“If Clinton is nominated and it comes to a choice between Clinton and Trump, in a swing state, a state where it’s going to matter which way you vote, I would vote against Trump, and by elementary arithmetic, that means you hold your nose and you vote Democrat. I don’t think there’s any other rational choice. Abstaining from voting or, say, voting for, say, a candidate you prefer, a minority candidate, just amounts to a vote for Donald Trump, which I think is a devastating prospect.”
-Noam Chomsky, on Democracy Now, May 16, 2016
I thought of what Chomsky said last month when I saw this morning an article from likely Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein. Here’s what she had to say as far as what people should do if Bernie doesn’t get the Democratic Party nomination:
“If Bernie is denied the nomination, don’t discount the potential for our Green campaign to carry the movement forward to become a major force in the election. If millennials in debt decide to get the word out, hold on to your hat for a voter revolt that could go a very long way, even perhaps to the White House. Here’s the bottom line. Democracy doesn’t need silence and fear. It needs voices and values, and a moral compass. We must be that moral compass. This is the time to stand up with the courage of our convictions, while we still can. The corporate candidates will not fix this for us. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
So Jill thinks that she has a chance of winning the White House. She seems to think that the mass movement that Bernie has built, or at least the young people within it, are now going to get behind her. And she expects this to happen even though there has been very little support of any kind from Jill or the national Green Party for Bernie, something I personally urged them to do in a column 11 months ago. A number of individual Green Party members, myself included, have been outspoken in support of and active within the campaign but not the national party or Jill. And now, a few days before the end of the Democratic primaries, she calls upon people to support Sanders.
Why have over 10 million people voted for democratic socialist Bernie Sanders over the last 5 months? It’s not just his ideas, and it’s not just because he has been outspoken and brave and urged his supporters to be the same. It’s also because he had credibility as someone repeatedly elected to office for the last three decades, including getting 71% of the vote in his US Senate re-election campaign in 2012. It’s because when he made his decision to go for the Presidency, he already had a very big list of hundreds of thousands of donors across the country built up over many years. And it’s because he had national visibility as a result of his work and votes in support of progressive issues in Congress over all that time.
I’m sorry, Jill, but you and the Green Party don’t have anything close to that track record and those resources. I say that as someone who has been an active member of the GP in New Jersey for 16 years, a GP US Senate candidate, a sometimes-GP-leader at various levels and as someone who supported you in 2012. Your positions on the issues are very good; indeed, I’d choose you over Bernie when it comes to your respective overall positions on the issues. And without question you are articulate and, yes, brave to have hung in there as you have all of these years, fighting the good fight.
But to describe a choice of Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton as just another choice between “corporate candidates” is truly breathtaking.
To equate overt racist, overt sexist, arrogant, violence-supporting, climate change denying, pathological liar, presumptive strong man Donald Trump with Hillary Clinton is not just wrong, it is dangerous.
Here’s the approach I think you should be taking, Jill. It’s a variation of the Chomsky position. It’s also something I’ve been urging the Green Party to do for over a decade.
Here’s some of what I wrote about it in a column in June of 2003:
“Everyone knows that a Green Party Presidential candidate will not win in 2004. But a Presidential campaign can help to build the party, give it visibility, attract new members, keep or attain ballot status in a number of states. And if it pulled out 5% or more of the popular vote it would mean millions of dollars for party-building leading into 2008.
“The best way to do all of these things is to explicitly focus the campaign only in those ‘safe states’ where past voting histories and current polling indicates that either Republican Bush or the Democrat is very likely to win. Let’s remember that our Presidential election is in some respects not a ‘national’ election; it’s 50 separate state elections to choose representatives to the electoral college. If it truly was a national election Al Gore would have been elected President in 2000, even with Jeb Bush’s and Katherine Harris’ criminal activity of throwing legal voters off the Florida voting roles.
“By running this kind of campaign in the 25-35 or so almost-certain ‘safe states,’ the Greens cannot be accused, at least accused in good faith, of just being spoilers out to deny the Democrats the Presidency. Indeed, by running such a campaign, the Greens and their Presidential candidate are saying in no uncertain terms that although both the Republicans and Democrats are problematic, the Bushites represent such a particular danger right now that we have modified our campaign accordingly.
“This will gain us the respect of some of our allies in the Democratic Party who are pretty much with us on the issues but, in part because of the winner-take-all nature of our electoral system, are unprepared to move outside it right now. It could well mean more votes from these allies for local Green candidates in states where such candidates are running.”
Specifically for 2016, the Green Party should announce that, because of the grave danger that Donald Trump represents, it will focus its Presidential campaign in the states where either Trump or Clinton is far ahead in the polls, where it is very likely that it will not become a close fight. In those states it can make the case, “don’t waste your vote, vote for the candidate who is most closely aligned with your values and your positions on issues.” In the swing states, the close states, it should take a position that people should vote their conscience, acknowledge that there are good reasons for people on the Left to, as Chomsky says, “hold your nose and vote Democrat.”
Unfortunately, I doubt that there’s much chance that Jill and the national GP are going to alter course. They seem to believe that the strategy for fundamental change, the political revolution, power to the people is to build the Green Party. Period. Full stop. Just build the Green Party.
Without question the Green Party could be a part of the massive alliance of constituencies and political forces needed if we are to amass the political strength and organizational resources to have a chance of winning—an alliance that is literally within our grasp because of the Sanders campaign. But the GP is not going to be welcomed within that alliance if, first, it does little to support genuinely progressive mass movements like the Bernie movement because it is taking place within the Democratic Party and, secondly, then attempts to claim that it is the natural heir to the leadership of that movement at a point where it looks likely that Bernie won’t win the nomination.
The Bernie movement has shown all of us that the time is now for a power to the people movement. It has shown that the path to such a movement lies in an alliance between progressive Democrats and independents united behind a strong progressive platform on the issues. This is the kind of on-going movement, whether Bernie wins the nomination or not, that we must keep building.
And our top task in 2016 is the defeat of Donald Trump.
Ted Glick has been active in organizations working toward an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties since 1975. For the last 12 years he has focused on building a strong movement to address the climate crisis. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.