The Soapbox: It’s (third) party time!

By Kenneth Chanko

I was in Philadelphia last week with my recently-of-voting-age son for the Democratic National Convention. During our march in support of progressive causes, we spotted more than one person wearing a T-shirt with the traditional donkey and elephant logos of our two major political parties emblazoned on it. The line above those logos read:

“Please Don’t Feed The Animals.”

For this presidential general election cycle, I will be following those instructions.

I was a champion of Bernie Sanders and his grassroots-fueled progressive candidacy. But since he won’t be on the ballot in November, for the first time since I came of voting age in 1976, I will be voting for a third party candidate for president.

I don’t think I will be alone.

According to recent polls, a staggering 42 percent of the electorate now self-identify as “independent.” At the same time, the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, and the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, both get unprecedentedly low “favorability” and “trustworthy” ratings from voters. If only half of that 42 percent voted third party, it would be remarkable. (Ross Perot in 1992 got 19 percent of the popular vote.)

I share the alienation of that 42 percent even though I have, traditionally, voted Democratic. Not this year, however. To my eyes, Ms. Clinton too closely resembles a conspicuously corporatized neocon war hawk; she looks far less like the kind of Democrat for whom I would feel comfortable supporting. (The less said about the bigoted, scapegoating demagogue that is Mr. Trump, the better.)

That, combined with the way the Democratic Party elite treated Sen. Sanders (the leaked DNC emails speak for themselves), has forced me to a crossroads of sorts. Do I think Clinton would make as dangerous a president as Trump? No, I don’t. But yet I can’t in good conscience vote for Clinton, given that what she represents runs counter to the values I hold dear. Nor can I countenance with my vote the reprehensible way in which the DNC acted vis-à-vis Sanders during the primaries. But then I don’t want to help Trump become president, either.

So, what to do in the face of such a conundrum?

Well, I’m lucky to live and vote in New York State. And since (to paraphrase Bill Clinton), “It’s the Electoral College, stupid,” along with the fact that New York is a rock-solid “blue” state, my vote for Dr. Jill Stein of The Green Party, whose values I wholeheartedly share, won’t help Trump win in November. In the last two presidential election cycles in 2008 and 2012 here in The Empire State, the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, defeated the Republican candidate both times by over 25 percent of the vote. That’s about as solidly “blue” as a state can get.

So I and many other similarly-minded progressive New Yorkers have the best of both worlds: we can vote our values and cast our presidential ballots for Dr. Stein of The Green Party in November while secure in the knowledge that we will in no way be helping Trump become president. And we can, to be sure, vote down-ballot for progressive Democrats and/or Working Family Party candidates in state and city races. It should be noted that third parties like the Greens need your vote to get to that key 5 percent threshold, which the Greens have never before achieved in their party’s history.

The Green Party is currently polling at between 3 and 4 percent, so such a 5 percent goal is more than possible in this no-more-politics-as-usual election year. If they (or any third party) get to 5 percent or more in November’s popular vote, for the next presidential election cycle in 2020, the Greens gain certain benefits, such as obtaining access to federal matching funds and more robust ballot access.

If this election year has already proven nothing else — what with the two major-party candidates that we now have — it proves that our country could benefit from more viable third (if not fourth or fifth) parties. So for anyone lamenting “I can’t believe we’re stuck with those two,” if now isn’t the time to seriously consider voting third party and doing your part to help bring about a more vibrantly pluralistic democracy, then when would that time ever come?

Kenneth Chanko is a resident of Stuyvesant Town who had volunteered for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

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