Let's succeed together in making this country a better place for humanity. Let's work together, and separately, to send out the best possible progressive mandate for our politicians to respond to in the Fall of 2016.
Electoral politics in America often bring out the worst in people. It is frustrating that activists, leftists, and progressives who work together some of the time, often get utterly torn apart in the excitement (and fear) surrounding who will be the next President.
For me, the world of Facebook has been the most frustrating experience of the 2016 presidential cycle. I have been shouted down by a friend who is a feminist, artist, and Hillary Clinton supporter. She posts Hellfire missives about why we must all vote for Hillary Clinton, because Trump is so bad. And, she sends out subtle, and not so subtle, messages that it is not okay to vote for Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate.
For a while, I tried to respond to these arguments with my own statements about my right to vote for a third party and my firmness to vote for a peace candidate. Though, I think the end result of the exchange was that my artist friend feels like I am attacking her, hurting the cause of women, and ruining the country. I feel like my friend's "We all must vote Democrat or else" message is helping Hillary Clinton and the powers-that-be to oppress me and stifle my voice.
I believe that my vote is my power. And, I cannot give my power to a candidate unless I truly believe they will enact my values in the world. For me, this means I cannot vote for any politician whom I know has voted for war.
Also, on Facebook, a conversation with an old school friend got to nearly the same level of vitriol. I had to end it by asserting that he was way more important to me than either Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein, and that we should just not talk politics until after the election. By giving up any hope of converting him or sharing my political insights, I think I left it in the best possible place. (Though, the mischievous and hopeful side of me may show him this essay.)
I just wish that I could make my friends -- and other reluctant Clinton supporters doing third-party rants -- see that by criticizing me and Jill Stein and the Green Party, they are not only hurting their friends, they are hurting the causes we all care about.
The most important goal of the reluctant Clinton supporters seems to be the outcome of the election. They don't truly believe in Hillary Clinton, but they feel they must vote for her in order to defeat Trump. And, the next level of their outcome strategy is that they believe that by defeating Trump, they will have saved America from a devastating turn towards intolerance and right-wing politics. Somehow, they believe that they will ultimately help protect the health, safety, and rights of themselves and humanity by voting for Hillary Clinton.
Though, it is easy to see by studying history, that the way to move the country towards more progressive solutions is to use one's vote in the most empowered manner possible. Often, that best voting strategy has been a third-party path.
Third parties do not often win elections. So, it isn't easy to argue that the Green Party or Libertarian Party candidates for President have a good chance of being elected. (Though, heck, Abraham Lincoln was a third-party candidate, and he managed.)
More likely, the outcome of a large third-party vote will be to move the country in the direction of the movement it represents. So, historically, having a big and adamant third-party vote has supported the great social justice causes of the day. The Liberty Party (the anti-slavery/abolitionists) gave momentum to end slavery. The Women's Suffrage Party existed from 1909 until 1919, when Congress voted to give women the right to vote. Eugene Debs ran for President on the Socialist Party line five times between 1900 and 1920. Some politicos say "The New Deal" was based on the Socialist Party platform.
In more recent times, the effects of third parties can be even more immediate. After Ross Perot's run for President, the US government was forced to decrease the national debt for awhile in the 1990s. With the success of Green Party candidates and the Green Party message, the culture -- and some state law -- has moved towards: legalizing medical marijuana; marriage equality (same-sex marriage); and a constant discourse on sustainable energy.
When major party supporters take their focus off the candidate they want to win, and put their focus on eroding the morale of third-party activists, they are creating two problems.
First, they are hindering the chance of their own candidate to win. They are wasting time that could have been used to lobby people who are close to their opinion. They are wasting energy that could have been used to plan a get-out-the-vote effort for other, already-won-over, major-party supporters.
Secondly, by hindering the work of third-party activists to make noise and to make bolder demands on the system, the stubborn major-party supporter winds up moving the political energy against the noble goals and message of the third party.
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