Norman Thomas on Third Party Electoral Politics


Norman Thomas, the successor to Eugene V. Debs as the perennial presidential candidate for the Socialist Party, was known as the conscience of America. His shortcomings, such as being conned by liberals into endorsing early Cold War propaganda, is far outshone by his merits, such as being one of the few to oppose Japanese internement during World War II (something the Communist Party USA failed to do), incubating the March on Washington, and presenting an early critique of Zionist expansionism into Israel’s neighboring states. Furthermore, though he ruefully quipped that the New Deal legislative programs carried out his agenda “on a stretcher,” the fact is that the American social safety net bears at its foundations his signature.

In the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign conclusion, conversations have emerged around the issue of third party politics. Rather than engaging in the tiresome and altogether counterproductive “lesser-evil” debate (one that is already producing reams of moralizing headaches from both sides), instead I would suggest the wisdom of Thomas and its insights about what both the third party candidate and their supporters should be doing in the process of their campaign. Whether you support Joe Biden (as is the case with Noam Chomsky in our latest podcast), the Green Party (case and point Howie Hawkins in the latest broadcast of Counterpunch Radio), or the Vote Pact strategy (described by Sam Husseini in one of our previous podcasts), consider creating a standard of expectation, defined by Thomas, for these projects that has a lasting impact outside the ballot box.

Thomas, on the third episode of that swine William F. Buckley, Jr.’s Firing Line, debating the morality of the Vietnam War.

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