The special election in Ohio's 12th congressional district lived up to its promise as a real nail-biter. As of this morning, Republican Troy Balderson is ahead of Democrat Danny O'Connor by 1,754 votes, or .09%. O'Connor may lose, but he can take comfort in the fact that he did better than any Democrat has done in this district in almost 40 years, and Balderson will still have to face re-election in the November midterms just like everyone else. The fact that it was even competitive at all should have the Republicans quaking in their boots.
But there's another wrinkle to this election: as the votes were tallied last night, a Green Party candidate named Joe Manchik (not to be confused with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin) earned 1,127 votes - not enough that, if you gave them all to O'Connor, he would still be ahead, but in an election as close as this one, still a significant amount. This begs the question - who the hell is Joe Manchik?
Joe Manchik is a "self-employed data contractor who builds data networks," according to the Columbus Dispatch, and appears to be in his early-to-mid-60s. On his wordpress website, he claims he was inspired to run for Congress so he could defeat then-Speaker John Boehner, but after Boehner retired, he set his sights on Pat Tibieri, whom he ran against in 2016. He lost, but he gained 13,474 votes, so he set his sights on 2018.
“Today," he writes on his website, "my view of Congress is that it is nothing more than a den of thieves that is made up of mostly corrupt, corporate-owned Democratic and Republican politicians who have failed to represent their constituents who voted them into offices that they hold and have completely perverted the Constitution of the United States with corporate cash.” He repeatedly refers to both parties as the "Democratic-Republican Duopoly Oligarchy Party."
From here on out, you can pretty much guess a lot of his positions: he hates NAFTA, hates the TPP, and thinks the ACA didn't go far enough. He hates corporate donations and refuses to take them. He believes in ending all wars, going so far as to call Barack Obama's campaigns against Syria "treason." He also believes in creating a high-speed rail system to replace our reliance on cars, claiming, "We can simply drive our cars onto the train and then relax in the comfort of the dining car or go read a book or surf the web in a comfortable seat, or maybe just take a nap," he says. Has he been reading Atlas Shrugged?
As for his activity in 2016, when he first ran for Congress, he endorsed Jill Stein over Hillary Clinton, saying, "the American people couldn't ask for a better president"; supported WikiLeaks; and disavows Russia's involvement in the election, calling it "fake news." Like Donald Trump, he holds the mainstream media in contempt, saying they are "nothing but a bunch of liars," but throughout 2018 he complained that the media wasn't paying attention to him and his campaign. Lest you should think he's just another crazy, don't worry - it gets weirder.
According to his Facebook bio, Manchik says that his relatives "originally came to planet Earth from a planet orbiting a star in the Pleiades star cluster located in the constellation of Taurus," and that he speaks 19 languages, including "Sheet Music," "Nicaraguan Sign Language," and "Nissan" (Yes, the Japanese car apparently is a language in and of itself.) Most embarrassingly of all, in this interview from March with Green Vigilante Media, when asked how to donate to his campaign, the self-described "data contractor" and graduate of Ohio Institute of Technology could not remember the name of his website:
Like many of his fellow wingnuts, Manchik and all who voted for him are so far gone in their idealism that it has morphed into nihilism, since they dismiss the idea that the two parties in this country have any significant differences. They often say they're more liberal than Democrats, but they don't act like it. If Greens were really interested in progressive legislation, then they would work alongside Democratic politicians to push for their ideas. But they're so obsessed with being holier-than-thou that they ultimately do damage to their causes by throwing elections to Republicans, making it that much harder for them to achieve their goals.
What's more, Greens appear to lack an interest in becoming a major national party. The Stranger's Dan Savage wrote in 2016: "Where are the Green Party candidates for city councils? For county councils? For state legislatures? For state assessor? For state insurance commissioner? For governor? For fucking dogcatcher?" He found that in the 520,000 races on the ballot that year only 117 Greens had declared candidacies - that's 0.2%. Without interest in building coalitions on a local level, what's a Green to do if somehow, they were elected to Congress or the Senate, with absolutely no allies? How would they expect to be taken seriously? Have they put any thought into that? Or are they just in it to dupe gullible voters into "voting their conscience?"
Joe Manchik is not a spoiler on the level of Jill Stein or Ralph Nader, but all three of them feed into the easy cynicism of liberals who want change to happen overnight. The thousand-plus people who voted for him should take a look at themselves and ask what side they're really on, because supporting candidates with incoherent politics and no shot at winning is no way to bring the era of Donald Trump to a close, or to advance a progressive agenda for the future.