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Will Jill Stein and Gary Johnson have something serious to say to rally communities of color, members of the LGBTQ community, Muslim-Americans and all groups that feel the fear and anger that has come in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory? Or will they fade away and leave their supporters to carry on in their absence? So far, these are the responses from the two third-party candidates.
Johnson, having failed to secure 5 percent of the national popular vote to qualify the Libertarian Party for federal funding, told the Albuquerque Journal that he’s done with politics. “I’m dedicating myself to health and fitness,” Johnson said in reference to training for a 3,000-mile bike race. “Maybe I stay politically active, but not as a candidate. I will leave that to others.”
On the cusp of national disaster... it feels like Stein and Johnson are simply washing their hands of the whole affair.
Stein, meanwhile, has been tweeting quotes about moral justice and advocating for ranked voting, all the while happily retweeting messages in support of the Green Party, including one that says not to blame people who voted for Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, for Trump being elected because, “Most of ‘em would’ve stayed home before voting for HRC.”
I disagreed with their third party candidacies because I believed they would siphon off votes from Hillary Clinton and directly aid in electing Donald Trump. They had every right to champion their beliefs, and their supporters had every right to vote for them. But now where are they today? On the cusp of national disaster, when it seems nearly every pillar of our democracy, from those enumerated in our Constitution to those sacred unwritten ones, are under assault, it feels like Stein and Johnson are simply washing their hands of the whole affair.
More than 5 million people voted for Stein or Johnson. With nearly half of the country abstaining from the ballot, these supporters should be congratulated for just showing up. They didn’t throw away their votes. And, as media outlets have pointed out, this year’s third party candidates cannot be held completely accountable for Clinton’s loss, compared to, say, Ralph Nader and his hand in Al Gore’s loss in Florida in 2000.
The problem is not voting for a third party. The problem is voting for a third party that seemingly has absolutely no desire to lead. If Stein and Johnson really cared about the beliefs that apparently neither Republicans nor Democrats champion, if they really cared about America, they would show up for more than a few months every four years. They would be out there year-round encouraging supporters to run for local office. They would head national organizations, and if those groups didn’t exist, they would start them. They would be out in the community building a grassroots coalition.
They have damaged the idea of building a sustainable and competitive third party in this country.
But instead, Stein and Johnson are the paragons of privilege. They complained of unfairness in a system that has not once disenfranchised them. They ran shoddy campaigns and made empty promises. Johnson did nothing to prepare for the job, as evidenced by a series of foreign policy gaffes he made, and Stein was worse, openly encouraging conspiracy theories and fake science. They have damaged the idea of building a sustainable and competitive third party in this country.
Now, when communities that have faced generations of systemic oppression are slapped in the face and threatened anew with a Donald Trump presidency, we’ll find Johnson on his road bike and Stein on Twitter, and four years will go by, and we will once again have no credible third-party alternative. Stein and Johnson supporters were duped. In that regard they have something in common with Trump voters.
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