In order to be heard, you need people in power who are willing to listen.
Without that, nothing else matters. I don’t care how obvious you think your cause is – voting rights, climate change, money in politics, inequality, economic growth – you name it. Protests, social media rants, blog posts, petitions – all of it is useless without allies in state legislatures, governorships, Congress, the courts, federal agencies, and the presidency.
No one is happy with the two major parties, including me, but “the two party system” exists because the Constitution created a plurality voting system, in which the candidate with the most votes wins. The two party system is written into the DNA of this country. I’m all in favor of ranked-choice voting, which would help change that, but voting third-party in this election won’t accomplish that goal. For reference, Maine is holding a referendum on whether to institute this method for down-ballot races, likely because they keep electing the bigoted and emotionally unstable Paul LePage in three-way races.
In the meantime, you have two flawed, realistic options, and millennials, when you look at the issues, the difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is the difference between a rash and organ failure. If what you hope for is to be heard when you demand a more inclusive society, more widely shared prosperity, and dignity for all Americans no matter their religion, skin color, gender, or sexual orientation, opposing Donald Trump is not enough. You have to vote for Clinton.
Even if you think Hillary Clinton believes in none of those things, the fact that she claims to matters. Voters overestimate the importance of a politician’s perceived “genuine” beliefs, which privilege the loudest, charismatic people over the quiet but productive ones. What should matter is their ability to listen to voters and deliver solutions that genuinely improve their lives.
For all her flaws, Hillary Clinton played a crucial role in improving people’s lives no matter where she’s served:
- She exposed segregationist policies as a lawyer at the Children’s Defense Fund.
- As First Lady of the US, she pushed for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which in 2014 covered 8 million children.
- As senator, she fought for health care research and funding for 9/11 first responders, helped write and pass the Pediatric Research Equity Act, which requires pharmaceutical companies to study the effects of their drugs on children, and was an original co-sponsor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination.
- As Secretary of State, she rallied the world to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, which forced them to the table, and laid the groundwork for the US-China Climate Agreement and the Paris Agreement.
Where Donald Trump seeks to divide and enrage, Hillary Clinton seeks build and befriend. Yes, she is awkward, unexciting, intensely private, too friendly with Wall Street, and too comfortable using the military. But she is capable of learning and listening to others – of balancing competing concerns, making informed judgments, and changing her mind when presented with new facts. Those capacities are essential for any president and Trump lacks all of them.
Further, Clinton knows this is not the 1990s, and that her party has turned against financial deregulation, mass incarceration, and cutting the social safety net. She’s running on the most progressive platform in the Democratic Party’s history and knows that we expect her to enact as much of it as she can.
The temptation to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein is an understandable one, especially for millennials, who greatly value freedom of choice. But American presidential elections are not marketplaces, but hugely consequential decisions that mean acceptance or oppression – even life or death for many Americans. Voting to punish “the two party system” or because you think a third-party candidate best fits your views will condemn many of your fellow citizens to Trump’s wrath and the world to an uncertain and unstable future.
We’re obligated to protect and defend one another – in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and yes, in our elections. Voting for anyone other than Hillary Clinton is forsaking that duty.