Note: the tone of this piece addressing those who plan to vote for Stein over Obama despite voting for Obama in 2008 or previously supporting Obama due to a policy disagreement, not those who support Jill Stein unequivocally.
1. What leads one to believe that Stein can actually win the election? The Green Party is a known name, but has little influence, an existing scarred reputation concerning the Nader campaign in 2000 among most Democrats, almost no money on a relative level, no invitation to any debates involving the two major party Presidential candidates and does not have any current serving members in Congress. Remember the Electoral College is a significant disadvantage to Stein as in 1992 Ross Perot received over 18% of the popular vote, but received zero electoral votes, thus he was no closer to winning the election if he had never run at all. Very few Republicans and very few blacks are going to vote for her and being a woman puts her at a disadvantage with male voters in general, so how does she win? The sad fact is that the U.S. electorate demonstrates signs of a great level of disinterest and a single-issue mindset beholden to political parties despite the assurances of the media that the ranks of the ‘Independent’ voter are increasing.
On a side note those individuals who try to excuse the influence of Ralph Nader and the Green Party in Florida in 2000 by citing that a number of registered Democrats voted for Bush are being foolish. Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush had significantly different overall policy platforms; therefore, any Democrat voting for Bush, or for that matter any Republican voting for Gore, would be better characterized as an independent voter. Thus blaming ‘Democrats’ that voted for Bush is not accurate because those individuals stripped themselves of their affiliation to the Democratic Party when they voted for Bush due to serious confliction between his platform and the ideals of the Democratic Party.
2. To those who believe that voting for Stein is some issue of morality, a stake in the ground where one is tired of voting for individuals perceived as ‘the lesser of two evils’, there is only one thing to say… my goodness you all are selfish individuals. The simple fact is that whether or not you agree with what Obama has done in his presidency up to this point, to equate the predictable environmental negative consequences of a second term to the predictable environmental negative consequences of a Romney presidency is absolutely ridiculous.
Yes, Obama has been woefully pathetic regarding environmental issues, but too many are pigeonholing the issue of the environment to administering a price on carbon. Fostering an economic recovery with manageable federal government debt and a stable economy is essential to any plan of action to reduce carbon emissions because if the government cannot fund subsidies for various energy infrastructure deployment and research then one better hope Japan miraculously develops cold fusion (and shares it with the world). Does anyone think that private corporations will foot the entire bill for all needed future energy infrastructure? Under a Romney Presidency the following detrimental economic and environmental policies have a much higher probability of enactment due to either application of executive power or no threat of Presidential Veto:
- Almost zero chance of passing any type of carbon pricing system; (if ACES passed Obama would have signed it, think Romney would have?)
- War with Iran;
- Extension of Bush tax cuts for everyone making over 250,000+;
- The elimination of the capital gains tax;
- Economic conflict with China leading to massive tariffs through protectionism;
- Elimination of environmental friendly subsidies for certain energy mediums and fuel efficiency;
- Uncertainty associated with a possible massive shift in the policies of the Affordable Care Act;
- Elimination or significant easing of emission restrictions for various pollutants by the EPA;
- Huge loss of credibility in both environmental and economic international discussions (currently the international community views Mr. Romney as a complete joke similar to G.W. Bush, Obama still has some credibility);
Based on existing information the probability that a Romney Presidency is significantly more detrimental for the environment than a second term for Obama is very high. Some may argue that Obama’s lack of action when addressing global warming mitigates these differences. They argue that a Romney Presidency is akin to driving a car towards a cliff at 150 mph instead of the 80 mph of an Obama Presidency. The problem with this analogy is that it assumes that the car will inevitably fall off the cliff regardless of the speed, which is a defeatist and foolish assumption that does not assume the possibility for change. Time is one of the biggest factors that society has to conserve during the process of emission mitigation and all signs point to a Romney Presidency stealing much more of it than a second term for Obama.
Whether one likes it or not each person living on this planet has a responsibility to everyone else; those who would otherwise vote for Obama, but instead vote for a candidate that has no reasonable probability of being elected are abandoning everyone else. That selfishness in pacifying one’s personal morality (micro-morality) is increasing the probability that all global citizens suffer under a Romney Presidency (macro-morality) from an environmental perspective.
3. To those who believe that voting for Stein is not a winning or a moral issue and instead plan to ‘send a message to the Obama or even the Democrat establishment’ this reasoning appears to be flawed. How exactly is Obama going to receive the message? It appears that the basic school of thought is enough people are going to vote for Stein instead of Obama to create a noticeable reduction in his vote total. Umm… how exactly does that send a message?
Obama has no way of knowing the reason behind this noticeable reduction of votes (if it even occurs). To him and his ‘people’ the only conclusion is that fewer people voted for him. Back in 2004 there was no place on the ballot that stated: ‘Are you voting for a third party candidate because you are disappointed with the policies supported by George W. Bush in his first term, but do not want to support John Kerry?’ There is no effective means to demonstrate to Obama that you wanted to vote for him in the first place, instead of Stein, but could not because of a certain policy issue. Also there is no way to clarify that this policy issue was based on the environment over the economy, healthcare, infrastructure, education, etc. So the message is not being regarded as a message and even if it were, it would be nearly impossible for those in power to determine the specific issue that is being ‘protested’. Assuming that enough voters that think with this mindset would be part of exit polling is simply naïve.
To send a message there are at least three elements that need to occur:
- Enough people have to vote for Stein for individuals in Obama’s camp to consider it noteworthy. Unfortunately there is no definitive way of determining the value of this ‘vote floor’. A good assumption is that for most people to register Stein voting as a message Stein would need at least 10% of the popular vote and it is incredibly unlikely that such a floor is attained based on previous third party candidate vote tallies.
In my opinion to send a message she needs to win a state along with Obama winning the election; Perot got 18+% in 1992, but only 8% in 1996 (message not sent); Nader cost Gore the election in 2000, but did the Democrats change their policies to accommodate those who voted for Nader? Nope, thus message not sent. So what state is she going to win?
- Obama would have to understand that a vast majority of these votes for Stein were ‘disappointment votes’; basically it needs to be communicated to Obama that most of the individuals that voted for Stein would have voted for him if he had a different view and/or execution strategy on a certain policy.
- It must be communicated to Obama that these votes were transferred to Stein due to disagreement with only one particular policy, his lack of action in addressing global warming, not some other environmental issue, not the economy, not education, not immigration, etc.
Overall a rational analysis of these three factors predicts that there is no feasible way to ‘send a message’ to Obama by voting for Stein.
On a side note to those individuals that want Obama to take a ‘pledge’ of some sorts to directly address the issue of global warming during his second term (if elected) to ensure your vote, why would you demand something so baseless? There would be no direct method to bind Obama to any statements he made during this campaign, recall all of the things that he supposedly was going to accomplish in his first term and didn’t (heck some he did not even make an attempt to accomplish); thus all you are really asking for is lip-service with the far-flung hope that it could materialize into something substantial. Basically you just want Obama to play to your egos, giving you a sense that your opinion means something to him. In some context you’re like that 12-year old girl at a Taylor Swift concert holding out her hand hoping that Swift grasps it for a brief second. For such a request to have any significant meaning you need a conditional agreement with Obama saying he will resign the Presidency if x is not done by time y. Unfortunately the creation/execution of such an agreement in almost all cases would be poorly conceived and illogical.
4. Suppose by some miracle Stein actually wins the election when both major candidates concede on Election Night… (Obama is forced to concede when a report surfaces that he really was born in Kenya and is not eligible to be president [of course the report is later proven false, but it is so convincing that even Obama is fooled and he does not have the stones to fight back] and Romney is arrested and eventually convicted for tax evasion). So everything works out perfectly, now it is time to stop global warming in its tracks… right?
Nope, because despite what some may have thought during the G.W. Bush administration, the legislative branch is responsible for drafting laws not the executive branch. The Republicans in Congress are going to treat Stein exactly like they treated Obama by blocking all policies that are in contrast to their supposed belief system (zero cooperation). As for the Democrats it is difficult to see Stein having any significant level of influence on their behaviors, especially because she constantly criticizes the Democratic Party for being corrupt and very similar to the Republican Party, thus there is no ‘whipping’ if some need to be put in line before a vote through party loyalty. Therefore, the Democrats are going to operate on their own personal beliefs whether it is keeping their elected position or taking a chance for the country. Overall there is no reason to suggest that legislation will be passed under Stein, especially environmental legislation, at any higher probability than under Obama.
One could argue successfully that Stein would make more commentary about the need to address global warming, but with climate websites constantly citing polling information about what a winning issue addressing global warming is with vast majorities of citizens wanting to address it, this additional exposure seems limited in influence. The sad reality for environmentalists is the utter lack of environmental based single-issue voters, otherwise there would have been significant punitive damage for House members that voted against the ACES in 2009 and Senate members that threatened to filibuster it; either that or all of that positive polling information is grossly inaccurate (well that actually is true because all polling information in general is pretty much grossly inaccurate). Overall there is little Stein can do to enumerate the detriments of global warming that climate scientists have not already done, passing legislation is what matters and not enough voters seem to care about what is demanded for that part of the solution for Stein’s presence/leadership (whatever word one prefers) to make a difference.
So if all three major reasons for voting for Stein over Obama are flawed why is this faux-debate about 2012 voting being conducted again? The unfortunately reality is that no third party has the necessary infrastructure to even remotely begin to compete for the Presidency of the United States and until this infrastructure is established, voting third party does nothing but support the old saying of throwing your vote away. Voting every two years is the only real power the plebeian masses have, a power that certain parties are still trying to strip unjustly from other parties, so why would someone mitigate this power by using poor logic and irrational judgment when considering how to wield it.
Personally Obama and Romney are incredible disappointments as candidates and I would rather neither win the Presidency ideally, but we clearly do not live in an ideal world and as it currently stands Stein has no legitimate chance for victory, thus those who actually care about the environment and future must regrettably cast our lot with Obama. If one thinks otherwise about Stein’s ability to win, demonstrate this thought process in strict objective and rational details, not blind statements of hope because remember not everyone thinks as you do or cares about the things you do.