Anyone who’s ever considered voting for the Green Party instead of Hillary Clinton, the latest corporate candidate to be referred to in the U.S. as “leftwing,” has been told the same thing: a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump. It is said that we must be “practical” and vote for the “lesser evil.”
This tactic, demanding that the left line-up and vote for Hillary Clinton even though she’s a pro-war, corporate candidate, is often called “voting for the lesser evil.” But this is not a “strategy,” as noxious corporate pundits pretend, but an ideology rooted in unexamined assumptions that’s sure to lead to more conservatism, not less. The implicit framing is that Democrats must remain in power, regardless of their policies and no matter the cost, but this is a losing strategy for voters with an interest in progressive policy. Coupled with this is a total misunderstanding of the Democratic Party and a total omission of pressure politics. Lesser Evilism™ is a recipe for more Trump vs. Clinton far into the future.
To begin with, the Democratic Party leadership has continually walked away from the leftwing of the party–those that give the Democrats the meager progressive credentials they still have. On nearly every issue, Hillary Clinton has aligned herself with privilege and power. Here’s just a partial list of Clinton’s policy positions that demonstrate her rightwing credentials:
- She’s supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive self-described “trade deal” that would further corporate sovereignty over our democracy.
- She’s previously embraced the infamous “super predator” narrative, a racist caricature of blacks as unapologetic criminals, totally unhinged from ordinary moral constraint.
- She’s attacked proposals for single-payer healthcare, the only cure for the ludicrously expensive, non-coverage that currently only serves the needs of a bloated healthcare sector at the public’s expense.
- She’s attacked free college tuition, along with single-payer healthcare, one of the basic building blocks of a meritocracy.
- She’s supported the overthrowing of democratically elected governments, such as in Haiti and Honduras.
- She’s supported the mass deportation of child migrants from Central America, a sad legacy from the ongoing U.S. involvement in the region.
- She voted for the Iraq War, which on its own disqualifies her for presidential office.
- She is the definitive case of money in politics. She made $2.9 million giving just 12 speeches to big banks–an industry famous for money-laundering.
- She’s continually supported the expanse of the surveillance state.
- She’s participated in the highly destructive “war on drugs,” refusing even to decriminalize marijuana.
Unlike the policy differences between the Democrats and Republicans, the differences between the Democrats and the Green Party are vast. American society would function in an entirely different manner under the Green Party’s policy platform:
Even during the media’s frenzy over the fictitious crisis of Sanders supporters turned Trump supporters, Clinton picked Tim Kaine as her VP, not Elizabeth Warren, the clear choice of Sanders supporters. That the left wasn’t even able to get this concession is downright antagonizing. And when Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped down as the Democratic National Committee Chair after Wikileaks emails divulged her efforts to sabotage Bernie Sanders in the primary, Clinton continued to antagonize by hiring Schultz into her own presidential campaign and endorsing her for her reelection campaign in Florida. To continue to vote for a party that ignores your voice is the epitome of wasting your vote. Political parties do not provide public goods for votes that are assumed to be guaranteed.
The “a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump” crowd is quick to blame others for the lack of success of the Democratic Party, but these policy decisions were not made by rank-and-file voters. Instead, responsibility rests with party leadership. If Hillary Clinton believes a center-right campaign can win in November, then the success or failure of this strategy is squarely the responsibility of Hillary Clinton, not Green Party voters.
But proponents of Lesser Evilism™ rarely consider Clinton’s record and responsibility, nor do they even understand it. Instead, the finger is always pointed at Trump: “this is why we can’t have nice things,” it is thought. But Democrats were completely in power–in the House, Senate, and presidency–after the 2008 election of Barack Obama, and these problems were still not fixed. We still don’t have any of the leftwing policies highlighted in this list. In fact, many of our problems have gotten worse. Deportations and the use of drones for targeted assassinations have reached record levels. The barriers to progressive policy are well within the Democratic Party itself.
Trump may be enormously rightwing, but one has to wonder how far this extends beyond the standard Republican consensus. Sure his rhetoric is beyond reproach, but can blatantly unconstitutional calls to deport Muslims really become the law of the land? It’s doubtful. It’s also arguable that Trump wasn’t even the scariest candidate this year; Ted “carpet-bomb” Cruz competed with Trump till the very end. Every four years we will continue to get another Trump. We cannot sacrifice everything in one election cycle only to get a Ted Cruz in the next.
And in some ways, Trump has spoken far more progressively than Clinton on issues that the president actually has direct control over, like trade. In his criticism of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the H1-B Visa outsourcing program, and global “policing,” Trump has actually campaigned on a more progressive, populist platform. Trump is not the paid representative of Wall Street and other nefarious industries to nearly the same degree as Clinton. This is why many neoconservative intellectuals and military industrial complex apologists like Max Boot and Robert Kagan–you know, the really scary people–have actually backed Clinton over Trump.
Still, many say that the dangers of a rightwing supreme court judge–or more morbidly, “judges”–outweighs any possibility of reforming the Democratic Party. They say that voting for Stein jeopardizes the struggles for marriage equality and Obamacare. But this is a poor calculus, devoid of any comparison to what a real leftwing government will bring–maybe even after Trump actually does reverse these things. In addition, there’s no evidence that Clinton won’t choose a rightwing supreme court judge. When Clinton picked her platform committee, they were against doing anything to jeopardize the Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though she herself claims to be against it “in its current form.”
In truth, Lesser Evilism™ hasn’t worked. The country has continually shifted rightward and the Democrats always seem to be one step away from committing themselves to actual progressive policy. This is because people keep throwing away their votes instead of voting for real progressive policies represented by Jill Stein and the Green Party. An electoral strategy that puts outside pressure on the Democrats can modify this behavior. This cannot be a flash-in-the-pan electoral strategy, like voting for a particular candidate in the Democratic primary and then vanishing, but must be a prolonged movement.
The strategic voter does not consider Trump the only relevant factor when contemplating a vote. If one truly believes in single-payer healthcare, free university tuition, a withdrawal from the Middle East, and the many other progressive positions opposed by Clinton, then something has to change. Clinton decided long ago that she doesn’t need our votes nor does she intend on representing our views. She made the decision to give away our futures to corporate America. Democrats will have to work hard for my vote next time. Will they have to work hard for yours?