Third Parties and How to Build Them, or, Joshua Harris for Mayor of Baltimore

I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention, but we’ve got a couple candidates running for President who seem to irritate even their own parties.  This has led to another rash of third-party candidates poking their heads up like mushrooms from bullshit.  On the left, we have Jill Stein, who is almost on the ballot in half the states.  On the right, Gary Johnson has impressively managed to get on the ballot in 36 states.

And Dan Savage has said it better than I ever could.  You do not build a party by running a candidate for president once every four years.  You run people for smaller, more local offices.  It’s not a movement if you only ever see them on presidential rates.  Grass-roots means bottom-up, folks; if you’re going to build a Green Party, you have to start at the bottom.  You have to start with local campaigns.

I’ve got a lot of friends who keep talking about how the two-party system is bullshit.  And you know what?  They’re not wrong.  I’d love to see more parties.  I’d love to see someone have to build a coalition government in Congress.  I’d love to have a choice amongst more viable candidates for President.  But that’s not going to happen at the presidential level first.  It’s just not.  Jill Stein and Gary Johnson aren’t going to be President.  And we all know they’re not, but people keep talking about voting for them anyways, as though that vote will have meaning.  As though Washington will sit up and take notice of a third party if they get a fraction of the votes regardless of their loss.

And it won’t.  Washington didn’t sit up and take notice of Perot, and it didn’t sit up and take notice of Nader.  It ignored them both, because Washington doesn’t care about losers.  It cares only about winners.  You want a viable third party?  Win some elections.  It’s the only way to be viable.  And that means you don’t start with President.

Now, here’s the thing:  I have put my money where my mouth is, on this one.  I’m not supporting or voting for Jill Stein, because that’s a waste of a vote.  Mathematically, it is the same as not voting.  Sorry to all you protest voters, but nobody else cares about your third party candidate.

But I would like to see a viable third party at some point.

So I’ve donated to a Green Party Candidate.  Not Jill Stein, no.  I found the Green running in the most local election I could, and I made a donation to him.  Specifically, I made a donation to Harris for Baltimore.  Is he viable?  Not at the moment, but if enough of you Bernie-or-Busters sent some cash his way, he probably would be.  There’s not enough money flowing in the Baltimore mayoral race to hold back the tide.

That would be a crack.  It wouldn’t be a bring-down-the-house revolution, but it would be a crack in the dam.  It would be the first, solid step a third party took towards becoming a viable party in this country.

As I recently pointed out, change in this country comes slowly if at all.  We debated slavery when writing the Declaration of Independence; we didn’t end it until four score and nine years later.  The Seneca Falls Convention was in 1948; 72 years later, women got the right to vote.  The Human Rights Council?  1924.  Gay marriage nationwide?  2012.  Change happens slowly, but it starts with little steps.

So, here’s my challenge to you, Bernie-or-Busters.  I know I’m not going to convince you to step down your doomed support for Jill Stein.  But if you really, truly want to see the Green Party become an honest-to-God 3rd party, then I want you to also support Josh Harris in his run for Mayor of Baltimore.  Throw some money to his campaign.  Blog and do stories about him.  Because you’re going to have a much bigger impact on that race than you will on the Presidential one, and that’s what can start this ball rolling.  You want a third party?  Start here.  But if you support Jill, and you don’t support Josh, then I know you’re full of it.

Harris for Baltimore, 2016.