How Obama Boosters Delude Themselves into Accepting & Ignoring America’s Two-Party System

Screen shot of Mike Moschella on "The Stream" on Al Jazeera English

A show on Al Jazeera English called “The Stream” invited me to appear to discuss third parties, supporters of third party candidates and US electoral politics in general yesterday. They did a full show on the election and how it was a close contest, highlighted the views of voters who consider Obama and Romney to be mostly similar, and noted there are people who simply say third party candidates have no chance of winning. Then, they posed the question, “By refusing to endorse Obama or Romney, could these citizens decide the next president and what would that mean?”

I appeared on the program with Michael Moschella, a founder of the New Leaders Council and also a political director for the Truman Security Project, and Jason Brennan, a professor at Georgetown University and author of “The Ethics of Voting.”

It did not take long to see that Moschella was a supporter for the Obama 2012 re-election campaign. What he said was a perfect example of how boosters for the Obama campaign delude themselves into accepting or ignoring the two-party system. In this instance, it seemed Moschella was in complete denial of political reality. Moschella even said at one point, “It’s not the case that we have a system that blocks third parties. It is the case that we have third parties who field really bad candidates who aren’t really good at organizing.”

These were some of the arguments Moschella made that should be challenged: (1) people just do not have time for politics so there should be a limit to political debates in elections and a limit to the number of candidates in those debates (2) third party voters are purists, who are only voting for themselves and they are acting as if they are entitled or privileged (3) third party candidates are not “legitimate persons” (4) third parties do not have the kind of respect for civic engagement or life that the campaigns for Obama or Mitt Romney do and (6) I should join the Obama campaign.

[*NOTE: The following is a response to what was said by Moschella on the show. If you do not want to wade through my analysis, you can scroll to the bottom of this post and simply watch the program.]

First, to understand Moschella’s arguments and views, one only has to ask him about the 2000 Election. As I’ve written before, to anyone who suggests elections should be democratized so that citizens no longer have to participate in a winner-take-all system, they are confronted with the belief that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election.

On the show, Moschella said, “Only 300 votes separated Al Gore from G.W. Bush in Florida and not too many more in New Hampshire. If Al Gore had won either of those states, we may have had a different country and a different world.” I responded to him, “I think it’s part of the mythology of the 2000 Election that liberals or progressives talk about Ralph Nader costing Gore the election. There were tens of thousands of African-Americans who were disenfranchised and one could say if their views supported it that was why Gore lost the election.”

This did not seem to convince he should abandon this post-truth argument because minutes later he explained:

MOSCHELLA: Maybe it would be great if a third party messed up the election. Well, I think of it like this. In 2000, you had a bunch of folks who went out and voted for Ralph Nader. These are kind of like folks that they maybe their parents gave them a Ford but they wanted a BMW. So, they were really, really upset. And what they ended up getting was really a nightmare scenario. They ended up getting a rusty bicycle. [emphasis added]

It’s cute, but it’s like what progressive journalist Kevin Drum of Mother Jones argued in a column weeks ago, which is that Nader is responsible for the Iraq War, for the economic crisis and for every tragedy or travesty that occurred while he was president. But, Brennan completely destroyed this mentality:

…In the 2000 election, we often assume that Nader cost Gore the election. However, 13% of registered Florida Democrats voted for Bush. Herron & Lewis did a 2006 study and they determined that 40% of Nader voters would have voted for Bush over Gore, that third party voters are typically anti-system voters, who would not have voted at all…

He also does not think America has a two-party system and made that clear: “It’s not the case that we have a system that blocks third parties. It is the case that we have third parties who field really bad candidates who aren’t really good at organizing.” Brennan responded, “The system is rigged against third parties. That’s the consensus among political scientists.” (In some instances, Brennan managed to respond to what Moschella was saying better than I did and I did not add to what was said because I thought he had made the points that were necessary.) [cont’d.]

How Obama Boosters Delude Themselves into Accepting & Ignoring America’s Two-Party System

Screen shot of Mike Moschella on "The Stream" on Al Jazeera English

A show on Al Jazeera English called “The Stream” invited me to appear to discuss third parties, supporters of third party candidates and US electoral politics in general yesterday. They did a full show on the election and how it was a close contest, highlighted the views of voters who consider Obama and Romney to be mostly similar, and noted there are people who simply say third party candidates have no chance of winning. Then, they posed the question, “By refusing to endorse Obama or Romney, could these citizens decide the next president and what would that mean?”

I appeared on the program with Michael Moschella, a founder of the New Leaders Council and also a political director for the Truman Security Project, and Jason Brennan, a professor at Georgetown University and author of “The Ethics of Voting.”

It did not take long to see that Moschella was a supporter for the Obama 2012 re-election campaign. What he said was a perfect example of how boosters for the Obama campaign delude themselves into accepting or ignoring the two-party system. In this instance, it seemed Moschella was in complete denial of political reality. Moschella even said at one point, “It’s not the case that we have a system that blocks third parties. It is the case that we have third parties who field really bad candidates who aren’t really good at organizing.”

These were some of the arguments Moschella made that should be challenged: (1) people just do not have time for politics so there should be a limit to political debates in elections and a limit to the number of candidates in those debates (2) third party voters are purists, who are only voting for themselves and they are acting as if they are entitled or privileged (3) third party candidates are not “legitimate persons” (4) third parties do not have the kind of respect for civic engagement or life that the campaigns for Obama or Mitt Romney do and (6) I should join the Obama campaign.

[*NOTE: The following is a response to what was said by Moschella on the show. If you do not want to wade through my analysis, you can scroll to the bottom of this post and simply watch the program.]

First, to understand Moschella’s arguments and views, one only has to ask him about the 2000 Election. As I’ve written before, to anyone who suggests elections should be democratized so that citizens no longer have to participate in a winner-take-all system, they are confronted with the belief that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election.

On the show, Moschella said, “Only 300 votes separated Al Gore from G.W. Bush in Florida and not too many more in New Hampshire. If Al Gore had won either of those states, we may have had a different country and a different world.” I responded to him, “I think it’s part of the mythology of the 2000 Election that liberals or progressives talk about Ralph Nader costing Gore the election. There were tens of thousands of African-Americans who were disenfranchised and one could say if their views supported it that was why Gore lost the election.”

This did not seem to convince he should abandon this post-truth argument because minutes later he explained:

MOSCHELLA: Maybe it would be great if a third party messed up the election. Well, I think of it like this. In 2000, you had a bunch of folks who went out and voted for Ralph Nader. These are kind of like folks that they maybe their parents gave them a Ford but they wanted a BMW. So, they were really, really upset. And what they ended up getting was really a nightmare scenario. They ended up getting a rusty bicycle. [emphasis added]

It’s cute, but it’s like what progressive journalist Kevin Drum of Mother Jones argued in a column weeks ago, which is that Nader is responsible for the Iraq War, for the economic crisis and for every tragedy or travesty that occurred while he was president. But, Brennan completely destroyed this mentality:

…In the 2000 election, we often assume that Nader cost Gore the election. However, 13% of registered Florida Democrats voted for Bush. Herron & Lewis did a 2006 study and they determined that 40% of Nader voters would have voted for Bush over Gore, that third party voters are typically anti-system voters, who would not have voted at all…

He also does not think America has a two-party system and made that clear: “It’s not the case that we have a system that blocks third parties. It is the case that we have third parties who field really bad candidates who aren’t really good at organizing.” Brennan responded, “The system is rigged against third parties. That’s the consensus among political scientists.” (In some instances, Brennan managed to respond to what Moschella was saying better than I did and I did not add to what was said because I thought he had made the points that were necessary.)

Not Enough Time in Americans’ Lives for Third Party Politics 

Now, we have limited time. And, there’s only two weeks and people have to make a really huge decision. I mean, the United States is the world leader in economics and security, like this really matters. When you’ve got to dissect a lot—

Now, look, we have professors, we have bloggers, these types of folks in America. like the other guest.s and they have a ton of time. They’re almost paid to look at these things all day long. My dad’s a teacher. My mom’s a librarian. So, they don’t get to do politics all day long and that does not make them worse citizens. And, people have kids they are trying to raise. So, in some respect, what I think we need is a balance—a balance where you can say we’re going to have a few debates, we’re going to spend a few hours. You’re going to be able to find out what you need about the candidates. Plus, they all have websites and, from that you’re going to be able to have a good chance of discerning.

We can’t probably spend, you know, four years just looking at politics all day long because then our country would not be able to do anything else. At, the same time we obviously want to have an informed electorate. Now, I wish that people would do a lot more and I understand that there are is a lot going on in the lives, especially among people who are trying to rebuild an economy.” [emphasis added]

Moschella really seems to operate under this worldview that there is something exceptional about America and the country does what no other country can do. It must hold to that tradition and third party candidates in debates and in elections make it complex and confusing for Americans and it sends mixed messages to the world about whether America has a functioning democracy.

I really do not know what he was talking about when he said the country needs a balance with only a few debates because we do have only a few debates now. Perhaps, he is suggesting the third party candidates should not be holding their own debates because that muddies what people understand about Obama and Romney. I don’t know.
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