I’m Planning to Vote for Jill Stein: A Nuanced View
It is in fashion these days for media commentators, analysts, and angry Hillary voters on social media to point fingers at the Millennial generation as the potential cause of that utmost catastrophe, a Trump victory. For the most part, such accusations have less to do with understanding, and correcting for, Hillary Clinton’s poor showing in polls of my cohort, and more to do with preemptive blame assignment and castigation for what is viewed as the wrong choice. In the hopes of allowing those millennials who plan to vote third party to be better understood, and perhaps less vilified, I will provide the calculation I made, and will be making in the polling booth, when I decided that Jill Stein would get my vote. I speak for no one other than myself, but I’d imagine that a lot of erstwhile Stein voters and refugee Berniecrats might feel the same way.
To start, let me be clear. Jill Stein is not the candidate I want, or wanted. I find her lack of either legislative or executive experience to be a great weakness, as the legislative process is immensely complicated and nuanced, and important to understand as our nation’s Chief Executive, as is practical understanding of running an organization. On top of that, I disagree immensely with parts of her platform as, while she checks the right boxes for healthcare, education, labor, the security state, corruption, and the environment, I find her many of her foreign policy planks to be at best naive and at worst a catastrophic accumulation of absolutes. Similarly, I find her flat out opposition to Nuclear Power — even as a hypothetical, even given the strides being made in Germany with the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator experimental fusion reactor — to be greatly disappointing. I had some similar objections, in kind if not degree, to Senator Bernie Sanders on the subject of foreign policy.
That being said, when Senator Sanders lost the primary, I had to think about what I’d do with my vote. I thought fairly deeply about it before I decided. I knew, then as now, that Hillary Clinton was the only candidate with a realistic chance of stopping Trump. I knew -and have written previously- about what a Trump victory meant; I also knew that New York was very likely a safely Blue state. That gave me a bit more leeway with how I used my vote, as it would be very unlikely that my ballot would cost her New York’s 29 electoral votes. This meant that the strategic calculation, the ethical dilemma, was not simply vote for Hillary or be responsible for the apocalypse. I didn’t have to hold my nose.
Instead, I could make her margin of victory slightly slimmer, with the hopes of achieving better outcomes down the line. Politics is a game of appearances, which means that the number she wins by matters. A clear landslide victory, either Nationally or in New York, could be seen as a vindication or endorsement of current policies and practices — a sign that the status quo works — when for many voters that is not the message they want to send. A narrower margin buoyed by a greater 3rd party vote could on the other hand demonstrate how precarious Hillary’s victory really was, how much she relied on the unpopularity of Trump, and how close to the precipice we came. While the causes and solutions would be debated, at the very least such a slim victory would prompt a greater deal of self-reflection by the Democratic establishment, and Hillary herself, on what they did wrong and how to do better next time.
In short, I find myself dissatisfied with the state of the Democratic party, and of the nation it has led for 8 years. Unless polling shows otherwise, my vote as a New Yorker will very likely contribute 0% to the potential election of Trump, so what incentive do I have as a voter to cast my vote for Hillary?