For a little while Tuesday night, it looked like a Green Party candidate might spoil Democrat Danny O'Connor's chances of winning a special congressional election in Ohio's 12th District.
O'Connor does appear to be heading for a loss, but it looks like he would have lost whether or not Green candidate Joe Manchik was on the ballot. Manchik got 1,127 votes, a mere .6 percent of the total vote. With 100 percent of the precincts counted, O'Connor is losing by 1,754 votes. He'd still be losing even if all of Manchik's votes had gone to him instead. The race is close enough to not yet be called; there are still absentee and provisional ballots uncounted. O'Connor hasn't decided if he'll request a recount.
The stakes here are pretty low, since the winner will get the seat for only a couple of months; it'll be up for vote again in November. The big news is that the Democrat performed so well. In 2016, the Democratic nominee lost badly, getting just 26.8 percent of the vote; the district favored Trump by 11 points that year. Meanwhile, Manchik actually underperformed last night. When he ran as a Green in 2016, he got more than 13,000 votes, or 3.6 percent.
So to the extent that this foreshadows what will happen in November, the Democrats should be feeling fairly happy right now, even if O'Connor does end up losing. But the possibility that Manchik's votes might cover the spread between O'Connor and Republican Troy Balderson caused some heartburn among Democrats. The Green Party was actually trending on Twitter last night, thanks partly to some almost comically angry tweets:
You know what sucks?
Because of our unwillingness to pass policy that protects our election integrity, I immediately think the Green Party votes tonight are Russian meddling.
Why else would anyone cast a protest vote in Ohio when there's so much at stake?#OH12— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) August 8, 2018
Dear Green Party: Can you PLEASE wait to make your symbolic votes at a time when our government isn't being overrun by white supremacists??? Come @ me I don't care.— billy eichner (@billyeichner) August 8, 2018
The Washington Examiner has collected some more of them here. They boil down to a complaint that a third-party candidate has taken votes that somehow rightfully belong to the Democrats. Libertarian voters are familiar with such accusations, though usually they're accused of stealing votes from Republicans.
When Hillary Clinton lost there was quite a bit of bellyaching that Green Party nominee Jill Stein had taken votes from her. But that's not what really happened. The reality was that too many voters in too many pivotal electoral battlegrounds found Clinton such an uninspiring candidate that they didn't even vote for president.
People who think all those votes for Manchik would have gone to O'Connor had Manchik not been in the race really need to go look at and read his campaign site. Here's a short excerpt:
Other multinational corporations that own the Democratic-Republican Duopoly Party cabal are military industrial contractors, like Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Boeing, General Electric and others that get BILLIONS of OUR tax dollars each year to finance and manufacture the weapons of war. Other examples include multinational oil corporations like BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil, that get BILLIONS of petrodollars when they go in and steal the oil and the gas from the innocent victims of the sovereign nations that the United States occupies. These are clearly some of the motives behind the many ugly wars that our out of control American government is in the business of creating today, in order to increase the corporate profits of the multinational corporations that own the Democratic-Republican Duopoly Party cabal, and because of this I am now truly ashamed of what America has become.
People who are attracted to these kinds of platforms are not fans of friends of the Democratic Party. They were probably never going to vote for O'Connor. They would probably not vote at all if Manchik weren't on the ballot.
And they're not going to be shamed into supporting candidates they don't like. Just because they're on the left side of the political spectrum doesn't make them the rightful property of the Democratic Party. If these people believe that Democrats and Republicans make up a "cabal," why on earth should they care if the Democrats regain control over the House? Major-party candidates keep saying their party needs to be in charge if these third-party voters are to get what they want. But that party has been in charge, and clearly some of these third-party voters did not get what they wanted.
Rather than being angry about third-party voters, the complainers need to grasp the fact that not all voters share their same priorities in the same degree. Back when the Libertarian Party was accused (incorrectly) of spoiling Republican Ken Cuccinelli's run for governor in Virginia, I wrote a primer to help the supporters of that "duopoly" Manchik complains about grasp exactly what drives third-party votes. Some of the same logic flaws are coming up again here. Don't assume that Green Party voters see the Democratic choice as the "lesser of two evils." Don't presume that you know these voters' priorities better than they themselves do. And try to make an actual case for your candidate, which these tweeters aren't doing, probably because they couldn't identify O'Connor out of a police line-up and only care about him or his positions to the extent that he can help give Democrats control of the House.
Photo Credit: Joe Manchik for Congress