A vote for the greater good, not the lesser evil

July 19, 2016

Vermont activists seeking ballot access for the Green Party brought its presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein to Burlington on July 15. Stein spoke to a packed audience of about 250 people, not long after the disappointment of Bernie Sanders' endorsement of Hillary Clinton earlier in the week. "We have to face the music and realize that the lesser evil is not going to save us," said Stein. "We are the ones we have been waiting for."

While some people in the crowd held out hope for a convention-hall miracle from Sanders, his endorsement of Clinton was a crushing blow to any such expectations. Longtime Sanders supporters visibly winced when asked what they thought of the endorsement.

Stein described her plan for canceling student debt and other measures to address economic inequality, her environmental agenda, and her plan for peace. She was at her best when attacking lesser evilism. "What Donald Trump is riding on, this wave of economic misery, was created by the neoliberalism of the Clintons," Stein said. She thanked the audience for "refusing to be shut down by the powers that be that are working overtime to tell us that the revolution is over. They are trying to stuff the genie, which is all of us, back into this bottle of voting for Hillary." You can watch Stein's speech on YouTube.

Stein was introduced by several local Vermont activists, including SocialistWorker.org contributor Ashley Smith, whose remarks appear below.

WE ARE at a pivotal moment. After Bernie Sanders' endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, millions are coming to a fork in the road. Do we vote for the lesser evil, or do we stick to our principles, continue the fight for political revolution and vote for Jill Stein and the greater good? That is the question.

Sanders' campaign showed the radicalism developing in our country--the thirst for progressive solutions. His campaign was right about so many things. He was right to pillory capitalism's class inequalities, its militarism, its climate change, its student debt crisis, its institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia and immigrant-bashing.

He was right that Hillary Clinton was part of creating these problems. He was right that she is a well-paid agent of Wall Street and the Pentagon. Sanders was also right in many of his proposals for immediate reforms to redress our world's systemic problems. And he was right that we need a political and social revolution for socialism.

But his campaign proved that the Democratic Party is an obstacle to winning reforms, let alone leading a revolution. It is, in fact, a counterrevolutionary party. Its corporate backers, apparatchiks, elected officials and affiliated organizations rig the party for establishment candidates like Hillary Clinton.

Dr. Jill Stein speaks to a packed audience in Burlington, Vermont
Dr. Jill Stein speaks to a packed audience in Burlington, Vermont (Jonathan Flanders)

We can't take over this party. It's theirs, not ours. That's why Cornel West was right to refuse to follow Sanders and endorse Hillary Clinton. Instead, he endorsed Jill Stein as the way to continue the political revolution.

Without Jill Stein's candidacy, this election would be another dismal choice between the greater and lesser evil--a choice, really, between arsenic and cyanide. That is no choice at all--both will kill you.

OF COURSE, Trump and Clinton are not the same. One is a greater evil and the other a lesser evil. But you can't stop the greater evil by voting for the lesser one. History has proven this.

When you vote for the Democrats as a lesser evil, they take you for granted and take you for a ride, betraying all their promises in the process. With no pressure from the left, they move to the right and implement the greater evil's program.

Remember that Bill Clinton is the one who implemented NAFTA, destroyed welfare, institutionalized the New Jim Crow, signed the Defense of Marriage Act, repealed the Glass-Steagall financial regulations and set us on a course for war in Iraq. Remember that Barack Obama bailed out the banks, imposed neoliberal austerity on unions, finalized the Trans-Pacific Partnership, deported 2 million immigrants, conducted endless surveillance and entrapment of Arabs and Muslims, and launched an illegal drone war all around the world.

Already, Hillary Clinton is moving to the right. She's debating whether to choose a general or an anti-choice centrist for her running mate.

We must stop voting for the lesser evil in the hopes that we will somehow end up with good. It's a failed strategy that guarantees that we end up with evil. Instead, we should vote for Jill Stein. A vote for her is a vote for good, not evil. And it is part of forging a political alternative, a party to fight for a political revolution.

But electoral politics, however important is only a part of the struggle. Just as importantly, and perhaps more so, we have to build labor and social movements to fight for immediate reforms. Strikes like Verizon and struggles like Black Lives Matter are, in fact, the motor force for change. As Howard Zinn said, "It's not who's sitting in the White House that really matters, but who's sitting in."

This is essential to understand. Because we will have to fight against the likely victors of this election, Trump or Clinton, when they are in the White House. Both have different versions of a reactionary capitalist agenda. We therefore have to build a party for workers and the oppressed that leads struggle in workplaces and communities, and at the ballot box.

The time to start is now. We can no longer defer this process to some easier future date. The time is now. Vote for Jill Stein, build the struggle, and help organize a party to fight for a better world. That world is possible, it is necessary, and we have to fight for it.

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