At the Democratic National Convention next week, the party will almost certainly nominate Hillary Clinton for president. As someone who will be there in Philadelphia as a delegate fighting for Bernie Sanders and his progressive positions on the issues, I’m extremely disappointed. And, like many other Bernie supporters, I have a decision to make. Clinton’s nomination has caused a rift among Bernie supporters and progressive liberals. Some are falling in line behind Clinton, some are planning on writing in Bernie in protest and others have decided to support Green Party candidate Jill Stein. There are some Bernie supporters who are even abdicating to Libertarian Gary Johnson, although I can’t understand why. He’s similar to Bernie on social issues and foreign policy, but he embraces almost every horrendous economic idea that Bernie has fought against his entire life.
Regardless of the choice, it’s completely understandable that many progressives want to vote third-party or write in Bernie’s name. There’s a myriad of reasons to be wary of supporting Hillary Clinton. Many progressives find it difficult to take her seriously on campaign finance reform because she has a billionaire-financed Super PAC. Others worry about her ties to Wall Street, particularly her six-figure speeches to financial firms that she still won’t release to the public. The list goes on. Needless to say, I don’t think it was very smart for Democrats to nominate Clinton. It makes sense — she’s extremely popular among Democrats — but with Republicans and crucial independent voters, she is widely despised and reviled. If the Republicans had nominated a somewhat reasonable moderate, such as Marco Rubio or John Kasich, Clinton would get demolished in November. We’re lucky that the GOP picked a wrinkled orangutan with hair made from expired cotton candy. That being said, Clinton versus Trump is the reality we have to deal with now. So, how should Bernie supporters navigate this reality?
The smartest thing in the current political reality is to vote for Hillary Clinton. If we had a vibrant political system where groups such as the Green Party had a chance of winning a national election, I would consider supporting Jill Stein. But our political system is owned and dominated by the Republicans and Democrats, leaving almost no room for other parties between them. Third-party candidates can’t get into debates because the debate commission is jointly owned by the Democratic and Republican Parties. Third-party candidates have extreme difficulty getting onto the ballot in many states because Democrats and Republicans control the ballot access rules. Third-party candidates are almost never taken seriously by the national news media because Republicans and Democrats control the huge conglomerates that own almost every network and newspaper.
Another thing to consider is the potential effect of voting third party. We do live in a democracy, after all, so everyone has the right to support whomever they choose. That being said, progressive alternatives such as Stein will likely siphon away votes from people who otherwise would have chosen Clinton. Again, if Stein had a chance to win, that would be great. But she doesn’t. If Stein takes away enough votes from Clinton, it’s possible Trump could win the election as a result. Take the contentious 2000 election, for example. The presidency hinged on our great state of Florida, which, after recounts were ended by the Supreme Court, George Bush won by 537 votes. Ralph Nader, a progressive Green Party candidate, received 97,488 votes in Florida. If only 538 of those people had supported Al Gore instead — the less progressive but more realistic option — the country would have been saved from eight years of George Bush. We can’t let that happen again in 2016.
As much as I wish we had a fair system where more voices and opinions were expressed and celebrated, we don’t. As much as I would love for America to have three or four or five viable parties, I don't think that's going to happen; and if it does, it will take years we don't have. What’s the point of spending four or five election cycles building up a viable Green Party if it throws the government into Republican hands for two decades or more? Once the party could finally get someone in office, they’d be preoccupied with undoing 20 years of backward and regressive policies.
I believe that the grassroots progressive movement must happen within the Democratic Party for anything to truly come of it. The Democratic Party is the only piece of political machinery that currently has the power to enact the reforms we need. That's why Bernie ran within it, not outside it. That's why Bernie has endorsed Hillary and worked with her on the party platform. He knows that the best way to get real change is by taking over the Democratic Party and becoming the establishment, not by running doomed third-party campaigns for decades. Yes, Bernie was an independent in Vermont, but he understands that third-party runs on a national level have never been successful. I respect that many of us are fed up with the party and with Hillary Clinton. I am too. But I believe that taking over the party from the ground up is the best way to change things, and that's what I and many other Bernie supporters have chosen to do. I’m getting involved in the Democratic Party on a local and a national level, because I believe that a progressive movement within the party is truly the fastest and most effective way to change our country and our world for the better.
Alex Storer is the Entertainment Editor of the Central Florida Future. You can reach him at AlexanderS@centralfloridafuture.com.