Tomorrow is Election Day in the United States and I strongly encourage everyone who can to vote.
Many of us – myself included – are frustrated with the political process, and I am convinced the most important changes for ourselves and our wider world will be created by non-political means. But the democratic process is too important to abandon to the monied interests who dominate it, and voting does make a difference even if it doesn’t have the impact it should.
Government in the United States is extremely fragmented: there are legislative, executive and judicial branches at the federal, state, county, and city levels. This fragmentation is highly inefficient and makes it difficult to create the kind of changes many of us long to see. Real change requires many years and many election cycles of sustained effort. If you only vote when you’re excited about a candidate or when you think your party has a chance to win, you kill the momentum for the principles and causes you support.
In the Presidential race, many of us have an opportunity to make a real difference of another kind. Because of the Electoral College, some votes count more than others. If you live in a solid red or solid blue state where the outcome isn’t in question, I encourage you to vote for a third party candidate.
In particular, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has a good chance of getting 5% of the vote, which would give the Libertarians access to federal matching campaign funds in 2016 and make it easier for them to get on the ballot in all 50 states. I’m strongly attracted to the Libertarians’ commitment to personal freedom; less so to their refusal to use government to counterbalance the excesses of big business. But after a lifetime of two-party rule, I’m eager to see a new perspective in the discussion of principles and policies.
If you can’t vote for a Libertarian, then vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. The Greens have a very strong position on social and economic justice and on environmental sustainability. The polls say Stein has a much lower chance of getting to 5% than Johnson, but building momentum will help.
I’d love to see a day when Congress and state legislatures are filled with four or more parties instead of just two. I’d love to see the kind of compromises a coalition would require. For now, I’d love to see the priorities of the Libertarians and the Greens injected into the national debate.
In politics as in the rest of life, you can complain about what you don’t have or you can do what you can with what you do have. You have a vote. Make something of it.