US Elections: How should progressives vote?

Confused about the US elections? Here are two (relatively) short statements by speakers from the recent meeting that we organised arguing for how US-Americans should vote.

Eric Lee argues that progressives should vote Clinton

3841194614_1621cf1eaf_mWhen Bernie Sanders launched his campaign for president in 2015, he made it clear that he would be supporting whoever the Democratic nominee would be, and that he personally respected Hillary Clinton. He famously announced during the first debate that no one wanted to hear about her “damn emails”. His campaign was entirely focussed on policy differences, not on attempts to smear Clinton’s character.

Once it was clear that Sanders had not won the nomination, he and his supporters focussed on the Democratic Party platform, making it the most progressive platform ever, and got Clinton to personally come on board for many of the changes – including a $15 federal minimum wage, opposition to TTIP, debt-free college and more.

Most Sanders supporters are backing Clinton for two reasons:

First, they recognize that Donald Trump must be defeated, and defeated decisively, as he represents something new and extremely dangerous in American politics. He needs to be defeated by the broadest possible coalition, just as Jean-Marie Le Pen was defeated in the second round of the 2002 French presidential elections by a coalition which won the support of 82% of voters.

Second, they understand the despite Trump’s smears, Hillary Clinton has a mixed record, which does include some very positive elements over her many years in politics. Much of what Trump and his supporters say about Clinton is simple misogyny and needs to be rejected completely.

As for the Green Party, Sanders kept his distance throughout his campaign and rejected offers from Jill Stein to come on board – for good reason. The Green Party is not the Sanders campaign. It has its own distinctive platform and history and many elements of its platform are rejected by Bernie Sanders.

Jill’s platform calls for an end to “U.S. financial and military support to human rights abusers” including “Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt.” Some of you may have no problem with this. If you support ending U.S. financial and military support for Israel, please go ahead and vote for Jill Stein.

If however, like Bernie Sanders, you support U.S. financial and military aid to Israel (such as helping to finance the “Iron Dome” anti-missile defense) — and support the U.S. pressing Israel and its Palestinian neighbors into reaching an agreement on a two-state solution — then do not vote for Jill Stein.

It’s not just giving up Israel to Syria’s Assad, Hizbollah and Hamas. Jill Stein opposes the U.S. being involved anywhere in the defense of democratic countries. Her platform calls for this: “Cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases.” That includes U.S. bases in Nato countries which are threatened by an aggressive Russian leadership headed by Vladimir Putin.

In Jill Stein’s world, Russia is not a threat, a view she shares with Donald Trump. Hizbollah is not a threat. North Korea is not a threat. There is no need for a powerful United States, or even Nato for that matter. If you support Jill Stein’s views on defense and foreign policy, by all means – vote for her. If you don’t, if you worry about aggressive powers like Russia, Iran, and North Korea, think twice.

You may not like Hillary Clinton, you may not trust her, you may have preferred Bernie Sanders. I get that. But in 2016, in the real world, where it’s dangerous and America does need to play a role on the international stage, voting for Jill Stein is more than a waste of a vote. It’s dangerous and irresponsible.

Eric Lee is a US-American trade unionist, writer and Website developer. He is the founding editor of the LabourStart Website and was the campaign coordinator for London4Bernie.
Kathleen Brown argues that progressives should vote for Jill Stein

img_20161018_203152292I advocate a vote for Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for United States president. Stein supports a $15 minimum wage, a “Green New Deal” to build clean energy infrastructure and employ millions of people, and the absolution of student debt. In some ways, particularly on foreign policy, she is better than Bernie Sanders. She is anti-war and opposes US support for human rights abusers Israel and Saudi Arabia.

A vote for Stein is also an investment vote. I am under no illusions that Stein will win. However, 5% of the popular vote would allow the Greens to achieve automatic ballot access, so in the next election the Green Party is on the ballot for all 50 states. As it currently stands, ballot access means collecting thousands of signatures, which is time-consuming and costly. Second, 5% of the vote means up to $10 million in federal election matching funds. It could secure the Green Party and open up more democracy in a deeply undemocratic electoral spectacle.

It is untrue that a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump. 40% of eligible American voters do not vote in presidential elections- that’s 87 million people. In the 2012, third parties won just over 2 million votes. (Then there are people who cannot vote: 6.1 million people branded as felons and banned from the electoral process. Or the millions of non-citizens who do not have representative rights.) Are third parties responsible for a close electoral race? Of course not. If Clinton, despite a half-billion dollar war chest and unprecedented elite support, cannot enthuse people to come out and vote for her, that’s her fault, not the Greens.

The Democrats chose a deeply unpopular candidate. Clinton pursues a corporate agenda on the backs of working people, leading to her personal enrichment and destructive policies, like support of free trade agreements, the war in Iraq, the coup in Honduras, the privatization of Haiti, and so on. Unfortunately, without a left alternative to Clinton, Trump gets to pose as the alternative. While blaming Clinton, he also demonizes immigrants and Muslims, and gives ideological space to white supremacists. Clinton is not able to stop this. She represents the failed status quo, which has created immense income inequality and anger at the falling standard of living for the 99%.

Yet we have no party for the 99%, which could offer an anti-racist working class agenda, much like Sanders advocated. Instead, we have two millionaires battling it out.

The dynamic of two ruling parties that tussle over policies that benefit the wealthy is not democracy. I disagree with Sanders that we should try and take over the Democratic Party. This campaign has shown how deeply undemocratic the party is, controlled by the donor class. And which is more powerful: popular vote or millions in donations? It’s not a contest we can win.

Where we can win is in social movements, like Boycott, Divest & Sanctions, the Black Lives Matter movement, or the anti-pipeline movement of NoDAPL. These have a better possibility for making change, regardless of who is in the White House. At the same time, we can create a party of the 99% by voting Jill Stein. The two go together.

Kathleen Brown is a US-American activist based in Berlin. She is an active member of the LINKE Berlin Internationals group. An longer interview with Kathleen about the US elections is available in English and German.


The video of the meeting at which Eric and Kathleen spoke is available here