Repeat after me: the total number of third-party candidates who have won the presidency since the inception of the Republic are zero. That’s right ladies and germs, zero. In the entire history of the United States, not one third-party candidate has ever been elected president.
From Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 to George Wallace in 1968 to John Anderson in 1980 to Ross Perot in 1992 and ’96 to Ralph Nader in 2000 to Gary Johnson and Jill Stein in 2016, all have two things in common: 1. Apart from Roosevelt (88) and Wallace (46), none of them managed to win a single electoral vote; and 2. They all ended up playing spoilers in the general election.
Roosevelt’s candidacy was perhaps the most celebrated case of revenge politics in American history. So incensed was Roosevelt at what Howard Taft had done to his legacy that he ran as a progressive, even though his own advisors told him he had no chance of winning. The result was the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
But the two most damaging third-party candidates have to be Nader and Stein. Nader ignored pleas from even his own fellow progressives to take his name off the ballot in Florida. As a result of his obstinance, Al Gore would go on to lose the state and with it the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000. Similarly, there’s no doubt that Stein’s presence on the ballot in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election.
The moral of the story couldn’t be more obvious: third-party candidates never have and never will win the presidency. So why, then, do some insist on trying? That’s a good question, and one I’m sure Justin Amash has an answer for somewhere in the recesses of his mind. Because Amash has now become the latest in a long line of contenders for the “I’ll Show ‘Em” award for futility. His decision to seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party has the potential to throw a giant monkey wrench into the 2020 election. Should he win the nomination, he will undoubtedly impact its outcome. The only question is who will he hurt more, Biden or Trump? If I had to guess, I’d say Biden. Here’s why.
Trump’s hold on the GOP is now complete. He enjoys a 90 percent approval rating among Republicans. Even Bernie Sanders – who has a cult-like following among his supporters – isn’t that popular overall with progressives. The idea that Amash – who sealed his fate the moment he sided with Democrats during the impeachment inquiry – is going to peel away votes from Trump is both laughable and delusional.
What is more likely is that he’ll take some of the Never Trump votes away from Biden, and he could even grab a small sliver of centrist Democrats in swing states like his home state of Michigan. Unlike Johnson, whose share of the vote was evenly distributed between both major-party candidates, Amash will almost exclusively take his share from the Democrat. And for what, maybe two percent of the overall popular vote? At least Nader had a cause; Amash doesn’t even have that.
Please spare me all the “we need a wider, more diverse field of candidates” arguments. Have you heard Jill Stein give an interview? Or Gary Johnson, for that matter? I’ve heard more lucid things come out of the mouth of a drunk on a bar stool at 3 in the morning. Come to think of it, the drunk was better informed on the issues. If this is your solution to a “rigged” two-party system, we should’ve stayed part of the British empire. At least we ‘d have universal health care, not to mention command of the English language. Though I do agree with Jim Gaffigan that the reason the British don’t say the word “the” before hospital is because they’re dicks.
Frankly, I am at a loss here. From everything we’ve been led to believe, Justin Amash really hates Trump. If that’s the case, why on earth would he damage the one candidate with the best shot of beating him? This much is certain: With the prospect of an Amash third-party candidacy looking more and more like a reality, it will be imperative for Biden to select a progressive woman as his running mate, be it Elizabeth Warren or Stacey Abrams.
If this is truly going to be a turnout election, Democrats will need all hands on deck in order to retake the White House and the Senate.