The progressive case for Hillary Clinton over Green Jill Stein
by Wells Lyons
When I was 18, I thought I had the world all figured out. I was working at Amnesty International’s DC office, attending anti-globalization protests on the weekends and reading all the Noam Chomsky I could get my hands on. Given my environment, it’s pretty easy to predict my political convictions at the time. In the 2000 election, I was certain of three things: Bush and Gore were two sides of the same capitalist coin, our two-party system was terminally corrupt, and supporting Ralph Nader was the only hope for progress. Why then, do I now support Hillary Clinton over Green candidate Jill Stein?
Ralph Nader’s Impact in 2000
On election night 2000, I wandered over to the National Press Club for Nader’s victory party. I remember thinking here comes the start of the revolution. Would we win the election? No, but I was certain we’d fly past the five percent of votes needed to qualify the Green Party for federal funding, which would get the message out and the party on the debate stage. I fully expected us to crack ten or fifteen percent, maybe even win a state or two.
That didn’t happen. Nader got two percent, Gore grew a beard and Bush secured the presidency. America got the worst foreign policy disaster since the Vietnam War, the legacy of Guantanamo Bay and two deeply conservative Supreme Court justices.
There was enough blame for Gore’s loss to go around. You could point to the fact that he lost his home state of Tennessee. You could argue Gore ran an uninspired campaign. And yes, you could point to Nader’s campaign.
This is a legitimate criticism because that’s how math works. National exit polling showed that in a two-person race between only Bush and Gore, nearly half of Nader voters said they would have chosen Gore, while only a fifth would have chosen Bush. The remaining third would have opted to stay home. Extrapolate those numbers out. In Florida, Gore would have obtained 26,000 more votes, approximately 48 times more than he needed. So yes, Nader had an impact.
(If you really want to get into the weeds here, Adam Marletta‘s link to a TruthDig article claiming that Floridian Nader voters preferred Bush to Gore not only fails the straight face test, it relied on flawed data – polling only thirty Nader voters, nothing approaching a valid sample size.)
There’s a lesson here for 2016. In our two party system, national third party candidates are not going to win. They will lose, badly, and they will take votes away from the next most liberal candidate. Ask yourself, if Jill Stein were not in the race, who would you vote for? If you would vote for Hillary Clinton, but you do not, you increase the odds of a Trump presidency. In our system, secondary preferences are not taken into account, so strategic voting matters. Clinton winning Maine is not a sure thing.
Much of Stein’s platform appeals to me, such as the abolishing of student loan debt and health care for all. But elections are numbers games, and Stein has a zero percent chance of winning. We have a two-person race, and it’s going to be a close one. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are tied nationally at 42%, according to the latest New York Times / CBS News poll.
No intellectually honest person thinks Clinton and Trump are interchangeable candidates. Listening to Trump speak gives you a sense of what is going on in his mind – and it’s not much – bluster, bravado and making it up as he goes along. His policy proposals, if you can call them that, reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of how the world works. His personality is that of a ten-year-old bully who can’t stop bragging about himself. This is not the temperament we need. He is a threat to the republic. Thinking people don’t vote for Trump.
The Case for Clinton
While Hillary Clinton is also a flawed candidate, her faults do not amount to an existential threat to the nation. The woman is brilliant. Her positions on clean energy development, reducing student loan debt, and overturning Citizen’s United are all strong solutions to urgent problems. Most of us would be delighted to see progress on any of these issues.
In America today, the only thing more revolutionary than voting for a woman for president is voting for a woman who actually has a chance of winning the presidency. By that metric, voting for Clinton is the only responsible choice a progressive voter can make.
Wells Lyons is a community activist and entrepreneur in the West End.