Staff Columnist

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

It is the ultimate Lucy-and-Charlie football analogy - this time will be different, they promise!

Mike Conner, Libertarian Party of Iowa chairman, introducing vice presidential nominee Spike Cohen at an event in Des Mo
Mike Conner, Libertarian Party of Iowa chairman, introducing vice presidential nominee Spike Cohen at an event in Des Moines on Saturday, Aug. 22. (Contributed photo, Myra Matejka)

By the end of this week, if everything goes according to plan, Iowa’s 2020 presidential ballot will be set.

The Democrats last week officially nominated Joe Biden, while Republicans are expected to renominate President Donald Trump at their convention Thursday.

This week also marks the deadline to file objections against candidates nominated by petition in Iowa. Barring any successful challenges, seven independent and third-party candidates will appear on Iowans’ general election ballots.

So, yes, there is a nefarious plot to game the system and alter Americans’ voting options, but it’s been going on since Kanye West was about 10 years old, at least.

By now, you’ve probably heard that this is the most important election of your lifetime, so you shouldn’t waste your vote on some long-shot outsider. I’m not very old, but this is already the fourth time I’ll be voting in the most important election of my lifetime.

“This is not the time to withhold our votes in protest or play games with candidates who have no chance of winning,” former First Lady Michelle Obama said in her Democratic National Convention endorsement of Biden last week.

Obama said “not the time,” as if there will be some appropriate time. But when is that?

Many of the folks telling you to vote for their major party candidate feign sympathy with the third-party plight. They say they also want to disrupt the two-party system, but it’s just not the right time. Go along this one time, they say, and then we’ll spend the next four years fixing the foundational problems in our political system.

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But none of the people saying that spent the last four years building up third parties or reforming ballot access laws, and few of them made earnest efforts to meaningfully reform the prevailing parties. It is the ultimate Lucy-and-Charlie football analogy — this time will be different, they promise!

In reality, the way to build up a third party is by voting for it. No insurgent faction is going to go from 3 percent to 50 percent in one election cycle. There must be some point where the lesser of two evils is too evil to accept.

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Democrats especially are in a tizzy about the independent candidacy of musician Kanye West, who they accuse of conspiring with Republicans to get on the ballot in a bid to siphon votes away from Biden.

It’s a laughable concern when you consider the fact that Republicans and Democrats have been formally and legally conspiring for years to block third-party participation. They write election laws to erect barriers to competition. The Commission on Presidential Debates, which decides who’s allowed on the debate stage, was created and still is governed by the Republicans and Democrats.

So, yes, there is a nefarious plot to game the system and alter Americans’ voting options, but it’s been going on since Kanye was about 10 years old, at least.

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Libertarian vice presidential nominee Spike Cohen visited Iowa last weekend for a campaign rally. In remarks to the Des Moines crowd, he criticized Biden’s work building the U.S. incarceration state, and Trump’s record of accumulating government debt.

“These are the options that the Republicrats have given you. And they tell you you have to pick one or the other, and you have to decide which is the lesser evil. Well, folks, I’m sick of choosing lesser evils. I’m here to give you an option that isn’t evil,” Cohen said.

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

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