Staff Columnist

'Go ahead, throw your vote away'

Partisan talking points used against third-party voters have been the same for my whole life

A pumpkin carved to depict one of the aliens who abducted Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in a 1996 ep
A pumpkin carved to depict one of the aliens who abducted Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in a 1996 episode of "The Simpsons." (Flickr/Jeremy A.A. Knight)

Brock Pierce, an independent presidential candidate on the ballot in Iowa, got his start as a child movie star in the 1990s.

“First Kid,” where Pierce played the unruly son of a fictional American president, was released the same year America last had a formidable alternative presidential candidate — Ross Perot, who earned 8 percent nationally as a Reform Party candidate in 1996.

Pierce was a young teenager at the time, but he remembers how third-party candidates were treated by political elites and the mainstream media. It’s astutely summarized by a Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episode that aired the week before that 1996 election.

Kang and Kodos, recurring alien characters in the series’ Halloween specials, came to Earth and demanded to know who the planet’s leader was. With the election approaching, they abducted both President Bill Clinton and challenger Bob Dole and assumed the candidates’ physical appearances.

The aliens in their human forms appeared together at the Capitol, where our hero Homer Simpson pulled off their masks and revealed them as hideous space reptiles.

“It’s true, we are aliens, but what are you going to do about it? It’s a two-party system, you have to vote for one of us,” one of the aliens told the crowd.

When a man in the crowd said he might vote for a third party, the other alien replied with a laugh, “Go ahead, throw your vote away!”

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Cut to Inauguration Day. Kang won the election and Americans are enslaved by aliens. “I don’t understand why we have to build a ray gun to aim at a planet I never even heard of,” Marge Simpson said.

Homer responded, “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.”

It seems over-the-top, but it might be true. Presented with murderous aliens on the ballot, most American voters still would vote to uphold the two-party system.

More than 20 years later, the vote-shaming talking points haven’t changed a bit.

“Since I was a kid, the story has always been the same, it’s not even new material — you’re throwing your vote away; if you don’t vote for this then you’re voting for that. This has been the same story every election cycle,” Pierce told me in a recent phone interview.

If 2020 is ‘not the time’ to vote for a third party, when is the time?

Kanye West, Iowa’s mail-in ballots and the weaponization of paperwork

Pierce is one of nine presidential candidates on the ballot in Iowa. He and musician Kanye West are the only no-party candidates running for president here.

A self-described “Bitcoin billionaire,” Pierce is trying to develop a high-tech, left-right fusionist platform. His campaign team includes a fellow tech entrepreneur, a data privacy activist, and the musician and philanthropist Akon.

Pierce will only appear on the ballot in 16 states, making him ineligible to win the Electoral College. The confusing patchwork of ballot access laws and legal challenges from partisans make it pretty much impossible for an independent candidate to get on every ballot.

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Pierce acknowledges he won’t win the presidency this year, but he already is making plans for another independent bid in 2024, with hopes of engaging other no-party and third-party candidates in down-ballot races.

“We’re supposed to act according to our consciences. We should not be voting out of fear. We should vote for whatever we believe in,” Pierce said.

adam.sullivan@thegazette.com; (319) 339-3156

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