In advance, I wish to apologize humbly and profusely for any phrases you have already read and heard dozens of times, especially if you have read and heard those phrases dozens of times from me.
Lastly, before we start digging in, I don't presume to speak for all Progressives, Greens, Socialists, or leftists of whatever category. But please know that I am not alone, that millions of US residents share my opinions on most of the topics addressed below.
I'm Not Great at Analogies, But...
Friends with good intentions will tell us lefties that voting for, e.g., Beto O'Rourke is a no-brainer. In multiple ways Rep. O'Rourke is the preferable option to incumbent Senator Ted Cruz. The way he speaks, carries himself, campaigns, and raises funds, as well as the policy positions he has adopted, make O'Rourke an obvious choice for a thinking left-of-center voter, right?
In my pre-teen and early-teen years, quite a few of my male friends loved to ask this question of each other: "If you were sentenced to be shot, and you had a choice of in the head, in the heart, or in the nuts, which would you pick?"
On a societal level, however, it's more like, "Would you prefer that poor people in this country and around the world be shot in the head, the heart, or the genitalia?" Or, "How would you like the world to end: fire, flood, famine, or nuclear war?"
Yes, folks, it's that dire. Well-meaning liberal friends, I don't know about you, but...well, actually, I do. You're OK with politicians who vote to
- expand the bloody US Empire
- provide billions in military aid to the most morally bankrupt régimes in the world
- take the side of Big Oil against a livable planet
- approve "free trade" agreements that enrich Big Capital at the expense of working people and the environment
- deport vulnerable migrants back to countries they have fled due to imminent threat of death
- perpetuate our hyper-capitalist so-called "health care" so-called "system"
- et cetera, ad nauseam.
The Republicans in DC do not have the monopoly on policies like those listed in the previous paragraph. Democrats do it too (see Obama, Barack), and I for one am not OK with that.
If I Don't Fall into Line, It's for Good Reasons
Thanks to the Democratic Party of Texas finding willing sacrificial candidates for all statewide offices in 2016, the Green Party does not have a ballot line in Texas this year. One Libertarian candidate for Railroad Commission pulled the necessary 5% of the vote, so his party is on the ballot. In that same race, Martina Salinas shattered the Green Party record in a four-way contest with 3.26%, a quarter-million votes.
But of course, in the absence of Greens, I should be voting for all the Democrats, right?
Uh-uh. I may vote for and support some Democrats in local and state government, where they can't do nearly as much damage, even though they rub elbows with toxic Washington political celebrities in a show of party solidarity. For example, I am pleased and proud to support and promote Lina Hidalgo for Harris County Judge. But I will not vote for a Democrat who espouses positions I find abhorrent.
The same is true for an abhorrent lack of a stated position on a particular issue. This is non-negotiable. Senator Bernie Sanders's relative silence on Israel/Palestine (and defense policy in general, thanks to the F-35) made my flirtation with casting a primary vote for him a brief one.
Now go to DuckDuckGo and run a search on Beto Israel. Rep. O'Rourke certainly knows how to use those pro-Israel talking points. Sen. Cruz sure knows how to twist O'Rourke's words and conclude that O'Rourke hates Israel and is probably anti-Semitic to boot.
The more the Democratic Party and liberals at large close ranks behind the Empire, and the more they emulate the Republicans and follow the marching orders of the billionaire donors, the less likely I am to support them.
About that word Empire: Yes, think Star Wars. As much as we would like to believe that we are the Republic or the Rebel Alliance, make no mistake: We are the Empire. Any number of nations on Earth could play the part of Alderaan—except on Earth the destruction is long and torturous with lingering after-effects (e.g., Japan, Vietnam, and Yemen). Other nations may have nuclear weapons, but the US arsenal is the closest thing to a Death Star on this planet.
I have studied some history, and I know what happens to empires. I would like my nation to become one of the few nations in history to retire gracefully from the empire business.
Why Bother Voting at All?
On the issue of voting, I have been tempted to adopt the position of certain friends who protest that participating in our rotten electoral system lends it undeserved legitimacy. Since 2000, we have learned so much about modern voting machines: their vulnerability to hacking and cracking through routine maintenance, the manufacturers making bank via their CEOs' connections to secretaries of state and county officials, and more.
Furthermore, in major races, front-runners are too often determined at the outset by a combination of fundraising prowess and media coverage: In the 2004 and '08 electoral cycles, the news networks decided early on to make Dennis Kucinich a punchline rather than providing equal time for all the candidates, even when he and John Kerry were the last name-brand Democratic candidates left in the race. There are variations on this theme, as well, as in the 2012 Republican primary contest, in which one candidate after another imploded and the media designated a new lead candidate on a weekly basis. (Michele Bachmann? Srsly?)
Fortunately, the candidates and the system demonstrate time and again that our votes actually do count for something, even if occasionally the counting itself is janky. The campaigns wouldn't solicit and spend so many millions on courting our votes otherwise; wealthy candidates could buy their elections outright, as they have since ancient Rome.
Give Me Something to Vote FOR: Revolution
If it's true that huge numbers of Trump votes in 2016 were at root anti-Clinton votes, and vice versa; if it's true that most of the 100 million who didn't vote were saying "A plague o' both your houses!" then what we have in place is a voting system based on fear and animosity. I reckon that millions of liberals, including more than a few Sanders voters, did the necessary emotional gymnastics to convince themselves that they actually liked Hillary Clinton.
In the 1980s, the center-right party in El Salvador had taken over after a military dictatorship. The Christian Democrats consolidated sufficient control of the nation (thanks to violent repression of poor and indigenous communities) that President Reagan's state department could convince President José Napoleon Duarte to hold elections. The only opposing candidates came from the far right ARENA Party; nobody to the left of the Christian Democrats was allowed to run, and the FMLN popular resistance wouldn't have participated in such a sham anyway.
The US in 2016 overtly became El Salvador in 1984. It had been covertly far-right vs. center-right since the George McGovern disaster of 1972, as the Democratic Party actively worked to quash progressive insurgencies. With Bill Clinton's victory in 1992, the Democrats' deal with the devil was sealed.
Meanwhile, in the various states, the two corporate parties conspire to keep other parties off their ballots. They make the rules just restrictive enough to keep ballot access laborious and expensive, but loose enough that other parties sometimes succeed. They provide and preserve the illusion of choice.
For this reason, I may have difficulty voting for the Democratic nominee in my state House district. Shawn Thierry will win the heavily Democratic District 146 handily, without even putting up a perfunctory website (the site from the 2017 special election is gone). I'd love to hear her railing against the excesses Big Capital and loudly advocating Medicare for All, but that ain't gonna happen.
This is where the well-meaning liberals resurface, telling us that we should accede to the system we have, suck it up and vote for the lesser evil. Again, no. We should overthrow the system that has put democracy in a slow-moving trash compactor. We should build a better system to take its place.
That, ultimately, is what the Green Movement is about, even if some of its members and leaders forget that: It is about true, non-violent revolution; it is about creating a system that prioritizes people, planet, and peace over profit and plunder. The Green Party, as the electoral arm of the Green Movement, is duty-bound to promote that revolution.
To be continued?