Opinion: No Labels, no fables, no third-party betrayals

I had trouble sleeping recently. I made the mistake of looking at a lot of voting data before bedtime and then reading some of the BS being put out by the third-party group “No Labels,” as well as by my old friend Cornel West, who’s now running for president as the Green Party candidate. It was a mistake. It’s now 2 a.m. where I am, and I’m loaded for bear.

Let me be absolutely clear. Third-party groups such as No Labels and the Green Party are in effect front groups for Trump in 2024, and should be treated as such.

No Labels has pledged to spend $70 million to support a third-party candidate in 2024 who could easily draw enough votes from President Biden to tip the presidential election to Trump.

No Labels has already qualified as a presidential party that can run candidates on the ballot in 10 states, including in both Arizona and Florida. Already, Joe Manchin is flirting with the idea of running as a third-party presidential candidate under the No Labels banner.

If you believe that No Labels exists in order to encourage bipartisanship, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

No Labels — which claims to be a centrist organization — will not reveal its donors, one of whom is reportedly the conservative megadonor Harlan Crow. Politico reports that No Labels has brought on a major Trump donor as an adviser in the pivotal battleground state of Florida.

But whatever it says it aims to be, No Labels will help Trump.

So will every other third party claiming to be in the “center” or on the “left” — including the Green Party, which is already on the ballot in the two key swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin and whose most likely candidate for president is Cornel West. And the People’s Party, especially if Robert F. Kennedy Jr. becomes its nominee.

The reason they’re all front groups for Donald Trump is that the upcoming 2024 election is likely to be nail-bitingly close even as a two-way race between Trump and Biden.

The good news is that Trump loyalists don’t represent a majority of the electorate — which is why Trump has lost the popular vote in both his presidential runs and did not top 47% in either.

So, as long as the anti-Trump vote is unified behind Biden, Trump cannot win, as Biden demonstrated in 2020.

But if a third-party candidate takes even a small part of the anti-Trump vote away from Biden, Trump is likely to be returned to the White House.

Consider the five states most likely to decide the 2024 election in the Electoral College — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In 2016, Trump narrowly won each of them, giving him the presidency. In 2020, these five states narrowly tipped in the other direction, giving Biden the presidency.

Biden’s razor-thin margins in these five states in 2020 came from a massive anti-Trump vote.

In all of these states, at least 1 in 3 Biden voters said they voted mainly against Trump. In Wisconsin (where the Green Party has already secured a spot on the 2024 ballot), 38 percent of Biden voters said they voted mainly against Trump. In Arizona (where No Labels has already secured a spot on the 2024 ballot), 45 percent of Biden voters said they voted mainly against Trump.

Biden has no margin for error. Even a small drop-off from his 2020 anti-Trump vote would make him vulnerable.

Just 44,000 votes out of more than 10 million cast in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin — less than half of 1% — were the difference between the Biden presidency and a tie in the Electoral College that would have thrown the election to the House of Representatives, and hence to Trump.

If candidates from No Labels, the Green Party, and the People’s Party peel off just 15% of the anti-Trump vote from Biden, and Trump’s base stays with him, Trump would win all five swing states comfortably and return to the Oval Office.

These third parties are already putting out rubbish about “voting your conscience” and “giving the people a real choice.” It’s cynical propaganda designed to obscure the reality that any anti-Trump votes they pull away from Biden will only help ensure a Trump victory.

If No Labels were a legitimate third party rather than a Trump front, it would withdraw from all ballots for the 2024 election. If Cornel West and the Green Party had positive intentions, they would do the same. The rest of us must spread the word about the dangers of these third parties.

If Trump wins the GOP nomination for president, as seems highly likely despite (or because of) his coming trials, all Americans who believe in democracy must unite behind Joe Biden — to ensure that Trump, in the words of then-Rep. Liz Cheney, “never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”

Please spread the word. Now.

— Robert B. Reich is a columnist with Tribune Content Agency.


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