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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Third Party Candidates and the Triple Threat to Democracy

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President Obama said in a radio interview, "If you vote for a third-party candidate who’s got no chance to win, that’s a vote for Trump." But for those planning to vote third party, it's not simply the prospect of a President Trump that worries me. It's also the idea that voting Libertarian or Green actually sets back the hope of growing those movements. Worst of all, voting third party represents an inability to compromise—and the ability to compromise is perhaps the most important characteristic necessary for democracy to survive.
I prefer Clinton's baggage to Trump's barrage.

Let’s set aside the third party candidates—Jill Stein of the Green Party and the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson—and whether they have the abilities needed to serve as President. For purposes of this discussion, it doesn’t much matter—they both have their strengths and weaknesses, as does Hillary Clinton. But unlike voting for Ms. Clinton, voting for a third-party candidate constitutes a triple threat to democracy. Why do I say this?

First, because Donald Trump is, himself, a threat to our country’s democracy. I won't rehash all the ways Mr. Trump is unfit to lead our nation. I doubt anyone who reads this blog supports his bid for the White House. But I will note that for people like my clients--immigrants and refugees from majority-Muslim nations--this election is about life or death. Mr. Trump has threatened that if he wins the presidency, he would return Syrian refugees to their war-torn region: "If I won, they're going back," he’s said. Scapegoating refugees and immigrants is nothing new, but as a Jew whose European relatives were destroyed by Hitler, I know very well where this type of talk ultimately leads.

Further, Mr. Trump’s repeated comments about putting Hillary Clinton in jail reveal quite clearly his fundamental inability to lead a democratic society. It’s not just Ms. Clinton, by the way. Anyone who disagrees with Mr. Trump on policy, or who stands in the way of his bid for power is “stupid” or a “liar” or “corrupt” or a “fat pig” or should be thrown in jail (or worse). Maybe an uncompromising bully can succeed in the world of business, but that’s not how politics—particularly democratic politics—works. As President, you have to be able to talk to people who disagree with you: Leaders of other nations, members of Congress, governors, civic and business leaders. Even with regard to rivals, you have to find common ground in order to make progress and keep our country safe. Also, in a democracy, you have to make arguments to convince your opponents that you are correct. You have to persuade them. It’s hard to get cooperation or build coalitions when you threaten or denigrate anyone who disagrees with you. Indeed, this approach to governing is antithetical to democracy.

Second, I believe that voting for either third party candidate will set back progress towards a more viable multi-party (as opposed to two-party) system. I felt the same way about Bernie Sanders, even though his policies more closely align with my own beliefs. For a third party candidate to succeed in office, he or she needs a viable foundation upon which to govern. I am a member of the Green Party, and I will vote Green for the down-ballot candidates. For a Green Party (or Libertarian) candidate to successfully lead our nation, we need third-party governors, mayors, members of Congress, etc. This is how a movement is built: From the bottom up. It takes time, patience, and commitment. More, it takes many people willing to devote themselves to lower-profile races. If we had dozens of elected officials from the Green Party serving in local offices, we would be more ready for a Green President (ditto for the Libertarians). Without that, a third-party President would have no base to build upon, and I believe such a President could accomplish little. In this way, the third-parties’ focus on the presidency distracts from the real work of building a viable alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. And this, I believe, is bad for our democracy.

Finally, voting for a third party candidate threatens our democracy because it represents an inability to compromise. Compromise being essential to any democratic society.

Jill Stein has argued that voters should not have to choose a “lesser evil,” that she—and presumably Gary Johnson—represent a third way. This is false. Polling and social science data demonstrate that neither third-party candidate can win this election. Indeed, Gary Johnson—who is more popular than Jill Stein—has less than a 2% chance of winning even one electoral vote! Maybe you don’t believe the polls. Maybe you also think that global warming is a fraud, that cigarettes don’t cause cancer, and that vaccines cause autism. If so, you are probably voting for Donald Trump already. But if you live in the real, evidence-based world, here is some (non) news: Global warming is real, cigarettes do cause cancer, vaccines do not cause autism, and neither third-party candidate has any chance to win this election.

Perhaps you see your third-party vote as a boycott of “The System.” But that argument fails as well. If you don’t like the corporate policies of, say, Starbucks, you can stop buying their coffee and hope that the economic impact of losing your business will cause them to change their ways. But that’s not how it works with elections. “Boycotting” the election because you oppose the “lesser evil” only serves to empower the greater evil. It’s as if boycotting Starbucks would encourage them to continue the very policies you oppose. In other words, boycotting the election will have the exact opposite effect of what was hoped for.

We live in a democratic republic. If we had a different system—like a parliamentary democracy—voting third party might make sense. Once the elected officials are in office, they themselves would have to make the compromises necessary to forge a ruling coalition. But in our system, we, the people, elect a President. We have to make those compromises ourselves. And of course, making compromises is not easy—not getting your way never is. But that is our system, and for now at least, this is our choice: Vote for Hillary Clinton or for Donald Trump. The others are just a dangerous distraction from reality.

Originally posted on the Asylumist:

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Updated 10-18-2016 at 02:27 PM by JDzubow


  1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    The above post by Jason Dzubow is an avowedly political comment which Immigration Daily should be encouraging and publishing more of, not fewer of, especially between now and an election which is only about 3 weeks away and could determine the future of American democracy and of our immigration system for a generation to come, if not for the next 50 or 100 years. Despite his recent sinking in the polls, Donald Trump is still a viable candidate for president with a very real chance of winning, particularly if some major negative event comes along involving Hillary Clinton which is always a possibility.

    Even though no one could mistake me for a Trump supporter, I have to say one thing in his favor as a candidate. He has been very honest and open about who he is and what he stands for. Despite ongoing reports of urging by his advisers and supporters to adopt a different, more restrained and conciliatory persona, he has insisted on showing his true self and sharing his true outlook on the world and agenda for America with the public. What you see with Donald Trump is what you get, possibly more than any other presidential candidate I can remember, and I have been following presidential elections ever since I was taken to a rally as a child in 1948 for a president whose name, coincidentally, also began with the letters "Trum".

    Unfortunately, the downside is that the reality of Donald Trump and his immigration agenda is not a pretty one. Ever since he launched his campaign last year with vicious attacks on Mexican immigrants, calling them "criminals" and "rapists", and then called for a total ban on immigration by Muslims from around the world, he has based his appeal on hatred directed against non-white minorities.

    He has shown a typical dictator's rage at being criticized or contradicted and has threatened severe retaliation against anyone and everyone who opposes him, while doing everything possible to humiliate and revile them.

    These are no idle threats, coming from a candidate who openly calls for the use of torture a "heluva" lot worse than waterboarding and for sending American citizens to Guantanamo, both of which statements are a matter of public record and to which I have provided links in some of my previous comments about Trump.

    For anyone who cares about the viability of our immigration system as we know it, Trump's agenda is, to use one of his own favorite expressions, a "disaster". It involves mass deportation on a scale unknown in this country's history to date, a Wall against one of America's best neighbors and trade partners to keep out unwanted non-white immigrants, a modified Muslim ban based on country of origin (hint - Muslim ones) and on sending the shamefully full peaceful, law-abiding Syrian refugees who have been legally admitted to America back to dictatorship and terror-torn Syria in violation of international law.

    And oh, yes, Trump also wants to abolish two pillars of our legal employment-based immigration system, H-1B visas and labor certification green cards (also well documented - if anyone wants the link I will provide it), as well as calling to amend our constitution to take US citizenship away from millions of American-born children based solely on their parentage.

    I am not even bringing up general character and fitness matters such as his despicable actions and statements toward women, his appalling "birther" lie against President Obama and, by extension, all African-Americans, his taxes, his reliance on the Big Lie about almost every issue imaginable, his (at least a few) kind words for reviled dictators such as Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un, and many other things that go beyond strictly immigration-related matters.

    If this is the kind of America someone wants for himself or herself, and for his or her children or grandchildren, then by all means he or she should vote for Donald Trump - or for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, which amounts to the same thing.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 10-18-2016 at 08:21 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  2. JDzubow's Avatar
    Thank you Roger - I agree with what you say (that we need more political discourse on ilw and that Trump is an emergency). My only quibble is that I do not think he is honest about certain things - taxes, ties to Russia, treatment of women. I also fear that he might win, and wonder what it will feel like to have David Duke marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in celebration.
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