As a Vermonter and someone who identifies strongly to the left of the Democratic Party, I was absolutely a Bernie Sanders supporter. For the past year, I’ve advocated for a Senator whom I’ve admired for most of my life. Then he lost the primary, and the Bernie camp lost its mind; but I’m here to beg you to pull your scattered idealism together again.
I’ve seen countless Bernie supporters refusing to vote for Hillary—polls show between 15-50 percent, and I understand the mindset they’re in. Capitalism is a destructive and inherently oppressive form of government, and Hillary has many ties to big banks; she has previously supported violent and damaging foreign policy; and the list goes on. However, all of the Bernie or Bust supporters who have jumped ship to Jill Stein (or plan on writing in Bernie himself) should realistically analyze the situation and weigh each option.
First of all, this is not a choice between turning our country into a socialist utopia or a capitalist hell. As President, neither Sanders nor Stein would have the full ability to shape this country as they wish. There might have been many positive policies pushed through, but because of the checks and balances of congress, much of their platforms would be left untouched. Most of the time, a corrupt system cannot be fully mended from within the system itself.
Similarly, Hillary Clinton will not ruin the country. The country has nearly always had some form of “slimy politician” in charge, yet the outrage is disproportionally waged against Clinton. I can’t recall a “#NeverBarack” campaign that wasn’t rooted in racism. If your disagreement with Clinton stems from her platform, that’s fine; but if you staunchly refuse to vote for her because she seems too untrustworthy, too fake, or too incompetent, I encourage you to think of how a woman could have made it this far in politics without being a massive “Bitch.” I’m serious. The pressures that women are under and the standards they must meet are entirely different from that of men. If she cracks a joke, she’s pandering to millennials; if she gets too passionate on a topic, she’s too emotional for the office; but if she remains serious, she’s a robot. The image of Barack Obama is also painted by campaign staffers in order to best appeal to people, yet he has made many changes for the better during his time in office: and so will Hillary Clinton.
I’m encouraged by the recent discussions surrounding economic disparities and the terrible downsides to capitalism, but the fact remains that Bernie supporters cannot tear down and restructure our government before the November elections. You are given a choice between two candidates, and refusal to participate in that system does not help anyone. Your choice to vote for Hillary Clinton will help maintain the status quo, but also move our country (perhaps slowly) in a better direction. Your choice to vote for Jill Stein, or write in Bernie Sanders, will make it more likely for a dangerously fascist candidate to get in office. Your choice to distance yourself from the “evils” of the democratic party will increase the likelihood of immigrant families being deported, or the likelihood of devastating policies that will widen the economic disparities in this country: these are the greater evils.
Many view this as a morally absolutist issue: that Bernie and Jill are good people while Hillary and Donald are bad people, or that the Democratic Party doesn’t deserve their vote because they need to be punished for rigging the election. A famous line from the musical Wicked comes to mind: “There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities, so we act as though they don’t exist.” If your morality goes against much of what Clinton stands for and represents, that’s fine. That’s good. However, if you write in “Bernie Sanders” or cast your vote for Stein in order to feel good about yourself, you’re putting a stronger value on your feelings than on the impact of your actions. If you supported Bernie Sanders because you thought that he was the choice to best help the people of this country, you should be supporting Hillary Clinton for those exact same reasons.