As Our Revolution’s Former Electoral Manager, This Is How We Keep President Clinton Accountable

Why lifting Jill Stein to 5 percent of the vote is the key
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Photo: Elizabeth Conley, Staff / Houston Chronicle

With the right combination of strategies, we can make Bernie Sanders the most powerful senator in the country and keep President Hillary Clinton accountable to the progressive movement. Our best opportunity to accomplish this is right around the corner.

The Huffington Post points out that Clinton leads in a greater proportion of polls than Obama did in 2008 and 2012. Their model gives Clinton an overwhelming 98.2 percent chance of victory. Clinton’s lead is so substantial that she could lose all seven swing states, a highly improbable outcome, and still have enough electoral votes tucked away in safe states to win the election. In short, Hillary Clinton will be our next president.

Instead of staying home or turning Clinton’s big lead into a landslide, we should invest our votes into getting the most progressive candidate in the race, Dr. Jill Stein, to the major electoral threshold of 5 percent. Success will qualify the Green Party for official national party status, along with a simplified path to ballot access and about $10 million dollars in federal campaign funds for the next presidential election.

Since initial advantages help attract new supporters, donors and volunteers to a campaign, reaching 5 percent this year will place the Green Party on an accelerated track in the next presidential election. Potentially opening the door to the general election debates – at which point, all bets are off.

While support for third parties historically falls as we approach Election Day, support for the Green Party is climbing in the final days of this election, with a recent national NYT/CBS poll placing Stein at 4 percent.

The prospect of facing an empowered Green Party in 2020 is the strongest mechanism of accountability that Bernie supporters can create.

Clinton is comfortably on the path to victory, but far from appreciating our support, she will interpret it as a sign that we remain captives of the two-party system. As long as she believes that progressives will have no choice but to submit to the lesser evil in four years, she will see no reason to accommodate us. Especially when it means antagonizing her corporate constituents.

Keeping her reelection in mind, President Clinton will be faced with the decision to side with either progressives or Wall Street. If she sides with progressives, she gets our votes but loses Wall Street’s campaign cash to someone else. If she sides with Wall Street, she gets the money, and after some complaining, she gets our votes too. It’s no wonder that we aren’t coming out ahead in this equation.

The only way to keep Clinton accountable to the progressive movement is to credibly demonstrate that we are prepared to move beyond the Democratic Party.

It falls on us to prove that our allegiance is not to any one party or individual, but to the principles, the policies, and the people whose lives hang in the balance.

Only after Clinton realizes that she has lost her monopoly over the progressive vote will she feel the imperative to earn our support. Facing a one-term presidency and a progressive exodus to the Green Party, Clinton will run to Bernie Sanders as the only person standing between her and the collapse of the Democratic Party. Sanders will gain the kind of leverage that we couldn’t duplicate with a thousand protests and petitions.

If left to her own devices, Clinton will spend her first term hiding behind Republican obstructionism, pausing periodically to pass the latest bipartisan corporate giveaway. Without the prospect of a serious reelection challenge, Clinton will submit a few progressive proposals to Congress, deliver some speeches, and then promptly toss up her hands in resignation when the Republicans reject them. After which she’ll get right back to work on the next TPP.

Washington’s secret is that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans really want full control over the government. The establishment parties use “obstructionism” to justify their failure to deliver on campaign promises made to their respective bases – promises that keep getting them elected, but which they never intend to fulfill. Obstructionism is functional to the establishment because it allows each party to forever blame the other one as the impediment to change, while the country drifts further into oligarchy with each passing year.

The giveaway is that Democratic and Republican presidents rarely use their sprawling executive authority to fulfill their campaign promises. Clinton will wield executive power on everything from pipeline routes to financial prosecution, from trade deals to deportations, from climate treaties to mass surveillance, from the drug war to net neutrality. That’s not to mention her veto power, the bully pulpit and her ability to form consensus among Congressional Democrats. Together with Sanders and a formidable Green Party, we could ensure that Clinton employs the immense powers of the presidency to help working people.

The prospect of a populist exit from the Democratic Party will dramatically lower the Clinton administration’s perceived margin of error with progressives, thus magnifying all of our subsequent activism. The number of protests that it will take to stop a war, the number of petition signatures required to recruit the White House, and the number of legislative co-sponsors that Sanders will need to get the administration’s support — all of them will fall precipitously when progressives finally have an electoral alternative.

Checked by the Greens, Clinton will run to the oligarchs and tell them, “If I don’t accommodate these people, they’re going to come for the whole Monopoly board in four years.” Elites may be greedy, but they are not stupid. When faced with the loss of their system, they will concede major progressive reforms, just like they did in the 1930’s.

There is an additional reason that we need to boost the Greens. Consider that Gary Johnson is likely to reach the 5 percent threshold this year, giving the Libertarian Party access to substantial advantages in the next presidential. Meaning that if we fail to bring the Green Party up to parity, we could find ourselves in a situation where the Libertarians are the only third-party to make it into the debates in 2020 — at a time when the public’s fury with an uncheck Clinton plutocracy has created the conditions for a political revolution. Without the Green Party to speak for progressives, a nation desperate to break free of the two-party system might rush to another pro-corporate party as it’s only perceived escape hatch.

The second most powerful way to keep Clinton accountable is to explicitly warn of a progressive primary challenge. Shortly after the election, Bernie Sanders should announce his intention to challenge Clinton in the Democratic Primary in 2020 if she does not use the full extent of her power to implement the Democratic Platform. He could also announce his intention to run if she fills her cabinet with the predictable cast of Wall Street characters. Between the Greens and Bernie’s challenge, Clinton will think very hard before appointing corporate executives to her administration and conservative Justices to the Supreme Court.

Progressive organizations should also immediately announce their intention to rally around Bernie or another 2020 challenger if Clinton kicks off her relationship with progressives by reversing on TPP. Primarying Clinton is a good idea, but it would be a big mistake to believe that it’s enough to keep her accountable on its own.

The Wikileaks revelations have shown us how unscrupulous Clinton and her inner circle are. While Trump represents the normalization of bigotry, Clinton represents the normalization of corruption.

She was willing to cheat in a hundred different ways to crush a progressive rebellion in her primary. When it comes to her own power, there is no moral boundary she isn’t willing to cross. Now imagine the lengths to which she may go to manipulate the 2020 Democratic primary with the power of the presidency. Then, after doing so, she will once again be the lesser evil in the general election and proclaim that we have choice but to fall in line.

If it was possible for a progressive to defeat Clinton in a Democratic primary, we would have done it this year. Putting all of our eggs into challenging her inside the party is the recipe for defeat. It is the knowledge that progressives have another home in the Green Party that will either prevent her from rigging the primary or hold her accountable for it.

Voting for Jill Stein empowers Sanders in ways that writing his name in or staying home do not. It will make the independent senator from Vermont the second most powerful person in the Democratic Party and give him the license to implement the Democratic Platform through Clinton.

The establishment does not own your vote and you are always free to support the candidate who best represents you. Furthermore, Clinton’s virtually guaranteed victory over Trump means that you can vote third-party without fretting over the spoiler effect. But if you’re still concerned about it, you can get around it in a couple of ways.

Forty-three states are ranked as safely Democratic or Republican. Voters in those states can support Stein without fear of flipping them. Another technique is to form a vote pact with a friend or coworker who plans on voting for Trump. You each promise to vote for your preferred third-party choice to free one another from your respective lesser evils. This has the advantage of prying a second captive from the two-party system. In fact, I can see a mass online role for vote pacts in the next presidential election.

This year, the Democratic nominee has an overwhelming lead. For future elections, if the establishment parties are unhappy with the consequences of the spoiler effect, then they should simply abolish it with ranked choice voting. The spoiler effect is not an immutable consequence of democracy, it’s a policy choice enforced by the Democrats and Republicans. Our voting system is a deliberate method of voter suppression. You don’t get to create a voting system that disenfranchises the majority of Americans, and then complain about how it jeopardizes an establishment candidate.

We came captivatingly close to electing President Bernie Sanders this spring. It’s a testament to the remarkable strength of our movement that we did so well under the circumstances. By building a progressive alternative in the Green Party, we can bring Bernie as close to the powers of the presidency as possible. Though our political revolution was forced to take a detour, this Election Day we can plant the seeds of its ultimate success.

As Jill Stein says, the

politics of fear has delivered everything we’re afraid of. All the reasons you were told you had to vote for the lesser evil – so we wouldn’t get the massive Wall Street bailouts, the offshoring of our jobs, the meltdown of the climate, the endless wars, the attack on civil liberties and on immigrant rights – all of that we’ve gotten by the droves, because we allowed ourselves to be silenced, and to let the lesser evil speak for us.

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