I know everyone has been waiting to see the official 2016 Presidential endorsement of a minor blogger with 289 followers, and here it is! Actually, I think endorsements are mostly bunk and it drives me crazy how the media constantly speculates over who will endorse who and how many votes an endorsement will gain when I believe endorsements have very little sway in electoral outcomes. That being said I thought it would make an interesting exercise just to lay out my thought process on voting in November. And if like-minded individuals stumble upon this post, I believe it may help them too.
So, this November 8th, I will be casting my vote for President for Jill Stein of the Green Party.
I can hear some of you already crying out that a vote for Stein is a vote for Donald Trump. But you ignore that United States President is elected by the Electoral College. I live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which is perhaps the most Clintonian state in the union. Even if every Massachusetts citizen voted their conscience, Hillary Clinton is genuinely preferred by most of the voters and would win the state by a comfortable margin. All of Massachusetts’ 11 electoral will go to Clinton no matter regardless of my vote. This is true in the majority of the states and the District of Columbia. If you live in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and want to stop Trump, by all means please vote for Clinton even if you don’t like her! If you live anywhere else you can safely vote your conscience for any candidate of you choice (although if your conscience tells you to vote for Trump, you should reexamine your conscience).
Why then, you may ask, will I be voting for Stein and encouraging others to consider to do so? Here are four reasons:
- I think Stein would make a good President – Voting for a candidate one actually likes is such a strange idea in American politics, but I believe that the more people who do so the more likely we’d end up with public servants who best represent our nation’s hopes and dreams. Too many people chose instead vote for a candidate that they think will win (because they like to be on the side of winners) or the lesser of two evils (because they want to stop the most reprehensible candidate without considering that they are still electing evil). No candidate is 100% perfect, but I’ve been following Jill Stein’s career since she ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and appreciate her efforts. Her background is as a medical doctor and as an activist she’s had success in advancing environmental and electoral campaign reform issues. The issues that she puts in the forefront of her platform include those that are near and dear to my heart including poverty-reduction, public education, racial justice, environmental protection, greater equality for all, public transportation, and a foreign policy based on diplomacy rather than militarism.
- I believe we need more than two political parties – The Democratic and Republican parties do not come close to representing the full-spectrum of political thought in our country. I think there needs to be many more viable parties in national, state, and local politics to both encourage greater participation in our democracy and better representation in governments. A criticism I’ve seen lately is that third parties run “vanity candidates” for President and if they really want to make a change they should start the party at the local level and work up. I’ve been frustrated that many elections in Massachusetts – from mayor to Congress – feature Democrats running opposed and wish that there were Green Party challengers, but ultimately this criticism misses out on a few points. First of all, local elections get very little media attention to start with, and third-party candidates virtually nil. Running a presidential candidate who can’t win has an air of vanity to it, but it’s also an advertisement that makes people aware that the party even exists. It’s akin to the fashion designer who makes a complex get up for a model to wear down a runway in order to get people to buy their off-the-rack clothing. Secondly, many states require parties to win a certain percentage of votes in an election in order to earn and retain access to appearing on official ballots and to get matching funds from the government. Running a Presidential candidate is a way that third parties can keep their party alive for the next local election. It’s a screwed-up system, but for the time being, a necessary one.
- It can send a message to Hillary Clinton, and make her a better President – Over the course of her long public career as First Lady/”Co-President,” Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly advocated for policies that have hurt the most vulnerable in our nation and abroad. This includes supporting unnecessary wars for “regime change,” dismantling social safety nets, increasing mass incarceration, privatizing public schools, deregulating the financial industry, and trade deals that allow international corporations freedoms from United States laws and regulations. For these reasons I cannot vote for Clinton. The primary election against Bernie Sanders helped push Clinton to abandon some of her older policies and adopt more progressive policies, but I fear that once she is President she may resume her old ways. If Jill Stein wins 5-10% of the vote in a Clinton stronghold like Massachusetts that will be a sign to Clinton that the status quo is not acceptable and she will need to govern from a more progressive position.
- The Presidency is overrated – I expect this may be my most controversial position, but the power of the President is not as great as everyone thinks. I frequently see charts showing how the country prospered during certain Presidencies and faltered during others as evidence of a particular President’s greatness or weakness. But these charts treat the Presidency as if it is in a vacuum, ignoring all the other factors that affect the well-being of our country, including Congress and the Supreme Court, state and local governments, business, the actions of the citizenry, and foreign affairs. While the Presidential election gets up to two years of coverage, and Presidents and candidates have constant media attention, it is dangerous to overlook the other elections for Congress, state and local governments, and ballot initiatives. The low participation in these elections have moved our governments away from being representative of our communities, and right-wing corporatism organizations like ALEC have taken advantage of this to elect politicians friendly to their interests and pass legislation authored by ALEC. We need full participation in our politics at every level to counteract this and give power to the people where it belongs.
So I implore everyone reading this to the following things:
- Verify that you are registered to vote and if not find out the requirements and deadlines, and register ASAP!
- Find out what will be on your ballot and research every candidate and ballot initiative.
- Be aware that there may be primary or preliminary elections. Make sure to vote in these too!
- Contribute to your favorite candidates by volunteering, donating, or even just talking about them with your friends.
- Keep voting in every election your eligible, not just in Presidential election years. Be aware that not all election days are in November.
- Keep in regular contact with your elected officials – mail, email, phone, in person – and remind them where you stand on the issues you care about most.
- Make sure that even politicians you like know when you think they are wrong. Don’t accept the idea that these are “attacks” that “hurt” the good politicians. Dissent is necessary for healthy government.
- Remember that electoral politics are just a portion of what makes our democracy work. Most of the great advancements in US history came when people who cared got together to make a change. Commit to being active in your community to whatever level you are able.