Why the Greens Aren’t the Answer

2 Aug

There’s been a lot of conversation recently around the merits of voting for a third party candidate, and while I firmly believe that voting for Hillary Clinton is necessary to stop the unprecedented disaster that would a Trump presidency, I do not believe that even in the long-term, the Green Party represents a viable opportunity for the Left.

I voted for Jill Stein in 2012, but I was voting in Michigan, where Romney had a close to 0% chance of winning. I will again not be voting in a swing-state, but I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. In 2012, I believed that absent the threat that not voting for a Democrat could elect a Republican, it was important to strengthen the Green Party so that over time it could provide a left counterweight to the moderate Democrats. However, I now find it highly improbable the Green Party will ever be that force for three main reasons.

First, the current electoral rules make it very hard for a third party to ever become prominent. The Democrats and GOP have very little incentive to change them, even if they become unpopular, because right now those two are the only game in town.

Second, the Green Party isn’t even the most likely third party to become prominent. It’s probably not even the second or third. Right now, either branch of the Republican party (classic, somewhat elite conservatives on one side, Trumpistas on the other), Libertarians, and maybe some mix of those three would probably have more appeal than the Greens. The biggest problem with imagining the Greens as a vanguard of the Left is that it is impossibly optimistic to believe that there’s a large number who actually support leftist ideals but aren’t speaking up due to a lack of current options. This hypothesis has been posited for decades, and it’s always been wrong. Even despite the relative strength of leftist social movements right now, there’s little support for the Green Party.

Third, from the research on political party affiliation (as I understand it; I’m not an Americanist), Americans identify with parties based mostly on identity rather than policies. As in people vote for Democrats because they’ve always felt like Democrats. Because the rational voter, who votes on a consistent set of principles is mostly a myth, it’s impossible to convince voters to abandon the Democratic Party for a little-known third party that claims to have better policies. Therefore, I think a leftist candidate in the Democratic primaries, backed up by strong social movement support that wins the presidential election, is the upper bound of leftist potential in my lifetime. The revolution isn’t coming.

I am deeply concerned about Hillary’s policies, particularly her foreign policy, but voting for her is necessary to prevent Trump from winning. The decision is even clearer when it becomes obvious the Green Party cannot and will not become a major force to the Democrats’ left.

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