For those of us seeing the need for deep, systemic change in our society, Hillary Clinton is not the ideal candidate for president.
She is deeply engrained in a political system that caters more to corporations than to people. She has unclear, troublesome ties to Wall Street. She has been at the helm of drone assaults and other war efforts. She has drifted from one cause to another based on political expedience.
And yet: She is our next systems candidate. She is the candidate that is most likely and able to drive profound change in our society.
The value of a symbolic vote
Jill Stein has some great ideas. There are many issues on which she speaks much more of my truth than Clinton.
But Jill Stein is not going to be president. If every one of us who has even remotely considered voting for Jill Stein did so, she wouldn’t come close to winning the presidency. Trump would.
Our next President is either going to be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
Voting for Jill Stein or any other third-party candidate is purely a symbolic vote. And that isn’t meant as a criticism or dismissal. Honestly, it’s a symbolic vote that I’ve been deeply considering for myself.
There is real value in symbolic votes. They voice dissatisfaction with the current system. They declare an unwillingness to accept the options that have been laid before us. They tell future candidates that there is a big opportunity for someone willing to push for profound change.
For those of us in solidly blue states like Washington, Oregon, or California, that opportunity is even more compelling. We can safely vote for a third-party candidate like Stein without giving a vote to Trump.
In fact, that has been my line of thinking for the last several months. Why not vote third-party, if my state will go blue regardless? Why not voice my dissatisfaction, if only in a symbolic way?
I see my vote as an important opportunity to send a message.
The most impactful opportunity available to me
But I’ve been realizing that I have another opportunity in this election, one that is far more tangible and impactful. I have another way to use my vote symbolically, knowing that my ideal candidate won’t actually get elected.
I have an opportunity to vote in a woman for president. After 44 male presidents and millennia of patriarchy, with a vote for Hillary, I can say that I did my part in profoundly disrupting a status quo that tells half our population they are less capable and less valuable. If I have a daughter someday, I can look her in the eyes and say I helped create possibility for her.
No, a vote for Hillary does not address my belief that we need a new economy and a new political system. But to suggest voting for Hillary Clinton is purely a vote for the status quo is to simply ignore the true change it will represent. It will mark profound progress in one sphere of our society, and – at worst – maintain status quo in other spheres.
There has never been an ideal candidate
Hillary Clinton is not the ideal next systems candidate.
But there has never been an ideal candidate for president. There has never been a candidate who represented all the change we’d like to see. Even Obama supported war, capitalism, and “all-of-the-above” energy policies.
Clinton is a candidate who offers us an opportunity for tangible, permanent change in our society right now on an issue that has plagued us throughout our history.
No, it is not a vote for a new economy or a new political system. But we don’t actually have that option right now in our presidential election beyond a purely symbolic vote.
The tangible option before us right now is to vote in the first female president in American history. The option right now is to say NO to a candidate who openly promotes sexism and sexual assault.
Voting for the woman who actually has a chance
Yes, Jill Stein is a woman too. A vote for her is also a vote for women. Can’t we vote for women AND a new economy and political system through Stein?
That’s the question I’ve been sitting with more recently.
But I’ve asked myself: what does it say that I am willing to vote for the woman with no chance of winning, but not for the woman who can and will be our president? What does it say that I will vote for a woman symbolically, but not actually vote one into office?
By voting for Clinton, I check myself. I acknowledge that sexism and patriarchy inherently color my judgments of her. I acknowledge my bias and say “yes” to the one female candidate who actually has a chance of winning, who will actually be our president.
Hillary Clinton is immensely qualified to run the system we have now. Jill Stein is not. Hillary Clinton will be effective in bringing about some important change in our society – on gender equality, education, income inequality, and more. Jill Stein will not, she won’t get elected. And if she were, she still doesn’t have the political savvy or connections needed to be effective in that position.
Voting For Clinton AND being deeply critical of her
A vote for Clinton is not acquiescence to every position she takes. It is not saying we agree with everything she does. It is not saying we will accept “business as usual” governing.
When Clinton takes her oath of office, we can immediately push her toward the new economy and political system we desperately need. We can check “Clinton” on the ballot, while still having every intention of being deeply critical of her, when necessary. We can work at the state and local levels to elect truly progressive representatives who continue to push the conversation forward.
We can and we will.
One tool in a large toolbox
The change we want and need is happening.
Bernie Sanders rose to incredible popularity running on a socialist campaign. Barack Obama recently became the first African-American president in a country founded upon slavery and racial oppression. Hillary Clinton will soon become our first female president in a country founded upon patriarchy and sexism.
We will have a candidate that speaks to a wider range of our needs, who has a bolder and more forward-thinking vision for America – and soon.
And I will enthusiastically support that candidate when that time comes.
But that is not my opportunity in this election. My opportunity right now is to see electing a woman as president as one important part of a larger system of change. My opportunity is to take profound, historical, tangible action and accept a real step forward for our society.
I see my vote for president as just one of many tools I have for driving change and making my voice heard. I can use this specific opportunity to get a win for gender equity. I can use other tools – local and state elections, community conversations, my purchasing decisions, to name only a few – to move us toward the new economy and political system we desperately need.
But voting for gender equity and someone who can get things done is the best opportunity for change I have in this presidential election.
And I’m going to take it.