Are We About to Repeat the 2000 Election?

So, it happened. This Wednesday at a joint rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the unthinkable occurred. Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. As one of millions of grassroots volunteers who experienced their political awakenings through Bernie’s campaign, I would be disingenuous if I were to tell you I didn’t feel someone was letting air out of my tires, albeit however inevitable the endorsement was.

Like all die-hard Sanders supporters, I hoped with every fiber of my being this would be the year we could finally put the Clinton-era D.L.C. third-way democratic party out to pasture. However, unlike millions of supporters, I do not agree Bernie’s endorsement is the “ultimate sell-out”. I do not agree it is the beginning of the end. And I definitely don’t agree it is high time to dig in our heels and vote third party.

This position is not based in capitulation or insincerity. Thanks in large part to Bernie, I have come to appreciate the responsibility with which we’ve been charged, namely, to re-shape the Democratic party from the inside. This is actually happening, and it is the very thing that made Bernie’s run for President so successful. As Bernie stated Wednesday, “Our job now is to see that [DNC] platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton presidency… In these stressful times for our country, this election must be about bringing our people together, not dividing us up.”

The fall-out from this, though, has not been exactly what Bernie urged or would approve. Even though 85% of Bernie supporters admit they will (reluctantly) support Hillary Clinton, millions more vow to vote for Jill Stein. According to U.S. Uncut, donations to Stein have surged upwards of 1000% since Wednesday’s endorsement. That’s right–one thousand percent. Jumping ship to vote for the Green Party’s Stein, or no one at all, may make purists feel good, but the fact remains since we sadly only have two established parties in this country, a third-party vote may actually help elect Donald Trump in November. Does anyone remember the 2000 election?

Let’s take a ride in the way-back machine. Do you remember who was running for president in 2000? One was a man named Al Gore, who happened to have served eight years as Bill Clinton’s vice president. His opponent? Former Texas governor George W. Bush. Remember him? But there were fourteen others, too, notably Ralph Nader of the Green Party. Nader had run for president before in 1996, but he did best in 2000, winning 2.74% of the popular vote. That is 2,882,955 votes to Al Gore’s 50,999,897 (48.38%) and Bush’s 50,456,002 (47.87%).

That may not seem all that significant because, after all, Nader obviously got trounced. But look again at Gore and Bush’s numbers. They were close. Really close. So close that the whole contest hinged on Florida, where Bush had a lead of 1,800 votes. The whole story is extremely messy, especially when we factor in the curious fact that Bush’s brother Jeb was then Florida’s Governor. Florida law required the Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, certify results within seven days of the election; and three of four counties were unable to complete a manual recount process by the deadline. When the Supreme Court ordered Florida to stop counting ballots, it handed the election to George W. Bush even though he did not win the popular vote.

So…back to Ralph Nader. I have always been a fan of his, but 2.74% of the popular vote means he came in third. For a third party, especially back in 2000, that’s huge. Imagine those 2,882,955 votes going to Al Gore. It would have put Gore way ahead of Bush so there wouldn’t have been a contest. Gore would have won, the Supreme Court wouldn’t have issued a fiat disenfranchising millions of voters. Without the election of George Bush, 9/11 probably wouldn’t have happened, we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, and the economy would likely have been doing much better than it is right now, definitely better than it was doing when Bush left office.

As then Justice John Paul Stevens proclaimed in the debacle’s aftermath, “One thing … is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

I understand Sanders supporters’ consternation. I was a Green Party member for a while because I too was fed up with the intransigent two-party system that seemed only to operate for special interests. I changed back to the Democratic Party because I wanted to vote for Bernie in the New York primary. I took to heart the fact that Bernie himself – an unabashed Independent – changed party affiliation lest he run as the spoiler Ralph Nader was, and Jill Stein is.

I know, it stinks. Bernie isn’t going to be President. You know what, though? I like Jill Stein, but she isn’t going to be President either. Those 15% of voters who feel they’re doing something altruistic by voting for her need to understand that Hillary Clinton’s opponent is DONALD TRUMP. Again, her opponent is DONALD TRUMP. The potential ramifications of a Trump Presidency are too unspeakable when we consider the Supreme Court is at stake, voting rights are at stake, racial and police violence are at stake, Social Security, education, infrastructure spending, social safety nets, are all at stake.

Consider that as I sit here writing this, Clinton and Trump are neck and neck in the polls with 40% apiece. I know, Clinton’s unfavorability is disturbingly high, albeit not as high as Trump’s. I get it, she’s a Corporatist and has not always towed a truly Progressive line. But we as Progressives have forced her to come around to our side more than once this primary season through our activism and obstinance.

If you don’t believe me, look at the current DNC platform. Fifteen months ago, who would have thought it would look like that? Is it perfect? Of course not. My last LNR piece was about the platform’s conspicuous absence of opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is a huge mistake. But look at the Republican Party’s platform and tell me whose side is more aligned with America’s future.

Please, don’t throw away your vote. Voter turnout is already at an embarrassing nadir (low). (No pun intended.) I’ve never met Bernie, but I’m pretty sure he would be disappointed if we didn’t vote for Clinton and maintain the pressure we’ve been setting upon her, especially if Donald Trump were to slip into the Oval Office like that other snake George W. Bush.

Additional Links:

Is Sanders Becoming Nader 2000? How Bernie Could Cost Hillary the Election. Bill Scher, Politico Magazine, May 16, 2016.

Nader Elected Bush: Whey We Shouldn’t Forget. Bill ScherReal Clear Politics, May 31, 2016

 

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