People who want Bernie Sanders to run as an Independent do not understand political dynamics and even the fundamental and intrinsic qualities of our first-past-the-post electoral system. If Bernie ran as an Independent he would certainly take votes away from the Democrat – Hillary Clinton, let’s be honest – and this would increase the chances that a Republican would win. For this same reason, I certainly hope Donald Trump runs as an Independent because he would strictly take votes away from the Republican – Scott Walker/Jeb Bush, let’s be frank. Chris Hedges, who I read and who I admire, is one prominent voice calling for Sanders to run as an independent. Hedges says to vote for the Green party candidate, Jill Stein. This is why the left loses. Jill Stein literally has no chance of winning as a third party candidate and “protest votes” are basically votes for the candidate that ends up winning the election.
You aren’t “pure” or staying above the mud when you vote for a third party; you are throwing away your vote and allowing everyone else to play politics for you. We are all complicit in the laws and elected officials we get. Even if you do not believe in voting, since voting happens, neglecting this responsibility is a bad move. In Sanders’ own words: “I won’t be a spoiler.” Sanders is running to win and he also is running because we “need a political revolution;” again his words. Before I go, a brief paragraph or two about the last time a third party candidate had a shot
In 1992, Ross Perot received 19% of the vote (by the way: only 55% of registered voters came to the polls) and many blamed him for the George H. W. Bush loss. Perot definitely took more votes from the Republican than the Democrat. This scared the two major parties. What happened afterwards? The Federal Election Commission (F.E.C.), created in 1975 (as a response to Watergate) to formalize campaign procedures, and staffed by Democrats and Republicans “raised ballot access requirements” which effectively shut third party candidates out of debates. The current chair commissioner, Ann M. Ravel, has even called the F.E.C. “worse than dysfunctional,” in an recent interview. She came to the F.E.C. with hopes of reform; she has now publicly given that up for 2016.
I voted for Jill Stein in 2012 because I live in Missouri and I knew that Mitt Romney was going to win. At that time I told myself that I couldn’t vote for someone who uses drones to kill people halfway across the world. I don’t feel good for that vote because symbolic gestures are simply that; ephemeral, and basically impotent. If Missouri would have been a swing state I would have voted for Barack Obama, regardless. Practicing purity politics has never been and will never be good politics. Those willing to get dirty win; the Right has built their entire apparatus on mud-slinging. The Tea Party decided to run candidates – not as a third party mind you – and Occupiers decided to…well…use the people’s mic and form consensus-circles. We see how that worked out.
Changing the Democratic party from within might be fruitless; changing the party from outside will be an abject failure. Politics don’t work as many think they should; they work as they always have. A third party effort will never succeed unless our political system is completely transformed. That is not happening any time soon.
Bernie Sanders should remain a Democratic candidate and lets all hope that Trump does run as an independent and acts as a spoiler to the Republican party – because we cannot afford another Republican president. There is a difference and lives are literally at stake.