Strategic Third Party Presidential Voting

For the last couple of weeks various media outlets have been running stories about the fact that many young people, millennials, are currently planning to vote for either Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. According to a story in the 9/29 NY Times, “more than a third of voters 18 to 29 said in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll that they would vote” for one of them; “Mr. Johnson had the support of 26% of these voters, and Ms. Stein had 10%.”

I can understand this, and I see it, in general, as a good thing. For over 40 years I’ve been voting for someone other than the Democrat or Republican for President. Down ballot, for local offices, I’ve sometimes voted for a Democrat and every once in a while a Republican, but I’ve believed since the Vietnam War that we needed more choices than the two corporate-dominated parties. And that’s a belief shared by a majority of the US populace.

Who would want only two choices for just about anything? Would you like to have only two choices of desserts? What about a field of two people to choose from for your soul mate and lover? How about two teams making up the full Major League Baseball roster?

Clearly, a robust democracy would have multiple choices of candidates, as well as an electoral system which made it possible for voters to vote for the candidate (and party) they liked the most without, in doing so, increasing the chances of getting the candidate (and party) they liked the least. A proportional representation, publicly financed system would do this.

But that’s not what we have now, not by a long shot. And that’s why all progressives, including progressive millennials, need to seriously consider if voting for Jill Stein is really a good idea. (I’m assuming few progressives would vote for Libertarian Johnson.)

In California, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon or Washington, on the one hand, or Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, West Virginia or Indiana, on the other hand, voting for Jill Stein is just fine if you like what she stands for and are OK with the kind of campaign she’s been running. In those states it is certain, based on historical voting patterns and current polling, that either Clinton (the first five) or Trump (the last five) are going to win in them.

Remember: it is not the national popular vote total that determines the winner. If it did, Al Gore would have become President in 2000; he got a half million more votes than Bush. But in our very flawed democracy, the President is chosen by essentially 50 different elections, with each state choosing who they will send to the Electoral College.

In states where current polling shows a close race between Trump and Clinton, I would urge progressives to seriously consider their choice. For myself, living in New Jersey, it’s very likely that I and other progressives can vote for whomever we want and not worry that we could be helping Trump to win. Democrats have won Presidential elections in New Jersey for the last 30 or so years, and Clinton is comfortably ahead in the latest polling.

If that changed, if Trump gained on Clinton and it was a close race, I would seriously consider voting for Clinton. I would seriously consider voting for a Democrat for President for the first time in over 40 years. That is how important I believe it is for Trump-the-racist-and-sexist-neo-fascist to be defeated.

I don’t agree at all with Jill Stein’s characterization of Clinton and Trump as “equally terrible,” which she has been saying publicly since at least June. Honestly, her doing so is one of several reasons why I might not vote for her even it’s looking good for Clinton in New Jersey in the last week before the election. I might write in Bernie.

It is astounding that someone as smart and progressive as Stein is propagating that so-very-wrong point of view. It’s the triumph of a narrow ideological perspective over the truth of things, and that’s disturbing.

The top priority for the Left in the November elections is to make sure that Trump is defeated and the dangerous movement which he has advanced is set back. All of us, including third party activists and sympathizers, should vote strategically, accordingly.