Progressive Third Parties and the spoiler effect

On August 7th, voters in Ohio’s 12th Congressional district went to vote in the special election to fill retiring GOP congressman Pat Tiberi’s seat. In 2016 the seat was won by 11 points in 2016. As of today it is still too close to call, but GOP candidate Troy Balderson leads by 0.5 points over Democrat Danny O’Connor. In a midterm year, a normally safe GOP seat was only held by a thread, which shows the signs to come for an anticipated “blue wave” in november.

A little known fact of the night was that a green party candidate by the name of Joe Manchik (pictured above) won over 1,000 votes in the contest. Although the margin by which Balderson is up is slightly more than Manchik’s total, it is close. It raises questions about the practicality of progressive third party voting in elections.

The election results in the states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan could have a drastically different outcome if Jill Stein voters casted a ballot for Hillary Clinton. The green party is a progressive, leftist political organization. They believe in environmentalism, social justice, gender equity, and a social safety net. Those ideas generally overlap with the Democratic platform, albeit not as further left.

The reality of our voting system is that it is a first-past-the-post system. According to Duverger’s Law, in such a system, there really is only room for two coalitions to form two parties, with third parties creating a spoiler effect, that shuts out the closest party ideologically out of a victory. The Green Party, or any other third party in America has no realistic shot at winning any significant office unless a dramatic change in America’s voting system happens, such as a proportional system like many european democracies.

It raises the question, why do committed progressives vote for the Greens knowing that they won’t win? Often the hard-left expects perfection. Bill Clinton once said “Democrats fall in love, while Republicans fall in line”. There is a kernel of truth to this. Groups who tend to vote Republican, such as older, white voters, consistently show up to the polls; while groups who tend to vote Democratic, such as younger, and minority voters, aren’t as consistent and may need to be particularly enthused about a particular candidate.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaign often called themselves “Bernie or Bust” citing their refusal to support Secretary Clinton in the general. It seems as those on the far left wish that the Democratic Party was a much more ideologically orthodox as a leftist party as a mirror image to the Republican party which is steadfastly conservative. The Democratic party is a broad coalition that includes moderates, centrists, progressives, and leftists; and does not exclusively cater to one group. This obviously upsets a small subgroup of leftists. Some leftists care more about ideological purity and virtue signaling than practical political goals.