A third-party candidate hasn’t won a single US state since the American Independent Party’s George Wallace scored a string of victories in the Deep South in 1968. Although some, like the Reform Party’s Ross Perot, managed to slice off sizable chunks of the popular vote since then, they’re most often maligned for siphoning off votes from Democratic and Republican candidates.
Hillary Clinton, for instance, bashed the Green Party’s Jill Stein for her loss in 2016. This time around, the Libertarian Party’s Jo Jorgensen managed to shave off tens of thousands of potential Trump votes in vital battleground states, virtually ensuring that some on the right will demonize her for years to come, regardless of whether Trump eventually wins these states or not.
If you add Trump's Wisconsin vote to the votes for the Libertarian candidate, Trump would have won Wisconsin.
I wonder if Republicans will spend the next four years petulantly blaming their loss in Wisconsin on Jo Jorgensen, and bring her up every time Biden does something bad: pic.twitter.com/UAj51FlNV8
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 5, 2020
So what use are candidates that never win and anger huge swathes of the electorate every four years?
“With the election results so closely divided… the one percent that Libertarians get does play a significant role,” Libertarian Party director Wes Benedict told RT on Wednesday.
For decades, the Libertarian Party was one of a very few organizations championing the decriminalization of drugs. On Tuesday, four states legalized cannabis, Washington, DC relaxed its ban on psychedelic mushrooms, and Oregon decriminalized the possession of all drugs, including cocaine and heroin.
Benedict said that by putting pressure on the two main parties, Libertarians can impact policy debates and push their agenda into the mainstream.
“Sometimes Republicans and Democrats do adopt the issues the third parties push,” he said. “Libertarians were laughed at, and Greens as well, 30 years ago and even 10 years ago for saying ‘let’s decriminalize drugs and legalize marijuana.’ Now, both major parties have started to adopt these policies to some degree.”
Focus on Libertarians and Greens. Hate us, listen to us, learn, and adjust your major party policies
The Green Party’s Howie Hawkins sees local and state-level contests as his party’s battlegrounds. As of September, at least 109 Greens held elected office nationwide, as mayors, aldermen, and on various local boards and commissions.
“The most leverage we have is in local elections,” Hawkins told RT. “We can build a base there and build up to state level and the House of Representatives, and then we can have a big impact on national politics.”
Like Benedict, Hawkins has seen his party’s core issues become mainstream ones. The Green Party supports the ‘Green New Deal’, an ambitious piece of climate legislation that currently has the support of more than 100 Democratic members of Congress, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey.
Long before Ocasio-Cortez and Markey brought it into the mainstream, Hawkins was the first US politician to run on a Green New Deal platform when he made a bid for the governorship of New York in 2010.
Between them, Hawkins and Jorgensen scored slightly more than two percent of the vote on Tuesday, according to figures from AP. That’s still around two million voters who were not swayed to vote Democrat or Republican, on top of the roughly one third of all eligible voters who stayed at home.
“Even in this election, the largest group of voters were those who didn’t vote,” Hawkins said. “Those are the people we can engage.”
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