Saving Democracy From Itself: The Democratic National Committee Moves To Block Third Party Candidates

by | Mar 26, 2024

Below is my column in the New York Post on a reported plan of the Democratic National Committee and allied groups to try to block third-party candidates from the 2024 ballot. The contradiction is stunning as these groups raise money to “save democracy” by limiting democratic choice.

Here is the column:

The last time that the Chicago Democratic Convention was held in Chicago in 1968, the resulting riots led to one of the greatest Freudian slips in American politics. Mayor Richard Daley declared “the policeman isn’t there to create disorder; the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”

The Democratic National Committee has now added its own gem: the Democratic Party is not here to preserve democracy, it is here to prevent democracy.

That’s because the DNC is seeking to block third party candidates from ballots — Robert Kennedy Jr., Cornell West, and Jill Stein. All three are liberal and are considered a threat to Joe Biden.

This effort will likely include any ticket put forward by the No Labels group, seeking a moderate alternative to the two parties.

Mary Beth Cahill, the former interim DNC CEO, and long-time DNC staffer Ramsey Reid  will lead this effort. According to media reports, former Buttigieg campaign aide to Lis Smith will lead the effort with another Buttigieg alumni, Matt Corridoni. This effort includes not just a public campaign against Kennedy and Stein as spoilers, but “legal action” to solve the problem by denying voters a choice.

The media does not appear at all alarmed or critical of the effort to limit democratic choice. The Washington Post stated clinically “Democrats are taking third-party threats seriously this time.” Taking it seriously appears to mean using legal means to keep them from the ballots.

It is true that the main political parties have challenged qualification signatures and paperwork in the past. However, the reports indicate a systemic effort geared toward reducing the choices for voters. What is striking is that this is coming from democratic groups and the DNC, which are raising money on the “save democracy” narrative.

The contradiction is spellbinding. On the same sites promising to oppose the third party candidates, the DNC and other groups push the narrative that only the Democrats are working to protect the right to vote.

The Post reports that Democrats have studied the Hillary Clinton campaign and vowed not to allow third party candidates to drain away millions of voters as they did in 2016. Of course, the comparison is particularly telling because in both 2016 and 2024, the DNC had the least popular Democratic candidates. Polls showed that Clinton was the worst possible candidate for the party, but the Clintons had control over the DNC and state party organizations.

Of particular concern is the fact that Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan by only 67,000 votes. In just those states, Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Stein received more than half a million votes.

Rather than actually pick a candidate that most citizens want, the DNC wants to replay the 2016 strategy of forcing the choice between two evils in a Biden-Trump choice. That can only work reliably if there is no other choice for citizens tired of the duopoly and the political (and media) establishment. So Kennedy, Cornell, and Stein just have to go.

I am one of those misguided voters. Years ago, I wrote a column saying that I was tired of voting for the lesser of two evils — leaving every election as a moral hazard. I am prepared to vote for candidates from the two main parties in any given election, but I will only vote for the candidate who I believe is the best of candidates to be president. We are played as chumps by a political and media establishment in every election system. Over two decades ago, I pledged to vote for the best candidate, even if they are with a third party.

The DNC is reportedly to be joined in this effort by a well-financed array of groups including the liberal think tank Third Way (which has filed complaints with secretaries of states); American Bridge (a Democratic opposition operation), and Clear Choice (a super PAC composed of “allies of President Biden”).

While these groups work to limit the choice of voters, the effort continues in Florida, Georgia, Washington, and New York to keep Trump in court until the election, including a possible trial running up to or even through the election.

There is hope that this multi-front effort will be the winning ticket, particularly if the ultimate ticket denies voters any other choice.

The open discussion of these efforts in the media illustrates the contempt for voters, who need to be protected from their bad choices. I have previously compared the underlying assumptions to a type of electoral Big Gulp law. Before they were also struck down, these laws sought to take away the dietary choices of citizens because they were making the wrong choice in the view of experts.

Now activists are now big gulping the election. Voters cannot be trusted with something as important as democracy.

President Biden has said “make no mistake: Democracy is on the ballot for all of us.” Of course, he could end this effort by denouncing further ballot cleansing (something he refused to do when Trump was removed by the Colorado and Maine ballots). It appears that the last thing that democracy needs is free democratic choice.

Reprinted with permission from JonathanTurley.org.

Author

  • Jonathan Turley

    Professor Jonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law. He has written over three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals at Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Northwestern, University of Chicago, and other schools.