Protest votes don’t push revolution

by Arish Mudra Rakshasa

The 2016 United States presidential election has already garnered unparalleled media attention and seen staggering amounts of voter engagement, especially through social media. Now, as the United States gears up for the general elections, anti-Trump voters are involved in another intense debate on social media: #ImWithHer vs #JillNotHill.

A little background: Progressive voters in the US had found their ideal political representative in Senator Bernie Sanders, who is fiscally and socially progressive, speaking about things like free public college and a two-state solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestine on his campaign trail. Senator Sanders gave Secretary Clinton a tough run for her money, winning 22 states in the Democratic primaries. However, Hillary managed to obtain the Democratic Party’s nomination because of her #ImWithHer supporters. Many progressive and liberal voters were disappointed that their ideal candidate would not be running for President. There were talks of Senator Sanders running on a Green Party ticket (the Green Party presumptive nominee, Dr. Jill Stein, offered to give up her nomination for Senator Sanders). When this did not happen, a political divide within the Democratic Party soon emerged in the form of #BernieOrBust (voters who will choose to abstain on principle) and then #JillNotHill, when some Bernie supporters turned to Jill as their preferred candidate.

That leads us to the difficult question: should Bernie supporters lend their support to Jill Stein or abstain, or vote for Hillary Clinton? There are some very popular arguments for both sides circulating on social media. #ImWithHer supporters suggest that not voting for Hillary is equivalent to voting for Trump, because dividing the Democratic Party by voting third party will give Trump the win America cannot afford. #JillNotHill and #BernieOrBust supporters suggest that Hillary’s domestic and foreign policy history shows that she supports war, capitalism, and discrimination, that the political revolution Bernie started should defeat the broken two-party system in the US, and that voting for Hillary is “just as bad” as voting for Trump.

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I think this question has more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. I think it is extremely prudent for Bernie supporters to lend their support to Hillary now, but also that there are considerations to be made about the possibility of voting one’s conscience.

Here are three reasons – however bitter – why I think you, as a progressive or liberal voter, should support Hillary Clinton for the presidency:

America Is Not Ready For A Progressive President – Not Yet

Donald Trump’s rise to political glory has made it very clear that prejudices of all kinds are alive and well among “the silent majority” in the United States – and that it takes just a few well-chosen words to rouse that majority into overt discrimination. “Make America Great Again” has allowed millions of right-wing Americans to express what they had been (barely) suppressing: that they do not want immigrants in their country, that they hate and distrust all Muslims, that white people contribute more to civilisation than “any other subgroup”, that guns are great and feminism is a sham and trans people are liars and so much more. The Republican nominee has shown white people, rich people, men, and many other majorities that it is the left that is oppressive – and that the majorities are the ones being oppressed. Hillary Clinton, even as a moderate, ‘threatens’ the silent majority.

Make no mistake, there are many Republican voters who think Donald Trump is the “lesser of two evils” between him and Hillary. These voters will never vote for someone as progressive as Jill Stein.

I am no political expert, but let’s look at the electability of the candidates. It is clear to me that no (or too few) Republicans will ever vote for Jill Stein’s progressive platform. Hillary Clinton, as a much more moderate candidate, has a chance to gain support from moderate Republicans, as well as Democrats. Donald Trump, as far right as Jill Stein is left, has little chance convincing Democrats to vote for him. Trump has disenfranchised some Republicans – including major Republican leaders – which might convince more Republicans to vote for Hillary or Gary Johnson. Already, Clinton and her vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine have embarked on a road trip to appeal to Trump’s base: white men. So, if progressive or liberal democrats put their full support behind Hillary Clinton (without voting for Jill Stein or Donald Trump as a form of protest against the Democratic Party or the two-party system), Hillary Clinton stands a good chance of winning the presidency. And if you don’t take my word for it – I am just a science major, after all – check out political analysts and news corporations calculating Hillary’s chances to win after the DNC here, here, and here. In comparison, even lenient figures show that Jill Stein’s chances of gaining the support of enough voters to actually defeat both Clinton and Trump in November are very small. 

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The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton, a moderate leader and coalitionist, can appeal to a much, much wider base than progressive Jill Stein can. A politically conscious voter’s greatest responsibility lies in balancing political revolution with the probably of affecting change with their vote, and Hillary has a much greater chance of getting into the Oval than Jill does.

Hillary Gives The Political Revolution A Fighting Chance

Hillary Clinton has a history of supporting policies that oppress minorities, in the US and abroad. She has had investments in for-profit prisons. She advocated for the racist War on Drugs. She supported the immoral invasion of Iraq. She has been strongly pro-Israel (thus supporting the unethical occupation of Palestine) throughout her career. Clearly, she has not given progressives much reason to love her.

And yet, there is reason to hope. In a much-publicised platform fight with her former opponent Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton conceded on several progressive policies that had been a part of Sanders’ agenda before Sanders endorsed her. These concessions include compromises between the two sides on the living wage policy, free college tuition policy, the war on drugs, and some more progressive issues. Clinton’s campaign platform is now more left-leaning than it ever has been.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, continues to stubbornly keep his agenda far-right (with some of his stances extreme enough to disenfranchise even Republican voters). This goes on to show that – contrary to what Jill Stein supporters claim – there is hope for the progressive agenda under Hillary. Even though Hillary’s policies will be far less progressive than Jill’s, Hillary (as I argued before) has a much greater chance of actually getting to the Oval and putting those policies in place. I understand that world leaders are not very easy to hold accountable to their campaign promises once they are elected. But you must also understand that under no circumstances can you expect Donald Trump to support any policy that even vaguely resembles progressive policies. Hillary will keep the political revolution alive – maybe in a very diluted version, but alive nonetheless – until the next Bernie Sanders comes along.

In an election cycle as crucial as this one, political revolution must give way to political survival. We must live to fight another day.

A Trump presidency will likely silence any opposition from the left swiftly, and bring to life policies so discriminatory that the lives of millions of minority identities will be threatened. A Clinton presidency, while less progressive and maybe even damaging to some progressive issues (case in point, the Israeli occupation of Palestine), will undoubtedly be better for freedom of expression of the left, and allow the political revolution to survive.

Voting For Jill Won’t Dismantle The Two-Party System Overnight

Many of the progressive voters who are supporting Jill Stein instead of Hillary Clinton back their political choice by claiming that the two-party system in the US is ‘broken’ – and they are right. The Republican nominee, businessman Donald Trump, represents overt discrimination of all forms and capitalism at its best, and the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, similarly represents a long history of catering to the top 1% and of using innocent lives to advance her own interests. If these are the two choices offered by the major political parties in the US, something is undoubtedly wrong with the system.

But blaming the Democratic Party for the 238-year-old system that seems incredibly flawed today will not dismantle the system. Neither will voting for Jill Stein or abstaining.

In fact, those two choices might even help elect the Republican nominee, depending on the state in which you vote. If you are in a decidedly red state, go ahead and vote according to your conscience. You will be able to contribute to the progressive political revolution without benefitting the Republican nominee. But if you are in a swing state or even a blue state, I suggest you vote for Hillary. In these states, a vote for Jill Stein might truly be a vote for Trump, and the political revolution you and I have been fighting for might suffer the consequences.

I am all for fighting the system. But my fellow progressives need to realise that dismantling the two-party system will take more than just a few months of campaigning by a little-known presidential candidate. If Bernie Sanders – with his long history of championing progressive causes and extremely favourable ratings among several demographics – could not bring down the monopoly of the right and the centre on America’s politics, the idea of Jill Stein becoming President of the United States seems rather far-fetched to me.

A political revolution is long overdue, and it is fast approaching; the overwhelming support for Bernie Sanders proved that. However, throwing away your vote as a form of protest will do nothing to help the revolution, and might just help the antithesis of the progressive movement become President of the United States. Hillary Clinton, though rightfully not the ideal candidate for progressives, is much more electable than Jill Stein, and will not silence the progressives. I cannot deny that her domestic and foreign policies will cause harm to some minorities, but I think it is high time we progressives realise that she is not, in fact, “as bad as Trump”.

In the end, it comes down to the clichéd argument between realism and idealism: the realists know that the Jill Stein would be lucky to obtain just a few percent of the total votes, but the idealists insist that with enough support, she can be elected the President this year. I’m just a non-voting, non-resident immigrant from India, but I think the time isn’t ripe for the US to elect a third-party progressive President yet – and so, #ImWithHer.

Arish is a rising sophomore from Ghaziabad, India studying at Earlham College, Richmond, IN. He plans on double majoring in Biochemistry and Neuroscience and is on the Pre-Medicine track, aspiring to obtain an MD and a PhD. He is also quite passionate about politics and social justice, and wants to enter international politics to counter hate, prejudice, and fear in the world. He likes ‘science, languages, and occasionally people’, and enjoys pushing the liberal agenda on Facebook and binge watching TV shows with ice cream in his free time. He is excited to draw on his experiences to discuss global issues through the lens of a young immigrant for the column.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer, The Contemporary takes no position on matters of policy or opinion.

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