The past few weeks have seen the Democratic party fretting about whether they can actually bring voters that were impassioned by the prospect of a Bernie Sanders presidency into the party proper and ensure they vote for Hillary Clinton, the official nominee. Many will, and it could easily be argued that this perceived schism within the Democratic party is less hostile than the primary that played out in 2008 between Obama and Clinton.
That being said, there are certainly a fair number of (vocal) people who seem to be interested in casting a ballot for almost anyone other than Clinton or Trump this election season. These people have colloquially been described as the “Bernie or Bust” movement and were generally those booing down speakers inside the Democratic convention or holding anti-Hillary rallies outside of it. These are not conservatives, these are progressives. These are not people that chant “lock her up,” but who do disagree with a number of her centrist ideas as well as decisions made while she was in the State Department.
And that’s okay.
The entire point of democracy is that we disagree, we argue, we debate, and then in doing so work towards a better ideal of our country. Disagreement does not equal the death of a party. (Unless you’re the Republicans this year, in which case—particularly with Evan McMullin seemingly about to launch a bid for the presidency—it might.) That being said, many Sanders supporters or those who consider themselves progressive but don’t agree with Clinton are now faced with the dilemma of whether they’ll vote for Clinton or cast a vote for a third party that aligns more greatly with their ideological stances. In many cases, this third party would be the Green Party.
Yet, people that express their desire to vote for the Greens are often derided for casting a de facto vote for Trump. This is more than a little influenced by the the fact that the Green Party nominee in 2000, Ralph Nader, received 97,421 votes in Florida and Al Gore ended up losing the state by only 537 votes. Florida determined the election and we went on to have two terms of President Bush. While the assertion that Gore would have won the presidency had Nader not been involved is in many ways faulty and can’t be proved, this is the scenario that weighs on many Democrats minds. What if Sanders voters disillusioned with Clinton end up voting for Jill Stein and then Trump ends up winning in a close election? This is the worst case scenario that many Democrats envision, and it’s why they push back against progressives who have expressed a desire to vote for Stein in November.
But what if there was a way that Dems could not only work to make sure Clinton got as many electoral votes as possible, but also ensured that the Green party got a larger share of votes than ever before? In theory, this would be the best of both worlds, as the worst case scenario of a Trump presidency would be avoided while also buoying the Green party as a means to advance progressive causes on the left by serving as an “alternative” to the Democrats.
It turns out there is a way, and it’s laid out by Strategic Voting, a Canadian “grassroots effort dedicated to assisting progressive voters to make a difference instead of voting just to make a statement, knowing well in advance that it will make no change to the election results.” The goal of the movement is to elect as many progressive Canadian MPs as possible in federal elections, through strategic voting. While started as an endeavor looking solely at Canadian elections, the founder, Hisham Abdel-Rahman, has turned his gaze south and presented an idea for how strategic voting for progressive purposes could work in US elections.
“So it seems progressives need to light a permanent fire under the democrats, and what’s better than a viable third option to do the job?” writes Abdel-Rahman. “That is why an organized voter base can create that movement and ensure that Secretary Clinton will be the next president of the United States.”
According to Abdel-Rahman, in 23 red states with more than 18 million progressive voters, those voters went for President Obama in 2012 despite the fact none of these states ended up going blue, and weren’t expected to. He argues that this time around, it’s also highly unlikely that Clinton will receive electoral votes from any of these states. Instead, he believes that organizing the broader progressive vote could simultaneously ensure Clinton’s election as well as increase the viability of the Green party and amplify a leftist voice in service to progressive causes. Practically, this means asking all progressives to vote for Jill Stein in the 23 red states, and for Hillary Clinton in the blue and swing states.
You can find the state-by-state plan here.
While Abdel-Rahman identifies some states that I believe will be unexpectedly purple states come November, such as Arizona, Georgia, and Utah, I find his overall argument compelling.
At this point you’re probably wondering what the end result of this would actually look like.
Well, in 2012, 129, 237,647 Americans cast votes in the presidential election. In the 24 states Romney won, there were 18,283,896 votes cast for President Obama. Meanwhile, the Green party took home only 469,015 votes or about 0.036 percent of the national vote. If this strategic voting model had been followed, an additional 18 million people or so might have voted for the Green party. The end result would have been that instead of only garnering about 3 percent of the national vote, the Green party would have gotten about 14.5 percent, an incredible increase which would have easily had them finishing third, over the Libertarian party.
Yes, I’m aware that there is no way to guarantee those voters who voted Democrat would have ended up going for Stein. To be sure, some of them were independent voters who may have gone to Johnson or Romney. Some of them may have even been Republicans who voted for Obama. Nor is this an endorsement of the Green party’s platform.
That being said, it’s apparent that the progressive voting bloc in red states has the potential to give a lot of relative power to a third party. Given many progressives’ misgivings about Clinton, this is one way to help ensure progressives aren’t split in blue and purple states, while also enabling the rise of another progressive party to help keep Dems pushing towards the left. In many ways, isn’t this what progressive progress looks like? As many people bemoan the two party state and “lesser of two evils” voting, Canada provides us with a model that’s certainly worth considering.