Let me start out by saying that I think Jill Stein is pretty great. On core issues I’m willing to bet you couldn’t squeeze a thin dime between our perspectives. That being said, I will not ever vote for her or anyone else who represents the Green Party as it is currently constructed. Why? Because they can’t win. And you know who writes, passes, and signs legislation? Winners.
Now please don’t take this as some defense or glorification of the Democratic Party, which is often a hot mess. In part because of opposing party intransigence as well as their own lack of leadership and cohesion. I mean really, who looks at Harry Reid and says “I would walk through fire for that guy!” I’m betting no one. Not his fellow senators, relatives, or even the family dog. However, elections are about choices, and right now we have two: Democrats or Republicans. Oh sure, there are all sorts of third parties roaming around. The two most “famous” are the Greens and the Libertarians.
Those two parties sent out Dr. Stein and former New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson in 2012. Together, those two candidates pulled 1.35% of the vote in 2012. Let me make this clear, that was the combined total of the two presidential hopefuls from the two most well-known third parties. If feeling that you are “right” is so important that you want to throw your vote down a hole in protest, then the Greens and the Libs are certainly for you.
You see, the Greens and Libs aren’t real political parties, they are activist parties. Even if you don’t agree with that, you certainly can’t claim that either is a governing party. And that’s the thing, it is a lot easier to be an activist than it is to govern. When you are protesting or even campaigning, you can be relatively pure. However, once you get into office you are delivered with a new situation as well as a new set of facts. Facts that no longer allow you to be pure. You might have an opposition party that wants nothing more than to see you fail. You may have people in your own party who don’t share your views and make life harder. You may be presented with information that challenges your own pre-conceived notions and forces you to modify and compromise if not outright change.
Because of this, every politician is bound to disappoint no matter their intentions. Think of the most liberal presidents of the last 100 years. Legislatively, that’s probably FDR and LBJ. FDR created the New Deal, won a war against Hitler, dug us out of a depression, and fought hard for the common man. He also established Japanese internment camps and briefly embraced austerity, which sent us into a double dip recession. LBJ created the Great Society, passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and introduced Medicaid/Medicare. He also kept us in Vietnam well past the point of any common sense.
Even the great conservative hero, Ronald Reagan, embraced policies that would never hold up for modern-day republicans, such as gun control, amnesty for the undocumented, and higher taxes.
There are no unicorns or fairies. Superman/woman does not exist. Perhaps someday there will be a viable 3rd Party. And by viable, I mean one that can win. Perot teased many an independent in 92 and 96, but still could muster no more than 18.6% of the vote–which is not even a plurality in a 3-way–and that’s the best a 3rd party candidate has done since Teddy Roosevelt ran as a Bull Moose in 1912 (29%).
In our current system there are significant barriers for 3rd party candidates, and they are admittedly challenging if not unfair. Ballot access is difficult and the lack of run-off elections in our system is perhaps an even more significant road block. However, we are where we are. This is our system. To change it will take extraordinary patience and diligence.
Something most 3rd parties lack in spades.
The thing about the Green Party, the Libertarian, or any other insurgent group, is that they rarely run in local or statewide elections. What they would rather do is attempt to jump to the front of the line and trot someone out to run for president who at best will pull 2% of the vote, and at worst be nothing more than a spoiler (see Ralph Nader and Bush v. Gore, 2000). If that’s who you want to follow, fine and God bless. But the truth is, you aren’t going to the front of the line anymore than they are. Hell, you aren’t even at the back of the line, you are in no line at all.