Lost a close election? Blame the Green Party.
That’s been the Democratic Party’s strategy since 2016, and it came back into play last night. Republican Troy Balderson narrowly edged Democrat Danny O’Connor in Ohio’s 12 district special election, and once the vote tallies were in, the blame game began.
Some Democrats immediately attacked the 1,127 Green Party voters for O’Connor’s loss. Why on earth didn’t they vote Democrat? How could people be so irresponsible in voting for a nutjob candidate running on an irrelevant party’s ticket?
Here's Joe Manchik, the Green Party candidate who will probably make sure that #OH12 goes to an R who doesn't believe in science instead of a D who does.
He believes his ancestors come from a different planet.
(No, I'm not kidding.)pic.twitter.com/rFPOuoemKH
— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly ? BWCS (@AynRandPaulRyan) August 8, 2018
But by blaming Green Party voters for the loss, all Democrats achieve is to yet again show they can’t acknowledge their role in defeat. Those 1,127 people didn’t cause O’Connor to lose the special election. Even if they’d all voted Democrat, he’s still 600 votes short (not to mention the fact that some votes are yet to be counted). Moreover, O’Connor campaign’s own polling found that Green Party totals affected both major party candidates equally.
FWIW O'Connor campaign polling found the Green pulling equally from both parties. https://t.co/mph2K0W72O
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) August 8, 2018
And let’s sideline the “Blame Russia” takes, which are as unsubstantiated as they are cringeworthy. Actress and online personality Alyssa Milano’s #Resistance tweet evidenced all the awful symptoms of Democrats’ Russian fixation—election meddling, protest votes and “integrity.” But remember that these Green voters supported a guy who literally believes he’s descended from aliens. Maybe the Democrats don’t have a real claim on ownership of this voting bloc.
Democrats should remember that the onus for winning is on them, not 1,100 nameless voters in central Ohio. A third party’s voters don’t belong to you, no matter how closely that third party might be associated with your own (see: Jill Stein 2016). It’s up to you to either a) win them over or b) convince more people to turn out for your candidate. Blaming Green Party voters is just flat-out lazy.
Instead, maybe Democrats could focus on the positives from Tuesday night. OH-12 is a historically Republican district they came within one percentage point of winning (and will have a chance to win again this November). Progressive Rashida Tlaib won her primary in Michigan’s 13th district and is likely to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress. In a major victory for organized labor, voters in Missouri forcefully shot down a proposed right-to-work law.
Shaming third party voters and crackpot candidates is easy. And with a White House administration hell-bent on ruining public policy for a generation, it’s even easier to overreact. But retroactive blame doesn’t bring those voters around—it just distracts you from your responsibility to attract new ones.