A while back, I wrote a post explaining why I was supporting Hillary Clinton for president. It garnered more comments—and more ire—than anything else I’ve ever put up on the internet. Now that the election is looming, I want to respectfully respond to some of the things I’ve heard…
“How can you vote? With all you’ve done and written, how can you participate in this corrupt, money-driven system? I thought you were far more radical than that!”
Political strategies and tactics are not jealous lovers. You don’t have to be monogamous. Direct Action will not feel betrayed if you also vote from time to time—you can be poly in your tactics. And I am. Of course I vote! If you’re a woman, or a person of color, or a person who doesn’t own property, or even a white male who doesn’t belong to the nobility, centuries of struggle and many deaths have bought you the right to vote. I vote to keep faith with peasant rebels and suffragist hunger strikers and civil rights workers braving the lynch mobs of the South, if for no other reason. But there is another reason—because who we vote for has an enormous impact on real peoples’ lives.
“I’m voting for Jill Stein to send a message and build a third party that will be a real alternative.”
You can do that—but if you are in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maine, New Mexico or New Hampshire I would beg you not to! And even ‘safe’ states aren’t necessarily all that safe—nor is our democracy should Clinton win the electoral college but lose the popular vote.
And the message has already been sent. It was sent by Sanders’ near-win in the primaries, which we can build on if Clinton wins. But if Clinton loses, the Democrats will not turn around and say, “Oh how wrong we were not to choose the more progressive candidate.” They’ll say, “The country has swung to the right and we must head right or be left behind.” That’s what happened when Reagan won, and Bush, and Nixon, for that matter, and even though I believe they are entirely wrong-headed, whoever wins will claim a mandate.
The way to build a third party is from the ground up, starting with local campaigns and building a base and an infrastructure. That’s what the right wing did—taking over things like school boards and city councils. That’s where the Green Party is most effective and successful, and I’d like to see more of it.
“I won’t vote out of fear.”
“Don’t make decisions out of fear” is one of those helpful rules of life we tell ourselves when we need some extra confidence. And there are times when it makes sense—say, when questioning whether to dive headlong into a wild, passionate love affair.
But sometimes fear is an appropriate emotion. Should you dare to dive headlong into a pool without checking for rocks beneath? To eat that unknown mushroom? To dance freely and spontaneously out into traffic?
Fear is the Goddess’ way of keeping us from doing really stupid things, and there are times to listen to fear, and heed it. Fear can be a life-saver! And in this election, fear of a Trump victory is an absolutely rational emotion—and that alone would be a good reason to vote for Clinton.
“I must choose what my heart tells me.”
This is a good, romantic reason for choosing art instead of accounting for your college major—but it really has nothing to do with voting. Because what our hearts tell us is mostly that we want something completely other than anything the system offers—and we already know that. But at this moment we have a serious choice between two versions of what the system offers—and one is much, much worse than the other. Now is one of those moments when we need to use our heads and think strategically.
“The Democrats are just as bad.”
No they’re not. What they are is not as good as we hope they’ll be. Yet Clinton’s policies are very good on some key issues: gay rights, women’s right to choose and women’s equality, and civil rights. She’s running on a Democratic platform that is the most progressive ever, that includes raising the minimum wage, returning to free public universities, expanding and improving Obamacare and adding a public option—bringing us closer to a single payer system, appointing a decent set of justices to the Supreme Court that will uphold civil liberties, and rolling back Citizens’ United. She believes climate change is real and will be susceptible to public pressure to rein in the oil companies and be a stronger protector of the environment. Her foreign policy is hawkish but at least it lies within the realm of sanity. It’s not like she’s running against Gandhi—she’s running against “Why have nukes if we don’t use them” Trump!
“The lesser of two evils is still an evil, and I would therefore be evil—or at least, morally impure—if I voted for her.”
Noam Chomsky wrote a brilliant critique of the ‘moral witness’ approach to voting—pointing out that the point of lesser-evil voting is precisely to do less evil—and that’s good! Here’s what he has to say about moral voting: “The basic moral principle at stake is simple: not only must we take responsibility for our actions, but the consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves.”
You can read his full critique HERE.
So when you vote, think about what world you want to wake up in on November 9…
Hillary Clinton wins big, and progressive forces celebrate and then mobilize to push for real action on climate change, an end to the Dakota Access Pipeline, an end to militarized policing and the rampant murder of people of color, economic policies that benefit the disenfranchised, and a sane foreign policy. We build on the momentum from Sanders’ campaign and see some key changes get made.
Donald Trump wins, and every racist and bigot in the country celebrates. Every bully has a field day: every misogynist now has license to grab and snatch and harass as they please. He appoints Supreme Court justices that repeal Roe vs. Wade, uphold the rights of white cops to shoot people of color with impunity, and decide that gay marriage—indeed, gay sex, is once again illegal. He repeals Obamacare and anyone with a Latino last name lives in fear of deportation. He undoes every gain that has been made around climate change, and derails every international negotiation. He carries his bullying personality into foreign policy discussions and embroils us in war after war, perhaps even pulling that nuclear trigger. Progressive folks spend the next phase of our lives fighting for things like keeping some minimal funding for health care, keeping ourselves out of jail should we happen to love someone of the same gender or need to terminate a pregnancy or worship in a mosque instead of a church, keeping some small measure of economic gains for the middle class (forget the poor) and digging our bomb shelters before the nuclear retaliation hits.
Hillary Clinton wins small—possibly the electoral college but not the popular vote. Trump makes good his threat to contest the election, whips up his supporters to roam the streets in vigilante groups. A lot of people get hurt or even die—most likely, women, people of color, gender-nonconforming people, or anyone who looks suspiciously Latino or Muslim.
So, folks, we’re down to the wire. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Get out there and vote. No politician will get us where we need to go—but I believe Hillary Clinton’s election will set move us forward in the right direction. And then the rest is up to us!