On disenfranchisement and third parties


There’s been a politics post percolating for a while now, and at various points it has been a much angrier politics post than I suspect I’m about to write.  To be very, very brief, I think the last ten days or so flipped Bernie Sanders from I’ll happily vote for him if he’s the nominee to okay, fuck that guy in the heads of a lot of Clinton supporters.  That said, Tuesday basically clinched the nomination for Clinton, and a couple of days later I’m no longer especially interested in shitting on Bernie any more.  There’s no money in it.  I indulged in retweeting a handful of snarky GIFs on Tuesday night– mostly because I thought they were hilarious and not purely to crow– and I think that’s probably as far as I care to go at this point.

That said, let’s talk about political parties for a minute, and primaries, and disenfranchisement.

I have no doubt whatsoever that in any large election (and running a statewide election, much less a statewide election that contains a city larger than forty of the fifty states certainly counts) there are going to be some people who, for one reason or another, are disqualified from voting who should be able to vote.  I had to file a provisional ballot myself in Chicago once; it happens.  Is it regrettable?  Of course it is.  It’s also effectively unavoidable, in that people are people and shit happens.

Supposedly 120,000 people in New York City were “purged” from the voting rolls prior to the election and thus were unable to vote.  Sounds bad, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately:

Of the 126,000 Democratic voters taken off from the rolls in Brooklyn, Ryan said 12,000 had moved out of borough, while 44,000 more had been placed in an inactive file after mailings to their homes bounced back. An additional 70,000 were already inactive and, having failed to vote in two successive federal elections or respond to cancel notices, were removed.

Are there some people who were removed who shouldn’t have been?  Yeah, probably.  But maybe, guys, if you’re planning on voting in an upcoming election, you should check to make sure your registration is up to date a couple of months in advance of the election.  One way to make sure you don’t get purged is to vote in every election– yes, the ones that aren’t terribly exciting, too– and to change your registration when you move.  I don’t actually have any sympathy for the vast majority of these people.

Also, not being able to vote in the Democratic party primary because you aren’t actually a Democrat is not something I’m going to shed tears about.  I do feel like the primary voting process needs to be streamlined and standardized, and we can have conversations about that; it seems ridiculous to me that the process can vary so much from state to state, and I don’t like caucuses at all (and, for the record, didn’t like them in 2008 when my guy was winning them, either).  There’s room to discuss that.  But there’s not a whole lot to talk about when you insist that not being able to participate in the primary election process of a party you don’t belong to is the same as disenfranchisement.  Otherwise, you’ll have to explain why Canadians don’t get to vote in our elections.

They’re not American?  Oh.  Give that some thought, will you?

I get that maybe six months ago you hadn’t decided who to vote for, and I’m sympathetic to the idea that declaring party affiliation six months in advance is a bit on the long side.  I didn’t know who I was voting for six months ago.  But you didn’t know you were a Democrat six months ago?  Get the fuckouttahere.  Go ahead, be an independent; more power to you.  But don’t expect America’s two-party system to accommodate you.

Slight change of subject here: lots of people are going to see that last sentence and go OOH ARGLE BARGLE TWO PARTY SYSTEM GRR HRAAGH THIRD PARTY. 


You are welcome to be dumb and vote for a third-party candidate.  You’re wasting your time and your vote; the real political parties don’t look at that and go ooh, moving to the <direction> will help us get that voter!, they assume you’re more interested in preening than governance and stop thinking about you.  There’s not a single thing preventing a third party from taking hold in America other than the fact that historically most third parties are run by dumbasses.  How do I know?  The Green Party and the Libertarians, in particular, have existed in this country for decades and haven’t figured out to stop running for President yet.  I’m pretty sure that if either party wanted to get some seats in Congress they could find some appropriate districts and start building a power base.  There’s got to be somewhere where a concerted push by a Green or a Libertarian could end up with a seat.  Go find those places!  Start running for school boards and for mayors and for state governments!  Running for President as a third party does nothing other than massage egos, waste a lot of money, and pull votes from some closer established party that has a chance of getting their agendas enacted.  Jill Stein is never going to be President.  But I bet she could be a Congressperson if the Green Party took the money they were setting on fire for her to run for President and put it into a more local race.  Perhaps start in Vermont?  One way or another Bernie’s not going to be their Senator forever.

I don’t give a shit about your conscience, by the way.

If there’s an overarching point to this, here it is: we have to be grown-ups about the process of governing.  Part of that means recognizing that we’re not always going to get (we are never going to get) 100% of what we want in a political party or a political candidate.  So you vote for the person who has the greatest chance of getting the largest share of what you want enacted.  That means sometimes passing up voting for someone who agrees with you more in favor of someone who you don’t align with as closely but has the ability to govern and get some of the things you want done.  I can remember talking with some Nader evangelists in 2008 when I was at UIC; they rambled a bit about his positions and had absolutely no answer for me when I asked a simple question: How will he govern?  With no allies in Congress and no power base of any kind, how will this man get any part of his agenda enacted?

He won’t, that’s how.  You want to start a movement?  Fine, start a movement.  But you start a movement from the bottom up, by either taking over an existing political party or building one from the grassroots, with local offices, not with a vanity moonshot for the Presidency.  And you do it by voting, and by paying attention to the rules where you live and making sure that your shit is correct.

Lecture ends.  Go forth.  And make sure you’re fuckin’ registered to vote for November, goddammit.

One thought on “On disenfranchisement and third parties

  1. Ha! I said about half of this in several Facebook posts on Tuesday night, then came back on Wednesday and said I was done talking about the stupid Dem primary except quick-hits after the polls close on election nights, because it is distracting me from more important stuff.

    Agree with you 100% about New York and about the third party situation.

    Broken voting machines and polls opening late are absolutely something worth talking about. Not understanding the rules that were in place before the whole thing started — even if they are sucky rules — isn’t. And let’s just be honest. Every vote should count. Even one person who follows the rules and honestly tries to participate not being counted is a crime. But uncounted votes only matter in an outcome-oriented way when elections are close. I doubt the actual irregularities in NY changed the result of an primary that was won by 290K votes last time I looked. So anyone who’s saying that one was stolen is either ignorant or disingenuous.

    Third parties must have local infrastructure to take root. No two ways about it. Running a third-party candidate while not having a serious strategy to compete for Congressional seats is symbolic protesting of the worst kind. Because it has no hope of succeeding. All it can do is cost people better-situated to actually do things elections.

    (Was all settled in and read this from my phone. It stirred me up enough to get me off the couch and back to the computer long enough to type this here comment.)

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