All the time, but more frequently and urgently as each presidential election draws near, analysts and pundits agonize over which “major party” candidate is hurt most by independent and third party candidates: Will, for example, the Green nominee “spoil” the election for the Democrat and “hand it to” the Republican, or will the Libertarian nominee have the opposite effect?
The controversy of the moment concerns a group called “No Labels,” which may attempt to put a presidential candidate on government-printed ballots in 2024. “Democratic strategists and anti-Trump Republican operatives have concluded,” David Corn writes at Mother Jones, “that its effort could siphon more votes from President Joe Biden than Donald Trump.”
But the only votes in Biden’s and Trump’s gas tanks are their own (and the No Labels candidate is unlikely to receive either of those votes).
Your vote is in your gas tank, and belongs to you — not to Joe Biden, Donald Trump, or anyone else — until you cast it.
It’s arrogant of those analysts and pundits to assume that Democrats and/or Republicans own or are owed your vote as a matter of entitlement because, well, they’re the big guys, and that you’re essentially stealing it from them if you cast it for some other candidate. They’re not entitled to your vote, and when you cast that vote for the candidate you evaluate as having earned it, it doesn’t come “from” some other candidate.
Naturally, I hope to be your candidate of choice. But if I’m not, I won’t complain that Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Cornel West, or some other candidate “siphoned” your vote “from” me.
Short Answer: Yes:
How do we know that a president can be elected as a write-in candidate? Because 18 of them have been:
- George Washington
- John Adams
- Thomas Jefferson
- James Madison
- James Monroe
- John Quincy Adams
- Andrew Jackson
- Martin Van Buren
- William Henry Harrison
- James K. Polk
- Zachary Taylor
- Franklin Pierce
- James Buchanan
- Abraham Lincoln
- Ulysses S. Grant
- Rutherford B. Hayes
- James A. Garfield
- Grover Cleveland
That is, every president elected through the year 1884 (John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, and Chester A. Arthur were never elected to the presidency; they ascended to it from the vice-presidency when their predecessors died in office).
After the 1884 election, states began adopting the “Australian ballot” — a ballot printed by the government, which of course was allowed to decide whose names could be on it.
Before that, Americans voted by writing down the names of the candidates they supported, or (if they couldn’t write) telling an election official to write those names down for them, or using a ballot given printed and given to them by their parties or other associations of choice.
Yes, the United States was smaller then — only 38 states, with fewer than 10 million votes cast in the 1884 presidential election. On the other hand, election authorities in Grover Cleveland’s time didn’t have computers and optical scanners that could recognize text.
I’d say that 18 presidents is reasonably good proof of concept, wouldn’t you?
Let’s do it for the 19th time in 2024!
On my first day in office, I’ll sign an executive order requiring all federally funded dining facilities — military chow halls, Veterans Administration hospital cafeterias, schools with federally subsidized meal programs, cafeterias at hospitals which accept Medicare, etc. — to offer the following foods on a regular basis:
My campaign is about bringing Americans together … and if we can’t march shoulder to shoulder for an abundance of decent gustatory options, available to all, what can we rally around?