John Oliver Goes In On Third Parties, With Entertaining — Although Questionably Effective — Results


John Oliver, chief heir to Jon Stewart’s “EVISCERATION” mantle, turned his attention to Gary Johnson and Jill Stein last night, with predictable — and predictably amusing — results. I’ve written before about the problems with this model of political discourse — it’s great fun to watch if you’re aligned with Stewart or Oliver’s views (and let’s be honest, if you’re not, you’re probably not reading this.) If you’re not, it’s unlikely to change your opinion, because no-one likes to stand there and be told for ten minutes how stupid you are.

Having said that, Oliver has generally preached less to the choir than Stewart did, or at least he’s addressed issues about which his audience may genuinely be uninformed. It’s not hard to imagine that there might be some prospective Stein and Johnson voters amongst his audience — so, was this enough to sway them? I doubt it, sadly. Those who are all in on Stein or Johnson tend to see their preferred candidate with near-evangelical zeal, and they do so because above all, they see their vote as an expression of themselves. Strategic voting and third-party candidates don’t really mix, because there is no strategic advantage to voting for Stein or Johnson; they’re not going to win, and the US electoral system doesn’t allow for their preferences to be redirected elsewhere (like seats in a parliamentary system).

In that respect, eviscerating their wacky policies — as Oliver did, to great effect, last night — is not going to make a great deal of difference. Oliver is correct that we have a choice between four evils, but still, only two of those evils are ever going to occupy the White House, and one of them is several orders of magnitude more evil (and more orange) than the other. In this election, of all elections, voting third party is allowing the former evil a greater chance of victory, and as we stand on that precipice it’s hard not to wish Oliver had gone harder on that point.

Still, as ever, this is good for a cathartic laugh.