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Dialogue for Democracy: Virginia Needs to Stay Blue


I want a world where everyone has enough food, adequate housing, decent health care, feels personally safe, and receives a high-quality education. I want my government to play a role in providing that and as anyone can see, my government has let me down.

Despite being reminded by campaigning democrats that the Democratic Party is working towards many of these goals, I have not, by any means, been duped into believing these goals have been achieved. I do, however, maintain a faith in policy solutions and believe that all of these domestic issues are solvable problems. I read the platform of the Green Party and nod my head at the policy solutions the Party supports. I am buoyed by their belief that better policies can work.

So why will I be voting for President Obama in November, rather than voting for presidential candidate Jill Stein, who so clearly represents what I believe in much better than President Obama? Because I live in Virginia, and I believe that Virginia will be critical to Obama winning in November. I am unable to imagine a world where Obama wins, the Green Party simultaneously gains power, and the Republican party loses power. I am stuck believing that every vote that goes to Jill Stein in Virginia will be a vote that does not go to President Obama in Virginia – and the tightness of the race means those votes might be the difference in who carries the state. No matter how the votes are added up, they won’t be enough for Jill Stein to win, so instead of moving the United States to the left, I’ll be party to electing Mitt Romney and taking a step to the right. And I do believe that the domestic policies President Obama supports are to the left of those Mitt Romney supports – so I prefer them.

When I wake up, I see a health care system that is in the process of being overhauled. Am I disappointed in the health care law? Absolutely. I wanted to it to go farther, guaranteeing health care for everyone – and I do not make a distinction based on citizenship status or any other characteristic. The bottom line for me is that health care is a basic human right and beyond that, I benefit personally when my neighbors, co-workers, friends and children’s classmates are healthy. This, of course, sounds a lot like what presidential candidate Jill Stein proposes.

Even in all its imperfections, I believe a world with Obamacare is superior to a world with Romney aiding substantially in the dismantling of Obamacare. The subsidies in Obamacare are far from trivial, and they will result in more people becoming insured. It’s a step in the right direction toward providing universal health care. And I think it’s really rich of me to not be concerned about others losing access to health care, when my own insurance will remain completely intact.

I’ve knocked on doors for Ralph Nader, proudly voted for him, and then sat expectantly waiting for the results of the 2000 election where I was certain Nader would get 5 percent, and the Greens would be on their way to moving the conversation to the left. I lost friends over that vote, and I remain proud of that vote. But I was also relieved when I learned that Virginia was so solidly a red state, that my vote ultimately was used for good (aiding in that magical 5 percent), but did not cost Gore what would have been important electoral votes.

Starting in 2008, Virginia turned blue, and I want to make sure it remains blue. Because I cannot, in good conscience, use my vote to help dismantle the gains that have been made in health care. For my friends who vote in solidly blue or red states, I beg them to support the Green Party and turn this country to the left. But my vote will likely be for Obama – unless someone can convince me otherwise.

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12 Responses “Dialogue for Democracy: Virginia Needs to Stay Blue”

  1. July 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    You’re completely wrong, Quaker Dave. The reason Democrats have moved to the right is because they have people like you guaranteed to vote for them while they lay at the trough of the monied crowd and look for fat packages that seal their place among that very same crowd, the elite, the well-heeled, and the second house on Montauk. I support a group called United Progressives that has a platform just like a political party, but our purpose is not to run in elections or endorse people who do, but to hold our values high and never let them down. There must be a space for values as well as for compromise, or else you haven’t a clue as to what you are compromising but the compromise itself. We believe in fundamental principles about life, Quaker Dave, about respect for life, about human rights, and the right of everyone to basic rights, basic services, an education, a roof over his head, a sense of security, as long as these things are available to anyone. Why aren’t you championing them? Why do you call yourself a Quaker if you’re not? It is a community responsibility to provide for those within it. It is not a community responsibility to encourage rape and pillage and take advantage of ignorance and poverty as the Chamber of Commerce is prone to do. We live together, dependent upon each others skills and resources, and we are responsible for the quality of life all of us can produce for ourselves and for each other at the same time. When you think about these kinds of things, you think beyond elections: you think beyond power. You think rather of the moral and ethical foundation you are willing to stand on and call yourself a man and hold your head up as someone worthy of being called a progressive. If these are things that you believe in, then it is imperative that you champion them at all times. You must be willing to be a martyr for this ultimate good. You must give everything you have to support it. That’s your obligation. That’s the foundation of your own integrity.

    So don’t talk to me about where the Democratic Party is going. I know where it’s going. It’s going to hell. It is unwilling to stand for anything but power. It’s all about winning. What’s worse is that the Republicans take the moral high ground consistently because they do champion their values, which are based upon independence and freedom. People can get ahold of that. They understand values very clearly. The Democrats don’t, because they are always willing to sacrifice principle for power. What does the Democratic Party stand for? Nothing. What does Obama do? His entire agenda is one of war, of assassinations, of depriving us of our civil rights, of failing to follow through on promises. He’s a man no Democrat or liberal believes in except as the man to beat Romney. That’s your kind of politics. It’s empty of value, empty of humanity, empty of anything that promises the soul a vestige of dignity. What are you willing to stand for except sticking with a winner?

    • Quaker Dave
      July 24, 2012 at 6:43 am

      I stopped reading at the point where you accused me of not being a Quaker. I was invited to come here for a constructive discussion. if you’re going to open with ad hominem attacks because you don’t like who I vote for, there’s really no possibility of any conversation being constructive.

      You may want to take a long hard look in the mirror, because trying to open a dialogue with that kind of rhetoric won’t get you very far. if your ultimate goal is to convince people to support your values, it’s a bad idea to start off by insulting them. At this point, all you’ve accomplished is driving me out of the conversation, which means you’ve lost any and all opportunity to convince me your position is correct.

      This is exactly what I mean when I talk about preaching to the choir. You had an opportunity to reach out to a democratic voter and try to convince me to do otherwise. But instead, by using vicious and totally uncalled for personal attacks you’ve simply reinforced my perspective.

      • Quaker Dave
        July 24, 2012 at 10:51 am

        Matt, I hope your following this thread. I’ve deleted everything I’ve ever written for Political Context, and if it was possible for me to delete my account, I would.

        When a “dialogue” results not only in someone’s religious faith be questioned, but in that perosn being called a rapist for failure to fall into ideological lockstep, something is seriously wrong. This site isn’t a “mosaic,” but rather a idologically echo chamber.

        I’ve never been as offended as I am now. I cannot believe that my political moderation has resulted in the vile and hateful insults posted here. I am done participating in this site.

        • July 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm

          I certainly understand your anger and hurt, and I don’t think what Mr. Barrow said was appropriate. But why you’d want to punish the site, and its editors, for it is beyond me. I believe your response was disproportionate and resulted in innocent casualties. Sorry you feel like you had to make that choice.

    • Elaine Marie
      July 25, 2012 at 7:03 am

      I think a big issue here is that you’re asking someone else – someone’s whose position you may not know clearly (e.g., previously uninsured and chronically ill) – to become that martyr for the ultimate good as well. Because as I point out initially – with respect to health insurance, my position won’t change at all, regardless of whether or not we have Obamacare. But my vote could well change someone else’s position (make them worse off by taking away Obamacare). And I’m not comfortable with that.

  2. Brian Bittner
    July 23, 2012 at 5:30 am

    In Virginia, this debate is actually a moot point. The Green Party is not ballot-qualified in Virginia and not likely to be this November. Jill Stein will not be an option because – like in many states – requirements for putting minor party candidates on the ballot are much higher than major parties, who are typically qualified automatically. Living in a Democratic machine-run city I have had many many many debates about the viability of Green candidates with my friends. I value these debates and still love the people who have them with me. The Democrats I meet who insist that the proper way to keep Obama in office is to keep Green candidates off the ballot, I have no love for. And I have met way too many of them, from rank-and-file members to party leaders and elected officials. I think Greens would be more likely to engage Democrats in a serious debate about a unified anti-conservative electoral strategy after the Democratic Party – on the national, state, and local level – drops its strategy of restricting Greens from qualifying for the ballot.

    • Elaine Marie
      July 23, 2012 at 6:34 am

      I would never argue that anyone should not have access to the ballot, and I have a policy to sign every form given to me with a candidate seeking to be on the ballot. I agree with you that restricting access to the ballot is deplorable.

  3. Quaker Dave
    July 22, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    The closest a third party candidate has ever come to winning the presidency was Roosevelt in 1912. As a popular former president, he won 88 electoral votes (compared to Wilson’s 435). His candidacy also split the Republican vote and is widely viewed as handing the election to Wilson.

    The last time a third-party candidate received a single electoral vote, it was a faithless elector in 1972 who cast a vote for the Libertarian president. The well-organized and well-funded third party campaign of Perot in ’92 failed to do anything more than making Clinton’s election easier.

    While history has yet to judge, it’s also possible Nader’s run in ’00 contributed to a split in the Democratic vote, paving the way for Bush’s eventual victory.

    The reality is, third party support tends to do more for those further way from the third party on an ideological scale. Backing the Green Party does more to help the Republicans, backing the Reform party in ’92 and the Libertarian Party in ’12 will help the Democrats.

    Jill Stein won’t be elected President. She will not receive a single electoral vote. That’s a fact. The options for those who share her philosophy are actually quite simple. You can vote for her and blame people who are accepting of political realities for selling out progressive virtues because we are afraid of a Romney victory. Or, you can take a long hard look at your political strategy and realize that taking your ball and going home isn’t helping anyone.

    When you ask why the Democratic party has moved to the right, consider if the fact that progressives keep running to third parties as a part of the problem. If you’re really concerned about the rightward shift of the Democratic party, the answer isn’t to vote green. The answer is to double down on the Democrats.

    In 2000, Ralph Nader received 2.74% of the vote, approximately 2.8 million people cast a vote for him. In a presidential election, that’s nothing. It won’t shift the debate, it won’t pull anybody to the left. What it does is tell the Democrats that it’s a better strategy to move to the right and go after the center, because as soon as the going gets tough, the left votes green.

    You really want to make a difference? Go to local meetings of the Democratic party. Get involved at the local level, pushing your policy ideas and your candidates. Work to get progressives elected in winnable seats on city councils and state legislatures. Those are the people who are going to be running for Congress and Senate, and eventually for President.

    Voting for the Green Party is essentially preaching to the choir. You’re not going to accomplish anything. If you want true progressive policy being made, the mechanism for doing it is through the Democratic party.

    One last thing for tonight. I am afraid of a Romney victory. I am afraid because Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 79 and has pancreatic cancer. Stephen Bryer is 73. Unless there’s another Earl Warren out there capable of duping a Republican president into appointing one of the most liberal Justices ever, I’m voting Obama. Sotomayor and Kagan may not be be perfect, but I guarantee their jurisprudence is going to be more acceptable to the Green Party than anyone appointed by Romney.

    When Sandra Day O’Connor retired, a moderate (if right leaning) justice was replaced by Alito. Do you want to imagine what will happen if the last strong liberal voice on the court is replaced by a Republican president? And on the flip side, both Scalia and Thomas are getting up there in years as well. The next four years could see an opportunity to reshape the Court for decades.

    You want to talk about losing the war for the sake of winning a battle?

    • July 23, 2012 at 9:25 pm

      Dave, I’m not sure empirics and history validate your concerns about the Court. First, the party of the president appointing the justice appears to bear little consistent relationship to the eventual ideological direction of that justice. Second, rights are not ultimately won or lost at the Court, but in the streets.

      But the deeper problem I have with your reasoning is that the system _always_ picks one or two issues to hold us hostage to its agenda. So Obama gets to spend four more years pushing a corporate, capitalist agenda that is literally destroying the planet, because we don’t want to lose his anemic health care reform or risk losing our reproductive rights in those states that might respond to a reversal of Roe by outlawing them… There seems, then, no end to the amount of systemic evils which can be perpetrated in exchange for a few centrist/moderate crumbs of policy.

      • Elaine Marie
        July 25, 2012 at 6:59 am

        This is an interesting point, Matt, and one that many liberal scholars make – that the people in power give crumbs away and ultimately, it does more harm than good because the movement dissipates (yay! we got something! let’s be excited about it instead of fight for more!). And, if the less powered people dare to not say “thank you, you’re awesome”, then the powerful say “why did I even stick my neck out in this small way for you people?”. That is something I think about a lot. I really do not have a coherent answer (yet), but I do think about it a lot. At times, it causes me to get into a “do not settle!” mindset, but the problem is, then my side gets nothing, and I feel even worse. As an example, I was mortified by all the give-aways in the latest tax extenders. In order to keep policies important to me intact (expansion of the EITC for families with 3+ children, expansion of the Child Tax Credit – making it refundable starting at a lower threshold and doubling its size from $500 per child to $1000), dems gave away most of the estate tax and kept the tax breaks for higher-income people intact. Dollar for dollar, the wealthy benefited a lot more than the poor, but if the dems hadn’t made the deal, low-income families would’ve seen their tax bill increase by a few thousand dollars last year, and given the economic climate, I just couldn’t stomach it. So, after the deal was made, I said “well, at least low-income families didn’t see their tax bills rise a bunch this year” and I was left hoping that when tax reform finally happens, we’ll get better legislation.

  4. July 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Your philosophy is win the battle, lose the war, Elaine.
    Better off losing the battle if it means winning the war. What progressives need to do is suck up a loss and show their strength to encourage others to vote Green. You’re convinced that Jill Stein can’t win, and you convince so many others not only by this article but by your contribution to her failure by not voting for her. You continue to promote failure of progressive virtues and values because you’re too afraid of losing. Romney is not going to bring about a conservative revolution. What we have now under Obama is a conservative revolution because the left continues to support him despite what he does. With someone like Romney in there, maybe the left will get off its ass and fight. Obama deserves to lose. He has totally misrepresented himself as a man of the people and a man of change. He’s a corporate lackey. So is Romney. But at least we’re willing to admit it.

    • Elaine Marie
      July 23, 2012 at 6:40 am

      If Romney and Obama are similar, then why would a Romney victory have any better role in galvanizing the left to get off its ass and fight? And you’re right – I am afraid to lose. Because I see crippling cuts to essential programs in the future, and that scares me.

      Thank you for your comments – and thank you to the editors of political context for organizing this discussion. You have given me more things to think about.

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