There are worrying signs in recent polling which raise the disturbing possibility that a third-party campaign by the Green Party may once again divert enough votes from the Democratic Party candidate, in this case almost certainly Joe Biden, to get Donald Trump over the line in some key states and thereby deliver another Trump victory.

As this would be devastating for all the policies the Green Party supports, it is worth considering how such a perverse outcome may come about.

It is early days yet, and I am more optimistic than some about Biden’s prospects, but the alarming possibility of a further and more dangerous term for Trump is realistically possible.

Harry Enten, the respected CNN analyst, wrote recently that “the chance of Trump winning another term is very real”.

I am more optimistic about the probability than Enten, but his conclusion is correct, there is a real chance of Trump winning again.

Enten points out that no one in Trump’s current polling position in the modern era has lost a presidential primary that didn’t feature an incumbent.

And while it is early days in the presidential election proper, Trump is currently competitive in a contest with Biden.

Anyone thinking of becoming involved should measure their impact against this awkward reality.

A quick glance at history illustrates the potential problem for the Green Party.

There is no doubt that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election, with all the consequences that followed from George Bush’s election.

The data is clear

In Florida, the key state in deciding the outcome of the 2000 election, the final margin in favour of Bush was a mere 537 votes. Ralph Nader received more than 97,000 votes in that state. If only 1 per cent of them had voted for Gore he would have been president.

And election results have consequences. Bush was not as dangerous as Trump for American democracy, but there is little doubt that if Gore had been the president there would have been no invasion of Iraq.

What a difference that would have made to global peace and stability.

It is arguable, but not so obviously clear, that Jill Stein cost Hilary Clinton the 2016 election and therefore gave us the first iteration of Donald Trump as president.

The underlying evidence suggests that Stein definitely won sufficient votes in some key states to make the difference between Clinton winning and Trump. For example, in Michigan, Trump won by 10,000 while the Greens candidate received more than 50,000 votes.

In 2024, the potential for the most likely Green Party candidate, Cornel West, to help to elect Trump is emerging as a possibility.

The first sign was a recent Emerson poll in Michigan. Between Biden and Trump, the poll indicated a probable tied vote. But when West was included in the question, Trump won by 2 per cent.

Another recent poll showed West having a similar net impact, this time in New Hampshire. Biden was clearly ahead in both surveys, but the inclusion of the Green Party candidate cut Biden’s margin by 2 per cent.

Of course, the Green Party have every right to run a candidate and advocate for their preferred positions. And I don’t suggest the election of Trump is in any way part of their motivation.

However, when potentially disastrous consequences may flow from actions you are considering I believe any failure to take them into account constitutes wilful neglect at best, and dangerous adventurism at worst.

Ralph Nader may have been able to say that the impact of his candidature could not have been foreseen.

No one in 2024 will have the same excuse.

Bob McMullan was state secretary of the Labor Party and national secretary as well as a senator, MP and cabinet minister. He is now a visiting fellow at the Australian Studies Institute at ANU.

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