Dan Savage’s Misguided Hate for Third Parties

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Dan Savage delivered a misguided attack on Jill Stein and third parties on his podcast back in May. A few days ago a San Francisco attorney named Ray Everett posted a partial transcript of the podcast showing Sage’s rant and word has spread.

As owner of IPR I feel a need to respond to Savage’s idiotic comments. I will address them in detail below but in short, Savage disregards the substantial efforts of third parties at local and state levels and the many hurdles they face.

–Warning: Savage’s rant is filled with swear words–

Yeah, let’s talk about the Green Party for just a moment, or third parties, getting a third party movement off the ground here in this country. Because we are sick of the two party system! Here’s how you fucking do that: you run people not just for fucking president every four fucking years.

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? I would be SO willing to vote for Green Party candidates who are starting at the bottom, grassroots, bottom up, building a third party, a viable third party.

You start by running grassroots, local campaigns. And there’ve been — and I’m sure we’re going hear from lots of people out there listening — there have been a couple of Green Party candidates who’ve run in other races here and there across the country. But no sustained effort to build a Green Party nationally.

I personally ran for town board on a third party line in New York many years ago. Libertarians and Greens do run for a variety of offices around the country. Sometimes they even win. The Green Party’s Gayle McLaughlin served as the mayor of Richmond California for eight years. Jason West served as mayor of the Village of New Paltz.

Presidential races are critical for third parties. Despite media biases like that displayed by Savage, the presidential candidates get more attention from media than local candidates. The presidential campaign helps build the brand. This is true for major parties as well, and we sometimes see Republican and Democrat insiders complaining that a bad presidential candidate hurts down-ballot candidates.

Also in some states the presidential or gubernatorial vote determines a party’s status.

Consider Kentucky (from Wikipedia):

Kentucky uses a three-tier system for ballot access, using the results of the previous presidential election as the gauge. If a party’s presidential candidate achieves less than 2% of the popular vote within the state, that organization is a “political group”. If the candidate receives 2% or more, but less than 20% of the popular vote in Kentucky, that organization is a “political organization”. Parties whose candidate for president achieves at least 20% of the popular vote are considered “political parties”. Taxpayer-funded primaries are achieved as a “political party”. Automatic ballot access is obtained as a “political organization” or “political party”, and these levels require only 2 signatures for a candidate to run for any partisan office. There is no mechanism for placing an entire party on the ballot in Kentucky, other than achieving “political organization” or “political party” status. Candidates of “political groups” and independent candidates must collect a minimum of between 25 and 5000 signatures to run for any particular partisan office. Filing fees apply equitably to all levels.

In my old home state of New York, a party’s ballot access is dramatically affected by the Governor’s race. Where a recognized third party candidate might need 50 signatures on a petition, a candidate from an unrecognized party might need 1500. After many Libertarian candidates fell far short, I ran in 2010 and got over 48,000 votes, triple that of my predecessor and double any other candidate. It still wasn’t enough, as I narrowly missed the 50,000 required.

In that same election my friend Howie Hawkins cleared 50,000 for the Green Party and he repeated that in 2014 getting over 180,000 votes. Oh by the way Howie has run as a Green for many offices at the local level.

Savage also repeats the classic “Don’t waste your vote” nonsense:

And the folks, including you caller — and I love you and I respect you and we’re having this debate and I’m not treating you with kid gloves because I respect you — who are fooled by them, who are sucked into this bullshit, who are tricked by these grandstanding, attention-seeking, bullshit-spewing charlatans, into wasting your vote.

Which is what you are going to do, I’m sorry to say, to circle back to the top of your call. You are essentially, if you’re voting for Jill Stein, helping to potentially elect Donald J. Trump president of these United States.

No. A vote for Jill Stein does not help Trump and it’s not a waste. It helps Stein and the Green Party. A vote for Gary Johnson doesn’t help Clinton. It helps Johnson and the LP.

But let’s also be clear from the Green and Libertarian perspective. Most of us see no meaningful difference between Clinton and Trump:

  • Clinton and Trump both support the drug war and consistently defend abusive police. Greens and Libertarians oppose both.
  • Clinton and Trump support endless foreign wars. Greens and Libertarians both want to bring our troops home.
  • Clinton and Trump both believe government should have the power to decide who can marry whom and who gets to go to whatever bathroom. Jill Stein was way ahead of Hillary Clinton on LGBT issues and Libertarians oppose government having any such power at all.
  • Clinton and Trump will continue the Bush-Obama crime against humanity in Guantanamo Bay. A Green or Libertarian president would close it. We know Obama is lying when he says Congress prevents him from closing it. He had a Democratic Congress his first two years and he has the power to do it anyway. The President’s power in foreign policy is plenary.
  • Clinton and Trump support corporate welfare. Greens and Libertarians both oppose it.

Savage goes on:

And we’re hearing the same thing now about Hillary and Donald. That they’re both equally awful. They’re both equally terrible, corrupt two party system, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it. Fuck them both, fuck both their houses! Vote for Jill Stein!
And if Donald should get elected, oh he’s so terrible, so much worse than the equally awful Hillary Clinton, that his election will bring the revolution.
It’s bullshit.
The revolution did not come in 2000 when George W. Bush got close enough to winning to steal the White House. It will not come if Donald J. Trump gets his ass elected.
Disaster will come. And the people who’ll suffer are not going to be the pasty white Green Party supporters — pasty white Jill Stein and her pasty white supporters. The people who’ll suffer are going to be people of color. People of minority faiths. Queer people. Women.

I have yet to see any Green or Libertarian suggest that a Trump victory will bring on a revolution. The disaster Savage describes is part of the fear mongering political theater that the two major parties are different. They’re not. They are two heads of the same insider establishment.

Savage’s “pasty white” reference is both a slur and just plain wrong. As the Green’s national co-chair Andrea Mérida Cuéllar put it:

I am decidedly not “pasty white,” as he accuses in his commentary. Neither are Cynthia McKinney or Rosa Clemente, our presidential and VP candidates from 2008, nor Cheri Honkala, Jill Stein’s running mate in 2012, nor Winona LaDuke, Ralph Nader’s running mate in 2000

This goes along with Savage’s violent hateful rhetoric toward a non-presidential Green Party candidate back in 2006.

Don’t waste your vote on the same old shit. If you actually have principles then your only real choices are Green and Libertarian.

9 thoughts on “Dan Savage’s Misguided Hate for Third Parties

  1. Jill Pyeatt

    Excellent, Warren! I’m so sick of people telling me that a vote for Johnson is a vote for ______ (fill in the blank for Clinton or Trump, depending who you’re talking to.)

  2. steve m

    Jill,

    You obviously don’t understand that your vote isn’t owned by you. It belongs to one or the other of the two parties. When you miss-use your vote by not casting it for your masters you are doing so because you have been mislead. You have allowed a miscreant 3rd party candidate steal your vote form whom it rightfully belongs.

    Well as Robin Williams used to say “Joke them if they can’t take a fuck.”

    A vote belongs to a voter not to a party. A political candidate must earn their own votes. If the democan/repulicrats were so worried about not winning the lesser of two evil lottery they would move the elections to some sort of ranked choice vote or instant runoff.

    I think the duoploly is broken. I think they also think the duoploy is broken and it is going to be fun watching them twist in the wind.

  3. Root's Teeth Are Awesome

    Savage: the people who’ll suffer are not going to be … pasty white Jill Stein … The people who’ll suffer are going to be … People of minority faiths…. Women.

    Jill Stein might be pasty white, but she’s also Jewish (a minority faith) and a woman.

    So will she, or won’t she, suffer, as per Savage’s analysis?

  4. George Phillies

    I had the wasted argument some Presidential elections ago, perhaps 2000, with a dedicated Republican. I am in Massachusetts. “So you voted for the Democrat?” “Of course not. I voted for the Republican.” “You do understand how the electoral college works?” “Yes, of course” “So you by your own argument threw your vote away. Your candidate had no chance to win in Massachusetts, just like mine.”

  5. Deran

    Oh, you beat me to it! I was just coming to IPR to look for this month’s open thread to post this. Good catch, Mr. Redlich.

    The Stranger is published in my hometown, but I have never been able to take Dan Savage seriously regarding anything he says. He has always been a flak for the Democrats. Not to mention he was a gungho Islamaphobe after Sept 11 and he supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    I actually think Dan Savage spouting off against voting outside the two party system will in fact get people to support candidates outside the two parties. At least in Seattle. Savage is so well known as a hack that many people look to see what he says and then assume/do the opposite.

  6. Nicholas Hensley

    The idea that minor parties can’t win offices is ludicrous. Right now the Reform Party holds about 8, but the Libertarians and Greens hold about 200. There have been independent Senators and Congressman. Jesse Ventura won the governorship of Minnesota on the Reform Party line. The Progressive Party of Vermont is a state level political player, with multiple state offices. I know the Constitution Party won a state seat some time back.

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