedly support you mock it, congratulations with that.

        • What I mock is absurd statements. Saying that people are fleeing the Democratic Party is just not true. And, as I’ve said repeatedly, I believe that third parties are counterproductive to progressive change. So if I am mocking them, I am actually helping create the change I want to see.

          • Bob

            And yet your beloved center right Democrats are turning off average Democrats everywhere, or haven’t you been following what’s happening in New York and Illinois.

            • When I have ever said anything good about the modern Democratic Party?

            • Also, “beloved center right Democrats”

              Cites omitted.

          • Bob

            One other point, what exact change have you personally accomplished through the Democratic Party? You claim you’re a change agent, I see nothing though.

            • I voted for politicians who pushed through the ACA and are on the way to making gay marriage legal throughout the nation.

              • Bob

                But yet you voted for politicians who have created a military, industrial, corporate state like no other in our history. For every single good point about Obama and the center right that you have, I’ve got 20 of the opposite. When TPP is passed, what do you say then, oops?

                • Indeed. But what if I and others hadn’t voted for those politicians? All of those same things still happen except that we also have Mitt Romney as president and what is happening in North Carolina happens nationwide.

                • You also put this in Manichean terms. When have I said I liked Obama? One can understand how politics work and still be critical of the people you are voting for. Voting is not a moral act. It’s an act of choosing necessary evils that sums up how much change has happened in American life in the past 4 years.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  When TPP is passed

                  Yes, I will never forgive those evil center-right Democrats Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi for ramming it through Congress.

              • Bob

                The fact that you vote based on necessary evil isn’t lost on me and I’ve done it for years. But, like playing for an abusive coach, after a while the fear wears off and you move on. It’s time to move on, Erik

                • And so if people vote third party and Republicans win and Roe v. Wade is overturned, you are OK with that result?

                • Bob

                  If only a couple of signature rulings / policies are kept while everything else is swept away will that be okay with you? It’s the complete infrastructure that supports everything that you like; cut away the underpinnings and all the rest falls away.

                • Random

                  If only a couple of signature rulings / policies are kept while everything else is swept away will that be okay with you?

                  The right to choose to not have a baby just because a piece of latex broke is a helluva lot more than a signature policy. In my experience it is one of the most important rights a human being can have.

                  It’s the complete infrastructure that supports everything that you like; cut away the underpinnings and all the rest falls away.

                  This wins “Most Content-Free Statement of the Thread” award, hands-down.

                  I have no idea what the ‘infrastructure’ is (much less an infrastructure divorced of actual concrete policies), what the ‘underpinnings’ of that ‘infrastructure’ are, or how voting 3rd party in any way accomplishes ‘cutting away the underpinnings’ of the ‘infrastructure’.

                  All I know is that the last time a significant chunk of people voted for a leftist third party, the real-world result was tax cuts for rich people, a war that killed mostly poor people, a bungled response to a hurricane that killed mostly poor people, and the installment of several far-right activist judges who are still with us and striking down gun control (kills mostly poor people, significant portions of the voting rights act (mostly poor people) and preventing the Democrats from passing federal Medicaid expansion (that would have saved the lives of mostly poor people in every single state in the Union).

                  Voting third party is an act of hatred for poor people, near as I can figure it.

                • Worth noting how third party movements appeal far more to the educated classes than the working class.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Worth noting how third party movements appeal far more to the educated classes than the working class.

                  As I always say, heightening the contradictions has very little appeal for the people on whom the contradictions will be heightened. You’d have better luck meeting African-American women at a Rush concert than a Nader rally.

      • Bob

        I’ll also point out that the corruption and near total destruction of Democratic policies doesn’t near seem to bother you as much as the anger of those of us towards the Democrat leaders who have done it. It must be nice being in an ivory tower and looking down on us peons, while not having to soil your own hands.. Try actually really doing something.

        • Like blog commenting?

          • Bob

            Like trying to get you to see the flaws in your own logical actually.

            • I don’t know why I’m bothering to argue with you, maybe to avoid writing my book, but is it that hard to see that just because I think third parties are a bad idea, it doesn’t mean I think the Democrats are good. It’s that I think while change gets codified through the political system and in order to have that change you have to elect Democrats (or whoever is better on the issues, but today that’s always Democrats), the real change comes through organizing communities around specific issues that move toward demanding those changes on all levels, not waste of time, high-work low-reward third party campaigns.

              • Bob

                A comment without nastiness, nice. Organizing is good. Changing the Democratic party? Not sure it can be done. It’s gotten too corrupt; again all one needs to do is look at my home state of Illinois.

          • Bob

            And the fact that you do your commenting in a nasty repulsive manner says volumes about who you are.

            • Oh, am I being too mean to poor little Bob. That’s so sad. Do you need your blankey?

              • Bob

                You are clearly an elitist university professor. So sad for you that your nastiness is all that you have at the end. You say you like logic until challenged then you go full frontal fool. And you wonder why average Democrats are turned off by men like you.

                • Average Democrats? So, like, Obama voters? I don’t know what world you live in, but average Democrats are mainstream Obama voters.

              • Bob

                You mean like all those Obama voters who are turning out for Quinn this year?

                • Col Bat Guano

                  Wait, I thought they were all fleeing the Democratic party?

            • Barry Freed

              Where has Erik been “nasty and repulsive” to you in this thread? He’s actually been addressing your arguments seriously. It’s just that the ideas you advocate are wrong and would result in a lot of harm to a lot of people. How’s that for your moral purity?

              • Bob

                Voting for the least worse candidate is what the DLC is counting on you doing. And if you don’t think the huge corporate monopolies and massive cuts to social programs and near destruction of unions and global spying and endless war are doing harm, then you need to rethink things.

                • Barry Freed

                  By voting for a completely ineffectual third party? Or maybe by backing the most progressive possible candidates in the Democratic party, you know, the ones who actually have a shot at winning and enacting legislation.

              • Bob

                Voting due to fear isn’t the answer, sadly.

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  I actually am quite sympathetic to the feeling the dems aren’t as far left as they could/should be… but 1) I don’t have the sense the country as a whole is as that far left (this is probably conditioned to a fair extent by my local situation) and 2) I don’t see how a third party coming from the left and dividing the vote does anything but make things worse in the long term by *giving* the conservatives things they’ve had to take

                • djw

                  If you don’t find the modern Republican party terrifying, I don’t know what to tell you.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  Mark Warner doesn’t run on centrism and across-the-aisle get-er-done-ery just to spite Real Democrats, he does it because he wins that way. IOW, it’s appealing to people. Blogosphere liberals hate that shit, and I wish he’d do less of it, but I don’t take it personally, because _people like us are greatly outnumbered in American politics_. Longing for the arrival of Liberal Godot is just going to lead to despair. You takes what you can gets.

    • Col Bat Guano

      How many moons orbit your planet?

      • IM

        zeppelins in the sky, surely

      • Bob

        As I watch governor Quinn in iIllinois move further and further right fiscally, crushing unions, paying off corporations with huge benefits, creating a state with a huge inverse tax structure (flat income taxes, huge property taxes on average houses, massive sales taxes on everything), and more, as I read about Cuomo doing the same thing and worse in New York, and the same happening in any other Democratic led states, you instead rearrange the chairs on the titanic and are proud of it.

        • Dude, you don’t know wtf you’re talking about. There’s a provision in the IL state constitution prohibiting progressive taxation.

          You probably blame storms on the weatherman.

        • Col Bat Guano

          All of these things may be true, but it doesn’t follow that there is a huge contingent of voters willing to abandon the Democrats.

    • Anonymous

      the average Democrat may be turned off by the party’s leadership

      Gallup Poll Jun 9-15, 2014
      Obama Approval Rating
      Democrat: 78%

      This is a low in his approval ratings among Democrats.

      • Davis X. Machina

        The quote refers to real Democrats, of course.

      • FlipYrWhig

        And I would guess a pretty big chunk of the disapprovers would be Democrats who think Obama is _too liberal_. The quantity of people who think Obama is too _conservative_ is minuscule, and that’s the rock on which Jacobin is trying to build a church.

        • I mean, I’d really like to believe that there’s this massive slumbering leftist giant in the American electorate, but there simply isn’t. There’s a fairly large contingent — 20-25% or so — of social democrats. That’s how you get the “72% of ACA supporters favor single payer” number. But the vast, vast majority of Americans who are substantially to the left of the Democratic center are also committed, politically active Democrats. They’re the base.

  • Dave

    You go to politics with the electorate you have, not the electorate you want.

    Unless, of course, you’re the Socialist Unity Party:

    After the uprising of the 17th June
    The Secretary of the Writer’s Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?

    Bertolt Brecht

  • jkay

    Aww, POOR commies, just because they aren’t one of the big two.

    The Greenies in CA couldn’t’ve won the way Sawant did, by CARING and actually being better on voter issues, could they? Nope, nope.

    That’s why I’ve never voted Green, ever. They’re both TOO single-issue
    party and are too Know-Nothing to be trustworthy. What good have they ever done?

  • Anonymous

    The same third-party experiment is happening in Texas with the Green Party where it would be better to take over the more eber embembarrassing Democratic Party who could have nominated a LaRouche Party nutcase Kiesha Rodgers. But instead of taking over the Democratic Party they want to punish them instead of helping to improve the lives of Texans statewide. It reminds me of the OWS protests to a certain extent guess what the Democrats co opted their message of income inequality.

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