Third Parties Could Threaten Biden’s Reelection | Crooked Media
March 21, 2024
What A Day
Third Parties Could Threaten Biden’s Reelection

In This Episode

  • The Justice Department and more than a dozen states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple on Thursday for “smothering” the smartphone industry. Among the claims, the suit accused Apple of limiting virtual wallets other than Apple Pay, making chats with Android products less secure, and blocking new apps, all to maintain a monopoly. Apple rejected the claims of the suit and said it would fight it.
  • The New York Times reported this week that the Democratic Party is preparing to mount an aggressive campaign to challenge the presidential ballot-access efforts of third -party candidates. And on Thursday, former New Jersey Governor and twice-failed Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie didn’t rule out the possibility of running with the centrist party No Labels. David Faris, an associate professor of political science at Roosevelt University, explains how third parties could tip the outcome of this election cycle.
  • And in headlines: Lawmakers on Friday will try to pass a $1.2 trillion package to prevent a partial government shutdown, President Biden canceled nearly $6 billion more in student debt for public service workers, and Reddit made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, March 22nd. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What a Day. The pod that is excited to announce that you can finally relax about Kate Middleton’s whereabouts. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, Kensington Palace said yesterday she’s just been working from home this entire time. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Just working from home, hadn’t been heard from in months. When I go missing and you don’t hear from me, that is what I will be doing. Working from home. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: So absurd. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, there is a new spending deal before Congress, but they need to pass it tonight to avoid a partial government shutdown. Plus, we look at how third parties might determine who wins the White House. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, the Justice Department is suing Apple for, quote, “smothering an entire industry” by maintaining a smartphone monopoly. We’ll talk about how it could lead to big changes for iPhone users and even our lovely, lovely friends, the Android crowd. But here’s Attorney General Merrick Garland at a press conference yesterday announcing the lawsuit. 


[clip of Attorney General Merrick Garland] As our complaint alleges, Apple has maintained monopoly power in the smartphone market, not simply by staying ahead of the competition on the merits, but by violating federal antitrust law. 


Priyanka Aribindi: All right, Merrick Garland, we get it. You’re an Android guy. Didn’t need to tell us like that. But anyways, break this all down for us. What exactly is the US government alleging that Apple did? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, I know the Android users out there are currently salivating at this story. 


Priyanka Aribindi: They need something. You know what to balance out the green tax. This is like a little a little something for them. Fine. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. So basically the lawsuit is about how Apple is, according to the DOJ, using its tech and business relationships to take more and more money from consumers, developers and publishers, content creators and artists, small businesses, basically everybody and they mama. Apple is accused of things like purposefully degrading the functionality of non-Apple smartwatches when connecting to iPhones and limiting the use of third party digital wallets. And the suit also says that Apple refuses to allow iMessage, its messaging app, to encrypt messages sent to, for example, your green bubble Android Friends. The 88 page indictment lists so many examples of alleged anti-competitive behavior, and the result, they say, is this monopolistic power. Here’s Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco at the same press conference. 


[clip of Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco] For years, Apple has tightened its grip on the smartphone market. It has done so not through product improvements, but by maintaining a chokehold on competition, locking its customers in to the iPhone while locking its competitors out of the market. As a result, and as the complaint details, Apple has gone from revolutionizing the smartphone market to stalling its advancement. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I, too agree that the new editions of the iPhones don’t have enough upgrades and improvements. So you got me on that point. But exactly how dominant is Apple in the smartphone market these days? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, in the United States, which is the largest market for iPhones, technology firm Counterpoint Research says that as of 2022, iPhones make up more than 50% of all the smartphones sold. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s up from 41% in 2018. So despite the iPhone being the industry’s priciest phone, its use is increasing. But with that increased use, there now is like a culture war that folks engage in these days where if you don’t have an iPhone, people turn their nose up at you. Now, full disclosure, I am an iPhone user, and yes, I do hate seeing y’all’s green bubbles pop up when I’m trying to text okay, or receiving hella pixelated videos when we’re trying to share memes, you know. But according to this lawsuit, we should be squaring up with Apple and not Android users because Apple has purposefully created what the company itself, calls a quote unquote “walled garden” so that all of their software and hardware are like shrimp and grits in perfect harmony. And I love that for me. Right. But also, maybe it’s not so good for everybody else and me?


Priyanka Aribindi: All right. Okay. You’re making some very valid points here. Even though, you know, my personal walled garden, uh protects me from the green bubbles. [laughter] But if this suit is successful, how might it change things? 


Tre’vell Anderson: The suit says that that walled garden that we both love so much is basically a weapon to deter competition, and that it allows Apple to charge higher prices. So if successful, it would stop the company from sabotaging other technology that competes with its own apps, and it would stop the company from being able to craft contracts with various parties that would allow the alleged monopoly to continue and broaden. What that means in practical terms, that our user experience could change. More diverse apps might become available on the Apple App Store. We could have the ability to use payment systems that aren’t Apple Pay, but it could also mean increased privacy and security risks because that walled garden won’t be walled anymore. Now, I should say that Apple, as you might expect, rejected the claims of the suit and said it would fight it. In a statement, they said the suit was, quote, “wrong on the facts and the law.” They continued saying that the suit is an attempt to, quote, “hinder our ability to create the kind of technology people expect from Apple,” and that it would, quote, “set a dangerous precedent empowering government to take a heavy hand in designing people’s technology.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, so when can we expect to see how this will all shake out? It sounds like it could have some really far reaching consequences. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. According to the Associated Press, we shouldn’t really be expecting a verdict until like 2026, because it could easily be one of those cases that drags on and due to various appeal attempts. But also that’s exactly what’s happening across the pond, where the European Commission is also tussling with Apple over similar concerns. A number of anti-trust cases have been brought against the tech company. Some of them have been successful and will soon begin to impact iPhone users in Europe. So we’ll be able to see, you know, what will potentially happen for those of us in the United States soon enough. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. Okay. Definitely something we will continue to keep an eye on. But now we are going to switch our focus to explaining how third parties may be a huge key to who wins the White House this November. The New York Times reported this week that the Democratic Party is preparing an aggressive effort to challenge the presidential ballot access efforts of third party candidates. It’s more evidence that the party is increasingly worried about the threat that these candidates could swing the election to former President Donald Trump. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, but we have third party candidates every election. Why is this year any different? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Turns out that there are just more of them this time around. First, there is Robert F. Kennedy Jr, RFK Jr, who is mounting an independent bid. He has lots of name recognition thanks to that very famous last name, and is well known for his stance as an anti-vaxxer. Even his own family is rooting against him, but Kennedy has been pretty consistently polling in the double digits for the past few months in national polls. So not insignificant. Then there is the liberal activist Cornell West, who is also staging an independent bid. The centrist group No Labels is also still on its increasingly quixotic quest to find a candidate who actually wants to run for president with them. So far, most of their high profile picks have uh swiped left, said no, but they’re still kickin’. And that is all before we get to the typical third party options, like Jill Stein with the Green Party, who is running again, and then the Libertarian Party, they appear poised to put up a relatively unknown nominee, a guy named Chase Oliver, who’s a 37 year old activist living in Atlanta. So a lot of people trying to get on that ballot, not just Joe Biden and Donald Trump.


Tre’vell Anderson: Sounds like too many people. 


Priyanka Aribindi: To me. Yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, when will we start to get some more clarity on how these third party campaigns are you know actually shaping up? 


Priyanka Aribindi: You know, I think it’ll happen pretty soon. Yesterday, former New Jersey governor and twice failed Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie didn’t rule out the possibility of running with the centrist group No Labels, even though he previously dismissed the idea. Next week, RFK Jr says that he will announce his running mate in Oakland. He is reportedly favoring a Bay area lawyer and investor named Nicole Shanahan, who was once married to the Google co-founder Sergey Brin. But he’s also reportedly eyed New York Jets quarterback and fellow conspiracy theorist Aaron Rodgers, as well as former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. So wide range there. So to make sense of all of these third party candidate options this year and how they could shape this election, I wanted to speak with an expert. So earlier I spoke with David Faris. He is an associate professor of political science at Roosevelt University in Chicago. And I started by asking him why there are so many third party options this election cycle. 


David Faris: I think there’s a few reasons, right? I mean, for one thing, the two major party nominees are about as unpopular as they’ve ever been, especially in recent history. And that has, I think, created a sort of a groundswell of support for third parties and um and a greater interest in third parties. We also, if you look at polling of like um Gallup runs this survey of, you know, how many Americans think the two major parties aren’t doing a great job of representing them? And do they want a third party? And that number is at a 21st century high of like 63% of Americans say that they want a third party option. And so I think those two things really go a lot of the way towards explaining why there’s so much interest in mounting a third party bid in this particular election cycle. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. But when it comes to the threat of losing voters because of this, who has more to lose between President Biden and former President Trump? 


David Faris: I think if you look at the particular set of candidates who are running, there’s just more space being occupied to Biden’s left by these third party candidates than to Trump’s right. Like Jill Stein and Cornel West, the Green Party and Cornell West’s new operation there, they’re occupying like almost identical ideological space. Right. They’re both sort of on the the left wing fringe, you know, and why they’re not joining forces, I don’t know, but they will be representing two separate ballot lines. And that’s they’re both polling pretty low. But in a close election, you know, one or 2% can be decisive. And then you also have Robert Kennedy Jr, who has gotten a lot of attention for his anti-vaccine views. And he’s spent a lot– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


David Faris: –of time on Fox News. And I think people had been expecting him to start drawing more from Trump than Biden, but that’s just not what we see in the polling so far. And I think one of the reasons for that is if you look at his set of issue positions, he has a lot of like left populist stuff up on his website like, End the Forever Wars and raise the minimum wage and and drive down mortgage interest rates like a lot of things that you wouldn’t be like, shocked to see on like Bernie Sanders’ website or something. So um in that sense I don’t think that he’s a lock to draw more from Trump and Biden. And if I were one of the two candidates, I’d be much more worried if I was Joe Biden than Donald Trump about this threat. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Who do you think makes up his his coalition? Because, as you said, interesting pairing of of stances that he has. And he is polling around 13%, according to Fox News nationally, if presidential debates actually end up happening this year, could he qualify? Could we see him on that stage? 


David Faris: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I’ll tell you, I have yet to meet a Kennedy voter like in the wild, you know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


David Faris: So I don’t know who these people are. I would guess that his support is relatively soft, you know, so that 13% number could be a lot of older Democrats who just love the Kennedy brand for whatever reason. It could be people who don’t pay a ton of attention to politics, but have a generally favorable impression of the Kennedy family. And then it’s, you know, third party voters as a whole tend to be people who are relatively less engaged in politics, uncommitted to the two major parties, obviously, um they tend to have lower turnout rates, things like that. So I would say Kennedy’s coalition is probably a group of like very disaffected voters with pretty maybe unusual issue positions. And they see in him someone who’s just different from the two major party nominees in a way that’s appealing to them. And um, his polling numbers, you know, the Commission on Presidential Debates sets the the guidelines are 15% in five polls. And then you have to be on enough state ballots to theoretically win the Electoral College. And Kennedy looks like he might be the first person to get into the debate since Perot. That’s a generation ago. Right. So this is something a lot of voters have never experienced. Have never seen a debate with more than two people. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


David Faris: In the general election. And it’s uh, if I wasn’t terrified of it, I’d say it’s exciting, but um but [laugh] I’m too scared. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


David Faris: To be excited about it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. And to that end, on Wednesday, The New York Times reported that the Democratic Party plans to mount an aggressive bid to challenge ballot access for some of these third party candidates, especially in very critical swing states. So what do you make of that effort? How do you think it will go? Could it backfire for them? 


David Faris: I think a posture of trying to keep people off the ballot using these legal technicalities is probably not the way to go here. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Well tough luck. 


David Faris: Yeah. It’s not really in keeping with the party’s philosophy, which is about making ballot access easier and getting more people to vote. You know, sometimes in politics you have to do things that are not necessarily in keeping with your underlying ideals. You know, Democrats have been boosting these sort of ultra Maga candidates in various races around the country because they think they’re easier to beat. And I don’t like, love that, but it did seem to work in 2022. But here is a case where I think particularly the Kennedy operation, these are not amateurs. And I think that they have a lot of money backing them. They have super PACs backing them. And my guess is in more cases then not they’re just not going to have a lot of luck keeping them off the ballot. 


Priyanka Aribindi: When push comes to shove, many voters actually end up abandoning these third party candidates when they eventually do get to the ballot box. Do you know a little bit more about, you know, why that is, what their reasoning is behind doing that?


David Faris: If you go back and you look at polling for third party candidates over multiple cycles stretching back into the ’90s, you’ll see the peak of support is in the spring and the summer, and then it starts to decline as Election Day approaches. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


David Faris: I mean, look, people are vulnerable to pressure from their peers and from other people who generally support their political ideals. And then oh people who are saying they’re going to vote for West or Stein or Kennedy right now are in for like seven months of difficult conversations with their friends. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, yes. 


David Faris: And their family, you know, and that takes a toll. It really does. And you also see, even the election eve polling for third party candidates tends to be dramatically higher than the actual result. And I again, I can’t take you like inside the mind of a Kennedy voter. Right. But like, you can imagine someone who would prefer Jill Stein to be president, but they get to the voting place and they’re gripped with, like, this panic, you know, like, what if what I’m doing contributes to a Donald Trump second term and they don’t do it? One thing that’s really sticking out to me is that when you have collectively, the third party candidates polling around 17%, 18%, and we know that that support is probably going to drop off. That introduces a huge wildcard in terms of forecasting the election, in terms of predicting the election and like thinking about who’s going to win, because not only do you have to think about like the margins of errors and polls that we already have, but also we have this like huge pool of voters that could do anything. They could go vote for Kennedy, they could stay home, they could switch to Trump, they could switch to Biden. That’s a huge challenge for people who are seeking to have a bit of certainty about what’s gonna happen in November. And I think that, to be honest, I think this is going be like the most stressful election that we’ve ever had. And that this is one of those reasons, right? It’s not just the specter of a Trump restoration, it’s that we can’t wrap our minds around a set of expectations right because like Biden is down in the polls. It’s not by much. And then you have this, like reservoir of third party voters and undecided voters in a way that I think is really going to make election night a very wild night. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with David Faris. He is an associate professor of political science at Roosevelt University in Chicago. That is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break] 




Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yesterday, congressional leadership unveiled their $1.2 trillion package to prevent a partial government shutdown. They don’t have a lot of time to pass it, though. A shutdown could start at midnight tonight if nothing is passed. Lawmakers are already six months behind schedule. Both Republicans and Democrats are claiming wins with this bill though. Republicans made strides on securing funding on a number of border related issues, and Democrats got funding for education and health policies. But it’s an open question whether the bill can get through Congress in time. Voting on the spending bill is taking place in Congress this morning. 


Priyanka Aribindi: President Biden canceled nearly six billion more dollars in student debt on Thursday, this time for tens of thousands of public service workers nationwide. The White House announced the move yesterday, saying that 78,000 teachers, nurses, firefighters and other workers in the public sector would have their debt forgiven. Officials put out a statement yesterday writing, quote, “these public service workers have dedicated their careers to serving their communities. But because of past administrative failures, never got the relief they were entitled to under the law. As of now, Biden has canceled the debt of almost 4 million borrowers. More than 870,000 of them work in public service. If you’re one of the lucky ducks who are getting their debt canceled, you will receive an email next week from the Department of Education with next steps. Very exciting email to receive one that will actually find you well I’m sure. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, I love that for all of them who will be receiving said email. However, journalists, podcasters, we too are public servants. Okay?


Priyanka Aribindi: It is a fact. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And I should qualify for this loan forgiveness. Okay?


Priyanka Aribindi: We do it for you. The people. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Reddit made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday. The social media platform is known for its community threads like Ask Me Anything or Am I the Asshole? And on Thursday, it went viral when shares shot up 48% on the first day of trading through an IPO or initial public offering. The site hasn’t been able to turn an annual profit since its launch in 2005, despite having more than 71 million users. Early Reddit initially turned off advertisers because the site’s content can be a little unhinged, to say the least. 


Priyanka Aribindi: To say the least. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Uh huh. Okay. And it still struggled financially despite trying to install better content moderation. So by going public, Reddit hopes to make money by letting outside investors buy into it. But some Reddit users aren’t stoked on the possibility of their favorite platform becoming publicly owned. Many of them, some of them producers on this very podcast you’re listening to, prefer Reddit’s edgier vibe that’s more focused on platforming chaotic discourse rather than making a quick buck. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, approved a bill on Wednesday banning public schools and colleges from using state funds on diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI programs. The new law will limit discussions of quote, “divisive concepts,” aka gender, race and sexuality in classrooms, and such restrictions will also apply to state agencies. The law also requires that public colleges make clear that their restrooms are, quote, “for use by individuals based on their biological sex.” So I imagine they want a sign that says all of that on the door. Wild. Alabama is just the latest GOP led state to take aim at DEI funding. Florida, Texas, and Tennessee have all adopted similar restrictions over the past several months, and they all look like clowns. Hope they know. Alabama’s law goes into effect on October 1st. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Two more Mississippi law enforcement officers who tortured two Black men were sentenced yesterday. Joshua Hartfield received a ten year prison sentence and Brett McAlpin, who was the highest ranked officer present at the attack, received 27 years. They’re the last of six officers to receive their sentences for their attacks on Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker in 2023. All of the officers were part of the Goon Squad, a self-named group of white deputies. Prosecutors said McAlpin was the one who called the shots that awful night, and that he terrorized people in Rankin County, Mississippi, for decades. As we mentioned on yesterday’s show, an investigation by The New York Times showed that the Goon Squad has a documented history of torture and the use of excessive force on other civilians as well. 


Priyanka Aribindi: All eyes are on Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Shohei Ohtani, arguably the greatest baseball player of all time after his interpreter was fired on Wednesday. Ohtani’s legal team accused Ippei Mizuhara of stealing millions of dollars from the Japanese baseball star to cover his sports gambling debts. The IRS confirmed to the AP that Mizuhara and the bookmaker are under criminal investigation, and the L.A. Times cited unnamed sources to say that Mizuhara placed sports bets, but no betting on baseball has been alleged. Mizuhara told ESPN that he never bet on baseball as well. It is definitely a weird situation. There was also some back and forth over whether Ohtani agreed to cover Mizuhara’s debts, or if Mizuhara took the money without permission. For context, Mizuhara has not only been Ohtani’s interpreter, but his best friend. They are very close. Last year, Ohtani signed with the Dodgers for an insane amount of money $700 million. And this is a wild story that is transcending the world of baseball and permeating our bubble, which means it’s definitely a big deal. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t know what’s going on Ippei, but inquiring minds want to know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Come into the office once in a while if you are Princess Kate and tell your friends to listen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just listening to an amazing episode about hip hop by a journalist like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


[spoken together] And see you on Slack, Kate. 


Priyanka Aribindi: They have her photoshopping, they have her making statements. I’m sure she’s there. I’m sure she’s on the Slack every day. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, she’s been working hard. All right?


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously, she said I’m on that payroll and I’m working for it. [music break] 


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters and Julia Claire. And our showrunner is Leo Duran. Adriene Hill is our executive producer. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.