Every election and primary cycle brings the same question back around-- do we support the lesser of two evils, or throw support to a non-viable third party candidate?
This used to qualify as not-really-a-question. In 2012, lots of Democrats were super-unhappy with Obama's first term. Teachers were already being pretty open about feeling that Obama had implemented education policies that George Bush would have been proud to call his own ( I was one of those vocalizers). But the Democratic party responded with a fairly clear policy of, "Screw 'em. They're never going to vote for Mitt Romney, so we'll do exactly what we have to do to keep their votes, which is jack squat." And they weren't wrong; I, too, held my nose and voted for Obama.
I'm pretty sure that I'd like to have that vote back.
Democrats have gotten lazy and abusive. Every election we trot out scary pictures of reactionary right-wingers (and a handful of GOP candidates always oblige by acting like cartoons). "You know you're going to vote for us," they barely bother to say. "We're not as bad as those other guys."
If we make noises about voting for an RC Cola candidate (someone not from the two major marketeers), we get a guilt trip about how that will spoil the election for somebody, and we won't end up with our preferred lesser of two evils. Don't throw your vote away on a non-viable candidate.
And then they go back to sucking up to Hoi Polloi Posteriors.
But every cycle, the challenge to the status quo gets a bit more real.
For a while this week, it looked like Working Families Party might actually back somebody other than Andy Cuomo. It looked enough like it that the establishment Dems were required to go cut a deal, and even then the vote came in at 58.66% to 41.34%, which is not exactly a nailbiter, but it's not nothing, either. Meanwhile, de Blasio fished the Cuomo knife out of his own back, cleaned it, and knelt before Cuomo to present it hilt first while saying, "My liege." The result of all this is not good news-- Cuomo is no more a liberal Democrat than a Twinkie is a great source of protein-- but it is certainly one more clear sign of how completely the Democratic establishment has abandoned anything remotely its principles.
Up in Connecticut, Jonathan Pelto is mounting a third-party challenge to pretend-Democrat governor Dannel Malloy, which will inevitably be dismissed in language suggesting a vote for Pelto is just a wasted vote. And hey-- third party challenges work out almost never
And so Democratic voters in those states and in other locations around the country face the same question again-- do we vote for someone who is arguably the lesser of two evils? If you're facing the question, here's a couple of questions to ask yourself.
1) If you are always going to vote Democratic no matter what, what reason does the party have to ever listen to you ever? If you cannot imagine circumstances under which you would deny the Democratic party your vote, then you also cannot imagine circumstances under which the party would listen to you. (Unless you're really rich, in which case they will totally listen to you.)
2) How much worse would the other guy be, really? Yes, he's probably some GOP tool that you don't like, but really honestly truly, how much worse would he be?
Because this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. The Democratic party will not turn on a dime, and it will not turn at all until it perceives that Democrats in general and teachers in particular have really had enough, enough to actually change election results. A third party candidate who loses, but who steals a sizeable chunk of the vote, sends a message. It may well take a bit for the message to sink in, but no message will even be sent if teachers keep going back to the Democratic party, nursing our black eyes and saying, "Well, it was my fault he got upset and punched me, and besides, he's so much better than anyone else who would have me."
Important political pro tip: It does not matter how upset people are with you. As long as it doesn't interfere with your ability to win elections, you don't have to pay it the slightest bit of attention.
The lesser of two evils is still an evil. For Democrat teachers (particularly the ones in NY) it might be time to stop voting for an evil and to start using the vote to make a statement about what is good.