massive landslide as the Greatest Hero of the new Nation -- his opponent may have voted for him.
A so-called realignment election has only occurred once in history when the Republican (GOP) came into existence in 1856. The GOP supplanted the withering Whig Party, but lost the general election to the Democrats. In the next cycle, Lincoln was elected as the first Republican President and the Whig Party vanished into history. Nearly immediately, the Civil War began in response to Lincoln's progressive platform. Republicans were progressive and Democrats were conservative from 1856 to roughly 1930.
Roosevelt bolted the GOP after feeling disenfranchised by his own Party's nominating process (there was rampant corruption in the nomination process a century ago that would make electioneering hijinks today look like a microbe). When he won every open primary voting State and lost every closed caucus State, TR declared that the GOP was corrupted and trying to steal the nomination. It was rather blatant given the lack of transparency in the caucuses back then -- his defeat of Taft demonstrated that the nomination process was entirely corrupted, it was not a conspiracy theory.
Recall that a mere 4 years earlier, TR had voluntarily not run for a third consecutive term as a matter of principle -- he had campaigned for Taft but felt his policies were betrayed during Taft's Administration. TR ran as an Independent and crushed Taft -- the second time a third Party candidate displaced one of the main Party nominees from the top two. Woodrow Wilson won by plurality and the Democrats took the WH.
The historical lesson is that even the second most popular politician in American history, tested as a two-term President, a Vice President, Governor of NY State, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Political Appointee to the Civil Service Commission (under both Parties), President of the NYC Police Commissioners, promoter of the "Muckrakers," Dakota cowboy and ranch owner, writer of a huge pile of scientific literature on natural history and military history and strategy (a scholar), war hero (he quit his political career to join the military when the Spanish American War broke out -- he led the famed "Rough Riders" Calvary Unit composed of many cowboys that he knew from the Dakotas), a brilliant orator, adventurer and explorer.
So... what's the probability that largely unknowns have any chance of getting more than a few percent of the vote? ZERO! I know that's a tough history lesson to accept, but unfortunately, it's entirely true so don't fall for it. Have personal fortitude to accept reality and understand that third party voting for a President is what "useful fools" do in our electoral process.
If you look closely, what third party candidates do today is what they did back then. They put unpopular people in the WH by splitting popular sentiment. It's not hard to find examples since the list is reasonably long. This is particularly true when the margin of popular sentiment is less than 5%.
A glaring recent example is that Al Gore wasn't beaten by Dubya Bush, he was beaten by idealists (useful fools) who "voted their conscience" when they voted for Ralph Nader -- a left wing challenger. Nader picked up 2% and that was enough to put Dubya over the top. Dubya lost the national popular vote, but his contested win in Florida by a little over 100 votes, gave him Florida's winner take all Electoral College vote, and he won the Presidency.
The man was a fool and created a foreign policy disaster that killed thousands of Americans, wounded tens of thousands, and exploded the deficit by simultaneously expanding entitlement benefits (for a GOP constituency) and starting two wars (one unjustified), while massively cutting taxes. He destroyed our reputation overseas and it's taken 8 years to make headway against all the damage he did to our foreign policy. Trump is ten times the fool that Dubya was and entirely unqualified to be President having never held any elected office. He's a crooked realtor for God's sake!
The right wing media spin and smear machine (both sides have one) is simultaneously promoting a two-pronged approach: 1) a false equivalence campaign, linked to 2) encouraging undecideds to either not vote, or to vote third party. Why?
Donald Trump is an obvious disaster and a clear and present danger to the country, but culture warriors and right wing (vs center right) conservatives would rather the country take that risk (falsely believing they can control Trump's idiotic behavior) than risk Hillary making court appointments that could have decades of impact on their anti-progressive agenda. They're also trying to limit or destroy any coattails Hillary may have down-ballot in the event that she wins. They hate the Donald, but he's their narcissistic dangerous idiot since they nominated him. What to do?
Well...hmmm. Hillary has this amazing superpower of projecting unlikability (whatever that is) and elitism on TV. It's like some kind of intrinsic property that seems to ooze from her pores. Her impressive resume seems unable to paint over it -- it just keeps seeping through. The right wing spin meisters figure they can hold show trials and witch hunts, at taxpayer expense if possible, even though they have always ended in smoke but never fire, and then they can blow that smoke up the public's arshole by combining it with consistent messaging using words like "liar, liar, pantsuit and cankles on fire!" Heck, they've got a long lead on this since they've been pursing this strategy since the 90's (and before).
Then all they have to do to exploit this "dislike" campaign they've been fertilizing with BS for decades, is to constantly compare her to the Donald as somehow basically being equal choices: both are "horrible" or "bad and worse", depending on the audience. This is the false equivalence campaign that they're executing this with amazingly powerful effectiveness and coordination. They've leveraged TV and media messaging into millions of people parroting this like robots. They've even dispatched additional FOX News-like "fembots" as spokespersons to try and blunt expected losses among women, while boosting the misogynistic voters, who get turned on by the sight of dangerous and dominant "beauties" (sort of a lite-weight version of bikini-clad super models with machine guns).
How does this help their cause? Well, the Donald is loved only by a minority (sizable, which is scary) of potential voters with a statistical center that's populist, bigoted, anti-establishment, under educated, angry, white, male, older, can be motivated by flimsy culture war arguments, can overlook blatant lying and exaggeration when done by orange men with terrible hair and small hands, like to watch dominatrix films in private -- fill in other ugly descriptors here. In a big country, that's a lot of people that are very energized by fear, hate and anger, but far from enough to win the general election. Those voters won't abandon Trump no matter what outrageous thing he says. Like he said, "I love the uneducated" and "I could shoot someone on 5th Ave and not lose support." Given his cult following, how is the GOP to make up the deficit? Two ways...
First, encourage discouraged people not to vote. Second, encourage other discouraged people to vote third party. Trump "owns" his base (this is a unique sort of right-wing populist base, not the traditional GOP base). Hillary's base is broad and fractious and is much less tightly bound to their nominee (Hillary's personality cult is incredibly small and Donald's is comparably "Yuuuge" -- that's all he's really got in those tiny grasping orange hands). The media based spin and smear campaign being executed by the right, as described above, is partly aimed at the centrists and leftists in Hillary's base, in addition to maintaining the right wing base by "identifying their common enemy" through the process of "branding" that I described above. Discouraging people from voting by saying that both candidates are horrible or bad and worse, removes more voters from Hillary than from Trump (he benefits) since her base is less tightly bound to her.
Encouraging third party voting benefits Trump as well. Why? Because the only two very modestly visible third party runs include the Green Party (the decidedly leftist party of Ralph Nader) and a Libertarian ticket that is sort of center right with a few liberal elements in the social agenda. Any vote for the Green Party is one less vote for Hillary (this is obvious since they're a left wing challenge, just like Nader was to Al Gore when Nader helped the Republicans secure the Presidency by trimming the Democrat's polls from the left).
More of the votes for the center right Libertarians remove votes from Hillary because she's making a huge effort to "capture the middle" and because of their few liberal positions. Moreover, many of the people in the middle are former or disenfranchised establishment Republicans (that have been relabeled RINOs by the new populist "Freedom Caucus") who can't yet bring themselves to jump ship and vote for their traditional "enemy." This also slightly helps or is at worst neutral for Trump -- several polls have been performed that demonstrate this effect in the range of a couple percent or so.
It's sad, but this is both deeply cynical AND true AND nothing new. That there has been no reform of the electoral process to require top two runoffs in the absence of a popular simple majority for a single candidate (50%+ for a single candidate) is clear evidence that both of the main Parties are happy to game elections this way and like to keep the option open to overturn popular national sentiment through third party challenges that split the popular side. This is a power game the main Parties regularly play and the country suffers for it.
Third Parties should have sufficient ethics to see this game is being played and to constantly call for electoral reform so that they're not "being used" to spoil their own stated agendas. If it looks like they cannot get near the top of the ballot, they ought to bow out and lend their votes to the party with nearest interest (this is why coalition parliamentary government has some advantages). I figure they must be highly ideological, ambitious or an intentional foil to continue forward under current circumstances.
Theodore Roosevelt made the reasonable wager that if anyone could overturn main party dominance, it would be the most popular and well-loved president up to that point (not including George Washington, who was atypical). Even he was wrong and that lesson has already been painfully learned, historically speaking. Unfortunately, the voting public has a statistically significant portion that seems incapable of learning from history and they get used and the country gets abused over and over by flimflam artists in both Parties.
Just say "we won't be fooled again!" hold your nose if you must, and vote for Hillary Clinton. The only way to fix the right wing is to send them packing in a big and undeniable way.
Jon Phillips is a Senior Nuclear Technology Expert at the International Atomic Energy Agency and Director, Sustainable Nuclear Power Initiative at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The opinions expressed here are his own.