Bernie-or-bust bros have some things to learn about democracy
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With two of the most divisive and unpopular candidates in living memory running atop the two main party tickets, the buzz surrounding various third party candidates has grown louder than it has since 1992 with Ross Perot's improbable, unforgettable run against Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Press: Ukraine's not the only outrage The 2 events that reshaped the Democratic primary race MORE and George H.W. Bush.

Legions of disillusioned Republicans who still retain enough moral integrity to prevent them from voting for a proto-fascist yam have been joined by an army of Bernie-or-Bust bros still confused about delegate math and have begun casting about for another political ship to anchor to like so many barnacles.

In four-way match-ups against Republican Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE and Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats ask judge for quick ruling on McGahn subpoena Hillary Clinton: 'Every day Stephen Miller remains in the White House is an emergency' The Memo: Centrists change tone of Democratic race MORE, perennial Libertarian Party also-ran Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonThe Trump strategy: Dare the Democrats to win Trump challenger: 'All bets are off' if I win New Hampshire primary Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE is polling at 9 percent, while Green Party candidate and Lexington Town Meeting Representative Jill Stein captures a modest 3.8 percent, also a significant improvement over her performance from 2012.

“So,” you might be saying, “Why not vote for a third party candidate for President?”

I’ll tell you why. But first, a couple things about me, so you know where I’m coming from here. I proudly and naively voted for Ralph “I killed the Corvair because I hate decent handling and weight-distribution” Nader in the 2000 election. It was my first Presidential election, and at the tender, headstrong, dumb-as-a-bucket-of-fried-shrimp age of twenty, I was too inexperienced and myopic to see any difference between Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Krystal Ball hits media over questions on Sanders's electability MORE and George W. Bush. I bought into the dumb rhetoric that they were peas in a pod, two sides of the same coin, and it was time for real change. I honestly believed that my vote would be better spent sticking a thumb in the whole system’s eye so they would know just how upset I was.

I lived in Wisconsin at the time, which was a hotly contested swing state whose eleven electoral votes were decided by only a few thousand ballots. I am personally responsible for the eight years of abject misery Bush’s passenger train derailment of a Presidency wrought on our country.

And for the last four years, I have been an aspiring and now a semi-professional comedian working throughout the Midwest and beyond. I’ve soared and bombed in front of crowds ranging from hundreds to single digits, sometimes in the same night. I’ve embraced the grind and life traveling from one bar show, open mic, and basement pop-up to the next. Again, sometimes all of them on the same night. It is a slog, it is exhausting, and there is no clear path forward or defined finish line in sight. As some of my military friends would say, I’ve learned to “Embrace the suck.”

It’s not that different from a political campaign. A new city every night, new crowds to deliver your material to. Weeks and months on the road, living out of hotels, eating crap food, shaking hands, trying to get your name lodged in people’s minds. Trying to make a personal connection. Trying to be heard.

So when the topic of third party candidates come up, I feel like I have some strange kinship with politicians.

And from my perspective, third party candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are line jumpers. They are distractions. Because they show up every four years like a heckler at a comedy show, demanding attention from the crowd when they haven’t put in the time and work that the people on the actual stage, holding the actual mic, have.

The experience of President Obama over the last eight years should be instructive here. Because even though he was elected by clear majorities of the population, twice, his policy proposals were met with simply historic amounts of obstructionism from the GOP. And that was someone who actually held majorities in both houses of Congress early in his first term. Someone who had a governing mandate from the people he was elected to represent was still stonewalled by a minority party bent on his destruction. Now imagine for a moment a President Gary Johnson, or a President Jill Stein sitting in the Oval Office, without any base of support in Congress from either party. Are you seeing the problem yet?

If you want to be a comic, you have to write jokes, go to open mics, eat a bunch of crap, get better, embrace the grind, build a reputation, start getting bookers attention, get paid for some bar shows, host a mic, get attention from audiences, earn the respect of your peers, emcee your first weekend, emcee a bunch of weekends at different clubs, get rejected from a shit ton of festivals, lose a bunch of contests, land your first feature spot, earn the respect of touring comics, go on a tour, record a shitty album to sell after your shows, get an agent, finally land a big festival gig or TV credit, and on and on and on.

If you want to be a legitimate political party, you have to organize at the local level, recruit potential candidates, build a grassroots organization of volunteers, win local elections, build up a donor base, win state elections, start to build a national apparatus, land a governorship, groom your candidates for national office, get your ticket into the conversation, win a House seat, win a Senate seat, build a database of your voters, hold your seats against challenges in the next term, add more seats, and on and on and on until you have the base of legislative support necessary to actually draft and pass your agenda.

Then you are a comic who should be taken seriously at the national level.

Then you are a political party that has any business running a candidate for President.

It worked for the Republicans in 1860. People may not remember their history, but as late as 1852, there were two major parties in the U.S., the Democrats, and the Whigs. The Whigs suffered a collapse after 1852, and officially disbanded in 1854. A young party born out of Ripon, WI stepped into the power vacuum, and by 1858, the Republican Party had swept the elections and actually held a majority in Congress, due in no small part to the unpopularity in the North to President James Buchanan’s pro-slavery agenda. In 1860, the Democratic Party fractured into Northern and Southern blocks defined largely by the issue of slavery and ran two different candidates. Using this opportunity, and building on the success and base of support they had already achieved in their takeover of the legislative branch, the GOP, only six years old, walked into the White House, nominating and electing Abraham Lincoln as the first Republican President. But not until after they had given him the allies he needed in the House and Senate to actually implement his campaign promises.

That’s how it’s done, folks. Otherwise, you’re just a heckler shouting down the real performers from the safety of the audience. You are a line jumper. You are Rosie Ruiz, jumping into the Boston Marathon in the last mile of the race ahead of everyone who actually ran the previous twenty-five miles and claiming victory.

And just like the heckler until the professional comic turns their guns on them, just like the line jumper until the rest of the people at Six Flags realize what they’ve done, and just like Ruiz once the other runners started comparing notes, your “victory” will be fleeting.

Tomlinson is an author and comedian. Follow him@stealthygeek.

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