Should Progressives Vote Third-Party in Swing States?

This week I found out that there is a woman running for president. Oh, and not just running for president — she’s an actual presidential candidate on many ballots across the nation. Her name is Jill Stein and she’s on the Green Party ticket. The fact that this isn’t national news is shocking to me. One would expect that given all the talk of reproductive right’s, rape, and the significance of capturing female voters, that the mainstream media would have been all over this.

But I suppose the fact that they’re not, speaks volumes about how much corporate-run media are invested in the two-party system. Earlier this week, my man Joshua Holland, Senior Writer and Editor at AlterNet shared with me an interview he conducted with Stein last April. Upon reading it, I suddenly felt drawn to her; but, it was not in a “VOTE RON PAUL,” crazy black guy, sort of way.

This from the interview:

Joshua Holland: Why don’t we just start by telling our listeners a little bit about yourself. Introduce yourself to the electorate.

Jill Stein: Sure. I’m a medical doctor and a mother who got really worried about what I was seeing as a healthcare provider. Going way back, maybe 15 years, I saw that the healthcare system was broken and also saw that I was handing out pills and pushing people back to the things that were making them sick – everything from pollution to poverty and homelessness, a lousy food supply, and all the rest.

I became involved with my community trying to improve those things, and I found out very quickly that having solutions is what counts. Things like turning our polluting incinerators into recycling facilities to keep our air clean and create jobs, or phasing out our coal plants and instead creating jobs in weatherization and conservation, clean energy.

In short, I had the lesson that lots of advocates and concerned citizens have – that when we go to our elected officials, it’s not about good solutions, it’s money you bring in campaign contributions and the lobbyists around you that make the difference.

I basically got recruited a ways back for office with the Green Party, and in the process I went from desperation to inspiration seeing how ready the public is for a politics of integrity and to get beyond the divisiveness and the labels down to a politics of, by and for the people — moving for solutions that people are desperate for.

I was then recruited into this race, my first experience in national politics, because I’ve mostly been focused on what we can do locally, but I hit my breaking point as so many others did when the president began to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block as the solution to this concocted debt ceiling crisis last year, which could have readily been avoided. (Read More)

After reading the full interview, I thought of something Lawrence O’Donnell shared on The Last Word. That would be, that it’s a waste it is for us lefties to vote for Barack Obama if we don’t live in one of the many important swing states. His suggested alternative was for us to vote for any one of the third-party candidates on the ballot. And then I thought about it and realized that some of my friends who lean further left than I, might not be opposed to this. Actually, I have a few of my friends who aren’t voting for Obama, who also happen to live in blue states that Obama will win, hands down.

US Green Party Presidential Candidate Dr. Jill Stein delivers remarks while announcing Cheri Honkala as her US Green Party vice-presidential running mate during a press conference July 11, 2012, in Washington, DC. The Green Party will hold their National Convention July 12-15, 2012, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo credit PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GettyImages)

My friends, like some Progressives, are not voting for Obama; and, they are most definitely not voting for Mitt Romney. Many of them are activists and consume the Daniel Elsberg diet pretty heavily. And like Elsberg, they have numerous reasons — many of them valid –for not choosing to support Obama. While this may be so, they’re not foolish; nope, they’re not sitting this election out.

This from RootsAction,org:

The election is at this moment a toss-up. That means this is one of the uncommon occasions when we progressives — a small minority of the electorate — could actually have a significant influence on the outcome of a national election, swinging it one way or the other.

The only way for progressives and Democrats to block Romney from office, at this date, is topersuade enough people in swing states to vote for Obama: not stay home, or vote for someone else. And that has to include, in those states, progressives and disillusioned liberals who are at this moment inclined not to vote at all or to vote for a third-party candidate (because like me they’ve been not just disappointed but disgusted and enraged by much of what Obama has done in the last four years and will probably keep doing).

They have to be persuaded to vote, and to vote in a battleground state for Obama not anyone else, despite the terrible flaws of the less-bad candidate, the incumbent.

For them (as it should be for everybody) democracy requires participation on election day and beyond. So having said that, I can truly understand why it’s more effective to vote for a third party candidate as opposed to sitting out the election in protest. Hell, if you’re going to protest, what better way to do it than vote for a third party candidate. Sure you’re not voting in hopes that the third-party candidate would win. But as Jill Stein said in the above interview: “Political silence has not been an effective strategy.” If it is your intent to have your issues taken seriously, does it not therefore make sense to vote for a third-party candidate in hopes of building and strengthening an organization for the long haul? I tell you what, it can’t be any worse than voting for Mitt Romney.

If you’re in a swing state, don’t be an idiot; yes, vote for Obama.