Many people are looking for someone to blame after Donald Trump won. The Clintons and the Democrats have little time for self-criticism or responsibility. The establishment is still licking its wounds, even as it swallows the Trump victory. The perfect image of this is the now famous photo of Mitt Romney grimacing at a dinner with the President-elect. It looks like a nightmarish scene right out of Twin Peaks. The Republicans have no room for a scapegoat, as they threw everything at Trump and he still won. Now they have to accept it.
Meanwhile a lot of liberals are blaming Jill Stein for 2016, just as they blamed Ralph Nader for the 2000 election. As if it were a minority of independent voters who could have saved Al Gore. It may be technically true that the few percent claimed by Nader could have blocked George Bush from entering the White House. However, when you look at the details, Nader cost the Republicans and the Democrats 1% each. It was Gore who lost 13% of registered Democrats to Bush, whereas 4% of Nader voters were already independents.
The spoiler theory does not fit the facts, and yet the myth continues to live on in the minds of Democrats. It is almost like the Democrats hate and fear people seeking a third party, especially if it is more progressive than they claim to be. Actually the facts of the matter are irrelevant because the need for a scapegoat requires no facts. It is easy to lay blame at the door of independents because the American electoral system means third party candidates come at the cost of the mainstream. But this does not absolve Democratic politicians.
The Democrats need to blame Jill Stein for 2016, and Ralph Nader for 2000, because they want to foreclose all opposition and maintain the two party system for as long as it benefits them. This is the same reasoning behind the criticism of the electoral college (which was a terrible thing long before it held back Clinton). After Bernie Sanders was crushed, Jill Stein stood for the people who could not support Hillary. A contested field is necessary for a democratic system to work.
If the Democrats really wanted the independent vote, then they should have reached out to those people. Instead the narrative pins the blame on the voters themselves for making the wrong decision. This logic presents us with contempt for the electorate and democracy itself. It comes from the sense of entitlement felt by the Democratic establishment, which sees the masses as the enemy of its great candidates. Indeed, the people are to blame for standing in the way of progress. No one personifies this sense of entitlement more than Hillary Clinton.
So I am sceptical Jill Stein cost Hillary the election, and I’ll remain so until I see solid evidence. That being said, even if it turns out she did eat into the Democratic base – it wasn’t Stein who ran the lacklustre Democratic campaign against Trump. The same would be true if Nader had cost the Democrats 2000. Like it or not, Ralph Nader had a right to run and people wanted more than Gore was going to offer them. In other words, even if the Clintonites are right – they are still wrong.
You might ask a crucial question: what is so wonderful about the Gores and the Clintons? Al Gore may be good on the environment, but he wanted to attack Iraq in 1998. He may well have gone ahead after 9/11. Likewise, Hillary Clinton has a consistent record on peace: she opposes it. Clinton voted for the invasion of Iraq and lobbied hard for the bombing of Libya and Syria. She is also aligned with some of the most hard-core elements of Israeli nationalism. This is before we get to domestic issues. But does this make Trump a lesser evil? Definitely, not.
People should be able to hold more than one idea in their minds at once. Clinton is terrible, Trump is worse. Neither candidate will bring about a better tomorrow. Third party candidates like Jill Stein and Gloria de Riva cannot be blamed for the failures of the Democratic Party. If the Democrats would look in the mirror and wonder why the centre ground did not hold against the populist candidate, the American left might stand a chance. Clintonism is dead. Now what fills the void has to close the deficit between the party and the working-class.