President Barack Obama attacked citizens, who are planning to vote for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson or Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on Election Day, and said if you vote for a third party candidate, that’s a vote for Donald Trump.
“If you don’t vote, that’s a vote for Trump,” Obama declared on Steve Harvey’s morning radio show. “If you vote for a third-party candidate who’s got no chance to win, that’s a vote for Trump.”
Stein responded on Twitter, “It doesn’t,” and, “Democrats assume they own your vote, instead of trying to earn it by improving your life.”
She also argued, “If Obama wants people to vote for Hillary Clinton instead of me and Governor Gary Johnson, he should tell her to debate us and earn those votes.”
The bipartisan private entity known as the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) enforced the political exclusion of Johnson and Stein on Monday, when the first presidential debate was held at Hofstra University. In particular, police enforced the exclusion and had her removed from the university campus while she was trying to do an interview for MSNBC.
In RealClearPolitics’ average of national polls, Johnson is at 7.2 percent and Stein is at 2.3 percent.
State polls, like a South Carolina poll from Winthrop on September 29, show Trump ahead of Clinton by four points with Johnson earning six percent and Stein earning three percent. Pennsylvania state polls have Clinton up on Trump one-to-two points with Johnson earning anywhere from six to eight percent. In North Carolina, Clinton is only up one point, with Johnson garnering anywhere from seven to ten percent. And, in Iowa, which Obama won twice, Trump is either tied or leading by as much as six points, as Johnson earns nearly ten percent.
Obama and the Democratic Party are escalating attacks on Johnson for earning the support of voters in states they believe they need to win to defeat Trump. They are especially concerned with millennials and spent the past couple weeks discouraging young people from casting “protest votes.”
Johnson and Stein only poll between two and ten percent in states, and they each poll much lower in national polls. Effectively, what Obama and Democrats demonstrate by attacking voters, who support third party candidates, is that they believe Clinton might narrowly lose to Trump. Even after utterly trouncing and embarrassing Trump on the debate stage on September 26, they still are not super confident in their candidate.
The solution to this dilemma for Obama and Democrats is to take the anti-democratic course of attacking voters, who would exercise what little choice they have in presidential elections, and vote for someone who the two-party system is designed to prevent from doing well. Obama and Democrats figure berating and demonizing these citizens is the way for Clinton to pick up the percentage points to pull away from Trump in states before Election Day.
Culturally, it is political taboo, especially since Ralph Nader ran for president as the Green Party candidate in 2000, to say one supports a candidate other than a Democrat or Republican for president. To express support for independent or third party candidates is to invite disgust and vitriol for backing a “spoiler,” the political slur deployed to reinforce the status quo of the two-party system.
This year it is particularly daring to openly support a third party candidate because any liberal Democrat or progressive activist is likely to chew the head off of any voter for putting the country at risk of electing Trump. They are fully prepared to blame Johnson and/or Stein, instead of Clinton and Democrats, if Trump wins in November.
But the polls between Clinton and Trump would not be so close if Clinton did not suffer from a lack of enthusiasm among the base of voters she needs to win. In fact, the very fact that Obama and Democrats need to bully supporters of Johnson and Stein is an admission that they are at a loss for how to make people who typically vote Democrat more excited about Clinton’s campaign.
The Hill interviewed “liberals” and concluded they are not all in “full panic mode” when it comes to third party candidates. “Some are more concerned that the lack of enthusiasm” dooming Clinton. For example, Democracy For America spokesperson Neil Sroka declared, “The real risk is voters that should stand with Democrats and progressives in this election will not show up.”
Clinton and Democrats are worried about potentially low turnout among black voters in Florida. State Senator Chris Smith told CBS News the lack of excitement is a “recurrent theme even among older black Clinton supporters, who are treating important organizing efforts like door-knocking as a ‘perfunctory’ exercise.”
In Pennsylvania, a swing state, Clinton has a similar problem. As the Washington Post highlighted:
Take Jared Ault of Pittsburgh, who supported Sanders in the primary and has not decided what to do in November. He said two of his brothers are certain they will not vote. Neither will his aunt, and five of his friends at work have told him they plan to stay home.
“It’s probably the most difficult election we’ve had in recent years, probably since the 1950s. I really think we’re going to see the lowest turnout in my lifetime,” Ault said. “Both are just so divisive. Clinton has so many skeletons in her closet, and I honestly believe Trump is a sociopath. … Hillary has her hands in the pockets of a lot of the major corporations, and that’s why they support her. I’m just thoroughly disgusted by the way this election has gone.”
With early voting starting in Iowa, Clinton spoke specifically about the need for voters to cast their ballots now. ABC News said Democrats see early voting as a “way to increase voter turnout, especially for Americans who have difficulties making it to the polls” on Election Day.
The enthusiasm problem has nothing to do with the presence of third-party candidates. It has everything to do with the fact that the Democrats nominated a deeply unpopular candidate, who has spent the last month and a half promoting the fact that there are Republicans, including neoconservative war hawks, that support her instead of Trump. It also is related to the fact that Democrats treat progressive voters as captives every presidential election and expect them to vote regardless of what their corporate nominees have to offer.
When the Democrats had the chance to guard against a future enthusiasm problem and nominate Sanders, the Democratic National Committee and the vast majority of elected Democrats either dismissed the Sanders campaign or actively conspired against Sanders. They ignored poll after poll after poll showing voters viewed Clinton as one of the most untrustworthy or dishonest presidential candidates in recent history, sometimes even downplaying it by suggesting this was just because of sexist media attacks pushed by right wing conservatives for the past 25 years.
Voters who choose to vote for Johnson, Stein, or not at all are responding to systemic problems in the country’s political system. Votes for Johnson or Stein are votes for opening up the system and incorporating reforms like ranked choice voting so the stranglehold Democrats and Republicans have is broken. Staying at home is an act of defiance and rejection against the daily tragedy and farce between Clinton and Trump known as the 2016 Election.
Obama and Democrats scapegoat third-party candidates because they believe that is the best they can do for Clinton. She is incapable of authentically promoting popular progressive policies, like those advocated by Bernie Sanders, which would energize the base, because she is a corporate Democrat. So all Obama and Democrats really have as an option to stave off disaster is prejudicial rhetoric and the insufferable scolding of principled voters, which probably is not going to work because a record number of citizens are tired of Democrats constantly thinking they can bully them into submission.