Voting My Green Conscience


DNC treatment of Sanders at issue in emails leaked to Wikilinks (CNN)
DNC emails: Wasserman Schultz furiously pressured MSNBC after it criticized her “unfair” treatment of Sanders (
The Green Party Responds to Dan Savage, Says He’s “Dead Wrong” (Portland Mercury)

In the days following the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting that left fifty dead last month, one of the more poignant figures to emerge as some of us tried to make sense of the tragedy (while others just tried triangulating different minority groups so they could profit off the hate) was a gay Muslim named Sohail Ahmed. First on the BBC, then on The Rachel Maddow Show, Ahmed talked about how his experience growing up in the United Kingdom under his parents’ very strict interpretation of Islam, being conditioned to think that his home country was “enemy territory” and that the best way to fight his sexual urges was to become more and more fanatically religious, to the point where he finally began plotting terror attacks against the United Kingdom. Thankfully, though, Ahmed snapped out of it before hurting anyone and started researching other forms of Islam, finally coming out as gay while still identifying as a Muslim.

It’s hard not to see parallels between Ahmed’s experience and those of many closeted gay public figures, mostly politicians, who lash out and attack openly homosexual people until their own homosexuality is somehow revealed. It’s become cliché for virulently anti-LGBT+/SAGA Republicans to eventually be discovered as hiding their own gay liasons, and while I admit to experiencing more than a little schadenfreude whenever that happens, it’s really not funny at all. Yes, these people have often caused great harm to other LGBT+/SAGA people, but at the same time they deserve at least some of our pity for the struggles that they’ve endured while trying to come to terms with their sexuality. No one, whether a gay Republican or a pro-life liberal, should be afraid to voice their opinion and express who they are.

As we get closer to this November’s elections, many Democrats and other supporters of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign are growing increasingly nastier with those of us supporting Dr. Jill Stein for president. Hit pieces are popping up across the Internet, accusing Dr. Stein of everything from medical quackery to openly scheming with the Republican Party to get their candidate elected, all the while repeating the long-debunked charges that Ralph Nader allegedly “spoiled” the election for Al Gore in 2000. I haven’t seen this level of anti-Green Party vitriol since the 2004 election, and in a political climate that’s already gone insane (to put it mildly), it’s making me even more concerned for my well-being.

Dan Savage has a history of violent rhetoric against Green Party candidates for public office (including imagery disturbingly close to how Matthew Shepard was killed), and given his past support of compromise in times of crisis (don’t promise LGBT+/SAGA teens that “it gets better” unless you’re going to make it better for them), it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s using his pulpit to go after Dr. Stein and the Green Party in general this year. It would be one thing if Savage’s attack were isolated, but more and more allegedly “liberal” websites are pulling out all the stops to slam Dr. Stein and the Green Party, arguably to a much greater extent than they’re even going after the Republican Party and their presidential candidate. We’re still in July, and the anti-Green Party attacks are already coming in droves. I can’t imagine how bad they’ll get by November if they continue to grow at the rate I’ve seen these past couple of weeks.

I’ve already written about how I don’t believe most of the right-wing rhetoric about Hillary (and the Clintons in general), but the fact remains that I don’t believe Hillary Clinton deserves to be president, not just for her political stances but also some of her past actions. I can’t vote for her in good conscience, and unless Dr. Stein does something so outrageous that I can’t vote for her any longer, my vote in November is pretty much locked up. As these past couple of weeks have dragged on, though, and Hillary’s poll numbers have nosedived as she’s continued to veer right, to say nothing of the new scandal over the Democratic Party seemingly sabotaging the efforts of Bernie Sanders to win the party’s presidential nomination this year, I’m starting to wonder how many of the anti-Green Party forces out there are people who actually agree more with Dr. Stein (or at least Sanders) than Hillary, and are just in too much denial about their beliefs to do anything but rage against those of us who support more liberal alternatives for president.

Certainly there are lots of Democrats out there (more than likely a majority) who are more centrist and identify with Hillary’s positions more than Dr. Stein’s, and they’ve remained a dominant force in the party even when President Obama has gotten more liberal legislation signed into law. Nowhere has this been on display more than in Obama’s midterm elections, where Democrats across the country got slaughtered by Republican attacks that they barely responded to with more than passive “stay the course” rhetoric. When the Supreme Court made it possible for states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion that was part of the Affordable Care Act, and it was estimated that anywhere from 7,000 to 17,000 Americans would die in states where Republican governors and legislatures turned down the expansion, we heard barely a peep from Democrats. While conservatives were fomenting right-wing bloodlust over the deaths of four Americans in a Libyan consulate (and continue to do so, as we saw this past week), Democrats barely spoke up at all over a death toll that could be two to five times that of the 09.11 attacks. Despite not standing up for these Americans (and the family and friends they leave behind), Democrats still expected these people to vote for them, and they didn’t, and as their “we’re not the Republicans so we demand your vote, damn it” rhetoric heats up, it’s becoming painfully clear that they’ve failed to learn the lessons of these recent elections.

We’ve seen this strategy writ large in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, when Democrats fought their left flank much more fiercely than their right, and both times their presidential candidate lost. In 2000 the Gore campaign failed to engage the Bush campaign effectively in key states like Ohio, New Hampshire and even Gore’s home state of Tennessee, any of which would have won the election for Gore if he’d managed to flip them. Four years later I saw the Democratic Party run itself ragged battling liberals here in Ohio, sending their lawyers against Ralph Nader’s campaign to the extent of not even allowing his write-in votes to be officially tallied, when they would have won the state (and the election) for John Kerry if they’d just flipped a relative handful of Bush voters.

Hillary’s candidacy in this year’s election was already evoking more than a little déjà vu, but these past few weeks have been painfully reminiscent of Democrats fighting liberals more than conservatives, from stifling the party platform changes advocated by Sanders and his supporters to Hillary further alienating liberals by picking the centrist Tim Kaine as her runningmate. It would have been bad enough that Kaine was in charge of the Democratic Party during its disastrous 2010 midterm campaigns, but in the days leading up to Clinton’s announcement he advocated for both bank deregulation and free trade deals (although he’s since come around to Hillary’s stance on TPP). Instead of shoring up a base that already has its problems with her, Hillary instead ran to the centre again, and this could cost her dearly when she needs to turn voters out in November.

Perhaps the most telling commentary on Hillary’s vice presidential choice came Friday night on MSNBC, when their talking heads were trying to make Kaine seem like a smart choice. Many of them talked about Kaine being (to put it charitably) a low-key politician, someone who wouldn’t overshadow Hillary like, say, Elizabeth Warren would. This shows exactly how out-of-touch Hillary’s campaign is, because they’re acting like Hillary’s high disapproval numbers mean nothing. Hillary needed someone to draw attention from her and energize her base, if not Warren then at least someone like Sherrod Brown or Julián Castro. Instead, the pick of Kaine seems based on a political calculus of firming up Virginia, which points to Democrats trying to shore up 270 electoral votes instead of taking it to the Republican candidate, a strategy that failed them in 2000 and 2004.

A sustained “blue-green” offencive against the Republican party and its candidate would be devastating; at the very least it could make Gary Johnson competitive for second place in some blue states. Democrats make a lot of how the Republican candidate is the most-disliked candidate in history, but instead of really taking the fight to him and championing those Americans who stand to be hurt the most under another Republican presidency, they’re turning their venom against liberals and progressives, a population that Sanders’ campaign has already shown to be quite large, and assuming that Hillary won’t be seen as the “greater evil” of the two major party presidential candidates despite her well-documented problems.

I’m a registered member of the Green Party, but I haven’t always voted for its candidates. (I always vote for the best candidate/s in each race regardless of party; yes, I’ve voted for Republicans and Democrats before.) Dr. Stein isn’t “entitled” to my vote any more than Hillary is, and I have more than a few disagreements with Dr. Stein, including on a matter very dear to my heart, sex work and sex workers. I’ve made a deliberate choice to support Dr. Stein and vote for her despite our disagreements, and it’s not a choice that I’ve taken lightly. As I said before, I’m even open to changing my mind before November if Dr. Stein does something that makes it impossible for me to vote for her in good conscience, but I honestly don’t see that happening. Despite the obstacles in her way, I truly believe that not only does America need Dr. Stein to be its next president, but that I need Dr. Stein to be our next president.

Like many Americans, I could very easily be one of the tens of thousands of people who die in this country every year because of lack of health insurance. It’s been nearly a decade since I got my graduate degree, and I still haven’t been able to secure the kind of income that would let me afford health insurance. Although I live in a state that accepted the Medicaid expansion, I’m still not eligible for Medicaid because of Ohio state laws, and I’ve certainly got enough medical concerns that I need to see doctors about if only I were able to afford them. (Meanwhile the Republican Speaker of the House is advocating for insurance providers to be able to deny coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions again, which would undoubtedly lead to even more Americans dying from lack of health insurance.) This is why the fight over healthcare is not some abstraction for me; it is a literal fight for my life, and one of the reasons I can’t support Hillary is because she keeps dithering over when America will join the rest of the developed world in giving universal healthcare to its citizens.

If you want to argue that it’s somehow strategically better for me to potentially die from lack of healthcare coverage so the Democratic Party can meet some strategic goal (how many lives are worth getting better state district maps for the 2022 midterms?), then you go ahead and do that. When you try to silence me and others, though, when you try to shut us up when we are quite literally fighting for our lives, then you insult not only us and our families and friends, but the very concept of democracy. (Not surprisingly, multiple journalists tweeted a coordinated attack about Dr. Stein being “just like” Hillary politically right after one of those key differences would have saved from 57 to over 200 Syrian civilians from losing their lives in a drone strike. Whose lives matter to those journalists?)

If the Democratic Party refuses to truly fight for uninsured Americans, or civilians in Muslim countries, or anyone but themselves and their entrenched interests, then they should stand aside and let the Green Party fight for the Americans who have been so poorly served by the Democratic Party for all these decades. I don’t expect them to do that, of course, but neither should they expect the Green Party to shut up and let them push their centrist agendas without critique. Too many people have died already as a result of Democratic dithering and spinelessness. For them, and for us, we will not be silenced, we will not be ignored, and we will keep fighting in spite of all the obstacles thrown at us, from Republicans and Democrats alike.

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