By Evan Vann | 10/30/16
My little sister, Ella Blu, does not want Hillary Clinton to be elected president. At eight years old, while she does exhibit pretty impressive political understanding, her main reason is more personal: she wants to be the first elected woman president. While I hope there is a woman president elected before Ella is able to run in 27 years, I am proud of her early interest in public service.
It is my hope that any child from a blue collar, lower middle class family be able to retain dreams of being elected president. My only fear is that she might be dissuaded the more she learns of the classist nature of American politics, and that her financial background does not give her a fair shot. My dedication to fighting a political climate that has been undermined by the establishment is why I’m a Green. I can confidently say the Green Party will fight for kids like Ella.
However, my involvement with the party has invited criticism. Most pushback regarding my work for the Green Party comes from moderate liberals and centrist Democrats who, in a state of political Stockholm Syndrome, refuse to abandon a party that has abandoned them.
Instead, centrists call Greens vote stealers, arguing incorrectly that a vote for the Green Party takes away potential votes from the Democratic Party, aiding the Republican Party. The factual basis often cited in support of this argument is the Ralph Nader effect. The 2000 Green Party presidential candidate has been accused of stealing votes from Al Gore and giving the election to George Bush.
The only problem: it isn’t true.
The real reason that Bush won is simple: people were unenthused about Gore. In the key state that people claim to be the deciding factor in the election, Florida, Bush won the votes of over 300,000 Democrats, over 12 times the amount that Nader was able to win. It is also worth noting that Gore lost over 190,000 self-described liberals to Bush, way more than the less than 34,000 of this group that voted for Nader.
As young as I was in 2000, the facts are plain. CNN’s exit poll showed Nader taking the same amount of votes from Republicans and Democrats, 1 percent. Gore also lost his home state of Tennessee, Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, and traditionally blue West Virginia. He also lost Oklahoma, North Carolina, and South Dakota, where Nader was not on the ballot. Had he won any of these, he would have been president.
As Nader said, “If he can’t beat a bumbling Texas governor with that terrible record, he ought to go back to Tennessee.” While it is possible Gore would have won if Nader wasn’t on the ballot in Florida, it has been noted that any inverse correlation between Nader and Gore was statistically insignificant and did not affect the outcome, meaning Nader is nothing more than a scapegoat.
The brunt of the blame regarding the 2000 election should be put on a party that continuously closes the door on progressive influence. Rather than embrace a populist agenda, the Democratic Party continues to propel neoliberals like Gore and Clinton, lacking the excitement and populism that people like Sanders and Nader had, and with good reason.
With the spoiler argument deconstructed, we can now transition from the factual to the moral. Even if the spoiler had basis in reality, does that mean any Green Party candidate should be subject to criticism for running for public office? The answer is a resounding no.
Moderate liberals tend assume that, based on overlapping platform regarding minor partisan issues, the Green Party and the Democratic Party are somehow friendly. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. As much as Democrats would like to believe that corruption, cronyism, and corporatism is isolated to Republicans and the right, the Democratic party’s state is just as bad, if not worse, than the Republican Party’s.
A party designed against reformism, with corruption and corporatism in its DNA, is anything but an ally. This overlap in policy cannot be separated from the party’s big money ties. Their feigned opposition to military intervention and more wars is directly contradicted by the blatant financial support of war profiteers. According to complacent Democrats, their environmental policy is similar to that of the Greens. Their acceptance of money from big oil and gas say otherwise.
Partisan overlap is not able to change the fact that the Democratic party is an enemy of the environment, working class and democracy. The party structure and platform is antithetical to the Ten Key Values of the Green Party as much as the Republican Party. If the Green Party was somehow as similar to the Democratic Party as they would like you to believe, there would be no need for a Green Party. “Common ground” is divided by the influence of big money and centralized of wealth and power in politics. As long as the Democratic Party remains in its current state (which it likely will), the existence of a Green Party is imperative.
Acknowledging this fundamental divide is crucial in overcoming propagated guilt. If a Green Party candidate “steals” votes from the Democratic Party, so be it. The basis of democracy is stealing votes from other candidates. Democrats feel no shame in taking votes from the Republican Party or any third party candidate,because Democrat and Republicans are presumed enemies. Their party fundamentals are so different that they are competitors. This is also true of the basic principles Green and Democratic Party. Their vision for America, stance on corporate capitalism, and concern with the democratic process are so fundamentally different that there should be no guilt in “stealing” votes.
With the myth of the spoiler disproven, and the clarification that the Democratic Party is antithetical to Green Party values, there is a more universally altruistic reason for people to vote Green. When we as a public vote the lesser of two evils, our democracy suffers. Supporters of the lesser of two evils may feel justified in stopping a Republican from getting elected, but continue to aid a disastrous perversion of the political process.
We must be concerned as to what message we send the major parties. If somebody feels inclined to vote Clinton, so be it. If her establishmentarian platform truly matches a voter, they should vote for her. However, when these candidates receive votes out of fear of the opposing candidate, problems arise. This says the American public is willing to support whatever disastrous candidates the two party system produces.
This complacency is hurting democracy. While establishment voters paint Green Party voters as angry, irrational, hopeless idealists, while Democratic voters who support candidates against their values are realist, “pragmatic” saviors of the next four years, there is little vision regarding the extended future.
Rather than a system where candidates must win over voters, American democracy has transformed into a system where support from voters is implied on the basis of the opponent.We have a system that releases parties and their candidates of accountability by voting against candidates rather than for candidates, which has given us Clinton and Trump.
My support of the Green Party does not come from a place of naive rage against the Democratic Party. It comes from an informed decision to exercise my democratic right to leave a party that’s not so democratic. I would encourage all progressive voters to make this transition with me. Especially after the most recent email leak, focusing on emails from the Clinton Campaign manager John Podesta, there should be no argument over the incestous relationship the party has with establishment politicians and big business interests.
The Democratic Party does not deserve our sympathy, our respect, or our votes. Nothing the party has done has been done with the interest of creating a sustainable, equitable, just society. For those whose values truly align with the Democratic Party, I am sure their votes will complement the corporate money nicely. Progressives focused on revolutionary politics, however, are advised to keep safe distance.
Continued complacency has resulted in the two power-hungry, establishment candidates. Unless we remain strong in our values and principles, the disapproval ratings will continue to climb. Imagine the candidates we will be voting on in 20 years unless we take a stand.
I have no shame leaving the Democratic Party to its own devices. In fact, I am certain they will fare extremely well, as populism has never been a huge concern. I advocate for a democracy rooted in idealism rather than pragmatism; we can’t vote against our values because we think it will win, we vote for our values so that they do win. There needs to be a clear line drawn between practicality and surrender to a broken system.
For those that share these same values, who remain dedicated to populist politics, I urge you to consider joining a movement where people from all walks of life are welcome. I am confident in the passionate, dedicated nature of the Green Party members I have been blessed to work with. It is people like these that make me believe, contrary to what some may think, our movement will not die. As much as they would like to downplay us as naive, angry hippies, make no mistake, this is a revolution against the establishment. There will always be a thorn in the side of those content with the way things are.
I am prepared to put everything on the line so that kids like Ella are unafraid and motivated to change America. Until our democracy encourages a just, fair, and idealist political system, Ella’s dream might, sadly, remain a dream. As long as the Democratic Party fails to treat us as informed, independent voters, well, it seems that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
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