If you’re a supporter of Green party presidential candidate Jill Stein, you’ve definitely heard it before. If you go Green this year, it’s because you’re privileged enough not to support Hillary Clinton, who is the only candidate that can realistically defeat her opponent and longtime friend Donald Trump. Blah, blah, entitled blah.
This obnoxious and deeply fallacious trend really took off a few months ago when Clinton supporter Dan Savage (who is incidentally both white and a multimillionaire, according to Celebrity Net Worth), brought the term “pasty white Jill Stein supporters” into popularity in a couple of viral expletive-laden attack columns, wherein he made the presumptuous and baseless assertion that third parties have no right to run a presidential candidate until they’ve established a strong presence in local and legislative government branches. Savage conveniently ignored the fact that if the Green party didn’t run a presidential candidate, nobody would even know that it exists; running presidential candidates has always been an essential part of the way parties gain legitimacy and viability in this country. And as Green party national co-chair Andrea Mérida Cuéllar correctly pointed out in a response on the party’s website, the party does, in fact, have a presence in local government.
Cuéllar, by the way, is not white. Neither is Jill Stein’s running mate, civil rights leader Ajamu Baraka, nor are many of the amazing human beings I’ve encountered on this wild journey of green political subversion I’ve been on lately.
In response to the “pasty white Jill Stein supporters” argument, I recently mentioned to an angry white Hillary supporter that I’ve met countless LGBT and minority people who, like me, support Stein. He replied (I swear I’m not making this up), “I’m sure you have, and I hope they all get what they deserve.”
I was taken aback by this, not just because it was an intentionally venomous comment, but also because it was easily the most privileged and entitled thing that I have ever heard a white man say. He was stating that he hopes LGBT and minority voters who support Stein are punished by further oppression and mistreatment for not falling in line with his extremely powerful candidate. This was his idea of “getting what they deserve.”
I’ve had a bit of a think about this, and you know what? I hope that the many, many Jill Stein supporters I’ve met who belong to disadvantaged groups get what they deserve, too.
I hope they get a country where they aren’t routinely pressured to choose between either giving power to the very neoliberal forces which oppress them or giving power to the bigoted backlash against those neoliberal policies from the uneducated victims of the Wal-Mart economy. I think they deserve that dignity, at the very least.
I also hope that they get a country where they will no longer be bullied and threatened by privileged people who benefit from the status quo into supporting a candidate whose political career has largely been dedicated to perpetuating economic disparity and killing brown-skinned Muslims in other countries all over the world.
I hope they get a country where they are never again offered the choice between either a racist billionaire who bashes Black Lives Matter or his extremely wealthy buddy whose extremely wealthy husband slashed welfare, instituted exploitative trade agreements, bolstered the immoral and ineffectual war on drugs, and helped build the prison-for-profit industry.
I hope they get a country that isn’t run by people who may give lip service to the problem of police executing unarmed black men with impunity but continue to do absolutely nothing about it.
I hope they get a country where institutionalized white supremacy doesn’t reward and elevate evil people like Donald Trump and the Clintons.
Disadvantaged groups deserve that. We all do.
“Check your privilege if you can afford not to support our candidate.” Do you remember who first started using that argument? It wasn’t Hillary Clinton supporters, it was Berners. I first saw the “check your privilege” argument circulating during the pretend Democratic primaries as an argument against one Hillary Rodham Clinton. Check out this Huffington Post article from February titled “Please Recognize Your Privilege If You Can Afford 8 Years of Hillary Clinton and the Status Quo” for example.
It’s absolutely infuriating to us Bernie-or-busters that our argument has been co-opted by a campaign for a presidency that promises more war, more Wal-Mart economics, more militarized police forces, more predatory trade deals, more exploitative prison expansion, more too-little-too-late climate policy, and more power for the oligarchs, against a candidate who’s always stood against those things, and whose policies line up very nicely with those of our own Bernie Sanders.
Who gets sent to war? A study from Syracuse University shows that women, minorities, and the poor are disproportionately targeted by military recruiting and advertising, and that class and race disproportionately impact one’s likelihood to have served in America’s many acts of military aggression.
Who suffers from income disparity? Obviously the poor, a disproportionate number of whom are ethnic minorities.
Who suffers as a result of the war on drugs? Again, an overwhelmingly disproportionate number of black and Hispanic Americans.
Who will suffer as a result of climate catastrophe? Look at Hurricane Katrina if you want an early taste of that one. The poor will necessarily be the worst-equipped for dealing with the inevitable consequences of corporatism’s planet-killing greed, having the fewest resources, the least political leverage, and the worst local infrastructures to survive extreme weather events and their far-reaching aftereffects.
And don’t even talk to me about women’s rights. Nobody can honestly believe that a woman who’s dedicated her life to propping up all the sickest aspects of patriarchy can be anything but toxic to an authentic awakening of the feminine in our society. Nobody who’s repeatedly pushed for an expansion of western imperialism, helped widen the gap between rich and poor with repeated acts of crony capitalism, sabotaged an increase of Haiti’s minimum wage, covered up her husband’s sexual predation, been an executive for Wal-Mart, and a paid speaker for Goldman Sachs has any interest in helping women in the way our world really needs, where the voice of the feminine rises above the all-pervading misogyny of our culture and rescues us from the pernicious influence of toxic masculinity. You don’t worm your way up the spine of a power structure that was made by men and for men by taking down the patriarchy.
Dr. Stein told Rolling Stone that when it comes to these oppressive policies, women “get hit hard. When there’s economic injustice, when there’s racial injustice, when there’s sexual violence, when there’s health injustice, women are very vulnerable. We’re vulnerable in part because we’re busy taking care of young people, and we take care of our parents and our families and our communities…. When there is injustice out there, it tends to flow in our direction.”
Jarune Uwujaren wrote an excellent piece for Everyday Feminism on the importance of taking an intersectional view of women’s issues that encompasses the struggles of all disadvantaged groups, if anyone’s curious.
We can’t afford to keep doing this. Not us pasty-white folk and certainly not those whose socioeconomic status all too often makes them the first victims of American corruption, corporatism, and villainy. If we keep facilitating the political dominance of a party that we now know for certain rigs its primaries to install neoliberal corporate crony war hawks, we can absolutely say for sure that we will only ever get more of the same. This will get us more war, more economic disparity, a dying planet, and a steadily-increasing pushback of steadily-increasing extremism from the right.
Contrary to the narrative Clinton’s super PACs have been frantically pushing, voting for Jill Stein is not voting for Donald Trump, nor is it throwing away your vote. A vote for Dr. Stein is actually vastly more powerful than a vote for either of the two bosom buddies in the elephant or donkey party. If you vote for Jill Stein, not only are you helping the Green party achieve the landmark five percent it needs to secure federal funding for its presidential campaigns where it can begin to approach mainstream acceptance, but you’re also helping to force the Democratic party into evolve-or-die time. If the Dems watch enough of their votes hemorrhage out to a progressive party to cost them the election, they’ll be forced to either (A) hold a real primary in 2020 where progressives can elect a real candidate who can make real changes, or (B) repeat the same mistake and watch their party get replaced as the mainstream party on the left in American politics. Political parties die all the time all over the world when they fail to support the needs of the people, and they should.
Voting for Jill Stein will help prevent the forceful installation of more neoliberal warmongers, prevent more of the extremist backlash against exploitative neoliberal policies like we’re seeing in the Trump movement, and force the Democratic party to either meet the needs of the people or be replaced by a party that will. That is the exact opposite of “throwing your vote away.”
A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for a better world. We can survive a potential four years of Trump. What we can’t survive is the death of democracy in America and the resulting overall movement to the right, which would hurt this country’s most disadvantaged groups before it hurts anyone else, and hurt them far more severely.
Remember, the ruling elites of the Democratic party don’t fear the right, they fear the left. They are acutely aware that their tenuous grasp on power is totally dependent upon their walking the fine line between catering to the oligarchy and making sure they aren’t replaced by a party that cares about people and our planet. They know that if they don’t keep their foot firmly on the Green party’s head, they run the very real risk of coming up on the losing end of the single most significant shift in government power that the world has ever seen. A lot of very cushy power positions are at risk if the Greens ever gain any influence, and that’s the whole entire reason Clinton super PACs attack Jill Stein, while corporate media ignores her.
So yeah. I’m sure it’s nice for Hillary supporters to be able to sit at their keyboards in their comfy homes and call Jill Stein voters “privileged” for not supporting a candidate whose entire political career has been a nonstop assault on all the most vulnerable populations both foreign and domestic, oppressing and exploiting the poor and minorities to serve her corporatist donors, and helping to kill brown-skinned people in Muslim-majority nations overseas in corporatist wars. I’m sure it’s nice to have that kind of privileged situation happening for oneself. But not everyone is so fortunate, and voting for Jill Stein is the very best way we can help them and everyone else.
Don’t listen to the Hillary shills. They don’t care about you, and they certainly don’t care about the underprivileged. Vote for someone who cares about you.
[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]