In 2000, I voted for Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate. I and others who chose to do so were excoriated by establishment Democrats who felt our votes had assured victory for George W. Bush. There were three important reasons I did so. The first was that the eight years of the Bill Clinton presidency had moved the Democratic party too far to the right for my tastes. Progressive voices had been shouted down and drowned out as too radical and unrealistic. The second reason was that if the Green Party, whose positions on issues I found more in line with my values, received enough of the vote in my state (they did, by the way, so my vote made a big difference), they would receive public funding, a vital necessity to compete on a state and national level. But, the most important reason was because I realized that voting is not a diametric choice. No one has to settle for voting for one side of the same coin, if they don’t want to.
We have been force-fed the idea that we have to abandon our values and choose between the lesser of two evils in order to maintain the strength of our democracy. Absolute hogwash! What benefits democracy is when citizens are allowed to give voice to the issues that matter to them. In absence of any political power, citizens have been forced to organize and protest in order to effect change. How long would it have taken Civil Rights to become a reality without a powerful chorus of regular citizens forcing politicians to change? It was not happening through the ballot box, because the values that mattered to African Americans in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were not clearly represented by either major party.
The two party system perpetuates the status quo. It is resistant to any kind of change, no matter how positive. Oh, there have been times when strong Progressive voices have broken through, but they are blunted by the next flip of the coin that gives power to one set of politicians or the other, not us. There is little democratic value in having two political parties manipulate and control our entire system of government.
So, when asked the question, “If Bernie Sanders loses the primary, will you vote for the Democratic nominee?” I will answer with a guilt-free, “No”. I am NOT a Democrat, nor am I a Republican. I am a citizen and I choose to support the candidate that I believe in. If Bernie Sanders is not that candidate, then Dr. Jill Stein will be my second choice.
It is at this point that the daggers come out from many well-meaning friends. “If you don’t support the Democratic nominee, it’s just like voting Republican!” No, it isn’t. It’s voting Green Party. You cannot shame me into supporting someone who I believe will do little to nothing about issues I find vitally important. Do I think Hillary Clinton would be a better option than any of the Republican candidates? Sure. But this is not a diametric choice, despite those who want you to believe otherwise. Jill Stein is a better choice for me than anyone other than Bernie Sanders, my first choice.
Democracy requires courage. It requires the courage to stand on your principles and vote for those who would best represent you. It requires energy to advocate for and support those politicians who you find representative of you. You won’t always win, but your voice will be heard.
The current system of being limited to voting for one person is one of the main obstacles to reforming the US into a vigorous representative democratic republic. Ranked voting would be a radical improvement. In this method, you would choose your first choice, second choice, etc. This would give a far more accurate representation of what the citizens want, and would make a multiple party system a near certainty.
And if enough people break loose of this myth, if enough people realize that voting for the issues rather than the personality or party is central to a healthy republic, we can change the country, and the world, for the better.