Obama’s campaign manager to Jen Psaki: Third-party candidacies are a gift to Trump

Obama’s campaign manager to Jen Psaki: Third-party candidacies are a gift to Trump
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Thanks to its descent into the cult of Christian nationalism, the GOP is poised to nominate as president a man who tried to overthrow the previous election results and is currently facing 91 indictments. If that weren’t bad enough, polls suggest that Donald Trump has a fair chance of winning, thanks to the unfair advantage the Electoral College bestows upon Republicans.

So in a tight race that Joe Biden won in 2020 by narrow margin in a few battleground states, every vote counts. That’s why Jim Messina, who was Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, told Jen Psaki that the biggest threat to Biden isn’t the polls or even the economy. It’s third-party candidates.

“We cannot peel voters off” when the margins are so tight,” Messina warned. “People flirting with third-party ballots are playing into Donald Trump’s hands.”

As it turns out, that may be exactly what some of the folks behind the third-party organizations want.

Right now there are essentially three third-party efforts underway. Robert Kennedy Jr., the anti-vax, anti-trans AIDS denialist with a revered family name, is running as an independent, as is Racial Justice Activist Cornel West.

Then there’s a group called No Labels, which purports to represent the majority of Americans dissatisfied with both Biden and Trump, promising to field as-yet-unnamed “unity ticket.”

Who is funding these supposedly independent efforts? Republicans.

It’s true that there are other donors as well. Kennedy has a collection of Hollywood types who have donated to him, and West has supporters who agree with his long history of activism. But a lot of money is coming from deep-pocket Republicans who are donating for reasons other than a belief in the candidate.

Why would Harlan Crow, the Texas billionaire best known as Clarence Thomas’ financial patron, be donating to Cornel West’s campaign? (West returned the contribution.) There’s nothing in Crow’s background that indicates anything remotely connected with West’s racial justice work.

Then there are the millions that Timothy Mellon, the grandson of banking mogul Andrew Mellon, has been investing in a PAC for Kennedy. Mellon, who has spent at least $5 million on Kennedy’s PAC, contributed $20 million to Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. With a straight face, Mellon said he was putting his money on Kennedy as “the one candidate who can unite the country.”

No Labels has a more complicated history, having grown out of a group of moderates in both parties who looked for common ground to work on. Now, however, the group is floating a fantasy ticket with the names of politicians with national experience, like Joe Manchin and Joe Lieberman. (Kirstin Sinema is another name on the list of potential running mates.)

No Labels positions itself as a “commonsense” alternative to two parties that are equally immoderate. That’s nonsense. The Republican party is a party that has sanctified a violent attack on the transfer of power under a man who now openly promises to be a dictator on day one of his second term. Biden has always been more moderate than many in his party. That’s a big reason why he struggled in the 2020 party primaries.

Once again, No Labels is getting money from people with suspicous motives. Harlan Crow donated to the group. But No Labels has been keeping its donors secret.

Moderate Democrats call No Labels a stalking horse for Trump. “No Labels is wasting time, energy, and money on a bizarre effort that confuses and divides voters, and has one obvious outcome — reelecting Donald Trump as president,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) said in a statement. 

In fact, given the stakes in the upcoming election, any vote that isn’t for Biden will effectively be a vote for Trump. Love the system or hate it, the fact is that it’s winner take all for electoral votes. Trump’s supporters are fully committed, so any votes for third-party candidates are going to come at Biden’s expense. That’s why Trump donors are willing to put their money into third-party candidacies. From their perspective, it’s the same as betting on Trump himself.

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