If you live in Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, or West Virginia and plan to vote for President Obama in November, this message is to you.
President Obama is not…
What are my thoughts about this idea? I’ll tell you.
This is a terrible, terrible idea for leftists. It may or not be the case that putting someone like Johnson in the debates would have a positive effect. (He might attack Obama and Romney for their support of the PATRIOT Act/NDAA/etc., or pile onto Romney for opposing marriage equality; but on the other hand he might team up with Romney to attack Obama for not cutting government spending enough or whatever. Who knows what his political calculations would dictate as a debate strategy? And who knows what effect that would have on public opinion?)
None of that matters to our decision though because we have to make a realistic estimate of where we can effectively put our forces. Reality check: leftists (even generously including all of us to the left of the Democratic Party who are not committed to it organizationally) do not have the political influence or mass reach to catapult Gary Johnson into a 15% popularity level. Look at the Nader vote numbers, the scattered socialist campaign results, or even the left candidates in past Democratic primaries. It’s a sad reality but we must face it: we are far too few to have such an impact.
There is one thing we definitely do have the power to do though, and that is to dissolve existing independent political organizations and squander our credibility by liquidating into a campaign to support a Libertarian candidate, whose party is completely inimical to our interests (even if this particular candidate is less repulsive than many of them).
Best of all, this plan guarantees that if Johnson were to get into the debates and builds some momentum for libertarians and Tea Party types (as is a quite likely outcome), then we would be politically disarmed and unable to respond to the rising tide of reaction. Probably the best thing that can be said for this plan is that it doesn’t grapple with our inability to actually help Johnson get to that point.
Lefties in the states where the outcome is predetermined: vote for a socialist candidate if you want, or cast a spoiled/blank ballot, or skip voting altogether. It doesn’t really matter at all what you do as an individual; if you are interested in actually making a difference then join a left organization and build a political structure that can organize and persuade people and prepare for a real contest of power. But whatever you do for God’s sake, don’t cast a protest vote or register a preference for Gary Johnson.
(PS: Lots of love for OP; I don’t mean for this to come off as any kind of personal attack. I understand the thinking that brings us to the point of considering schemes like this, but I think they are a danger of the highest order and therefore that it was worth spelling out why at some length. I will say similar things to anyone who suggests leftists commit themselves to voting and working for Nader or anyone else of his ilk too this year.)