You may want to read last Thursday’s post about our binary political system before reading this post if you haven’t already.
In this post, I am less concerned about specific policies than I am about meta concerns: how the issues are framed, who does the framing, and why that is the case.
I think it is helpful to express where I line up on the political spectrum before I tell you who I am voting for for President and why.
I am a Social Democrat. Historically, the Social Democrats were Liberal reformers of traditional Marxism who rejected class warfare and revolution in favor of reforming capitalist society into a socialist society through participating in the political process in Western democracies. Most especially, Social Democrats rejected Communism and its authoritarian emphasis. That is, Social Democrats value a robust democracy more than they value a socialist society, though they think a robust democratic socialist society is a goal for which we should strive.
In Europe, Social Democrats have been fairly successful on the continent (less so in Britain). They form the major oppositions in Germany and Spain and govern in France and some of the nordic countries. Their influence has been felt most obviously in the social programs established for the poor—especially universal healthcare in every developed democracy besides the US.
In the United States, however, the Social Democrats have languished, and not just because of the two-party system (neither of which is even close to socialism). The socialist parties in the U.S. have two primary wings. The first is the Socialist Party USA and the second is the Democratic Socialists of America. They formed out of a split in the Socialist Party of America in the 1970s, and this tendency of infighting continues.
Essentially, the second party (DSA) is a wing of the Democratic Party that seeks to use the existing structure to advance socialist leaning candidates through the Democratic Party (much the same way some Libertarians—like Ron Paul—have used the Republican Party to get a hearing). They always reluctantly endorse the Democratic nominee because they think that playing the game means they might be able to influence a sitting president. The first party (SPUSA) argued that advancing the socialist cause would only happen if the two political parties were treated as anathema.
Both Social Democrat parties in the United States are woefully ineffective. The SPUSA, in the years that it actually fields a candidate for president, has managed to capture about 0.01% of the vote. Likewise, the DSA exhibits little influence inside the Democratic Party whose candidates have increasingly been moving rightward.
I say all of that to give some context for my frustration with American politics and to help explain why I—despite my political leanings—am not voting for the SPUSA candidate this election. Instead, I will be voting for the Green Party of the United States candidate (GPUS)—Dr. Jill Stein.
Green Parties emerged in the late 1970s in response to many of the egregious environmental transgressions of late Capitalism. Unlike the Social Democrats—who emerged because of the plight of workers—the Green Parties largely emerged because of the damage to the environment. The trajectory of thinking has led to an embrace of the conceptual metaphor of society as ecosystem. That is, in order for society to function, all things must be in harmony together. Recognizing that Capitalism is largely responsible for the harm to the environment, Green Parties have embraced anti-capitalist/social-democratic policies.
This has led the Greens to conclude that, for society to function well, all people must have equal access to a fulfilling life. Green Parties arrive at the same place as the Social Democrats, though for different reasons (the Social Democrat critique of the Greens is that the Greens aren’t a worker’s movement and, in focusing on the oppression of the environment, may lose sight of the oppression of workers). In European parliamentary politics, where there are many influential political parties, Green Parties and Social Democrat parties tend to form red-green coalitions.
So, why am I voting for Jill Stein and not Stewart Alexander? For one thing, GPUS has the advantage of not having the word “socialist” in its name, a word which scares lots of Americans so much so that it is an insult constantly leveled at Obama who is, by the way, in no way a socialist. Moreover, in the United States, GPUS is much larger, more organized, and better funded than the SPUSA. In fact, GPUS has a few hundred elected (mostly local) officials. They actually have a chance at polling at 5% in the presidential election.
If the Greens do get 5% of the vote, then the Federal Election Commission will give the Greens twenty million dollars in public funding in 2016. Twenty million dollars translates into media coverage and thus the introduction of a third set of political ideas into American political discourse. The false assumption that there are only two choices in the whole political realm would get challenged and, perhaps, a robust debate could occur. True conflict between candidates and parties who actually disagree on more than the minutiae of governance would be sparked.
Stay tuned. Next Thursday I will discuss specific, critical policy positions that the two establishment parties unthinkingly embrace, but would be challenged by a robust Green Party. Next week’s post, I hope, will clarify what is at stake in continuing to embrace the two establishment parties as the only options.
P.S. You can read how my faith influences my politics here.