To potential third-party voters
As I begin writing this, I must look up Jo Jorgensen, because I don’t know her. Most don’t. Most won’t, unfortunately. Despite being chosen as the Libertarian nominee in May, months before the Democratic and Republican conventions coronated their respective nominees, Jorgensen has failed to gain traction, even to the degree that Gary Johnson did in 2016. Most polls don’t include her. She won’t win the presidency. She may flip a state or two red, but that’s it. Her campaign is a lost cause and a vote for her is a wasted vote. Same as it was for Johnson. Same as it was for Jill Stein. Same as it is for Howie Hawkins. If it makes Libertarians feel any better, I looked up your candidate first.
If you are Libertarian, the good news is, you and I aren’t particularly far off on how we feel about Joe Biden. I don’t like him either. He was about my ninth choice from among the democratic nominees. And, if it makes you feel better, I’d probably fervently support Jorgensen if she was the one with the broad national coalition and the legitimate chance against Trump. Hell, I might take her if she was running against Biden with Trump’s odds. She has good ideas. Decriminalizing marijuana’s a good one, along with freeing those incarcerated on marijuana charges. There is one sense in which Jo Jorgensen makes sense: Her policy ideas seem to be designed for the benefit of the country. Republicans and Democrats (but more so Republicans, let’s be real) design policies that benefit their parties. There are probably deep flaws Jorgensen’s candidacy — one is reminded of 2012 when Gary Johnson was revealed to be lacking in foreign policy knowledge when he didn’t know what Allepo, the center of the Syrian refugee crisis, was. We won’t ever get there, though, and we won’t need to. The facts are the facts: You have a choice in who the President of the United States will be. If you choose Donald Trump, it is more likely to be Donald Trump. If you choose Joe Biden, it is more likely to be Joe Biden. If you choose Jo Jorgensen, it is no more likely that Jo Jorgensen will become president. She won’t. If 1 of every 2 users on Facebook switched their support to Jorgensen tomorrow, she would still be a distant third in the scope of the entire electorate. It’s not that your political posts favoring Libertarianism aren’t good, but nothing is that viral — except maybe, well, nevermind. There are arguments in favor of using your vote how you wish, resting easy knowing you voted for someone you can truly support. That’s an escapist fantasy. You are responsible for deciding this president, and the decision is down to two, and your preferred candidate isn’t among the two. One jokester on Twitter that I saw put it best: The Seahawks and Patriots are in the Super Bowl, and you’re going to bet on the Cowboys. Votes are different than currency, sure, and a vote can say something, sure, and being forced to vote for a candidate you don’t love feels really un-American and bad, sure. Welcome to where we are.
And boy, look where we’ve gotten ourselves. We are amid the most definitive historical moment of the past several decades. We are staring at 215,000 dead Americans, killed by a virus that we have handled worse than just about any other country in the entire worldw, as it dawns on us that a third wave is here. We are still dealing with explosive racial tensions in the wake of a steady stream of acts of needless violence carried out by police (and their white supremacist de facto backup) against black civilians. Gun violence in the United States is at an all-time high. So is national debt. So is the disparity between the wealthy and the working class. These are big problems, all of which have been exacerbated by the Trump administration. Donald Trump is just about the literal worst person to be leading the country through all of these difficulties. His rare combination of stupidity, perceived superiority, capacity for manipulation, ego, bloodthirst for power, and disregard for traditionally valued things like civility, dignity, truth and life itself means he will lead us down this path, not take advice, not back down, not tell us how it’s actually going, and not step aside when reality makes clear his utter failure. Again, he’s basically the least capable American at leading effectively through all this. Thousands of convicted murderers would do a better job if they were inaugurated tomorrow. The best choice to be our next president is almost definitely not on the ballot. Neither is the second. Or third. Wherever Biden ranks for you, you have Trump to compare him to, and decisively, he’s better, and more aligned with Jo Jorgensen, among other things.
I would like to see Jorgensen on a debate stage. I’d like to see her ideas debated by the mainstream Democratic and Trumpian ideas. Unfortunately, she’s not garnering the type of support even that Johnson got, let alone that is necessary to get her a spot on the debate stage. I think a lot of her ideas would get soundly rebuked, but I’m willing to bet that some them wouldn’t. I think she could push the national conversation — if given a chance. Alas, that chance isn’t coming, and alas, it’s on you, the voter, to bring your ideas to the table and voice your support for what you believe in, even to representatives and candidates that have different ideas. You can see the way that Bernie Sanders and the progressive movement have pushed the Biden campaign on climate change. If you have a sizeable movement that stands no chance of winning anything, at this point, your only option is to bring it to the already existent political tables and hope there are enough people who agree with you that are saying the same things to the same representatives and pushing the conversation effectively. November 3rd is Election Day, and that means a lot to everyone, but November 4th means different things to different people, and if the Libertarians want a path to being decision-makers in local and state governments, that give them the infrastructure to support a national office run, that work starts November 4th.
In the meantime, we’re out of time to achieve anything with Jorgensen votes. It’s tough, because lack of participation is kind of a signature Libertarian virtue. Every four years, these campaigns emerge last-minute, unsubstantiated by the money and the months of man-hours that have made the main campaigns well-known and understood to be viable. The presidential nominee is forwarded as a silver bullet to clear us of the political morass we are caught up in, despite no representatives or senators from the Libertarian Party. The essential problem for Libertarians is they are by definition anti-government, and, by extension, usually, anti-politics. But the democratic process is real, and unless you are engaging with it each day and voting every so often, rather than treating the vote like it is the end-all, be-all of democratic participation, you will never establish a party. Without a party, you will never be viable in the general election. Without being viable, your vote will never be the statement you want it to be. This vote needs to be less about peace of mind, and more about taking the next step. We are either stepping toward Biden or toward Trump. Which way do you want to go? If you don’t care, and presume it doesn’t matter, at least look at this: Governor Henry Abbott of Texas is mandating the closure of ballot drop boxes all over his state to help Trump win. California Republicans are taking responsibility and denying cease and desist orders from local authorities, all to sow distrust in the electoral process and create confusion necessary for Trump to take the election results to a Supreme Court of his illegitimate making so he can remain in power. Do you not recognize electoral sabotage when you see it? If a Libertarian is ever to see the White House, or a mainstream party is ever to come back to earth enough to pass reasonable policies, we need our votes to count and our choices to count. When one party is actively undermining that basic accepted facet of democracy, you vote that party out of power, period.
If I seem a bit testy in this writing, that’s a fair assertion, and I can admit that I probably am. Third-party voters did great damage to the effort to keep Trump out of office in 2016. We cannot afford a similar fate because we didn’t learn the lesson from the Trump term: Yes, it really can be that bad. With a third-party vote comes a degree of privilege. The ability to reject either candidate, because neither one does anything more or less for you than the other one does, is an exercise of that privilege. There are real people with real concerns tied to whether we elect the evil, or the lesser evil (those are your words; I actually believe Biden is good, just not as good as he could be). There are people who fear deportation of family members, there are families coming to America, seeking asylum and hoping to find it, there are soldiers with bounties on their heads, there are children who are suffering a regression in the quality of their education, there are people having lively conversations with family members who will contract the Coronavirus and die if we don’t get it under control. The very real consequences of these elections cannot be understated. Each day, as more news comes out about Trump appointing Crony X to head the Department of Y, where Crony X has ties to the private sector competitors of services provided by Department Y, I feel democracy truly, actually slipping away. This is a prevalent fear among Libertarians: That a government this big will eventually corrupt these supposed nonpartisan departments that we rely on for education, homeland security, and so many other things. Trump has made partisan his entire operation, from the courts to the post office and all avenues in-between, because many formerly neutral people are not cowering to his demands on their free will and personal truth. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is a good example of this. He served the United States Military for 21 years before retiring due to bullying he received for merely testifying before congress in President Trump’s impeachment case. Vindman is no politician, no democrat seeking to tip the scales. He’s a person responding with pride to an aggressive leader bent on encroaching personal liberties. We are all entitled to the truth, and he showed that.
If you’re laughing right now, I probably can guess why: I’ve done a lot of talking down Trump, and not much talking up Joe Biden. I am hopeful for what Joe Biden can do, however. I believe that Joe Biden will set up a functional American government again. He can talk about policies he intends to pursue, but truthfully he will improve the lives of millions of Americans just through his appointments. Getting the Post Office back up and running under a legitimate leader. Installing a secretary of education who isn’t bent on diverting as much public money as possible to private schools. Appointing a Department of Homeland Security secretary who won’t insist on separating children from their parents while they are held in detention facilities at the border. A justice department whose attorney general won’t emphasize certain cases based on whether they fit his boss’s political schemes. Biden will take us back to normality in that space, and at the very least we’ll be able to function in our normal lives with peace of mind around the basics of government. There are things I’m more excited about. The climate fight is real, and impending, and to start seeing the U.S. take positive steps on that will be really good, and really important. Trump has walked back regulations, which I know sounds great for pro-small-government folks, but when we’re talking about regulations that keep the planet alive, they’re regulations worth talking about.
We did the four years of Trump thing. It was terrible. It has been terrible, a real living nightmare, it’s made all of us Americans think about politics way more often than we’d like to. We can do four years of Biden. At his age, it’s most likely Biden only seeks to be a one-term president. My hope, and this can be our common hope, is that at the end of those four years, we can have some more diverse, appealing options on the presidential ballot for the true direction our country can take. That work starts November 4th. On November 3rd, a vote for Joe Biden can help us sleep at night, not because we’re necessarily happy with who we voted for, but because our president hasn’t made a fool of himself a change. It’s not much, but it’s a start.