Brown Daily Herald, April 27, 2016
Scylla and Charybdis: The Case for Jill Stein and the Greens
by Glenn Yu
“If you always vote for the lesser of two evils, you will always have evil, and you will always have less.” -- Ralph Nader
In his time as a consumer advocate, Ralph Nader probably saved more American lives than any soldier or doctor in history. He is the reason why our highways have guardrails, our cars have shatterproof windshields, our meat is regulated heavily against contamination, our government enforces its own transparency, our air is safe to breathe and our workplaces are sanitary. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration he helped create has reduced the rate of deaths per mile driven by 80 percent, saving more than 3.5 million lives over the past 50 years. Nader was and is a true American hero. In 2000, Nader ran for president. As a candidate, he offered a platform similar to that of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, today, arguing that there was “too much power and wealth in too few hands.”
But Nader’s campaign differed significantly from Sanders’: Nader ran as a Green party candidate. Nader did not have the support of the political machine. Throughout the election, Nader was marginalized by critics who argued that a vote for Nader was a vote wasted. When election day came, Nader received just 3 percent of the popular vote.
But when he lost the election, he also lost the support of liberal America. Nader was vilified and ridiculed, accused of “spoiling the vote” by siphoning crucial votes away from Al Gore and ushering George W. Bush into office (something which has since been proven untrue). The Great Joe Biden said “Nader cost us the election.” A New York Times piece shortly after the election reported “Other Democrats argued that if Mr. Bush won the election, Mr. Nader should be held responsible for jeopardizing the wellbeing of gays and lesbians, minorities and the poor, women and organized labor.” Because of his party affiliation, Nader became a pariah, a scapegoat for the incompetence of Gore -- a man who couldn’t even win his own state -- on the campaign trail.
The true progressive, Nader understood, had no place in a Democratic Party that gave the appearance of “change” as it simultaneously rigged its own elections with superdelegates and subsisted on corporate financing. The true progressive, Nader understood, needed a third party outside of an establishment that proved itself immune to reform and unable to stymie its insatiable love affair with the war industry, big oil, Wall Street and free trade agreements. No, Nader would never consider becoming a cog in the machine.
Sanders’ appeal is that he isn’t an establishment Democrat, that he is outside of the bought-out corporate party. But Sanders, despite being elected to Congress as an Independent, sold his soul to the Democratic Party long ago. Despite the Eugene Debs poster in his office, he has strayed from socialism on many occasions. He backed economic sanctions that killed more than a million Iraqi civilians; voted for the racist 1994 Federal Crime Bill (which he ironically denounces today) and supported Bill Clinton’s presidential run in 1992 and then again in 1996 after he eviscerated welfare, deregulated Wall Street, passed NAFTA and doubled the number of federal prisoners. In 2005, Sanders was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, meaning that no Democrat running against Sanders would receive financial help from the Democratic National Committee.
Sanders talks a big talk, a looming rhetoric of “political revolution,” but when asked why he would not run as an Independent, he responded “I don’t want to end up like Ralph Nader.”
Sanders wants revolution but only the type that keeps his job security safe and his legacy intact. Sanders is not Nader; he is ignorant to the fact that revolution can only come when corporate politics are disemboweled, when Democratic and Republican parties are left to rot. Revolution does not simply mean vapid rhetoric about the indictment of a few Wall Street executives; it must mean the destruction of a political system funded by the fossil fuel industry and an end to the Espionage Act; it must mean severe cuts to the military and its surveillance apparatus and punishment for war criminals like Dick Cheney.
At the end of the day, Sanders is a pawn of the Democratic party. He will not win. When he loses to Hillary Clinton in the primary, he will endorse her, and he will have done his role: legitimizing the Democratic party as progressive, uncorrupted and unbeholden to corporate interests.
The two main parties are two sides of the same coin, institutions overseen carefully by elites fraudulently promising fictions of democracy and peddling neoliberalism, imperialism and ecocidal unfettered growth as the answer to our woes. The difference between voting for a Democrat and a Republican is the difference between driving off of a cliff at 45 miles per hour and driving off of a cliff at 75 miles per hour. We need a third party (and probably a fourth one, too). I understand that the Green party is not an appealing option. It has been debilitated by first-past-the post, its inability to enter into political debates and the fact that it is kept off of the ballot in many states.
When the general election comes, Sanders will be gone, and again we will be forced to choose between two evils. We will have to cast ballots not for the candidate who represents our values, but for the candidate who demonstrates the most sanity. For this reason that I urge you to vote for Jill Stein, the Green party candidate, in the general election. Her campaign platform calls for many of the same things that Sanders calls for in his own campaign. In fact, the Green party has called for these things for years but has not received mainstream media attention because money and the establishment control politics. Stein presents an alternative from the D’s and the R’s, Charybdis and Scylla.
Stein differs from Sanders mainly in that she is not working to win the presidency necessarily but to meaningfully check the power of the two existing parties. She is working toward revolution and a system that values viewpoints and ideas over party affiliations and corporate donors. Stein sees a political system that “is extremely corrupt. It serves the interests of oligarchy. It subjugates (people, planet and peace) to profit.”
I know many of you are still unconvinced; many of you might argue that voting for Stein will spoil the election and give it to Trump or U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX. But for most of you, your vote probably doesn’t count anyways if you vote for an establishment candidate. If you live in a state that is strongly Democrat or strongly Republican, your vote is wasted because the electoral college system is winner-take-all. Clinton (or Sanders, I guess) will win Rhode Island even if 75,000 Democrats vote Green in the general election. If you see the need for a third party or your views are more in line with Stein than Clinton in an uncontested state, there is no need to vote for Clinton to keep the Republican out. You ought to vote for Stein! The cliff is imminent, especially considering that Trump might take the wheel.