A Plea to Blue State Voters

I’ve been reading a lot of stuff over the weekend from progressive and left thinkers and activists whom I deeply admire, making the case that, in a safely blue state, it’s okay to vote for someone you really like, such as the Green Party candidate, instead of the lesser of two evils.

And so I feel compelled to make this last-minute plea to blue-state progressives who are that way inclined. Please reconsider. Think of your vote not as your personal statement of protest against 2 party duopoly. Think instead of being part of a bloc of voters who are standing together both during the elections and afterwards, for an independent transformative politics --- a ‘new-rainbow’ bloc of organizations and activists from labor, community organizing, faith organizing, civil rights, immigrants rights, women’s and environmental groups, voting our shared interests, and standing clearly against the forces that are attacking workers, voting rights, women’s health, immigrant rights, using dog-whistle racism, nativism and misogyny.

As a bloc, we can be the decisive force that gets this President re-elected, and we can be the force that will hold his feet to the fire. As individual voters, we cannot do much. As a potential voting bloc, we have the makings of a historic bloc that can stand up to corporate power and transform politics. A bloc that has a coordinated, inside-outside strategy: independent politics that works both within the Democratic Party and outside of it, to get things done, to advance reforms that have the potential to disrupt corporate rule, to become a force that all candidates must reckon with. Our efforts to do so will be greatly set back by a Romney victory. To move forward, we need to stand up to the reactionary forces who fear the new demographics, and the potentially-powerful neo-rainbow bloc that we can create. It needs to start tomorrow. And then really get busy the day after.

My progressive friends in blue states may say, yes, but my vote for the Green candidate won’t harm Obama; it’s only the swing states that matter, and I’d vote Obama if I were in a swing state. To which I say this: the popular vote still matters. And the demographics of the popular vote also still matters (thinking in terms of starting to identify a progressive bloc of voters who can make a difference in the popular vote). Obama needs a decisive popular vote victory, as well as a sufficient number of electoral votes. Right now, it looks like he may just squeak by with the electoral votes he needs (though I expect some legal challenges in states where the count is close, especially if ballots are contested, like the provisional ballots in Ohio; and, I expect we’ll see evidence of all kinds of voter suppression). Obama could prevail, but in a weakened state, if blue state turn-out is tepid, and if the popular vote is not decisive. If we want leverage in the 2nd term, we need to show that we were a decisive voting bloc in both blue and swing states.

And then we need to make a big case for doing away with the despicable, hold-over from slavery-era compromises that the electoral college represents.  And make voting a constitutional right. And push for reforms that open up the political process, like IRV and proportional representation and fusion voting, so we can have third parties that are not spoilers. And of course, the fight to get money out of politics must go forward.

And so, my blue-state friends, your desire to stick it to the system and give the Green Party a boost is admirable, but you may be giving into individualist notions of what voting is all about. Instead, think of it as an exercise in analyzing the current power dynamics and the political arrangements we collectively want to create. To get to the kinds of power we want for working people and communities of color, for low income and middle class neighborhoods that are struggling, we need smarter electoral engagement. Think of the role you can play in building a new historic bloc that does more than vote. As part of the emerging bloc, your vote carries some collective weight, not just for beating back a reactionary agenda, but for building a critically independent force within national politics.



Bloc voting

I agree with Sandra (hi, Sandra!). This is one time when we can't afford to disaggregate for the purposes of some mythical higher good. Until a stronger third party comes along, we are stuck with the Dems and Elefinks and there is no doubt in any of our minds which is the better choice. The vote needed to be as dramatic as possible.

The flip side of that is to look at Florida. Last I checked, the difference between President Obama and Gov. Romney in the vote count was the 50k or so votes taken on the right by former NM Gov Gary Johnson. In a close election such as 2000 when The Supremes voted in President Bush, that sort of "cutting off your nose to spite your face" was catastrophic for progressives. In this case, making sure Obama wins Florida is the difference between a slam dunk number of electoral votes and a less dramatic number. While I agree with Sandra that getting rid of the Electoral College is a good idea, we are stuck with it until we amend the Constitution.

Think strategically.