Are you a die-hard Bernie Sanders supporter that simply can’t fathom voting for Hillary Clinton? Still have a bitter taste in your mouth despite Sanders remaining true to his word in endorsing the eventual Democratic nominee should he not win?
If you’re one of the many who feel this way, you’re not alone. Sure, Sanders’ vision has made an indelible mark and he will continue to play a role in pushing Democrats further left—but dammit, something must be done to protest this farce of a two-party system!
As a Sanders supporter, I feel that. And because I get that sense of outrage, I’ve compiled five #NotHillary options that some may find more appealing this election season now that Clinton is the official Democratic nominee.
Alternative: Vote Third Party
Admittedly, voting for a third party candidate as a form of protest is the political equivalent of stating “I’ll pray for you”—it’s a form of illusory control, false influence, and self-comfort that accomplishes nothing. But don’t let that discourage you!
While most alternative candidates flounder in utter obscurity, the Libertarian Gary Johnson scores about 7 percent and the Green Party’s Jill Stein about 3 percent according to Real Clear Politics’ average of national polls. I’m sure a few votes salted here or there for these candidates will somehow make a difference. Because magic.
Johnson has a lot in common with the values and issues we adore in Sanders’ platform, right? Well, except Sanders takes a noticeable progressive stance on expanding ObamaCare, gun regulations, prioritizing green energy, economic stimulus initiatives, higher taxes on the wealthy, addressing voter disenfranchisement, opposing social security privatization, and opposing free trade…all things Johnson takes an unambiguous conservative stance on.
What about Stein? She seems like a nice progressive substitute to keep hope alive, no? Not really. There are important differences between Sanders and Stein. If Bernie is idealistic, Jill is straight up out to lunch in fantasy land with some of her proposals.
More importantly, for those leaning towards Stein, keep in mind there isn’t a single Green Party member or candidate in the House or Senate. I’d joke and say the Green Party’s influence is that of a popsicle stand—but they lack the political wherewithal for such a remark. Stein and those of her ilk should focus less on unrealistically swinging for the fences and more on grassroots efforts, building the bulk of Green officeholders beyond sanitation boards and community college trustees.
Let’s keep in mind that voting is a tactical decision-making process and not a moral litmus test.
You’re not “taking a stand” with what you believe to be righteous indignation—you’re experiencing naïve fits of ideological purity. One’s principles aren’t diminished by strategically choosing a less-than-ideal option that bests a distinctly more adverse alternative. Voting for a candidate who doesn’t align with your idealism isn’t anathema. This air of moralizing is what produced the right-wing version of the Bernie-or-Bust brigade—The Tea Party movement.
Bernie Sanders knows better than this. His agenda has always been to make the Democratic Party more progressive. Sanders endorsing Clinton doesn’t make him a sellout or a fraud. It means he comprehends what’s at stake and isn’t an ideologue. Sanders himself urges his supporters to not vote third party and to, instead, fight to change the Democratic Party. He emphasized this point by stating, “This is the real world that we live in.” He was met with a cascade of boos from those who prefer ideological devotion over reality.
Third party candidates are checker players demanding to play checkers at a chess tournament. Third party voting is like going to that very same chess tournament and cheering on the participation of checker players who will never get a turn at the table no matter how much they and their supporters protest.
It should also be noted that a third party candidate who does well could potentially throw the election to the House, and we all know which party holds the majority there.
I identify with the motivation to subvert our political system, but voting third party poses no credible threat and won’t solve the problem we face.
Alternative: Not Voting
“Conscientious Objector” has a cute ring to it, doesn’t it?
Standing on the sidelines or holding out for the purest ideology that best reflects your worldview is even more illogical than voting third party.
I can appreciate the fact that you’re experiencing a sad due to your fave not being selected to move onto the final dance, but to abstain from the voting process endangers all the misrepresented and marginalized communities who would be negatively impacted by a Trump regime on a far greater scale than whatever one imagines would be the case with Clinton.
I won’t waste time arguing the differences between Clinton and Trump. Those convinced they are equally bad options operate on a level of either willful ignorance or intellectual dishonesty that can’t be treated with rational discourse. And this isn’t me saying Clinton is ideal. Remember, I preferred Sanders.
Declaring you cannot participate this election year “in good conscience” is similar voting third party, only more ridiculous. While voting third party isn’t anything more than a frivolous, symbolic gesture for the disgruntled Bernie-or-Bust contingent, not voting at all implies a refusal to recognize the myriad of ways you and others are yet affected by those in positions of power.
This isn’t Survivor, nobody will be awarded an immunity necklace that grants special exemption from the choices passed down from the president’s administration. Not even the richest of the rich can escape this fact, which is why they do their damnedest to influence policymaking.
Every US citizen operates within the political system whether they like it or not. That’s how pesky things like law and government works. It’s a drag, I know. Since there’s no such thing as an opt-out option, logic dictates that we make the best practical, utilitarian decision given the choices.
Of course I get sick of the system. Like many, I want to forgo paying attention to the media and all the slogans, narratives, and promises sold by political contenders. Even so, we can’t truly wash our hands of the political process because nobody living in the United States exists outside the conditions produced by its political system. Nobody.
We get it. You’re fed up. If you have the means to simply pick up and move to another country like Canada or whatever, more power to you.
For the vast majority though, such talk is merely empty bluster. And say you do pick up and leave. Then what? You’d have even less say in your host country, especially when it takes years to become a citizen.
Time spent teasing an escape we all know will never come to fruition for 99% of those daring to do it (as if we care) would be time better spent figuring out voter registration and volunteer opportunities to get more involved in the voting process to ensure the ill-effects of a Trump presidency isn’t realized.
Alternative: Vote Trump
I imagine (and hope) it’s only the fringe of the fringe who entertains this option. I’ve seen some exclaim they will vote for Trump since Bernie’s no longer in the presidential race.
Aside from this kind of intellectual malpractice clearly contradicting the progressive values one wishes to broadcast to the world, this alternative is callous and self-centered. It’s myopic to just say “fuck it” and cast the most benighted protest vote known to humankind.
Consider the overarching political fallout of allowing an authoritarian with no allegiance to anyone but himself to be elected. You do realize the President nominates Supreme Court judges and that they are granted life tenure, right? Do you appreciate the authority the highest federal court in the land has in matters that affect every US citizen? Are we seriously going to pretend Clinton and Trump would appoint the same kind of candidates?
A Trump presidency would endanger the Affordable Healthcare Act, something that greatly aids the quality of life for millions. Even if he didn’t outright move to repeal it, Trump—along with our Obamacare-loathing Republican Congress—would likely find ways to “update” provisions in this legislation that would have dire consequences for those depending on it.
Trump is always one temper-tantrum away from blasting or isolating anyone that disagrees with him. This capricious temperament won’t magically become void just because he becomes Commander In Chief. Imagine what this volatile approach would mean dealing with foreign powers. Is there anything about Trump that suggests presidential diplomacy?
What about Trump’s gross stance on reproductive rights for women? What about Trump’s continued anti-Muslim rhetoric and plans to restrict Muslim immigration? What about his continued anti-latinx rhetoric and his economically untenable plan to build a “Great Wall of ‘Murica” along the Mexico border? What about the fact that Trump regards climate change to be a hoax? What about his staunch support of anti-racial justice rhetoric? What about Trump’s VP running mate being staunchly anti-abortion, stating “We’ll see Roe vs. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” What about Trump’s promise of being a “law and order” candidate? Do you understand the origins and implications of this proposition? What about his profound ignorance regarding foreign policy?
These are but the tip of the iceberg. Trump’s bid for the Oval Office should concern everyone. A friend of mine recently put all this into perspective:
“I’m pretty sure I could survive a Trump presidency. I’m white enough, male enough, heterosexual enough, well-off enough, and non-Muslim enough. I have enough privilege to throw away my vote on a third-party candidate or write in someone…Be angry. Demand change. But don’t do it on the backs of those who would suffer during a Trump presidency.”
Alternative: Actual Revolution
No, no, not the “revolution” Bernie Sanders refers to with his New Dealer economic plans meant to function within the existing political system. I mean a literal revolution, which is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures involving a large collective working towards social and political change. Examples include the more recent Yemeni Revolution as well as well-known uprisings like the Cuban, French, and American Revolutions.
Sure, why not. Let’s do it! Anything’s better than Clinton or Trump, right? Only thing about that is, revolutions tend to get real messy, oftentimes bloody, and require widespread support to be effective. The fact that law enforcement is prone to being trigger happy concerns me even if the methods of revolution mainly consisted of demonstrations, civil resistance, and strike actions.
Most revolutions involve some type of armed confrontations. That may work in certain countries, but the US spends more money on its military than the next ten highest spending countries combined. We possess such an obscene amount of military equipment that the Pentagon regularly transfers surplus military gear to domestic law enforcement (which is an entirely different problem that must be rectified).
Even if we began to see army defections midst a revolution, I doubt that would make much of a difference. Ultimately, the US government would “maintain order” with its military juggernaut. Challenging this type of military muscle would be like David facing off against Goliath. Only David is equipped with a pack of bubblegum, a pebble, and no slingshot. And Goliath is armed with a tank, two RPG’s, and a gaggle of weaponized drones.
Remember Jimmy McMillian? You know, the man that formed the Rent Is Too Damn High Party? He has a better shot at becoming the next president in a landslide than us ever seeing a successful political revolution go down. Today, that is.
I admire historical and modern revolutionary figures and movements, so I’m not dismissing the importance of any and all revolutionary sentiment, talk, or action. But within the context of declaring this an alternative to voting for Clinton, I’m saying this is something that registers as preposterous given how extremely comfortable most US citizens are regarding this nation’s state of affairs. Despite all the griping, grandstanding, and wolf tickets peddled, not nearly enough are willing to fully commit and band together for what’s required for an uprising that means completely forsaking our current way of life.
I get that people are pissed. But seriously, did you really think your “revolution” would be as simple and easy as showing up to the polls this one time and voting for Bernie Sanders?
Trust that I share some of the same feelings a lot of disgruntled voters are experiencing. I wrote an endorsement of Bernie Sanders that was also very critical of Hillary Clinton. However, despite my reservations about Clinton, I recognize the adverse impact of the alternatives.
And please don’t misconstrue my pragmatic approach for slavish devotion to this political duopoly. I know our democratic system is uneven and sullied by the influence of money. I know Blacks as well as other marginalized groups are placed in a position of emotional blackmail where we tend to side with the Democrats out of a pure aversion to the more warped and regressive conservative agenda. This is wrong. Nobody’s voice and life should be taken for granted and politicians must be held more accountable.
That said, it’s possible to protest as well as apply pressure for systemic political reform that won’t be realized by either presidential candidate currently in the race and simultaneously comprehend that this presidential race significantly affects everyone and that one candidate is “better” than the other when you compare the policies they support or seek to implement or change.
A caveat must be mentioned: If you live in a non-swing state, then what’s been said regarding not voting or voting third party doesn’t really apply. However, if you live in a competitive swing state, then this bud’s for you.
World-renowned public intellectual and political activist Noam Chomsky understands this and recently released an eight-point brief on the implications of voting for the lesser of two evils and how this concept specifically applies to this presidential race. When asked who he’d vote for between Clinton and Trump, Chomsky responded:
“If I were in a swing state, a state that matters, and the choice were Clinton or Trump, I would vote against Trump. And by arithmetic that means hold your nose and vote for Clinton.”
I get that Clinton isn’t what many imagine to be the progressive solution. But can we at least agree that the same can be said for Trump? Can we also agree that current or future legislation benefiting progressive ideas would certainly be upended by him? Can we please admit that the same can’t be said of Clinton, especially with Sanders continuing his work and the increased influence of social justice movements?
No, I don’t favor her ideas for incremental change when compared to what Sanders offered but when you compare her plans with Trump the distinction is clear.
We can acknowledge Trump is an acute threat that must be stopped and also continue to call-out and oppose elitist, corporatist, white supremacist status quoism that stalls and mutilates democracy. I consider voting for Hillary Clinton the adult version of being forced to eat your vegetables. But I’m going to do it. This doesn’t make me a scoundrel—it just means I can see beyond the end of my nose and that I’m not willing to place others in jeopardy for my idealism.
I’ll end this with a key point I made in my Sanders endorsement piece.
When discussing the importance of moderation with our emotions and activity, Greek philosopher Aristotle made the following assessment:
“Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Aristotle wasn’t discounting the importance of expressing emotion. Nor was he saying people don’t have the right to act or react according to moral principles. His point was, “let the response be reasonable.”
Let the response be reasonable given the cards you’re dealt.