Here we go again. It seems every four years now I have to explain to people who should know better that American politics does not do third parties because math. This time, it’s former Republican and only non-Democrat to vote for Trump’s impeachment, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash.
No, Rep. Amash, what’s anti-American is allowing fascists to take over our nation without firing a shot by getting elected with a minority of the vote.
There have been fourteen presidential elections in my lifetime. The very first one was won by the candidate who only managed to earn 43 percent of the popular vote – Richard M. Nixon. That, at the time, was the 4th-lowest popular vote percentage by which a president was elected.
|1st||JQ Adams (1824)||32.18%||30.92%|
|2nd||A Lincoln (1860)||59.41%||39.65%|
|3rd||W Wilson (1912)||81.92%||41.84%|
|4th||B Clinton (1992)||68.77%||43.01%|
|5th||R Nixon (1968)||55.95%||43.42%|
|8th||D Trump (2016)||56.50%||46.09%|
|11th||G Bush (2000)||50.37%||47.87%|
|15th||B Clinton (1996)||70.45%||49.23%|
I cast my first vote for president in 1988. Since then, I’ve voted for president eight times.
In half of those elections, the person a majority did not want to be president was elected (or, in Bush’s case, selected).
Rep. Amash, you know that Trump has a floor of about 42 percent support. Your path to a popular vote win, then, has to be through a Clinton-like 43 percent plurality win. That requires that Joe Biden only picks up 15 percent of the vote.
Maybe you still delude yourself into thinking Trumpism isn’t a cult and you can cut into Trump’s 42 percent, especially with the mishandling of coronavirus and a collapsing economy. Maybe you think you can pick off one-out-of-three Trump voters.
So you get Trump down to 28 percent. That puts you at 14 percent to start, and you and Biden fighting for the remaining 58 percent. That means you need to pick off about two-out-of-five Biden voters to get to the 37 percent plurality you need to win.
Do you really think a 37 percent popular vote winner as president is the American way?
It’s the Electoral College, Stupid
Forget all that popular vote talk, though, because it is irrelevant. Woodrow Wilson, a racist prick whose wife, Edith, was the de facto first female president, got even less of the popular vote than Bill Clinton, but won a 435-of-531 Electoral College landslide.
The real question, Rep. Amash, is how you get to 270 Electoral Votes.
Trump’s already got about 125 EV in the bag, the so-called solid red states. Biden’s already got about 183 EV in the bag, the West Coast and Northeast and Illinois, the solid blue states.
Even if we accept the ludicrous premise that you could win every state that isn’t already solidly red or blue, that still only adds up to 228 Electoral Votes, Rep. Amash.
So, now you need to beat Joe Biden in California, or beat him in Illinois and New York. Or beat him in some combination of blue states that add up to 42 Electoral Votes. Or taking some combination of red and blue states that add up to 42.
It. Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.
Tie Goes To The Trump
But what could conceivably happen is that your presence on the ballot keeps some of those barely-blue states from going to Biden, much like Jill Stein’s presence helped win three critical swing states for Trump.
There is no way Trump can top 50 percent of the popular vote, but there are a few paths for him to achieve 270 Electoral Votes.
Another conceivable possibility is you winning the 16 Electoral Votes of your home state of Michigan. Any state’s EVs you win increases the possibility that no candidate gets to 270 EVs.
If nobody gets 270 Electoral Votes, then the election is thrown to the House of Representatives. That would be great if the House picked the president on the basis of each state’s representation.
But they don’t. When the election is thrown to the House, each state gets only one vote. The 700,000 people in Wyoming, through the votes of their 3 reps, get as much say as the 40,000,000 people and their 55 reps in California. Also, states with even-numbered reps and stark urban/rural divides, like Washington or Wisconsin, could by their populations vote blue, but split their reps’ vote for president in the House, rendering their state’s vote moot. They might even have more rural reps that vote red and flip their state.
If you count all the red states on that map, you’ll find Trump easily wins the election in the House. We’ve only had one election (since the 12th Amendment established the protocol) decided by the House – the 1824 selection of John Quincy Adams, who had won less than a third of the popular vote and less than a third of the Electoral College.
Like it or not, a Two-Party system is American as apple pie
Every presidential election there’s a flare-up of Third-Party-itis, because people are dissatisfied with the choice between Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich. This is a classic case of hating the players and not hating the game.
Two parties are always what we are going to have so long as we have the rules to the political game that we have – namely, Plurality Winners and Single-Winner Districts. There are volumes of political science and game theory behind this, but the video below does as good a job as explaining it as anything.
In America, whoever gets the most votes wins. That’s called a Plurality Winner, because earning a majority of the votes isn’t necessary unless only two people are running.
Other countries (and some jurisdictions in America) have addressed this problem by guaranteeing a majority vote winner. One way is Instant Run-Off voting. If no candidate tops 50%, some (or all but the top two) candidates are struck from the ballot and a new vote is held until a candidate achieves a majority.
Another method is called Ranked Choice Voting, or Approval Voting. In these systems, you don’t choose only one candidate. You choose any or all of the candidates you approve of (Approval Voting) or you rank the candidates you approve of in order of preference (Ranked Choice). In these systems, if a candidate doesn’t get over 50%, the lowest-polling candidate is eliminated and their votes are reallocated to the next preferred choice of those voters.
While those systems guarantee you get a candidate with the broadest amount of support, they don’t address the other problem, which is the Single Winner District. No matter how we choose the winner, we guarantee the losers have no voice in government.
The solution other countries have utilized is a parliamentary system that guarantees Proportional Representation.
In our system, if you had 40 Democrats, 30 Republicans, 20 Greens, and 10 Libertarians in a district, the Greens might vote Dem and the Libertarians might vote GOP. Or maybe the Greens and Libertarians field and vote for their own candidates. Regardless, the Dem will be the winner and the GOP, Greens, and Libertarians have no voice.
But in a Proportional Representation system, there might be ten seats being voted for in that district, and if everybody voted for their party, there’d be 4 Dems, 3 GOP, 2 Greens, and 1 Libertarian representing that district. To effectively govern, these parties would have to form coalitions, pulling the two major parties toward the policy goals of the minor parties.
Change the Game, Players
Alas, we don’t have those systems… yet. In 2020, we’ve got the choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. You can pretend you can win, Rep. Amash, you can put your name on the ballot, you can even win some votes, but either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be the president come 2021.
Your candidacy is even more ridiculous when you consider that you won’t even win your district in Michigan after defying Herr Trump. At least Jesse Ventura can point to the greatest degree of electoral success for a third party candidate – winning the governor’s office in Minnesota. At least Ventura would have the macho cred that could peel uneducated white males away from Trump’s base of support; you will never pull Trump voters after having voted to impeach him in the House.
Rep. Amash, if you and all the disaffected independents, Greens, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, and assorted third parties really want to have a say in this country besides helping to elect the greater of two evils, you need to stop this quixotic quadrennial attempt to win it all at the top and instead build a multi-decade plan to win elections at the lower levels while changing the rules of the game to those that make your ascendancy possible.
Besides, Rep. Amash, it would be an ironic end to your career to be the only non-Democrat to vote to remove this president, only to become the non-Democrat that helps re-elect this president.