Back in May, prominent liberal radio host Dan Savage went off on a caller who asked about voting for Jill Stein. Incorrectly diagnosing the Green Party as only running presidential candidates, Savage did not mince his words:
The revolution did not come in 2000 when George W. Bush got close enough to winning to steal the White House. It will not come if Donald J. Trump gets his ass elected.
Disaster will come. And the people who’ll suffer are not going to be the pasty white Green Party supporters—pasty white Jill Stein and her pasty white supporters. The people who’ll suffer are going to be people of color. People of minority faiths. Queer people. Women.
Don’t do it. Don’t throw your vote away on Jill Stein/vote for, bankshot-style, Donald Trump.
This argument is one we’ve been hearing a lot this election. A Trump presidency, the reasoning goes, would irreparably injure minority groups in the US, and thus must be avoided at all costs. Anyone who disagrees is likely white and/or does not care about minority Americans.
But this “with us or against us” ideology is dangerous.
Speaking remotely at the Green Party National Convention, Julian Assange of Wikileaks said the following:
What the Clinton campaign is doing at the moment is trying to say, “Well, OK, yes, maybe we’re committed to arms dealers and to Saudi Arabia, and yes, maybe we subverted the integrity of the Democratic primary, etc., etc., but you’ll just have to swallow that, you’ll just have to swallow that or else you’ll get Donald Trump.” That’s a form of extortion.
His message was clear: Americans must stop voting out of fear because it leads to intolerable outcomes.
Assange had a point.
Fear voting allowed the Democratic Party to move to the right, as it could take liberal votes for granted. The country suffered as a result—nobody more so than minority Americans. The party enacted laws that contributed to the rise of mass incarceration, gutted welfare, signed NAFTA, deregulated the financial sector, and expanded US military involvement overseas.
These policies, with the exception of the expansion of US interventionism, can be attributed exclusively to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
And yet, today, even though there is no guarantee a second Clinton presidency would be any better for the downtrodden than the first, fear voting is alive and well on the left, as Clinton supporters insist that Donald Trump is an existential threat to American Democracy.
But, as frightening and downright atrocious as some of the GOP candidate’s rhetoric is (like his “joke” about Second Amendment people stopping Clinton’s judicial picks), it is hard to square the idea that voting for Clinton is voting to save American democracy with the fact that it took a skewed primary election to nominate her. Thanks to the revelations from the recent DNC email release by Wikileaks, we know that the party leadership was acting well outside the bounds of what can be considered neutral.
As Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone pointed out in a recent article titled, “DNC Leak Shows Mechanics of a Slanted Campaign,” it was thanks to the Clinton campaign coordinating with the DNC that the former Secretary of State was able to compete with Sanders’ grassroots political fundraising network.
But it doesn’t stop there. The DNC also helped Clinton avoid political fallout after Ken Vogel and Isaac Arnsdof of Politico broke the story that, though the former Secretary had attacked Sanders for not helping down-ballot Democrats, the money raised through the Hillary Victory Fund—a joint venture between her campaign and the party meant to help the party at the state level—overwhelmingly went towards her own presidential campaign. In fact, the reporters found that less than one percent of the funds went to the state parties.
Also troubling was the fact that the joint fundraising apparatus allowed donors to, in effect, give more than the maximum amount of money allowable to the DNC.
Naturally, the Sanders campaign seized on the story, but, the emails reveal that the party leadership actively sought to muddy the waters around it.
As Taibbi explains:
What’s patently obvious from these emails is that there was virtually no distinction between DNC and Clinton campaign officials when it came to the handling of this media problem. They were all on the same team, working in tandem to try to talk down the likes of Vogel and Emery.
Meanwhile, the Sanders campaign is treated as an enemy. After Vogel’s story came out, Sanders campaign chief Jeff Weaver sent DNC Treasurer Andrew Tobias a letter asking him to sign a petition calling for the state committees to receive “all the money allowable” from the Victory Fund…
Tobias circulates this letter to other DNC staffers, saying, “Seems awfully unfair and inaccurate?”
Soon after, communications chief Miranda circulates a note to staffers asking them to search “if there’s any coverage of Bernie Sanders camp calling the victory fund ‘money laundering.’”
In the end, these efforts seemed to pay off as the story was reduced to little more than a dispute between two campaigns on mainstream news.
That said, with the release of the emails, all of that has changed. The burgeoning scandal has resulted in no less than three top DNC officials stepping down in disgrace—including former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
For her part, Clinton, in a confounding move that made even her allies shake their heads, appointed Wasserman Schultz to an honorary chair position in her campaign.
So can we really call it privilege that many voters would throw their hands in the air in disgust and vote a third party in light of the current options? Honestly, it is difficult to say which is worse.
On the one hand, you have Trump—a Nixonian strongman figure who has, for some of his appeal, relied on voters’ most base instincts, and who many, including his own ghostwriter, feel is unfit to hold public office.
On the other you have a conservative candidate who only won with the deck stacked in her favor, in spite of starting out with all the name recognition, and all the news coverage. Even then, the she had to break federal election laws regarding coordination with super PACs.
Correct The Record, one such independent expenditure group, had to AstroTurf online support for Clinton in an effort known as “Barrier Breakers,” which amounted to little more than a paid online troll army.
And so, while a vote for Jill Stein may, in effect, be a vote for Donald Trump, a vote for Clinton is a vote against our democratic process—an endorsement of the DNC’s actions, as well as her own, in the skewed 2016 Democratic presidential primary.
(For an alternate take on the Green Party, read Jacob Weindling’s piece from yesterday.)