Why I Support Jill Stein in 2016

Why do I support Jill Stein? The executive summary is because a) I recognize that Global Warming is an urgent crisis that requires an immediate and massive shift to renewable energy to fix, and b) because I am opposed to being in wars that are completely avoidable if we cared enough to do what is necessary to avoid them. There is only one candidate who will take the action necessary to stop Global Warming, and there is only one candidate running on a platform of peace; that’s Jill Stein.

Without taking into account why I do not want to vote for Hillary or Trump (and I’ve written blog posts about each of them: “Hillary is No Liberal Hero,” and “Explaining Donald Trump: the FOX News’ization of the Republican Party“), here’s what I like about Jill Stein:

Jill Stein is quite similar to Sanders in many respects, and I fully supported his campaign. Sure, Stein doesn’t have the governing experience that Sanders has, or even that Hillary has for that matter, but “experience” for experience’s sake doesn’t necessarily mean anything; I’d much prefer a president like Stein who really understands the direction we need to go rather than someone with experience in making the wrong decisions – such as Hillary’s support for wars of regime change, and her support for the fossil fuel industry.

But let’s talk about the issues – first and foremost, Global Warming. Her Green New Deal is exactly what we need to do to have any hope of fighting Global Warming. It is a full rejection of our destructive and unnecessary dependence on fossil fuels; she has a goal of 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and she knows that this necessary goal can only be achieved through a massive “World War II” level effort. 350.org’s Bill McKibben spoke of this recently: “if you go look at how America mobilized during World War II, the industrial might that we brought to bear, and then you do the calculations, it’s at the outside edge of possible that we could – in the short time we have available – build enough solar panels and wind turbines, but it’s going to take the same kind of focused effort [as WWII].”

She also recognizes that out-of-control predatory student loan debt is not only crippling an entire generation of Americans, but is also crippling the economy broadly: “we call for bailing out the students as the Democrats and Republicans bailed out Wall Street after Wall Street had crashed the economy through their waste, fraud, and abuse. We say it is about time to bail out the victims of that abuse. This would be the stimulus package of our dreams  – to unleash an entire generation that is already trained – they have the skills, they have the passion and the vision, and they have to be turned loose by canceling that debt.” -Jill Stein

She recognizes that our wars for oil and regime change are not working, and we need to wage a “peace offensive” rather than foreign policy that a) ignores international law, b) creates more enemies than it eliminates, c) makes defense contractors rich, and d) treats human life as expendable. Relating this to her Green New Deal, she has made the point that “this would make wars for oil obsolete, and we call for cutting the military budget.” Ralph Nader recently articulated the Green Party’s views on war and peace: “we have to wage peace; we have to use a fraction of the money we use for armaments abroad making things worse [to instead] deal with healthcare, and clean water, and agricultural co-ops, and education – all of the things that will build support for peaceful resolutions to disputes and support for the United States.”

She is fearless in criticizing the Democratic party for their decades of non-progressive actions. She’s intellectually honest in her criticism, and doesn’t treat Americans as if they are incapable of understanding that criticizing the Democrats from the left isn’t the same as criticizing them from the right, which is something that disappointed me about Hillary throughout the primary. For example, at the 6th primary debate, Hillary said that Bernie’s left-wing criticism of Obama is “the kind of criticism that […] I expect from Republicans. I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama.”

Stein’s continued support for Native Americans as she stands against the oil industry (such as in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline) is something I would admire in our president. Neither Obama or Hillary has taken on this issue. Native Americans are far too often ignored in both policy and general recognition. While the police brutality conversation has largely focused on black Americans, and that is certainly something we should focus on, a newly released report finds that Native Americans are actually much more likely to be killed by police than any other group based on their percentage of population; Jill Stein is the only presidential candidate to stand with indigenous people on the front lines. We need an activist president.

She wants to transform voting in a completely sensible way through ranked voting. It would immediately take away the “spoiler” aspect of third-parties while allowing people to freely “vote their conscience.” The way we run our elections now are very undemocratic; they are rigged in many ways, although certainly not in the way that Trump is claiming. They are rigged because the Democratic and Republican parties rule the system, and actively silence opposition voices.

Stein recently talked about how Trump received about $4 billion worth of free TV time from the networks, Hillary received about $2 billion, Sanders received about $500 million, and she received virtually none. She also correctly stated that the Presidential Debate Commission is an organization run by the Democratic and Republican parties, and they work to keep third-party candidates off the stage so most people won’t be able to hear their messages; the League of Woman Voters withdrew from hosting debates after the Commission was set up in 1988, calling the then-new system a “fraud being perpetrated on the American people.” We also now know through the leaked DNC emails that the Democratic party tried to put their fingers on the scale for Hillary against Bernie because they do not want to be reformed into a true progressive party. And with the two parties so dominating our elections, whoever lost the Democratic primary would basically just go away, with no hope of challenging independently. The DNC thus was trying to circumvent democracy, and make our choice for us. Stein wants to change this, and I’m with her on that.

With this said, we find ourselves with a, perhaps, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a progressive movement on the left. Bernie Sanders came very close to winning the primary, and he showed that there’s a significant segment of the population craving such a movement. Trump is such a terrible option that polls show there’s virtually no chance he can get to 270 electoral college votes. The ‘common wisdom’ that progressives cannot risk “splitting the vote” by voting for the Green Party does not apply – with Hillary virtually guaranteed to win, this is precisely the time when we must not give in to the politics of fear, and instead invest our votes in Jill Stein.

The fear of “splitting the vote” counts on us not understanding how the Electoral College works. That is, the winner-take-all allocation of Electoral Votes state-by-state means that whether Hillary wins, say, Massachusetts by 26 points or 1 point is irrelevant to the outcome of the election. It also means that if Hillary loses, say, Alabama by 20 points or by 30 points, it is irrelevant to the outcome.

So why would I want to use my vote on someone who isn’t going to win? Yes, I acknowledge that Stein is not going to win. Why not just vote for Hillary because she’s going to win anyway? Aren’t I just ‘protesting’ at this point? Shouldn’t I just “grow up?” I want to support someone who isn’t going to win because voting isn’t just about picking a winner — in fact, it can be argued that due to the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College, a large number of votes cast for either of the “viable” candidates are the *actual* wasted votes. What possible help could a Clinton vote be in Alabama, or Louisiana, or Nebraska, for example?

When we vote, we’re not just voting for the election at hand; we’re also voting on which parties we want to have a voice going forward. When a candidate receives 5% or more of the national vote, the next election is going to start with their party not only received a huge public grant distributed by the Federal Election Commission, they also getting automatic ballot access in most states.

In 2012, for example, the public grant was approximately $91,241,400; the FEC website points out that “Since no third-party candidate received 5% of the vote in the 2008 presidential election, only the Republican and Democratic parties were eligible for 2012 convention grants [which no longer exist], and only their nominees were eligible to receive grants for the general election once they were nominated.” In 2016, that has increased to $96,140,600.

And ballot access is huge; an often-cited reason for not voting for a third-party candidate is that they “can’t win” because they’re not on the ballot in enough states. Both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein fought their way onto either all states’ ballots (Johnson) or most of them (Stein), but it took a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money. Stein, for example, has said that she spent the entire first year of her campaign fighting for ballot access. If the Green party reaches 5% in this election, they can hit the ground running in 2020 when they’ll be needed even more than they are right now, which is saying quite a bit.

For decades, the Democratic party has been a centrist moderate one built around neoliberalism – massive tax cuts, deregulation, privatization, outsourcing, and wage suppression furthered. It can no longer be acceptable for these policies to be defended on the basis that “Republicans would be worse.” These cannot be our only two options; if we refuse to stand up and fight for a new way, we are resigning ourselves to defeatism.

We must fight back in a way that we have so far been unwilling to do; Trump has been able to rise to the top of the Republican party – and the Republican party has been able to gain so much power – because we have relied on the centrist moderate Democratic party to define what “liberal” means. We can’t allow that anymore. This is about defeating conservatism by showing the country what real progressive liberalism is.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant recently pointed out: “We must also understand that giving an artificial stop or pause to our movements in presidential years because we are not supposed to talk about this, and buying into the logic of Lesser Evil’ism, because what we see through history is that there will never be a good time to build the Left. I would argue exactly the opposite: there’s never been as good as today to ferociously build the Left as an alternative to both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Most Americans don’t get much of a voice in the direction of the country; most of us aren’t lobbyists, and most of us do not have millions of dollars to get a politician’s ear. Our vote is our voice; our vote is our power. We cannot be intimidated by those who are too scared of us using it. We must not be silenced. We are unstoppable – another world is possible.

In the words of Alice Walker: “The biggest way people give up power is by not realizing they have any.”

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