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Voters Share Perspectives On Rejecting Two-Party System In 2016 Election

The mainstream discourse surrounding voting in the United States has been persistently the same for decades: Third party voters, and those choosing to abstain from voting, are to blame if—specifically—Democrats don’t make it into office.

The Nader-Gore spoiler mythology is so pervasive, despite being thoroughly debunked, that it has been used against anyone even hinting that they would dare veer away from a Democratic candidate. If you’re not going to be voting for a Republican, you’re more or less thrown in with everyone else pulling for one of two Democrats, either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

A common refrain, mixed in among the castigation, is that those voting for third party candidates, or abstaining from voting, are “privileged.” The argument is that those refusing to vote for the Democratic nominee can afford to handle a Republican presidency, and their position is rife with moral superiority. This not only ignores the diversity of third party voters and those abstaining, but it also disregards that these decisions are made based on how the system has failed citizens.

Profiles on third party voters, and those abstaining, are hard to find as they’re usually referenced in pieces without specificity, almost as though they’re bogeymen aiming to tear down the system. Shadowproof has interviewed a number of Americans who are refusing to vote for Hillary Clinton, come what may:

Dalal Habib
27 years-old
Student and researcher

I’m currently living and studying in Germany, and I’m planning on writing in Gloria La Riva. I can understand how excited people are with Bernie Sanders, but I can’t get around some of his foreign policy issues, especially when it comes to drones. Voting for Hillary Clinton is as much of an option for me as voting for Ted Cruz. I can’t stomach the thought, and I won’t do it.

I was eligible to vote in 2008, and I chose to vote for Ralph Nader. My only regret since is that I didn’t push more people my age to do the same, because we’ve seen how absolutely disastrous the Obama administration has been–and not just when it comes to domestic issues, but specifically foreign policy. There’s a lot of fear-mongering from Hillary supporters. They like to scare people into voting for Clinton by arguing that a Trump presidency would be devastating for women, but why don’t we look at Obama’s legacy? Don’t they think that the staggering number of deportations hurts women? That his drone war hurts women? That his administration’s arming of different factions across the globe hurts women? That his surveillance state hurts women? Fear-mongering isn’t going to work on us anymore.

This election is different for me because I feel like people are noticing just how anti-Left many liberals are. Before, it was easier for liberals to say that we all need to unite so we don’t elect the ‘wrong’ candidate and possibly send the country spiraling into madness, but it’s become extremely clear that this was never about making a decision that would benefit our communities. Electing Hillary Clinton isn’t about making sure women like me gain access to healthcare, or that women like me who live abroad don’t get assassinated by hellfire missiles. Or that women like me aren’t put into a detention center after an ICE raid. This is about being able to say that a woman is in charge of the most powerful country on earth. That’s not what I’m fighting for.

I won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton because I’m not bargaining away my humanity for a future think piece praising the election of a woman with more blood on her hands than any other person running. This election does matter, but not for the reasons Hillary supporters are saying it does. It matters because it’s cemented a lot of things for young women like me. I’m well aware that the people who are claiming to care about our communities are using us. Gloria La Riva may not be a popular choice, but she’s the right one for me.

George Remmer
25 years-old
Student and waiter

I am voting third party because a two-party system is a horrible style of governance, the electoral college disenfranchises my vote (NY), and because Gloria La Riva and Jill Stein have way more honest platforms than Bernie.

To me, it seems like the election of Bernie Sanders would be the most positive development in the history of U.S. electoral politics. The man has consistently railed against U.S. military imperialism throughout his thirty-five year political career, while managing to bring democratic socialist policies back into the U.S. political spectrum by challenging the corporate orchestrated neoliberal regime.

He advocates for the end of U.S. economic imperialism abroad, partly through the “immediate cancellation of all debt owed by the world’s poorest countries to the United States, and American advocacy for relief of debt owed to both private creditors and to multilateral institutions such as the IMF- with no structural adjustment strings attached.” (Global Sustainable Development Resolution, March 1999)

He’s the only candidate to criticize Israel’s occupation of Palestine, while his primary opponent will probably help ban it.

But he’s certainly not perfect. For one, his Middle-East stance is Obama-lite, which definitely doesn’t represent most of what he’s said in regards to foreign policy throughout his pre-presidential candidate career. I’m hoping that he’s lying, and believe that he is, one more reason that I’m protesting the vote by voting third party.

I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton, and if people cannot see that she exemplifies all of the features of the contemporary corporate neoliberal, imperialist regime, then they are part of the problem. The prospect of Hillary Clinton as President gives me way more anxiety than it did in 2008 now that she has (as you have noted on multiple occasions) proven herself capable of running the empire (Haiti, Honduras, Libya, Syria, record arms sales to totalitarian states, etc.).

She does not shy away from authoritarian votes, plays the 9/11 card to defend Wall Street, said we should deport children to send a message, has now repeated calls to censor the internet, and even already has experience doing so while Secretary of State.

There’s also the prospect of her working with a Republican Congress, where she will be praised by liberals for her pragmatism while passing corporately-written trade deals, vast deregulation, the elimination of social programs, the privatization of education, more subsidies for fossil fuel, more fracking, tax decreases for corporations and the wealthy, and war with Iran. But at least we’ll be able to keep our corporately-written health care plan that leaves tens of millions of people under and uninsured while ensuring substantial corporate profits.

Mike VanElzakker
42 years-old
Neuroscientist, Research Fellow
Psychiatric Neuroscience Division Harvard Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital
Instructor, Tufts University Psychology

Every election feels important but for different reasons. I was really invested in supporting Nader in 2000, but the goal wasn’t really to win it was a longer-term goal to build a viable third party by getting five percent of the vote to trigger federal matching funds. In 2004, the goal was to get Bush out of office. In 2008, Obama had inexplicably dazzled progressives without actually saying anything, and by 2012, progressives had been anesthetized into accepting Obama as one of their own, possibly due to constant hysterical rhetoric coming from the Republicans, accusing him of being a Bolshevik fascist socialist European Kenyan Muslim, or something.

People lose historical perspective and can’t see that Obama is basically a convivial Rockefeller Republican, and Clinton is even to the right of that. The political spectrum keeps shifting rightward. The Clintons are more responsible for this than anyone, and now the establishment Democrat, Clinton, is to the right of Eisenhower (who claimed that dismantling of New Deal programs was “un-American”) and Nixon (who wanted genuinely universal healthcare and a guaranteed minimal income for all citizens).

anders frustratingly keeps using the word “socialist” even though he’s just a standard New Deal Democrat. But the point is that for the first time in decades, someone who is actually left-of-center could actually win so that feels different and changes the stakes.

The two-party system is literally putting the human species at risk. It needs to break. The most dangerous policies—retention of nuclear weapons on trigger-alert, support of dictatorships and interventionist policies that engender extremism, ongoing deference to the profit margins of polluting industries—are bipartisan policies. I usually vote third party, but to be fair, one of the reasons is that I live in a safe state (Massachusetts). For example, in 2004, I lived in purple Colorado and voted Kerry simply to try and get Bush out of office.

On narrow grounds: there was a larger number of Florida registered Democrats who voted Bush than total Florida Nader voters; thousands in Palm Beach accidentally voted Buchanan instead of Gore due to a poorly designed ballot; the Supreme Court and not Nader blocked the recount; and, Gore couldn’t even win his own home state. More broadly: my vote does not belong to you. It’s not yours to be taken away by Nader, Sanders, or Stein. It’s mine to give in support of policies that I actually want. You keep losing because you’ve abandoned the working class in favor of corporate contributions and empire. Democrats think ad money is more important than public support for policy, as if voters can be fooled by marketing into giving their support for bad policies.

I voted Sanders in the primary and consider him to be an acceptable compromise candidate. He gets a C- on foreign policy because he’s a typical Democrat who supports military violence as long as there’s a Democratic president in power. Hillary Clinton gets an F. If Sanders loses the primary, I will vote for Jill Stein and not Clinton. Part of my logic is that I’m in a safe state so I totally understand why someone in a swing state would choose to hold their nose and vote for a candidate who wants to drive us off a cliff at a respectable 55mph (Clinton) instead of driving us off a cliff at a reckless 90mph (e.g., Cruz).

It’s been terrifying during this primary to see the deep racism of an imperial empire expressed so nonchalantly by liberals who think it’s only war when a Republican does it. It’s been terrifying to see how quickly feminist solidarity gets dropped right at the borders. Policies not just supported but championed by Clinton as senator and Secretary of State have killed more than half a million innocent civilians. 500,000 corpses. That is rounded up to a positive – she has “experience,” or as Sady Doyle put it, “She knows her stuff,” except knowing that the WMD/ al-Qaeda-linked-to-Saddam stories were obvious lies.

All one had to do was to do one’s homework. Chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter was shouting from the rooftops. There were millions of us in the streets before the war even started. We are the ones who knew our stuff. Does it still count as “experience” when someone has a job and oopsies their way into 500,000 corpses?

Mark Tinkleman
28 years-old
Line cook and coordinator with Protest The DNC Coalition

The Protest the DNC coalition, which is sort of a host committee for everyone involved in protests regarding the DNC, was started when a radical legal collective hosted something of a get-together for everyone they knew who were interested in organizing things around the DNC.

About 40 people showed up, representing at least a dozen organizations, which was more than anyone expected. Many people already had plans in motion and others were trying to see where they could plug in. We all introduced ourselves and talked informally, and from there, we gathered an email list and two people, including myself, volunteered to follow this up. Since then, we have been contacted by a good number of others planning to be involved in actions during the DNC.

The way I see our current situation is that the people who run this country face many difficult problems right now and do not have any very good options. And this entire election season has shaken their legitimacy in the eyes of millions of people here and around the world. That will become sharpened up no matter what goes down at these conventions this summer. And I believe in maximizing that legitimacy crisis. So, I am building for this march, but I believe that the turnout will be mainly affected by what happens inside the convention. I think there needs to be a vehicle for all those who will lose their faith in the process to act independently of politics as usual.

This election is different for me, mainly because it’s different for many other people. Between the fact that many people despise every candidate, and many others are being brought into the process for the first time in very passionate ways, there is potential for people in a big way to start to act. Compared to four and eight years ago, I feel much more invested because this will change the way most people relate to the notion of American democracy.

Ever since 2008, I have “protested the vote” by not voting and by being open about that. But this year I am taking a more active stance because I think the whole show surrounding this election will affect the way millions of people relate to the state, for better or worse. There is no way that the people ever win in a U.S. election. While the candidates may be different, they are all worse. I honestly believe in the possibility of the liberation of women, an end to the oppression of whole nations and peoples, that American lives should not be valued more than anyone else’s, and that there’s a radically different way of providing for the needs of all 7 billion people on this planet. That’s not on the ballot, and if it was it would be a cruel joke.

Fernando Bolles
25 years-old
Muslim, unemployed, with a degree in History

I believe this election is particularly significant to me because the deepest passions of Americans are being revealed in a way I don’t believe I’ve ever recognized. I see very clearly the three-headed dog of the American consciousness–the fascists who wish to gain power by oppressing minorities of all stripes, the moderates who thirst for calm and enforced order above all else, and the desperate cries of those who want to break the chains of poverty and fear. I cannot imagine a time when these strains were more literally in conflict.

I and my family have voted Democrat my entire life, and it has always stood as the only framework that is remotely interested in entertaining a Leftist point of view in the country. However, I believe that a contest between a Republican candidate and Hillary Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee, is a choice between butchers of differing emphasis and degree.

This is not a choice I am interested in participating in. If that is the result of the nomination process, I believe I have the moral obligation to do what I can to not enable these choices and this process. So many will die, so many will suffer, that I believe that my participation carries with it the stain of blood. This moral framework is easily applied to so much of American politics, and the decisions I make there are difficult as well.

I am confident in this case that the morally correct thing for me to do is to abstain from voting for these two candidates and do a small part of my responsibility to prevent the deaths of innocents abroad.

I am challenged not infrequently for this assertion. In large part, I do not condemn the people who would vote for Clinton over, say, Trump. I can easily imagine that Trump is as terrifying to many as Clinton is to me. But I believe that my concern for the lives of people abroad who would inevitably experience the lethal horror of a Clinton administration precludes me from voting for her, as much as that horrifies the people I love.

If Bernie Sanders is not the Democratic nominee, I will not vote Democrat. I may vote instead for Jill Stein, whose platform seems exemplary, or I may abstain entirely.

Though I believe the 2008 campaign was more toxic, given Clinton’s horrific treatment of Obama during the primary, I believe this campaign is revealing more explicitly the divisions on the Left, and those who reveal themselves to value calm above justice.

Chris Ecker
35 years-old
Unemployed and seeking work for the last 11 months (Masters in Public Health degree)

I definitely feel more excited and optimistic about this election, and it’s solely due to Bernie Sanders. I’ve been a Bernie fan since he was in the House and was a major critic of the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. Then his 2010 Senate filibuster to try to stop the renewal of the Bush tax cuts impressed me a great deal. I think Bernie Sanders and his contempt for corporate money in politics makes him the perfect candidate for this era of American political history.

If Bernie Sanders is not the Democratic Party’s candidate, I promise I will not vote for Hillary. I feel like her camp likes to believe that Bernie’s supporters will provide a firewall for her due to our fear of her Republican opponent, but I won’t be a part of it.

If I can’t vote for Bernie Sanders, I will vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Voting is the one tiny thing a citizen gets to do to impact their government, and I figure that if I live a normal American lifespan, I’ll get to vote for President only about thirteen times. Why should I waste one of my chances by settling for a candidate I don’t truly support?

I’m one of those people that gets blamed for Gore losing, since I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 (and 2004). I think their arguments are based in two major fallacies. The first is mathematical, in that even if Nader voters were responsible for Gore’s loss, most of Nader’s votes didn’t particularly factor anyway. Because of the winner-take-all system, most Nader voters (and most voters in general, for that matter) did not truly have their vote “count” in 2000.

The second argument I have is with the idea that a Liberal vote can automatically be counted for the Democratic Party candidate. Had I not voted for Nader in 2000, I would have voted for a different third party candidate (such as the Socialist Party candidate) or simply not cast a vote for President. I never had any intention of voting for Al Gore in 2000, from the start of the primaries until election day. And I feel the exact same way about Hillary Clinton.

As much as I hate Trump and Cruz, I think Hillary is the most corrupt candidate left in contention. Between the tremendous amount of money she’s been paid by the corporations and groups who do the absolute worst damage to our nation, and her disdain for prospective constituents who ask her tough questions, I’m not sure how much more transparent she could be regarding what she’ll focus on if elected. Short of explicitly telling the voters that she’ll help the wealthy elite get richer on the backs of working-class Americans, she couldn’t be much more obvious about her intentions.

In 2008, I supported Dennis Kucinich’s brief candidacy. Once he dropped out, I’m afraid I fell for Obama’s grand speeches. I knew that Hillary supported fracking and expanded military intervention, so there was no way I was voting for her in 2008 either. I would say the main difference for me between the 2008 and 2016 Primaries is that I feel like a true progressive has been in contention this year.

I liked Barack Obama, but not enough that I would have spoken out for him. I feel like there’s a major corporate candidate every election year for both Democrats and Republicans, but a true anti-elite progressive like Bernie Sanders is very rare. Which, I think, is why his supporters are so vocal. We know we don’t get too many shots like this to truly change America for the better.

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Would you like to share your perspective on who or why you plan to vote for a certain presidential candidate in November? We encourage readers to write to us for our “Letters To The Editor” weekly column. Send to editor@Shadowproof.com

World Trade Center smoking on 9/11. Photo by Michael Foran [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer, published poet, and journalist, whose work can be found at Roqchams.com.