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How a Third Party Can Win: Take Over One of the Two Parties

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How a Third Party Can Win: Take Over One of the Two Parties

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There is a meme going around that shows the Republican Party platform from 1956. It supports helping the poor, providing healthcare, yada yada a bunch of stuff you’d expect on a Bernie Bro policy platform.

I’m glad it is circulating and making people go WTF, but I’m sad that few can learn the actual lesson embedded within that meme, which is to ask yourself – how did the modern GOP come to be so antithetical to the 1956 GOP?

Did hard-right pro-corporate voters in 1956 say, “Fuck this GOP, we’re starting a third party!” and then flail away in the 1% of the electorate for the next few presidential cycles, bitching about not being included in TV debates?

No. The pro-business, evangelical, and hard-right forces within the GOP, the John Bircher types, the bible-thumpers, and the billionaire class, organized and formed a long-term plan to take over the GOP.

They became precinct captains and heads of school boards. They became county commissioners and state party chiefs. They chipped away at platform planks, whittling away what they didn’t like, bit by bit. They formed coalitions that accepted the flaws in the other small-p coalition parties (evangelicals ignored pro-corporate greed, corporations ignored evangelical homophobia, etc) to form a voting bloc that could change the GOP from within, from Goldwater’s “lost in the wilderness” 1964 GOP to Nixon’s “Silent Majority” in the 70s to Reagan’s “Moral Majority” in the 80s and so on, and within thirty years, they’d become as unrecognizable to a 1956 Republican as a Reagan Republican (pro-amnesty, raised taxes, cut and run from Lebanon) looks to a 2018 Republican.

This is why I get so angry at Vote Tossers on the Left (please, rightie Vote Tossers, keep voting Libertarian! I love a divided right-wing!) who throw their hands up in disgust at the Democrats, vow to “teach them a lesson,” and spend the next few presidential cycles flailing away in 1% of the electorate, siphoning votes from the only leftward-traveling vehicle they might have a chance of driving someday.

It’s futile, immature, naive, wasteful, and ultimately destructive to the very ideals I share with my Vote Tossing left-wing idealist friends. It’s a failure to have political persistence, patience, and a long-term plan. It’s the wishful thinking of a magical election that will happen and change everything. It’s the selfish pomposity of demanding a candidate who agrees with you 100% on everything, or you’ll throw a tantrum and take your ball and go home.

Ultimately, it’s the belief that our democracy is hopelessly corrupt, equally, on both sides, and only destroying the whole system will ever lead to benefits for the people – a Hail Mary pass for anarchy! (Yeah, anarchy always works out well for the plebes, there are plenty of historical examples.) It’s betting on the mathematical nano-chance that two entities judged on myriad criteria could be exactly to the infinite decimal point 100% identically evil.

I don’t believe that. First, I can name countless examples where life got better for average Americans because a Democratic administration was in charge. Are you so forgetful you don’t recall Dubya destroying our economy? Didn’t Obama help it to recover? Do you forget homophobia in the military? Didn’t Obama clear the way for gay people to serve? Do you forget the millions uninsured that Obama managed to provide health care for?

Of course, when I list the myriad ways in which a Dem administration serves people better than GOP (like, every Dem economy since WWII has been superior to every GOP one, unless you have three commas in your net worth), that’s when the Why Democrats Suck list comes out – Clinton increased Mass Incarceration, Obama killed people with drones, Harry Truman let obnoxious farts, whatevs.

Well, of course Democrats will also do some shit. Nobody’s perfect. Some things are corrupted. That’s why you must have the maturity and responsibility to stick it out for the long haul and put in the backbreaking work it takes to change these things, not fly off on a tantrum and throw your vote away on Jill Stein.

There’s even precedent! As Righties are fond of saying, Democrats were the party of the KKK and Southern Reconstruction and Jim Crow. And then in the late 1960s, spurred on by MLK and the Civil Rights Movement and decades of hard work by progressive activists within the party, LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, saying he was “signing away the South for a generation” as he did so.

That wholesale change didn’t come about because somebody formed the Civil Rights third party and won the presidency. It was because the unstoppable force of young activists working from within and without conspired to remake one of the two viable parties in American politics into one that now routinely gets 90 percent of the African-American vote.

Even Bernie knew this! That’s why he didn’t run as an independent. That’s why he tried to leverage the progressive youth activism into remaking the Democratic Party from within (which, BTW, he’s already had some notable successes in doing). That’s why, when (for whatever despicable, corrupt, nefarious reasons) he lost the Dem nomination, he campaigned for the Dem nominee, aka the only possible way of defeating the GOP nominee, because that keeps the momentum of progressive change moving leftward (even in tiny, belabored, Clintonian poll-watching, Goldman-Sachs-friendly baby steps, but still leftward).

I expect numerous commenters to vigorously disagree with me. I resolve this year to register two Democrats for every one of you, so we can cancel out your Vote Tossing and protect the ideals you claim to espouse.

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