Friday, July 29, 2016

Thinking of voting Green in 2016? 

 An in-depth, statistical analysis
(from a **super-passionate Bernie supporter**)


2000 Green Party candidate Ralph Nader's % of support, by county
(darker green = counties with a greater % of Nader voters)
(grey = Nader not on the ballot)

Chapter 1:

(in which the author unabashedly attempts to build his"street cred" among the die-hard Berners, Stein supporters, and other anti-Clinton lefties whilst providing an intimate vignette of what an average political novice and dedicated Bernie supporter may have experienced this past year)

     A number of years ago, I learned of a seemingly mythical and paradoxical creature: an honest, authentic, down-to-earth, capable, and successful politician named Bernie Sanders.  When I first heard Bernie was running for president last year, I thought, "Fantastic!  I hope the best of his brilliant perspectives and solutions—especially in regard to climate change, wealth inequities, campaign finance reform, and greater civic engagement in politics—reach the minds of a bunch more folks!"  

     A few weeks later, I finally coughed up my first small donation to any political campaign in my life and thought, "wow, if enough people like me send him some cash, maybe we can give him a bigger 'bullhorn' with which to preach his good truths!"  

     Like many of us, I slowly realized Bernie was in the running for real, not just to get a message out there.  The "political revolution" he kept talking about was not just talk or even just about voting for Bernie in the primaries, it was about the need for real sustained and dedicated action from people like me.   More money flew out of my bank account via Pay Pal as I began posting regularly on social media (sort of for the first time) whatever I could find or come up with that had the potential to move myself and others toward constructive actions.

      As part of my transformation into taking a more active part in our nation's political process, I went to two incredibly beautiful Bernie rallies including the famous one with the little bird that flew onto his podium.   I explain in the video posted below, beyond the last of the photos: the bird moment was extraordinarily powerful.   Some said it seemed like an "endorsement from Nature itself."  For me, it was feeling of profound connection with the ineffable beauty of the natural world and a reminder that the most important political issue for me as an environmental activist is the laser focus on climate change, which includes focusing on its political solutions.    As such, this experience helped catalyze my dedication to Bernie's political revolution and I was officially on fire, "feelin' the Bern".



"No more wars!"



     A
t the Bernie rally in Vancouver, WA, I experienced another deeply transformative and catalyzing moment.

     A few hundred of us couldn't fit into the arena, but Bernie stood on a few overturned crates and gave us our own special speech.  (What a gem, this guy.) As soon as he went inside arena it started pouring rain.  Most of the people in the outside crowd, who had been on their feet waiting in line for many hours by that point, fled, apparently satiated with having just seen and heard Bernie up close.  


     I became transfixed by the sight of this one woman who remained standing alone in the rain next to the blaring, covered sound system that fed the speeches from inside the arena out to us in the field.  As the rally began, she started signing.  There was hardly anyone out there, but here she was: cheerfully and dutifully making sure that if a deaf individual happened to be out there in the rain, they, too, could absorb the important information and inspiration that was being communicated from the rally speeches inside.

     Sure enough, one deaf person ambled over with an astonished, grateful, and beautiful grin on his face.  Then a woman with an umbrella came up to give the signer some relief from the pelting rain.  My heart rapidly swelled and overflowed from witnessing these small, beautiful acts of kindness.   The information being communicated in the rally at that moment suddenly became infinitely more rare, precious, and meaningful.  I experienced a humbling moment of deep connection.   It was as if I could simultaneously feel, see, and hear all of the human love and effort that went into the making of this moment:  


I saw all the participants and the many miles they each traveled to be there...

...the sleepy crew members, up very early on that Saturday morning in preparation for the event, running many feet of sound cable out to the speakers....  

...the signer studying and practicing her craft for years, perhaps decades....  

...the deaf person studying for years to be able to understand the signing, the teacher who taught him, the teachers who taught his teacher...

...the people who put together the umbrella, who harnessed its raw materials, who built the machines which processed the raw materials, who shipped it from the factory, and who stocked it at the store where the woman purchased it...  

...the many thousands of utility workers who created the vast systems of electricity production used to power the sound system...


...the veteran speaker, now an ardent Bernie volunteer, serving our country somewhere abroad and enduring some extremely harrowing and difficult situations... 

....Bernie, working tirelessly at his desk after hours in order to do what he could to improve VA care for our veterans...

...the many thousands of VA health professionals who took upon themselves the responsibility for implementing the care with the resources Bernie had helped procure, care that this veteran said saved her life "on more than one occasion...."   

....all of the many, many thousands of people who were going to be putting their energy and time into every single tiny, pragmatic detail that supported the infrastructure that made the following week's caucus possible for these thousands of supporters to attend and participate in democracy....



Volunteer signer at a Bernie rally in Vancouver, WA

     Witnessing these small, touching acts of kindness moved me even more deeply than that "magical Birdie moment" we all shared at the famous Portland rally.  Whereas the bird moment felt similar to the connection and sense of awe one might experience in the face of some powerful statement from Nature—like an outrageous sunset, a musical thunderstorm, a lush cloudscape, a roaring waterfall, a silent snowy meadow, or a symphony of birdsong— the witnessing of these human kindnesses inspired a distinctly different flavor of communion.  It brought me into some sort of contact with the totality of humanity's place within Nature and to the connective threads that are uniquely human.  I caught an extraordinary, fleeting glimpse of the entire play of human interaction, all 7.4 billion of us touching one another profoundly and deeply in infinitely complex, visible and invisible ways.   

     After the two rallies, my inspiration surged. Suddenly, I found myself doing all sorts of new, little things, like putting my representatives' phone numbers on speed dial.  




     I started phone banking for the first time in my life.  I tracked down and spoke with tech personnel, helping them to tweak some of the problems and inefficiencies I had identified with the janky dialer system that Bernie volunteers were using to contact voters all across the country.   I started hosting phone banking parties, teaching and inspiring others to phone bank.  I helped raise more donations through social media by connecting phone bankers and donators so they could inspire each other (eg. "I'll donate $2 for every call you make today!")   

     Inspired by this and by the possibility of a viral incentivising campaign, I reached out to some more wonderful tech folks from the Bernie Phonebankathon website and helped birth the idea that eventually became the BernBank website.   Unfortunately, the BernBank unveiling got a late start in the primary season and never went viral like I'd imagined, but through those efforts another $8,168 was raised to keep Bernie and the revolution going strong.

     As Oregon's primary came to pass, I really went all in for a while, heading down to the Portland headquarters to phone bank, teach newcomers, and volunteer my various IT skills.  Even though Bernie's trajectory became increasingly narrow, it was hard not to get swept up in the enthusiasm and optimism that I felt surrounding myself with heart-centered individuals who simply wanted to do some good in the world through their dedication to Bernie's inspiring campaign and to the policies and ideas Bernie was running on.








     Recognizing the detrimental role that the corporate media often plays in elections and in the political life of our country in general, I also began supporting independent media organizations like The Young Turks and Democracy Now.   You may have even seen me on the Young Turks when their fantastic, investigative reporter Jordan Chariton came to Portland to cover the Oregon primary.   

     Here I am in my full-on campaigning mode, loving up on Bernie, the birdie, the continuity of the political revolution, and the people...


...and performing an impromptu version of Jean Rohe's new national anthem with along Lindsey on a Portland street corner the night of Bernie's Oregon victory.



Chapter 2:

(in which the primary ends, our hearts break, and 
we try to figure out what exactly to do now)

     I hope my introduction helps to prove that I can fully empathize with the depth of grief and praise  many Bernie supporters are feeling about this election.  The ultimate outcome of the primary was nothing short of a massive heartbreak.  I finally had a deep cry with Lindsey when we saw Bernie's brother Larry speak at the DNC.  


Larry Sanders tearful tribute to Bernie and their parents at the DNC

    His raw, effusive, impossibly-contained emotions just say it all.  I know Bernie had massive potential to be an incredible president.  Like another FDR, his impact would be felt for generations, all over the planet.  I believe in my heart that this will still be the case, the only difference being that Bernie will not be remembered as having been our president.  Instead, Bernie will be remembered as having returned to the Senate to become the most influential Lion of the Chamber and the Conscience of Our Nation.   Most importantly, he will be remembered for inspiring the people of America to wake up from their slumber, be the change and the leaders they've been waiting for, and re-create for themselves a government based on their interests instead of the interests of those with the most money. 

The political revolution wages on.

      And......I know, I know.  Picturing Bernie being sworn in next January is a hard part of the vision to give up...


Hawaiian musician Makana's tribute to Bernie with simulated Bernie inauguration at the end of video

 ...but here we are:  

- The Democratic primary process concluded at the DNC in Philadelphia with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee.   

-  Bernie has given his full-throated support for electing Clinton, has been campaigning relentlessly on behalf of her candidacy (and the many policies he's trying to hold her to), and never, ever, ever has he entertained the idea of running independently, with a third party, or with a surreptitious, Deny270, write-in campaign*.  

    (*Please don't believe that bogus, snopes-debunked idea floating around on the internet that "Bernie said in a TV interview in the spring 'don't believe me if I endorse Clinton!'"  If you listen to the entire video he is essentially urging—some might say "strong arming"— Clinton to adopt the policies that he ran on, many of which she did at least agree to publicly and within the Democratic platform).

- There was no FBI indictment recommendation to the Justice Department, and there certainly won't be one in the next two weeks' time.  Even if some extraordinary new evidence were to suddenly emerge from the FBI's recent "re-opening" of the case (which seems unlikely, btw), it seems Clinton has essentially run out the clock in terms of immediate legal consequences.   

- Early voting is already well under way and the only two candidates who are polling in close to the 45% averages of most modern presidential elections are Trump and Clinton.  It seems near certain the either of these two will become our next president on Jan. 20th 2017.

*Sigh*....

     I began my grieving process shortly after the March 15th primaries when the losses of Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois felt like a mortal blow to Bernie's primary campaign.  Perhaps that places me a little further along than some of his supporters.  I've already been looking far ahead of this depressing distraction of a general election for a long, long time.  My political focus since the end of the primary has been on helping Bernicrats in winnable down ballot races, climate change activism, campaign finance reform activism, election reform activism, and helping to set the stage for the 2018 elections to be a monumental victory for Bernie's continued political revolution.  

     Lately, I been feeling like an outlier in this regard.  I've seen many—I'd even say 'most'— progressive, Bernie-supporting friends, as well as a good many celebrity Bernie supporters like Bernie's Democratic Platform Committee pick Dr. Cornel West, diverging from the post-nomination strategy that Bernie has been making clear would be his preferred 'plan B' since he first got into the presidential race in 2015: 

1. Get as many progressive policy positions into the Democratic platform and into Hillary Clinton's campaign platform as possible (Check!)

2. Defeat the Republican nominee by actively helping to elect Hillary Clinton 

3.  Help elect progressive Democrats to the House and Senate
           http://berniecrats.net/

      - This includes not only helping elect candidates in winnable down ballot races but also fighting along with the DLCC to end the gerrymandering that keeps the Republicans unfairly in the majority: http://www.dlcc.org/

      -  This also includes fighting at the state level to create a constitutional convention where we can amend the constitution to overturn 40 years of disastrous court decisions on campaign finance and get money out of politics once and for all: http://www.wolf-pac.com/

4. Constantly hold Clinton's feet to the fire as soon as it's November 9th.  Continue fighting for progressive legislation and major political/electoral reforms from both within a reformed Democratic party packed with as many down ballot progressive Democrats as possible and along with any other independent or 3rd party progressive candidates who can actually get elected.  

5. Continue fighting for progressive legislation and major political/electoral reforms from completely outside of politics and away from the timetable of national elections using targeted protests, boycotts, strikes, and other extra-political means.

Chapter 3:

(The different reasons to vote Green, and counter-reasons why doing so may be a poor choice given the current circumstances and historical context of our nation's electoral process)


     Dr. West and many others seem to have a different strategy in mind, call it a 'plan G.' They are calling for Bernie's political revolution to continue onward with the presidential campaign of the Green Party's nominee, Dr. Jill Stein.   

    What exactly are the reasons to vote Green this year? Ok, I mean besides your distaste with the other choices, your approval of Stein, her policies, and the Green Party platform. 

    Pragmatically, what do you hope to accomplish by voting for Jill Stein?

Reason 1: She can win!

Disclaimer:

If you...

...have been active member of the Green Party for years or decades...
...have run for local offices on the Green Party ticket, 
...have actively campaigned for local and state Green Party candidates, 
...have participated in meetings and rallies, 
...or have done quite a bit more for the Green Party besides casting a quadrennial protest vote for president or reposting a pro-Stein meme on Facebook, then...

 ...the following may not exactly be directed towards you

    Allow me to begin by saying that this disclaimer likely does not apply to very many people, but that I do personally know a few.  Most notably, there are my friends Patrick and "Diesel" Dave of The Green Grease Monkeys in Boston who helped me learn a bit about veggie oil diesel conversions and who helped me to successfully move cross country in a veggie-oil-powered Mercedes in the summer of 2008.   They have been dedicated Greens forever and they live the Green philosophy in word and deed every day of the year, in and out of their politics.

    I also came across the occasional Green Party member while phone banking for Bernie in California who wanted nothing at all to do with Bernie.  These folks made Bernie sound like an unpalatable, center-right imperialist!   And finally, I know of some people who were so dedicated to Bernie's campaign that they engineered their lives such that they'd be working through the general election.   Many of these folks needed to find a campaign to work for that was meaningful for them. Stein's campaign was understandably an option for some.

    That said, I estimate that the 242,000 or so registered Green Party members would be the largest possible field of long-time, dedicated 3rd party pioneers who have put their blood, sweat, tears, and years into the Green Party effort.  Of the approximately 120 to 150 million who will be voting this November, that maximum estimate would only make up a microscopic 0.1%.

    For a more dedicated slice of this group, let's look at the Green Party members who were dedicated enough to participate in this year's Green Party primaries.  Of the 35 contests only 13 of them, including the "Youth Greens online poll", were even large enough elections to tally a popular vote.  

    The largest race was California where Jill Stein picked up the vast majority of her popular vote, adding 11,206 votes to her total. 

    The other 22 Green Party state conventions were simply small meetings or caucuses in which delegates were assigned for the national convention through a vote from a small group of party leaders.

What was the total popular vote of the whole 2016 Green Party presidential primary?

~ 13,231 votes  

This represents a Green Party turnout of about 5% which is  
0.009% of all registered US voters,
and below the already-dismal percentages of turnout for major party primaries.

    I estimate that these 13,231 voters represent the approximate pool of super-dedicated Green Party members to whom my essay here may or may not readily apply.   


[Thanks for reading up until here Dave and Patrick!  Rock on!] 


    The remainder of the Stein supporters this year are either casual Green voters who dip in every fours years to cast their protest vote or people who just got involved this year after the major party primaries concluded so disappointingly.   Of this remainder, there are perhaps a very small fraction who have the sincere hope of a nearly impossible, winning-the-powerball-lottery-simultaneously-in-four-states-after-getting-hit-three-times-in-a-row-by-lightning-after-your-house-was-destroyed-by-an-extragalactic-meteorite, miracle victory for Jill Stein in our insanely-difficult-for-a-non-major-party-candidate-to-overcome electoral college system that we inexplicably continue to use to pick our presidents.

    I've waited until the final weeks of the election to speak of this.  It has been a very volatile election and I haven't wanted to add more to the fray.  Two months ago I thought that maybe anything could happen, but now a Stein electoral victory it isn't looking likely even in the slightest.  Consider that even Trump, in spite of all of his abhorrence and numerous missteps, is STILL polling on average at 17 times higher than Stein.   The election concludes on Nov. 8th and early voting is already under way.   Stein is not even on the ballot in all 50 states.  Winning 270 votes in the electoral college seems pretty much impossible for Stein at this point.  

"What about the 'Deny 270' Jill Stein or Bernie write-in campaigns?"

    Even if Stein managed something of an electoral miracle—perhaps taking one to three states' electoral votes—this would only have the effect of potentially robbing the necessary 270 electoral votes from both Trump and Clinton, thereby throwing the decision of our next president to the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, per the 15th Amendment.  

    To think that the same Republicans who voted over 50 times to repeal Obamacare would choose Stein or Bernie for President is an exercise in extreme foolishness.  These Republicans think Stein and Bernie are a stark raving Communists!

    The Deny 270 campaigns only work if you know the incoming House will definitely choose your candidate of choice.  Infinitely more likely than the House choosing Stein or Bernie this year is Bill Kristol's conservative pick, Independent Evan McMullin.  

    McMullin seems to be the only candidate who actually has a (very slim) shot at this rare method of winning the presidency.  As of this writing, it seems quite fair to say that there are only 3 people who could be sworn in as the next president: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or Evan McMullin.

Reason 2: The "magic" 5% and "Minor Party status"!

     Others seem to have the stated goal—identical to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson's failed agenda from 4 years ago—of achieving 5% of the popular vote, which, one must be aware, is nearly DOUBLE what Ralph Nader achieved at the Green party's infamous, record-breaking zenith in the 2000 election.  

    What is so enticing about this goal? Not much. This achievement, if met, would only give the Green Party the benefit of matched federal funding from the FEC for their presidential candidate in the 2020 general election.  Compared to the funds raised for national campaigns by the major parties—$1.5 Billion so far this election—this addition of a few million dollars would be a one-time "pittance".  Consider that Bernie recently raised—in a single day!—$2 million from his supporters in Our Revolution in order to help out down ballot Democrats and Bernicrats.   

"But the 5% will get the Green Party into the debates!"  

    Nope.  The debates are hosted by a bi-partisan, private organization that just makes up their own random rules.  Those rules are currently that debating candidates must be averaging at least 15% in the national polls (and by the way, they can change those rules at any time.)

"But the 5% will get the Green Party on the ballot in all 50 states!"  

    No, it won't.  One of the irritating problems with our national elections is that there are no federal standards for how to run an election.  Each state has completely different election methods, standards, and rules, including the rules regarding ballot access.  Furthermore, states can alter these rules whenever they want to.  Every Presidential election, the candidates must jump through 50 separate and different hoops to get on the ballot, hoops which may change from election to election.

"But it'll also put the Green Party on the map and help destroy the duopoly."  

    Not really.  Consider the fact that the Green Party has run candidates in the last 6 presidential elections, and yet, after all of those attempts to "destroy the duopoly," the Green Party only holds a homeopathic 137 out of 520,000 elected offices in the US (and none at the federal or even state levels.)  


Green Party statistics from Wikipedia


    Maybe if the Green Party works hard on down ballot races for the next 20 years and finally gets a decent number of Green Party Governors, Senators, and Congressmen will the duopoly be finally and truly broken.  Of course, we all know that we have pressing matters like climate change that cannot wait for that kind of a 20 year slog.  What do we do in the meantime?

    The system needs to be changed fundamentally before it can allow a real viable multi-party democracy, especially at the presidential level, which is the "icing" on the "governmental cake."  The constitution needs to be amended and major election reforms (eg. ranked choice votinganti-gerrymandering legislation, and campaign finance reform) would need to be implemented nationwide. 

Reason 3: Vengeance on Clinton, the DNC, and all the corrupt Democrats!

    The other reason I've maybe most often heard to vote Green in 2016 is that it gives progressives a chance to use the voting booth for their activism, to cast a so-called "protest vote," and, in so doing, "send a message" to the corrupt, corporate Democrats that they will be held accountable on issues like the TPP, fracking, universal healthcare, the Israel occupation Palestine, Wall St. regulation, electoral reform, money in politics, etc.

     First of all, votes are private, so a protest vote means nothing because no one can tell whose vote is whose. But more importantly, voting for President in the General Election has simply always been one of the least effective ways have influence in our democracy.  Think of the Civil Rights movement.  Yes, it ultimately involved the passing of legislation like the Voting Rights Act, and yes, President Johnson to sign it.  But the bulk of the effort for those tectonic changes in our society came from the arduous non-violent protest campaign led by non-politician Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

     Now consider all that is wrong with our election system.  We know that the US Constitution, as currently written, essentially stipulates a strong two party outcome in the presidential election by way of the terribly undemocratic Electoral College system. This has been the case for 240 years and through 60 quadrennial elections.   Why does this system persist?

    One of the major reasons why this system has never been challenged is that the ruling class knows presidential elections are very successful distractions.  The ruling class knows that the spectacle of a national election is a great way to keep the people polarized and disorganized, keeping them from either focusing their attention, energy, and efforts on winnable down ballot races or engaging in other meaningful actions that would effectively further their goals.  

    Activism is where we have the most power.  Period.  At its most extreme, activism means revolution (eg. the American Revolution). But activism can also involve small, bold, meaningful actions taken towards a substantive and often legislative change (eg. the women's suffrage movement.)

    Primaries and down ballot races are where we have the most power in voting.   But is so maddeningly bizarre to me that the entire power structure of the people is flipped on its head.  The least amount of citizens are activists.  Then a few more than that actually vote in down ballot, off year, and primary elections.  About half of us participate in the general election every four years, and, finally, the majority of us don't vote at all! 

    This is partially why I think that the presidential election is so completely dissatisfying by design.  It has become a deliberate distraction orchestrated to disempower us and pull us into an amnesia about our true political power.

    I have come to this conclusion by way of reading Noam Chomsky.  Chomsky is regarded as one of the wisest intellectuals on the Left.  He's been around for enough elections to have an invaluable perspective that comes from decades of studying these matters for a living.  I personally will listen to Noam Chomsky's opinion on how the political left should act in this regard before I would consider heeding anything that Dr. Stein, her surrogates, or any Bernie-or-Busters tell me.  My inclination to trust Chomsky is similar to my inclination to trust my highly-trained doctor's opinion over the opinion of the guy on the street.   Here's one of the concluding paragraphs from his "8 points on Lesser Evil Voting":

"Finally, it should be understood that the reigning doctrinal system recognizes the role presidential elections perform in diverting the left from actions which have the potential to be effective in advancing its agenda. These include developing organizations committed to extra-political means, most notably street protest, but also competing for office in potentially winnable races. The Left should devote the minimum of time necessary to exercise the Lesser Evil Vote choice then immediately return to pursuing goals which are not timed to the national electoral cycle." 

- Noam Chomsky

Reason 4: Trump is absolutely not going to win, so why bother? 

    Trump may have somewhat imploded since the revelation of his 2005 sexual assault bragging, but, as I'm sure you've noticed, Clinton is still about as deeply unpopular as he is (and the continual deluge from Wikileaks and the rightwing tailspin of the FBI email investigation "re-opening," certainly don't help).  

    The pollsters and statisticians have never seen such a strange race.  It has been a roller coaster ride, sometimes looking tight, other times looking done. Twice, and as recently as late September, Trump has been right on Clinton's tail and tied or winning in the Electoral College.  With only a few days left we may never know the full impact on the undecided, low-information, voting populace after they heard the words "Clinton," "emails," and "FBI," all in the same sentence.  This "October Surprise" from the FBI could be disastrous for the Clinton campaign.  Trump is already spinning it like crazy and relaunching himself anew, yet again.

    Add to all of that the various Deny 270 campaign, especially McMullin's which actually has some real logic to it; the erratic Johnson/Weld vote; the erratic and usually large undecided vote; other 3rd party factors; and more leaks, drips, and news bombshells to come, and it seems we are in for quite a ride right until the end.

    Michael Moore has 5 compelling reasons why he thinks Trump will ultimately prevail.   The Midwestern states are paramount to a Trump victory and Michael Moore seems to have his pulse on the perspective of the Rust Belt attitudes.  I share a lot of his concerns.  My third biggest reason for supporting Bernie, behind climate change and the political revolution, was that I have always thought Clinton would have a rough time defeating Trump in the General Election.  It turns out that, unfortunately, I was correct.

    Trump also has the uncanny ability to retain support no matter how terrible the controversy du jour has been.  Even Republican women seem unfazed by the recent revelations of Trump's past.  Part of the reason for this is that the media, hungry for the ratings, has been addicted to covering Trump from the inception of his candidacy.   The media is also addicted to the horserace of the election in general and will do anything to keep the perception of the race as being close.  

The crucial importance of turnout

    Ask yourself: Why did Trump win the nomination against all odds and (establishment) expectations?  How does he continue to poll ~40% of the electorate in national polls?  I have a one word answer for you: Turnout.   All throughout the primary Bernie's mantra was "when we have a high voter turnout we win, when we do not have a high voter turnout, we lose."   Such a statement seems like a no-brainer, and yet, it is so incredibly important.  In a country where millions upon millions of eligible voters stay home each election, whoever can actually get people to show up and vote is usually the winner.  

    If you can energize a group that usually stays home, then you can wildly shift the outcome of an election, especially in the electoral college system that gives certain voters in various states many times more voting power than others.   There are certain demographics—like the racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, white nationalist "basket of deplorables" Clinton spoke of recently, and non-college-educated white males—who have clearly been energized by Trump's unapologetically authoritarian, populist campaign.  

    Look no further than the turnout numbers from the primary for proof of this.   The Republicans, thirsty for power after 8 years of Obama and energized by Trump, had a stunning, all-time record turnout: almost 30,000,000 came out to vote. Compare that with recent non-incumbent Republican primaries in '00, '08, and '12, all of which had turnouts of only about 18 to 20 million.   Trump alone received about 2 million votes more than the previous record of 12 million votes for Bush in 2000.  This was also 4 million more than Romney in 2012.

    Things weren't nearly as good on the Democratic side. In spite of Bernie's massively successful insurgent campaign and his/our enormous attempts to get out the vote, the Democrats still fell 5,400,000 votes short of their previous turnout record from the contentious 2008 primary race between Obama and Clinton.  Yikes!  The Democrats have more people registered than Republicans do, making their ratio of the Republican's margin of turnout even greater!  And this ratio becomes even greater when you consider that Trump ran unopposed through the last part of the primary, while Bernie fought Clinton right until the end.

    Stop and think deeply about these numbers for a second: Republicans, with fewer registered voters than the Democrats, increased their turnout by a whopping ~10,000,000 votes—obliterating the 2008 record with a 50% increase!—while the Democrats came up 5,400,000 votes short of their record, a stunning 16% LOSS of participation.   And again, that was with Trump running unopposed for the final stretch!

    What was the margin between the two parties' turnout changes?  A whopping ~17,400,000 votes, or to put it another way, a huge 28% increase for the Republicans. Considering that the 2000 election saw Al Gore losing to George Bush in the Electoral College in spite of having 500,000 more popular votes, a 17+ million vote discrepancy between the two parties' primaries is concerning, to say the least.

    The Republicans are clearly showing up this year in very large and unprecedented numbers.  They are an Executive-Branch-power-hungry force to be reckoned with.  "But more than half of those Republicans voted against Trump in the primaries!,"  you might very well say.  Ok, but in spite of how many of them voted against Trump in the primaries, don't forget that the conservative personality exhibits a tendency to "fall in line" (while the liberal personality tends to "fall in love.")  Just because Republican elites, like George Bush Sr., say they are supporting Clinton doesn't mean the voters will follow suit.  

    The actual voters will follow the alpha-male "winner" Trump long before they follow the one term president "loser" George Bush Sr.  This goes for all of the other Republican elites who have been throwing Trump under the bus since the most recent controversies. 

 ... Add to that the fact that much the large working class of this country, having not quite felt the effects of the economic recovery, is waxing populist at the moment.   If Bernie had had half of the media attention as Trump had in 2015, we'd might have seen a bigger bulge in turnout for Bernie democratic populist campaign.   Instead, the media helped deliver us the smashing success of Trump's authoritarian populist campaign.  Many thought Trump might tone things down for the General Election campaign, but of course it has been the opposite; he's doubling down on the fascist scare tactics and demagoguery.  Frighteningly, these tactics have appeared to be successful when he had a major bump (a 10 point swing in some polls!) following his grotesque, fear-mongering convention.  

... Add to that the fact that the deeply unpopular Clinton has been seriously hobbled going into the General Election by many controversies (most fake, a few with little "seeds" of truth,) and by the fact that she is the epitome of "the establishment" in a year when a huge portion of the voting population seems to want a massive, populist change of one sort or another. 

... Add to that the fact that the last time there were 3 successive Democratic presidential terms was the wholly unique and unusual run of FDR and Truman, a long, long time ago.  Even if Clinton had 100% of the votes of the Bernie supporters, Clinton would still have an upward climb to victory.

....Add to all of that this terrible truth: no matter how much Clinton seems to be obliterating Trump in the polls following his terrible debate performances and the awful controversies, if there is a terror attack (or false flag appearance of one) before the election then the winds could change in a heartbeat.  Trump is running a campaign on fear and if the populace becomes freaked out enough, they could run to him in droves at the last minute because of his strong authoritarian response.

    I don't care if Trump sustains a new controversy every day until the election concludes or if Clinton somehow gets a double digit lead on him in the polls: I will not count him out of the running until he is shown to be defeated on November the 9th.  



FiveThirtyEight.com's polling synthesis from September showing ranges of outcomes within and 80% chance of occurring.  
Trump was narrowly winning at the time in the electoral college using the averages of polls.


Reason 5: 
Ok, fine, we've got to make sure Trump is defeated, but I don't live in a swing state and voting Green will help break the duopoly, give us better choices next time, and it will temporarily make me feel righteous, so why not??

     Mercifully, there appear to be at least more than a few Stein supporters who have the wherewithal to consider Noam Chomsky's guide to the inherent dangers of voting Green, in particular, in a swing state, and thus have a capacity to understand the moral arguments that many philosophers and ethicists have made for the necessity of lesser-evil-voting

    Before we discuss what it might be like to cast a vote in a "non-swing state" this year, let's first explore the reasons why voting Green in a swing state this year could be a really, really bad idea.  We must all understand why it is that the Electoral College is so terribly undemocratic and why it forces lesser-evil-ism upon us, particularly in swing states.

    Let's return to Reason 2 for why you might want to cast a Green party vote this year: the Green party wants to get 5% of the national popular vote (and with it their pittance of campaign cash for their 2020 presidential candidate).  Well, it stands to reason that to do that the Green party would need to get an average of 5% of the vote in each state in the union.  

    I have exhaustively gone about comparing this goal with the current Green Party record of 2.7% of the national popular vote from the infamous 2000 election to give a hint of an idea of just how incredibly dangerous this goal portends to be.


2000 election, actual electoral map


2000 election, altered: Nader at 5% instead of 2.7% (votes moving from Gore to Nader)
+81 electoral votes for Bush

2000 election, with only 4.9% of all 3rd party voters (194,364 voters) voting for Gore
Gore electoral victory; +54 electoral votes

    The 5% Nader election map is pretty stunning, but let's keep in mind that that map assumes 2.5 million more votes for Nader.  Let's look at a few states that Gore won narrowly to show just how even just a few more votes for Nader could have made a big difference in the electoral college:

New Mexico   (Bush -366       Nader 21,251
Wisconsin      (Bush -5,708    Nader 94,070
Oregon           (Bush -6,765    Nader 77,357)
Iowa                (Bush -4,144    Nader 29,374)
Minnesota      (Bush -58,607  Nader 126,696)
Maine              (Bush -33,335  Nader 37,127

    If, of those who voted Green in these states, a mere 1% in NM, 6% in WI, 8% in OR, 14% in IA, 46% in MN, or 89% in ME had brought along just one friend to vote for Nader, then they could have helped hand Bush a clear electoral victory (if any one state did so) or an overwhelming electoral victory (if all did so).  

    This year the Greens are calling for a 100% increase in participation from the 2000 record.  With the exception of Maine, that 100% increase would mean an increase that is 100x, 16x, 12x, 7x, and 2x the amount that would've been necessary to give all of these narrowly-won blue states to Bush in 2000.


Electoral map with a small increase in Nader turnout

108,926 extra Nader votes (only a 3% increase) +44 for Bush

     Plugging in these alternative scenarios into the historical model of the Green's record turnout in the 2000 election provides only a rough idea of what we might expect from 5% of the popular vote going Green this year.  However, what these thought experiments make clear to me is that even very slight increases from the Green party's previous record turnout can make an enormous electoral difference.  

     In 2000, the margin of Green voters whose votes could have meant the difference between the extremes of a clear Bush victory (315 electoral votes) and a clear Gore victory (328 electoral votes) was 442,227 Nader voters

    That's only 0.4% of the total 2000 turnout of ~105,000,000 voters.  The 5% Green Party goal means messing with that margin by a factor of 12; that is, 12 times the amount that could have swung the election 2000, wildly, in either direction.  

    Of course, the big rub with these previous examples is that those increases were directed towards a number of swing states.  I'm not sure I've ever heard Jill Stein talking to her voters about not voting for her in swing states this year, but there certainly seems to be a buzz among some in the Jill 2016 crowd that voting Green in swing states should be avoided. 

    Rightly so.

     What about voting for Stein in a "safe" blue state?

    With such a bizarre and tight looking race, traditionally blue states where Bernie had enthusiastic support are potentially the places where the Green party vote could actually be the most dangerous.   Think of it like this: if everyone who is first in line at the buffet assumes that taking a little bit extra won't matter if only they do it, the people at the end of the line will wind up with nothing.  

    I'm going through all of the trouble of writing this because I want to make sure we don't have a few thousand progressives from Lane County, Oregon waking up on November 9th to discover that the difference between President Trump and President Clinton was their 6,765* votes in Oregon! (*6,765 was the margin between Gore and Bush in Oregon in the 2000 election.) 

    To drive this point home let's look at two of the states Gore won fairly comfortably in 2000 (WA, VT):

Washington (Bush -138,788  Nader 103,002
Vermont      (Bush -29,247    Nader 20,347)

    If, of those who voted Green in these states, all of them brought along one friend to vote Green and then 34% in WA or 43% in of them in VT brought along two friends, Gore could've lost some pretty darn blue states. With the enthusiasm for Bernie in both of those states, and with the common assumption that those states are "safe enough" to risk the increased Green turnout, it's not hard to imagine a 134% or 143% increase of the 2000 Green turnout in WA and VT, respectively.  Potential Green voters in Washington and Vermont ought to tread lightly this year if they are aiming for the 5%, a slightly overzealous increase could potentially hand Trump some shocking wins.

    And, just for the heck of it, let's conclude the thought experiment by looking at one of the bluest states on the map:

California (Bush -1,293,774  Nader 418,707)

     California was unsurprisingly Nader's best state in 2000.  Gore didn't do too shabby either.  But....if, of those who voted Green in 2000, all of them had brought along three Gore-voting friends to vote Green, Gore could have lost one of the strongest of Democratic strongholds.

    Now, we must admit that quadrupling the Green vote in California is very likely to be a tall order.  But let's try correlating these numbers with this year's primary results to see just how tall an order it might be.

     If 54% of the CA Bernie supporters—well, the ones who actually got to vote in the primary, anyway—vote Green in November, those ~1,500,000 votes would be more than enough to have erased the 1,293,774 margin between Bush and Gore in 2000.

     Of course, Democratic margins in CA have doubled since 2000; in 2008 and 2012 the Democrats boasted 3,000,000+ vote margins in the presidential elections. However, it is still an intriguing scenario which merits a deeper look. Obama beat Romney in CA by a robust 23% margin in 2012, but Clinton has had much smaller margins than that in some of the CA polls this, a few were even smaller than half of that 23% margin. We can extrapolate from those recent polls that if Clinton's current margin is half of Obama's in 2012—say, 11.5%—, then the final result would be approximately half of ~3,000,000, or ~1,500,000 votes.

     Well... a 1,500,000 vote margin is totally within the ballpark of being erased by the CA Green Party vote if there was a strong enough effort for CA Bernie voters to vote for Stein—say, 50% to 55% of them.  Add to that the fact that the CA Republican primary results—Trump's 1,665,135 votes—actually tells us little about the potential amount of CA independents (No Party Preference voters) who would've liked to have voted for Trump but couldn't*, or about the numbers of likely Trump voters who decided to stay home because the nomination was a foregone conclusion by that point in the primary. (*Republican NPP voters were not allowed crossover ballots in the CA primary.)

     So, a Trump victory might not be impossible in the bluest of blue states, California.  The scenario of Trump receiving massive enough support from independents combined with the scenario of the Green Party garnering a completely overzealous protest vote in CA is not entirely outside of the realm of possibility.   Nader got almost half a million Green votes in CA in 2000, and this was before the days of social media.  Maybe, just maybe, quadrupling the 2000 CA Green turnout isn't as remote a possibility as I first thought.

 [Note: I'm using this idea of 50% of Bernie supporters going Green because I've seen that number floated around as the likely Bernie-Or-Bust or Jill-Or-Bust percentage of the overall Bernie supporter population. However, I've also seen other polls that put the percentage of Bernie supporters who say they will vote for Clinton as low as 8% and as high as 90%.  With all of the shifting sands it seemed appropriate to use 50% as a ballpark figure for the purposes of this thought experiment.] 

What about voting for Stein in a "safe" red state?

    First of all, let's narrow down the states we are talking about to states where Trump has a double digit lead in the polls.  From "dark pink" to "deep red" these states would be: 

SD, KS, MS, MT, TN, KY, LA, NE (1st District), AK, NE (statewide*), ND, ID, AL, OK, WV, WY, and NE (3rd District).

(*note: Trump has only a 3-4 point lead in NE 2nd District)

    I'm torn on this one.  However, I live in one of these states now, Montana, and so I feel I can empathize more with the question.

    There's no statistical reason to persuade you to do otherwise.  But I have four other reasons to consider:

1) Trump and the Republicans are counting on you to vote Green this year

    The evidence is overwhelming that Republicans are fully aware that the Green Party votes siphon away support from the Democratic candidate. Republicans have gotten very good over the past 16 years at helping to manipulate progressives into supporting the Green Party through a variety of means, including social media campaigns, helping Greens get on the ballot,  funding Green Party candidates and even running ads for them.   They are playing any dirty trick they can to nurture a climate of divisiveness and distrust between the progressive and moderate wings within the Democratic party.   

    While this trick is most onerously being played out in blue states and swing states right now in a ploy to siphon votes from Clinton, it is actually a trick that Republicans use most effectively in the down ballot races.  

    I just don't feel good about doing something that the Republicans would like me to do.

2) Margin of victory matters

    I think it matters to two big reasons. First of all, Trump seems poised to dramatically contest the election if he loses.  His contesting will cause more strife the closer the margin is.  This is a very dangerous scenario and may be incredibly detrimental to our democracy.

    Secondly, more dangerous, in my opinion, than Trump are the millions of people supporting him and the hateful, fearful ideology that his campaign represents.  A closer margin will embolden these groups and these ideologies, sliding the Republican party and the country as a whole further toward "crazy."   

        Jorge Ramos recently made a documentary that chronicles this dangerous slide that has already occurred because of Trump's candidacy.   If you believe that stochastic terrorism is real, then Trump already has blood on his hands.



"Hate Rising with Jorge Ramos"



    Robert Reich recently posted a conversation that also shows just how much this slide has already begun to prohibit moderate right-wing politicians from being voices of reason: 

"Yesterday I spoke with a former Republican member of Congress whom I’ve known for years.
Me: What do you think of your party’s nominee for president?

He: Trump is a maniac. He’s a clear and present danger to America.

Me: Have you said publicly that you won’t vote for him?

He (sheepishly): No.

Me: Why not?

He: I’m a coward.

Me: What do you mean?

He: I live in a state with a lot of Trump voters. Most Republican officials do.

Me: But you’re a former official. You're not running for Congress again. What are you afraid of?


He: I hate to admit it, but I’m afraid of them. Some of those Trumpistas are out of their f!@#ing minds.


Me: You mean you’re afraid for your own physical safety?


He: All it takes is one of them, you know.


Me: Wait a minute. Isn’t this how dictators and fascists have come to power in other nations? Respected leaders don’t dare take a stand.


He: At least I’m no Giuliani or Gingrich or Pence. I’m not a Trump enabler.


Me: I’ll give you that.


He: Let me tell you something. Most current and former Republican Members of Congress are exactly like me. I talk with them. They think Trump is deplorable. And they think Giuliani and Gingrich are almost as bad. But they’re not gonna speak out. Some don’t want to end their political careers. Most don’t want to risk their lives. The Trump crowd is just too dangerous. Trump has whipped them up into a g*ddamn frenzy."

    Wow.

3) Margin of victory matters x 2: Presidential mandate to enact Bernie's policies

   I believe that if Clinton wins overwhelmingly she will have more of a mandate to enact the platform Bernie fought so hard to get her to sign on to.  Of course, we will also have to fight tooth and nail on November 9th, but it will be easier to demand these changes if that mandate is in place.  

   I've heard to opposite argument made that if Clinton wins big it will bring the country further towards the right because it will show that her pivot to the right was successful.  I disagree.  While she may have inserted some right-leaning rhetoric, particularly on foreign policy (eg. "did I mention I was part of the bin Laden raid?"), she hasn't stopped speaking about many of the policies that Bernie got her to sign on to, like free college tuition and $15 minimum wage.

4) My big issue: Climate Change

    The only potential result I see of voting Green this year is the possibility of meeting the 5% goal and procuring some campaign funds for the Green's 2020 candidate.  But I have trouble imagining that even at its best, the Green Party getting the 5% would bring any more important progressive changes or bring them any sooner.   In fact, I feel that with my present analysis and understanding, doing so would significantly risk quite the opposite. 

    What new, special power would obtaining the 5% goal immediately give those 137 Green Party city and county officials that could somehow expedite progressive change faster than Bernie's, Warren's, Merkley's and Gabbard's "reform the Democratic Party" strategy would bring, particularly in terms of climate change?

    Climate change is my big issue and climate change cannot wait for us to act.  It cannot wait for the Green Party to emerge triumphantly in 20 or 30 years to then deal with climate. The urgency of taking action on climate change is precisely the reason why I fought for Bernie so hard in the primaries.  

    But, however much I loathe all that is problematic with Clinton and with the corporate wing of the Democratic Party in general, there doesn't seem to be another immediate venue for action on climate change at the governmental level—at least for this immediate election—than to do our best to reform Democratic Party.   

    Of course, fighting climate change requires tons of work at local levels as well as work outside of government altogether, but to move quickly enough we do need massive international cooperation managed by strong central governments that have a serious dedication to fight.  The world's governments have proved before that such international cooperation on environmental matters can be successful.  The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1989, curbed ozone-depleting chemicals and we have since seen the ozone begin to heal itself.  

    Is Clinton great on climate? Well, using their responses to the fight for indigenous and environmental rights over the Dakota Access Pipe Line as a litmus, there is clearly a reason I preferred Bernie over Clinton in the primaries.

    So, Clinton is not the perfect champion on climate.  But she's "solid on climate," to quote my friend and Nobel-prize winning climatologist Dr. Steve Running.  I sat down with Dr. Running for an hour last week to talk about the 2016 through the lens of climate change.  

    He is unequivocal on supporting Clinton over Trump, and on not messing around with a 3rd party this time around: "Trump would absolutely wreck Climate."  

    He says he knows friends who work at the White House levels on science topics and who worked with Clinton at the State Department.  These friends vouch for her competency on the climate topic. 

    Many have pointed to Clinton's support of fracking as a deal breaker.  But Dr. Running explains how coal is the biggest foe to a stable climate and how it was an honest mistake of a lot people, himself included, that fracked natural gas—as an immediate replacement for coal—was originally thought to be a good deal for climate.


"Climate Change & the 2016 election":
An interview with Dr. Steve Running
Oct. 16th, 2016

    I'm almost positive that climate change is Bernie's big issue and the reason why he's supporting Clinton, too.


    One last point on climate change.  Words matter.  As I state in the interview with Dr. Running, even if Clinton's policies were dismal on climate (and we already know that her policies are way better than Trump's re: coal and the Paris Accord!): Clinton admits climate change exists, publicly, such that many millions hear it!

    I'm not sure very many people realize just how crucial that fact is.  I have a dear friend and teacher Warren Senders who has been holding a sign on the side of the road during morning rush hour traffic, every single weekday for over a year.  That sign says, "Climate Change is Real."  He lives in super-Blue Massachusetts, and yet you wouldn't believe the denier-responses he still gets there.



    Warren may have reached many thousands, even many tens of thousands, over the past year with his dedication.  Consider that, in one minute, Clinton reaches many millions with those same exact words.  That matters a great deal to me as a climate change activist.

    We cannot solve a problem we don't believe exists.  
    We need all hands on deck for climate solutions.   

Chapter 4:

(A conclusion)

     I think we can all agree that the goal here is to consider where one's vote and energy for activism will do the most good. I have laboriously offered this statistical analysis of voter turnout so as to raise awareness of my concern about the assumptions many are making about what may or may not truly be a "safe blue or red state" this year and about Trump's chances in general (which FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver currently puts at as good as one's chances of losing a game of "Russian roulette": 1 in 6.)

     I'm all for the idea of fighting for a 3rd party, but we must seriously consider whether or not this is the best circumstance, timing, and method to do much good in that regard.  In my humble opinion, it would be much better to build a new 3rd party from the ground up AFTER the election that centers on a trans-partisan agenda of massive, across-the-board election reform; public funding of elections; the abolition of what Lessig calls "legalized corruption", and a set of common sense policies that protect and uplift the 99%, reordering national priorities to provide the most basic of solutions to the serious problems we face individually and collectively. 

     But for the time being, for this one election, I've decided that I'm going to follow Bernie's lead. His current strategy appears to be to reform the Democratic Party so that it includes a real, robust progressive wing with the real political power to enact the measures he campaigned on.  

     It is my hope that any potential Green Party supporters heed all of these considerations and quickly come to the same basic conclusions that I have.  It seems paradoxical, but I truly feel that progressives need to ACTIVELY help elect Clinton in order to continue their agenda.  Not even just their vote will suffice this time. They need to work even harder than they would have worked for Bernie donating, phone banking, and canvassing to elect Clinton. 

     I think you can still rail against the terrible system that exists while helping to elect the best candidate that the currently entrenched system has to offer.  During the Bush/Cheney regime, I learned the hard way that progressive activism is much more possible and more successful under a Democratic administration than under a Republican administration. For all of the foibles of the Obama presidency—and there are many—my and other's activism has never been better.  You can look at voting and campaigning for Clinton as choosing the best enemy to fight.

     The current, terribly unfortunate situation is that presidential voting is a civic duty: an unpleasant responsibility not unlike jury duty.  Because the time constraints of trying to educate many dozens of millions of Americans is so daunting, cramming your activism in the last few days of a presidential election or in the voting booth on the day of an election is an unlikely forum for your activism to be effective.  

     I hope we do not let that trend continue and instead follow Bernie's lead, hitting back hard and strong on November 9th once this horror of an election is finished.  Bernie has been working extremely hard for four decades for this moment.  I'd like to think he knows better than most how best to achieve the goals he's inspired us all to reach.  The vision of the future that Bernie gave to us is still within our reach, if only we don't give up now.