I, along with everyone else who doesn’t enjoy border walls or pussy grabbing, am terrified of a Trump presidency. But I’m not with her either. Over the last three months, social media messages have shifted from general complaints about both mainstream party candidates to a barrage of retweeted articles meant to demonize third party voters.
Convincing anyone to vote one way or another is not my purpose, but I am concerned with they way we police voters who fall outside of a two party system. If there is any presidential election that has so vehemently exposed the problems of our current political binary, it’s this one. Any hope that the system will change is empty if we perpetuate the social fear of an alternative, and especially when that internalized fear enters the ballot box.
It’s time to stop vilifying a green vote.
1) Stop pretending the Green Party is some magical unicorn that wants too much to soon.
It is my firm belief that less than 1% of the general public has actually read the Green Party platform but that doesn’t stop a majority of the American public from having an opinion about it. When it came from Bernie Sanders’ mouth, the Bernie Bros roared in support for a $15 minimum wage and free college tuition. Now that both of those campaign promises, word-for-word, remain a viable option on the ballot, the boys have been mysteriously silent.
But the Green Party wants too much too soon, right? Like clean energy by 2030, mandatory GMO-labeling, and marijuana legalization. C’mon everyone. Dream a little. There ain’t no party like a third party party.
2) Stop saying that a third party vote gives votes to Trump.
It doesn’t. It gives votes to Jill Stein.
3) Stop saying that it’s white privilege to vote for the Green Party.
First of all, it’s white privilege to vote in general which is probably how we got into this mess. People of color have been overtly and de facto excluded from voting since voting became a thing. When over 21 million people, a majority of which are low-income people of color living in rural areas, lack access to legally required photo-identification, and 5.8 million people have permanently that lost their voting rights because of felony convictions (which comes out to excluding 1 in 13 black men from ever participating in the voting process), yes, voting is white privilege.
This critique of white privilege and third party voting is missing the point. A third party vote isn’t white privilege; continuing to enforce a two-party system built on white supremacy is. The reason we have “red” states and “blue” states instead of rainbow of ideological differences is a phenomenon built on keeping certain demographics of people in power.
Blaming a third party vote on white privilege oversimplifies a very complex issue. While people of color are less likely to vote, the focus of this issue is often placed on material barriers to voting, like long lines and or difficulty finding transportation (which are serious problems). However, that is not the only problem. In fact, the Atlantic reports that the number one factor that minority groups do not vote is that many feel their most pressing issues are not represented by either candidate. Like childhood poverty or access to gainful employment opportunities in urban areas.
Maybe we should shift the focus from whirlwind campaign volunteers with clipboards and pens trying to register people to vote last minute and instead work on actually nominating candidates worth voting for.
Refusing to vote for Hillary is not about white privilege. Making the claim that it is undermines the voices of Black Lives Matter and other groups that have publicly come out refusing to endorse her. It ignores the valid critiques of Hillary’s influence on mass incarceration, neoliberal trade policies, and more. It infantilizes these criticisms and reduces them to temper tantrums.
The “white privilege argument” has been used to silence these opinions. It’s offensive to a whole bunch of people and probably not a very good way to wield an important discursive tool.
4) Stop saying that Hillary Clinton is the lesser of the two evils.
You still get demons either way. The paranoia those in the Hillary camp feel with the possibility of a Trump presidency makes sense. Trump is actually the worst. I won’t claim that both Trump and Hillary are equally bad. They aren’t. Trump is an inexperienced, overtly racist, and entitled bigot who hates women. Hillary is a competent and capable human being. But they’re both disturbing, and my hatred of Trump does not necessitate my support of Hillary.
Hillary is dangerous. Morgan Visser’s article pretty much comprehensively covers anything I could say and does it better than I would do. This line sums it up: “’Lesser evil’ discourse that regards Hillary as the ‘lesser evil’ is entirely based in eurocentrism and a perpetuation of global white supremacy.”
When the “lesser evil” looks like this, I’m not buying it. Giving more weapons to Syria for a Libya 2.0, supporting even bigger banks, increasing immigrant deportations, supplying more weapons directed at Palestinian civilians, and financing a prison system that continues to spiral out of control just isn’t convincing me. My bad.
5) Stop calling it a “protest vote.”
You say “protest” like it’s a bad thing.
People fundamentally misunderstand why the Green Party continues to run for a presidential bid. People fault the Green Party for Al Gore’s loss in the 2000 Bush-Gore election, claiming the greens took away “potential votes” from Gore. (Newsflash: It was the Supreme Court’s decision, not the Green Party’s.) It happened again in 2004. The Green Party is framed as a group that inevitably designed to continue losing presidential elections, but that is not the Green Party’s point.
The Green Party currently holds over 100 offices around the country with green meccas like California occupying 64 public positions and even conservative old Arkansas with 3. The Green Party continues to make waves in local politics. The problem is, in order to run for local office and have access to a ballot option, your party also has to run for president. In order to do this every presidential cycle the Green Party has to campaign in all 50 states to get enough signatures to be on the ballot.
Have complaints that the Green Party isn’t effective? Maybe if they didn’t have to spend so much time standing outside Walgreens to get signatures, they could be.
But guess what? You, yes you, could change that this year! If any third party ever gets over 5% of the national vote, they become a more permanent party and don’t have to campaign to just get on the ballot. It also means they get money from the federal government to campaign, just like the Democrats and Republicans! This means fewer signatures and less fundraising, more action.
One of the best pieces of media I’ve heard this year on third party systems comes from Politically Reactive’s podcast interview of Rosa Clemente, hip hop activist and Green Party badass. If there is one thing you listen to this election season, make it this podcast episode.
6) Stop saying, “Now is not the time.”
It will never be the right time. I realize that this election feels particularly worrisome. It feels closer than ever before, the stakes seem higher, and the options a particularly bright shade of racist.
In 2008, Obama was the answer to Romney, whose comments about the 47% “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims” and his “binders full of women” revealed the classism and misogyny built into the Romney campaign.
In 2004, Obama was the answer to McCain, whose reference to Obama as “that one” and calling to the Iranian president a “monkey” didn’t coincide well with Palin’s racially-tinged rhetoric referring to Obama as a terrorist and inciting some very problematic anti-Muslim performances at the GOP rallies (sound familiar?).
Heck, in 1976, Jimmy Carter was the answer to Gerald Ford whose Civil Rights stance faltered and he began opposing school desegregation.
All of these reasons were deeply valid criticisms of the GOP nominees. All of these reasons remain very concerning in regards to Trump who seems to be the suicide fountain soda of all of the problems we’ve ever had before, rolled into one toxic beverage. But we have to be careful when we are so quick to jump to the Democratic nominee as a savior to that bigotry and racism.
The pressure of scare tactics to vote for the lesser-of-the-two-evils will continue. That is how the media works and none of us our immune to it. But waiting until we aren’t scared is not an option that will ever come to fruition. If you think 2020 is going to be the hippie-dippie flowers and rainbows election where all the candidates are advocates of racial justice and economic equality and the Green Party will finally have its heyday, it’s not happening. It won’t unless a handful of people do something now to make it clear that third parties aren’t invisible. They are people asking that our government do better with all of the gumption to move forward.
7) Stop saying, “Jill Stein is an anti-vaccer.”
First, it’s not true.
Even if it was true, you’re forgetting Ajamu Baraka is on the ticket and that man is woke. He throws down W.E.B. Du Bois like nobody’s business, has been an outspoken activist against U.S. involvement in genocides in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, and has a human rights work resume that’ll blow any politician of the water. You know the photo of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests that went viral with the words “decolonization” spray painted on construction equipment? Ajamu Baraka painted that.
Are you against the death penalty? Think Hurricane Katrina was handled poorly? Believe the War on Drugs has spent far too much money incarcerating people of color? Think we should crack down on police brutality? Baraka has been doing this work for years.
8) Stop pretending like voting is that important.
I’m sick of forcefully patriotic narratives about voting that claim, “If you don’t vote you can’t complain.” I am of the firm believer that if you do vote, for either Hillary or Trump, you can’t complain because you chose to rhetorically support them. End of story.
At the end of the day, I think voting is the least effective thing anyone can do to change our social and political reality. Showing up once every four years to participate in a flawed system isn’t going to do much. We will continue to see this lesser-of-two-evils narrative with two candidates who got in the position they did with lots of money, campaign donations, and a whole bunch of controversial closed-door meetings. There is a reason more of our presidents graduated from Harvard University than anywhere else. (Spoiler alert: It isn’t the quality of the education.) Did your parents tell you that you grow up to be anything even the President of the United States?
43 out of 43 of our presidents have been men, 42 out of 43 have been white, and depending on how you interpret Thomas Jefferson, 43 out of 43 have claimed Christianity as their religion. Over 50% have been lawyers, nearly 50% have been in the military, and all but 9 have had a net worth of over $1 million dollars. So no, apparently not anyone can be president. It’s either that or we have some very particular unwritten qualifications.
Before anyone can grow up to be president, there is some serious work that needs to be done like putting an end to unlimited campaign donations, an end to corporate sponsorship of elections, and yes, an end to a rigid two party system. Those things don’t happen without some grassroots work outside of the ballot box.
Want to know what makes more of a difference than voting this election? Anything else. Literally, anything. Support the NoDAPL movement, or donate to marijuana legalization, or support your favorite podcast. Join the Feminist Sticker Club to support some radical artwork. Watch Ana DuVernay’s new documentary. Ride a bike somewhere. Recycle. Say something when you hear a sexist remark in public. The list is endless and we shouldn’t wait until 2020 to have these same discussions and wonder why we still seem to be in the very same place as 2016.
On Tuesday, November 8th, I honestly care very little whom you choose to vote for (unless its Donald Trump) and realize that everyone has their own reasons, social location, and abilities. I care very little about why you choose to vote or not if in fact you are even able. But I do care about free speech and the ability to rationally make decisions and understand our political system. If we continue to use bad excuses to write off third party voters, that is a pipe dream.
There are many valid criticisms of the Green Party. Its peace-loving persona tends to have a pitiful underbelly, and those are the reasons we should openly discuss.
But the assertions listed above are not those reasons. If these conversations are going to ever be productive, we need to first understand third-party politics in its own light. Third party supporters do not take away votes that “belong” to other candidates. For the love of all that is hopeful, a vote for Jill Stein is not a vote for Donald Trump.