Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Green Party a Threat to Climate Action in the 2016 Presidential Elections

Jill Stein's Green Party could split the vote and put climate action at risk. The two third parties in the 2016 US presidential elections are the Greens and the Libertarians. Conventional wisdom suggests that support for the greens will hurt Hilary and other Democrats while support for the Libertarians will harm Trump and other Republicans.

This is a crucial election as we are rapidly running out of time to deal with the climate crisis. A Trump presidency would be a disaster for the economy and the environment. Under Trump we would see less environmental regulations, more fossil fuels and an end to the Paris Climate Agreement. Simply put his policies would push us past irreversible tipping points from which we may not be able to recover.

In 2000 we saw how a third party candidate could alter the electoral outcome. Ralph Nader siphoned votes away from Al Gore and gave George Bush the win. Given what is at stake in this electoral cycle, concerns about the potential spoiler effect of a third party candidates are well warranted.

In a recent exclusive interview with Think Progress, Al Gore bluntly stated that voters who care about the climate crisis should not vote for a third party this election. "In my experience it matters a lot.” he said. He was asked about voters who are concerned about climate change but dissatisfied with both major candidates and considering voting for a third party, such as the Green Party. He replied:
"First of all I understand their feelings and misgivings. But if they are interested in my personal advice. I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I urge everyone else to do the same. I particularly urge anyone who is concerned about the climate crisis, sees it as the kind of priority that I see it as, to look at the sharp contrast between the solar plan that Secretary Clinton has put forward, and her stated commitment to support the Clean Power Plan, and the contrast between what she has said and is proposing with the statements of the Republican nominee, which give me great concern...I would also urge them to look carefully, as I know they have, at the consequences of going in another direction for the third or fourth alternative…. The harsh reality is that we have two principal choices. And I am supporting Hillary Clinton."
While the Democratic candidate has a comfortable lead in the polls, if this ends up being a close race, Hilary may not have the support she needs. This is particularly true among younger voters including some supports of Bernie Sanders. "Clinton’s margin over Trump among this age group is lower than we’d expect given how Obama did in the last two election cycles," electoral analyst Harry Enten explained. A key reason is the “unusually high share of under-30 voters saying they’ll vote third party."

Bernie understands that voters have a binary choice and he has repeatedly stated that Hilary is by far the better option.  Bernie has called the Democratic presidential nominee the only sensible choice, he even announced that he will be campaigning for Hilary.

Bernie first endorsed Hilary early in July and he clearly reiterated his support in his speech at the DNC convention when he said, "based on her ideas and her leadership Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States. The choice is not even close."

Despite Bernie's logical position, an August 8 report by FiveThirtyEight indicates that a third of Sanders supporters do not support Hilary. This sentiment persists even though Bernie has made it abundantly clear that he will do everything he can to ensure that the GOP nominee does not become president.

Bernie recently told the Washington Post, "I feel very strongly that Donald Trump would be a disaster for the country. I want to do everything I can to see that Secretary Clinton wins." With these words Bernie puts the national interest ahead of his own personal interests. Sadly, this is something some Bernie supporters just can't do. They can't see the forest through the trees as they continue to tilt at windmills and fight for their noble but no less dead revolution.

I recently sought out and spent some time exchanging views online with a group of Bernie supporters. After reading and commenting on a Facebook page called "We are Bernie Sanders" I realized how impervious to reason these people can be. 

To start with they talk about their hearts being broken by Bernie's support for Hilary. Some even sound like jilted lovers as they profess hatred for their namesake. Posts vacillated between calling Bernie a sell-out and hoping for his messianic return as an Independent candidate.

They also hate Al Gore, when the Think Progress article mentioned above was posted to their page it prompted comments like "Fuck Al Gore."  They will turn on anybody who espouses conflicting views. What makes this noteworthy is that this is the type of aggressive response often associated with supporters of the GOP's nominee. The people on this page also seems to buy into Trump's delusional rants about the media being unfair. They are especially passionate about Trump's rigged elections fallacy.

This page is undoubtedly frequented by Trump trolls who see value in playing up Hilary's hawkish reputation as a war monger. They definitely see the merit of helping the green party split the vote. However, there may be some input from Bernie's digital staffers who quit recently. This includes people like digital director Kenneth Pennington and digital organizing director Claire Sandberg.

There are sizable numbers of Bernie's people who stalwartly refuse to support Hilary.  Although many of these supporters will be voting for the Green Party they are not casting their ballots for either the climate or the environment. They are not voting for Jill Stein, they are voting against Hilary and wittingly or unwittingly leaving the door open for Trump.  All they really care about is keeping their revolution alive.

As disconcerting as it may be we must acknowledge that in a close election these people could very well hold the balance of power. 

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