Dear Friends and Family —
I know that many of us are looking towards the coming election with dread. Any semblances of reason and hope seem to be missing. Our political system seems broken. And so, naturally, we look for a third option. And there is someone on the left who would happily take your vote: Green Party candidate Jill Stein. But to vote for Stein is in fact to use faulty reasoning. In essence, it means voting against your best interests. In the following essay I address — and deflate — six arguments in favor of voting for Jill Stein. I hope that you’ll read it, and I pray that you will vote with your and my best interests in mind.
12 September, 2016
Argument 1: “Hillary and Donald Are The Same.”
- Is this really true? The last time we heard this line was back in 2000. But think of all the things George Bush did that Al Gore almost certainly would not have:
- Started the Iraq War.
- Passed the PATRIOT Act.
- Enacted vast tax cuts for the rich.
- Allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to lapse.
- Appointed Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the Supreme Court
- which led directly to the Citizens United ruling.
- Passed No Child Left Behind.
- Gutted the EPA.
- Significantly worsened climate change through inaction and environmentally hostile policy.
- Policies led directly to the Great Recession.
- Let’s be clear: the presidency of George W. Bush was a pretty much unmitigated disaster.
- If Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate, had not taken 2.7% of the vote on the left, it is certain that Gore would have won, and the terrible list above would not exist.
- We know that there are upcoming similar decisions that the next president will make:
- Filling at least one vacancy on the Supreme Court.
- Deciding whether to fix or destroy Obamacare.
- Commanding the military in relation to Syria, Iran, Russia, and China.
- Setting climate change policy (staying in the Paris Agreement).
- Can you with a straight face claim that Clinton and Trump would act identically on these issues? Their stated stances on each of the above items clearly indicate otherwise. Do you remember when this argument was made in 2000?
Argument 2: “I’m Not Voting For Trump.”
- In a two-party or “winner-takes-all” system, as we have in the U.S.A., to abstain or to vote for a third-party candidate is a guarantee of voting against your best interest. Unlike in, say, a parliamentary system where your faction can gain seats with even a minority of votes and possibly use those seats to join a coalition, in the U.S.A. only the highest vote-getter wins any power — and they win all the power. Think: if two leftist parties split their voters 30% and 30% and the rightist candidate took the remainder of the vote (40%), the rightist would take all of the power. This is why in our system we have to form coalitions BEFORE we vote in general elections.
- If you vote for a candidate guaranteed to lose, or you don’t vote — rather than voting for the candidate most closely aligned with your interests with a real shot at winning — then in a real sense you are voting (or abstaining) against your best interest. You are cutting off your hand to spite your foot.
Argument 3: “I Feel Like I’ll Never Get to Vote For Someone I Like.”
- This is probably not true: most on the left both liked and voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
- Maybe you mean, “I’ll never get to vote for a socialist.” Again, though, this is untrue: almost all Jill Stein supporters voted for Bernie Sanders in the last year.
- This is how our system works: you vote for your very favorite candidate in the primary — and then win or lose you vote for the major-party candidate whose positions most align with your interests in the general. Work hard for your candidate in the major-party primary, and hopefully they’ll make the general!
- Also, as a side note, you shouldn’t like Jill Stein. She is a licensed physician who nevertheless has made numerous statements suggesting that vaccines cause autism. This conspiracy theory is blatantly false and is damaging our country and our children. To pander to a fringe constituency on this issue shows a lack of character that I find disqualifying. But even if you really like Stein, voting for someone with no chance of winning the presidency is extremely foolish.
Argument 4: “The System Is Broken. I Won’t Participate.”
- In spirit I agree with the first part, that our system of elections and politics in general has many, many problems. However, when your car is having issues, you try to fix it — you don’t just abandon it in a pull-out or heavens to Betsy torch it.
- The best way to fix our system is from within That’s how we ended slavery, passed the Civil Rights Act, created Social Security, ended the Vietnam War, ended Prohibition, enacted the free public education system, and got women the right to vote. None of these struggles was easy, nor was any won by not voting, or voting for doomed candidates.
- Not participating does not qualify as action. Real action — action that can lead to change — is civil disobedience, armed insurrection, or community organizing. Pick your poison and get to work. But don’t lie to yourself that the act of voting against your best interests will in any way lead to systemic change. Much more likely the opposite.
Argument 5: “But the Green Party Is So Great!”
- The Green Party, at the presidential level, is a once-every-four-years pageant for some misguided leftist to feel important and claim there’s zero difference between Republicans and Democrats.
- If the Green Party is serious about building a movement and achieving real change, it should focus on local elections and build from the ground up. Its efforts in this department can be generously described as just getting going, and more honestly described as effectively nonexistent. The Green Party has only 130 elected officials in the whole country. This, out of more than 511,000 elected offices in the U.S. Do the math to figure out what percentage of offices Greens hold: .03%. If you round up. One in every 3,930 elected officials is a Green.
- The real opportunities for change exist inside the Democratic Party. Activists are making real progress, and Bernie Sanders’s campaign went a long ways in pushing Hillary Clinton and the Democrats’ platform to the left. But she has to win for any of these accomplishments to mean anything.
Argument 6: “But Hillary Will Win No Matter What.”
- Want to wager your life on that one? Want to wager someone else’s?
Number of votes by which Bush beat Gore in Florida: 537
Number of votes cast for Ralph Nader in Florida: 97,488
Number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq War: 4,424
Number of U.S. soldiers wounded in action in Iraq War: 31,952
Number of Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq War: between 100,000 and 650,000