MEMBERS ONLY: Staying Home Or Voting Third Party Is Not An Option. Not Now.

There’s no law or rule preventing third party candidates from running for office. Any office. Indeed, under normal circumstances, third party candidates can force honesty into a race, or they can bring an issue to the forefront, prompting candidates from the two major parties to weigh-in or even adopt the third party position on such an issue.

Let me be perfectly clear before third party supporters catapult into the comments to call me a corporatist Dem $hill, this isn’t just another article slamming third party candidates, including the Green Party candidate who ran for U.S. Congress in this week’s special election in Ohio’s 12th District. That said, I have a thing or two to say to the voters who decided that electoral masturbation is perfectly acceptable at a time when the future of democracy is on the line.

As you may have noticed by now, the race for the Ohio 12th has yet to be decided even though polls closed nearly 24 hours ago (as of this writing). One of the reasons why it’s so close, more than anything else, is the cultural rot infecting around half of all American voters. To be more specific, the first people against whom we should be deploying sharks with laser-beams attached to their heads are the Trump voters who continue to support the president and his endorsed GOP minion — the Trump voters who continue to stupidly accept the obvious lies and propaganda ejaculating into the atmosphere by the Kremlin and Fox News Channel. These are deeply deluded people who will never admit they’ve been suckered by a professional con-man and his Russian benefactors. Despite the calamity the Republican Party has foisted upon the free world, they still don’t get that they’re being exploited and betrayed by their hero.

Then again, political reality tells us that no matter who runs under the GOP banner, Republicans will invariably receive plenty of votes based partly on habits and tradition. In other words, Republican voters are baked into the system, especially in districts with demographics leaning heavily on white working class men and women without college educations. They’ll always exist, whether it’s in support of despots like Trump or lesser villains like, well, like congressional GOP leadership. Paul Ryan and the like.

Meanwhile, another reason why the Ohio 12th has come down to a margin of 1,754 votes, with the Democrat, Danny O’Connor, lagging behind Trump’s guy, Troy Balderson, is because only around 42 percent of voters in Franklin and Delaware Counties turned out to vote. In the other surrounding counties, turnout dipped to around 30 percent. Pathetic, especially given the stakes. We’re talking about 58 percent of registered voters in the heaviest Democratic areas of that district who couldn’t even be bothered to weigh in, potentially allowing yet another Trump Republican to join the effort to help their president obstruct justice, and worse. Likewise, it’s possible quite a few of those 58 percenters simply couldn’t vote due to voter suppression, including the deliberate intimidation factor linked to voter ID.

To be on the safe side, let’s make it around 50 percent who could’ve easily cast ballots, including early ballots, but who refused to vote out of basic snooze-alarm apathy. When the history books are written about how close we came to leaving democracy in the rear-view mirror, these are the people who ought to be blamed from word one, along with the unmitigated suckers who continue to believe Donald Trump is a noble man-of-his-word (barf).

And then there’s the Green Party.

In 2016, Trump’s margin of victory in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin could’ve been entirely erased if Jill Stein’s Green Party voters had instead held their noses and voted for Hillary Clinton instead. If 123,125 voters in those three states had chosen Hillary rather than Jill Stein, Trump and Trumpism would’ve been jettisoned onto the slagheap of history on November 8, while every human being, including sexually assaulted children in Trump’s internment camps, who has suffered under his autocratic presidency would be in far lesser jeopardy today.

And if the 1,127 voters who cast ballots for less-than-competent Green Party candidate Joe Manchik had instead voted for O’Connor, it wouldn’t have entirely swung the election to the Democrat, but O’Connor’s total would’ve been close enough to trigger an automatic recount. Between any counting errors and the outstanding provisional ballots, it’s possible O’Connor would’ve won, thus reducing the GOP House caucus by one seat while adding to the momentum of the “Blue Wave.” As we learned during the effort to repeal Obamacare, one seat can mean everything.

To reiterate, it’s not necessarily Manchik’s fault. It’s more the fault of voters who ought to know better than to play grabass with their ballots during a time of extreme internal crisis. In politics, timing is everything. Liberal-leaning voters who chose Manchik over O’Connor clearly voted from a place of privilege at precisely the wrong time in American history, not realizing that the existential dangers we face today, including the dissolution of democracy here and elsewhere, far outweigh whether O’Connor took donations from corporation X or Y.

Yes, there are appropriate times for protest votes.

There are appropriate times to vote based on pet issues.

This is not one of those times.

Maybe once the Democrats take back eight or ten state legislatures, we’ll have the luxury of keeping the party honest. Maybe once Trumpism is bound up and destroyed, we can force the party to adopt more progressive ideas while reforming how campaigns are financed. (It’s worth noting, the Republicans are only a few state legislatures away from calling a constitutional convention under Article V of the Constitution. If they do, say goodbye to many of your freedoms. Among other things, voter ID will be mandated in the Constitution.) But, should Trump refuse to resign before then, and he probably won’t, and if the Republicans and Russia manage to shatter the Blue Wave in November, Trump will claim more political capital for his radical agenda. As Steve Schmidt said recently, “say hello to Trumpistan” and goodbye to our democratic republic.

1,127 voters in the Ohio 12th thought punishing the Dems was more important than helping to rescue democracy. While perhaps not as unforgivable as the lazy bastards who stayed home, it’s disgraceful that so many of us are so nearsighted as to allow infants to remain in cages because selfish Green Party voters insanely think the Dems are as bad as Trump.

America defeated Nazism and imperial Japan at the same time because we united as a nation. Americans volunteered, Americans chipped in, Americans died in the effort to fight authoritarianism and Nazism. The only way to defeat the rise of white supremacy and populist autocracy is to prioritize the greater good over our individual causes. Nothing is more important. Nothing you or I do politically for the rest of our lives will ever be as important as our Democratic votes in November. Nothing.

Bob Cesca is the host of the Bob Cesca Show podcast, a twice weekly political talk show. He’s also a contributor to Salon.com. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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