I don’t think I’ll ever join any political party, and I don’t typically endorse candidates, but I am happy to share who I intend to vote for and why. In the past I’ve sometimes written up my feelings about the candidates and shared these with neighbors (in Illinois one can get a list of registered voters and check out which party’s primary ballots they took, so I tend to address such letters to neighbors in my precinct who vote in Democratic primaries). I think it’s important to engage in the democratic process and the culture of civil debate in the public sphere, and as a non-partisan voice, I think I sometimes add something to the debate. When it comes to ideologies and political preferences, I think our voting proclivities are somewhat like our tastes in food; you may like food that I find too spicy or too salty, and I may prefer vegetarian food over the meat you enjoy eating, but such differences don’t create any animosity between us or any feelings of superiority. This is my perspective because I think most people vote for candidates based on ethical values they have, and I believe we mostly have the same basic ethical values; and our political differences come mainly from the relative emphasis we put on these various shared values.
In the United States, however, for a minority (about 20% of the population, fairly evenly split), personal identity is wrapped up with ideology or political party, and for such committed partisans, politics takes on the power of a religion. For such persons, it’s difficult to discuss the relative merits of policies advocated by various candidates, or the degree of wisdom and integrity each candidate may possess, since these highly partisan persons have such strong cognitive bias that seem only able to process information about the correctness of their beliefs and the facilities or idiocies of their opponents’ beliefs.
Political alignment surveys show that I prefer equality over markets, and I’m rated at 81% equality preferring (where a 50% equality / 50% markets preference would be completely in the center on that scale). That gets me a label as “socialist” and I’m comfortable with that label describing my economic preferences. I’m in favor of confiscatory taxes to reduce extreme wealth so long as poverty exists (if we end poverty, I’d have few objections to low taxes on the wealthy). I do not think the public sector is inherently less efficient or impractical in solving distribution and production issues compared to the free enterprise for-profit sector. In some cases government tends to be more wasteful, but it needn’t be so, and in other cases government probably tends to be more efficient and effective, but it won’t always be, depending on the quality of persons in the government.
I have a more global vision and not much national preference. I’m about 69% world-oriented rather than nation-oriented, which gets me a label as a “peaceful” oriented person. That seems right to me. I have always been concerned with the military-industrial complex, the threat of war, the history of American imperialism, and the toxic masculinity that feeds belligerent nationalism. I like to listen to Noam Chomsky’s critiques of American foreign policy, and I often agree with him, but I certainly perceive him as being too one-sided and anti-American in some of his interpretations of American national behavior in international relations. As a youth I was active in the nuclear freeze movement, the causes against apartheid in South Africa, and I demonstrated against my country’s violent aggression and support for murderous regimes and terrorists in Central America. I demonstrated against the Iraq War before it started. But, although I was opposed to the American invasion of Iraq, my main opposition was based on my (correct, as it later proved) perception that America would bungle the occupation and that we should not act unless we had a broad international coalition to remove the tyrannical dictatorship of the Baath Party. I'm not inherently against the international community intervening to remove murderous totalitarian despots, but as a practical matter, America hasn’t the ability or authority to do this. The U.N. Security Council, which does have the authority, is blocked from intervening by having Russia and the P.R. of China and the United States all on the board, and those countries do not have a shared interest in intervening in “domestic affairs” to stop atrocities and promote human rights—China and Russia have regimes that actively oppose human rights. That is unfortunate, but until a large community of nations unite under a shared commitment to intervene militarily on humanitarian grounds, it isn’t right for any single nation or small coalition of nations to do so, especially not when the United Nations exists with the potential legitimacy to do so.
I’m more for liberty than authority (64%), and so I’m labeled as “liberal” in that axis, and this seems right. As a social work professor, I’m aware that many humans are troubled and behave in ways that harm others, so I’m not a total libertarian or anarchist (although I look forward to a time when humanity is ready for anarchy, probably after another hundred generations of social evolution). On the axis of tradition versus progress, I rate 65% on the progress side. I do not entirely abandon tradition and traditional views, but like to imagine I share with most Americans a cultural bias that makes me more eager to see our society try new things and experiment with systems that might improve conditions.
In 2020, I intend to vote for Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker. I live in Illinois, a state where Biden will defeat Trump by more than 8-percentage-points, so I have the luxury of voting for Green Party candidates knowing my vote will have no chance of giving Trump a victory. The Democrats also control this state to such an extent that I can legitimately blame them for not instituting an instant run-off (ranked choice) election system such as the one used in Maine, where my second-choice vote for Biden-Harris would be available to the Democrats when Hawkins-Walker don’t win the state’s electoral college delegates. I like both Biden and Harris as human beings. They seem decent enough. They will probably win, and their administration will probably help us overcome the Pandemic Depression and the COVID-19 pandemic. They have fewer flaws than many of the other Democratic candidates I’ve known in my lifetime. But, I do not really think they have especially good policies or particularly good visions for the country. Their records both indicate to me that there is a wide gap between my values and policy preferences and theirs. So, I prefer to vote for Hawkins and Walker, whose values and policies are much closer to mine.
I am not a person who tends to vote Democratic, who is disgusted with Biden and Harris, and will vote for Green candidates in protest. Not at all. On the contrary, I am a voter who has only rarely been excited by the Democratic Party nominations, and has usually supported or voted for third party candidates. I've met third party candidates and bought them to my universities (I helped bring Lenora Fulani of the New Alliance Party to Redlands in 1988 when I was an undergraduate student there; and in 2016 I helped bring Jill Stein to the University of Illinois in Springfield when I was a professor there). My understanding is that political scientists who examine third-party voters like me find that many of us would only vote for a third party candidate, and we would simply not vote for either mainstream candidate if our ballots lacked third-party options. That is, third parties aren’t taking away our votes that would go to mainstream candidates; we’re so alienated from the mainstream parties that the only reason we cast any vote at all in the presidential elections is that there are third party candidates for whom we want to vote. I think lots of people who identify as Democrats or Republicans haven’t read about this political science research, and they live with such a partisan world-view that they can only see the possibilities of Democratic or Republican candidates, and imagine that all other third party candidates are somehow illegitimate or unworthy of taking seriously.
In 1980 I was inspired by John Anderson, a liberal Republican from Rockford, Illinois, who ran as an independent in the presidential race. I was lucky to meet him many years later and tell him how influential he had been to me. Yet, if I had been old enough to vote, I would probably have voted for Barry Commoner and LaDonna Harris of the Citizen’s Party. In 1984 I still wasn’t old enough to vote, but if I had been I would have again voted for the Citizen’s Party candidates (Sonia Johnson and Richard Walton), with Mondale-Ferraro (the Democrats) as my second choices. I was old enough to vote in 1988, but I was in Kenya and did not have the time to get a ballot sent to me from the United States to vote absentee. I had been instrumental in bringing the third-party candidate Lenora Fulani (New Alliance Party) to the University of Redlands earlier in the year, to discuss her candidacy for president, and I might have written in her name, but then again, I might have voted for Dukakis, the Democratic nominee. I had of course met Fulani and her election staff, and liked her personally, but after meeting her and hearing her rhetoric, and also after some of my classmates had been involved in the California Peace and Freedom convention where Fulani’s campaign had tried to win the Peace and Freedom Party nomination for President, I had doubts about whether I really would vote for her for president. Had the Democrats nominated Richard Gephardt, a congressman from the St. Louis area whom I liked very much, I would have voted for him, but I suppose I would have voted for Fulani despite my misgivings about her.
In 1992 I voted for the first time in a presidential election. I wanted Clinton and Gore to win the election, but I was not happy with the Democratic Party platform or the candidates, so I made a protest vote for Ross Perot and James Stockdale, hoping that Perot and Stockdale would do well enough to possibly create a third party that could undermine the hegemony of the Republicans and Democrats. Lenora Fulani was again running for president, and I preferred her policies (and even Clinton’s policies) over those of Perot and Stockdale, but I thought Perot might help break down the two-party system, and that is the only reason I voted for him.
In 1996 I finally had an opportunity to vote for someone I really liked, and so I cast my vote for Nader and LaDuke (Green Party). Nader and I had mutual friends, and those friends told me that he would actually be a horrible president because of his personal style of leadership and his inability to compromise, but I knew there was no danger of his winning the election, and I agreed almost 100% with the Green Party platform, so of course I gladly voted for him, not seeing much of a difference between Clinton (the Democratic Party incumbent, who was obviously going to easily win re-election) and the Republican Dole. In 2000, I was again able to vote for Nader and the Green party, despite the race being fairly close between Bush and Gore. Gore won the popular vote, and would have won the electoral college if all the votes in Florida had been re-counted, but the Supreme Court staged a sort of coup and installed Bush in the White House, so we were stuck with the worst president since Millard Fillmore or James Buchanan. I was voting in Missouri that year, and the election in my state was projected to be close; so I offered to do a vote exchange with a friend in Massachusetts, where Gore was sure to win. My offer was rebuffed. My friend did not want to encourage anyone to vote for Nader, and would not cast a vote for Nader in a safe Gore state to get me to vote for Gore in Missouri.
In 2004 I again, for the third straight election, voted for the Green Party candidate (David Cobb). This was my first time voting in Illinois, and Cobb wasn’t even on the ballot, so I had to write-in his name. As a high school and college student I had been a supporter of the Green Committees of Correspondence, and I was one who thought the Green Movement ought to exist as a party-inside-a-party like the Democratic Socialists. That is, rather than running candidates as a political party, the Green movement should find candidates to run as Democrats or Republicans or non-partisan candidates in local elections, and support (presumably) the Democratic candidates in Presidential elections. So, while I thought it was a mistake to create a Green Party to run in elections, and I continue to think it’s self-defeating and silly to run Green Party candidates for President, I still vote for Green Party candidates. I would rather see more Green Movement people run in local elections or for state-level offices; until we have thousands of Greens in positions on local school boards, city councils, county boards, and so forth, I don’t think the Greens have the practical experience or depth of knowledge to run candidates for the US House or Senate, let alone the Presidency. And yet, I’ve voted for Green Candidates in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2016, and I intend to do so again in 2020.
I voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012. I have several mutual friends with him, and people who know him really seem to like him. Living in Springfield, many people around here knew him as a state senator. I even communicated with him a couple times about using his memoir in my community organizing class at UIUC, and mentioned that I had a student who knew him back in the days when he was an organizer in the Roseland neighborhoods up in Chicago. Had he not become a U.S. Senator and then President, I’m sure he would have come and spoken to my classes. Anyway, I think Obama was a great president, and given the hostility and opposition he faced, and the lackluster leadership in the Senate and House for the first two years of his Presidency when the Democratic Party controlled Congress, I think he did much better than anyone could have expected him to do. Obama was an exceptional person with qualities that set him up among FDR, Lincoln, and Jefferson as a great American statesman, but he had not had enough time in the Senate to develop a talent for getting legislation passed when he was in the White House. Anyway, with Obama on the ballot, I “crossed over” and voted for the Democratic candidate instead of the Green Party candidate in two election cycles.
Although I admit that the Green Party attracts some fairly flakey and fringe people, when I look abroad to countries where it is more of a serious party, I note that the Green Party has a fairly good track record of governing in places where it has won elections or served in coalition governments. The Four Pillars of Green Ideals and the Ten Core Values of the Green Party are good, and I enthusiastically agree with eight of the the ten core values. I do have some misgivings about decentralization, which is one of the ten core values. In general, I do think people ought to give far more attention to local and state government, and I prefer local government because common people can have a greater say in what happens (grassroots democracy). But in practice, for many types of policy related to social welfare, it just seems far more efficient for national policies. And, even at a local level, regional coordination seems to me the best strategy for addressing many problems, rather than efforts at the neighborhood or municipal level. I’m also very much in favor of community-based economics, but again, there are some aspects of international trade and globalized economics that benefit everyone, and I’m not generally in favor of protectionism just for the sake of protecting the interests of local producers and service-providers. That is, I have a nuanced attitude toward community-based economics.
Years ago, there were many Republicans who might be called liberal or moderate, and I respected and admired many of those. In this group I would include Richard Lugar of Indiana (whom I met when I was a child), John Danforth of Missouri, Mark Hatfield of Oregon, John Anderson of Illinois, and John Chafee of Rhode Island. Had I voted in 1988, I would have voted against John Danforth, but I still liked him and admired him. These days I am unaware of any Republican on the national scene for whom I have much respect. At the local level, I know some people involved in county or city politics with Republican affiliations whom I like and have supported, but really only a few. I wish there was a party that represented the intellectual and moral preferences of conservatives, but did so in a way that had integrity and decency. I think that ever since about 1994, this country has been harmed by a dysfunctional insanity that has swept away what was the Republican Party and replaced it with a monstrous imposter; the current Republican Party is like a changeling child some wicked fairy has exchanged to replace the natural human infant.
Basically, I vote for Green Party candidates if they are on the ballot, and since they usually aren’t, I tend to vote for a lot of Democrats. And when it comes to donating money to candidates, I give more to the Democrats than the Greens. I do this because I know my own values and know the values that guide the parties, and I there is a very close correspondence between my values and those of the Green Party and its candidates. There is a moderate correspondence between my values and the Democratic Party, so I also often vote for Democrats, and there is only a very weak correspondence between my values and those of the Republican Party as it currently exists, so I hardly ever vote for Republicans. When it comes to policy proposals, I again tend to think that the Green Party candidates offer policy suggestions that would do the most to improve our society. The Democrats tend to offer policies that seem to me fairly good, or not too terrible, and the Republicans have lately offered very few sensible policies, and what few policies they have suggested are often, to my way of seeing things, ridiculous. That said, when Democratic Party politicians suggest impractical or unsustainable policies, sometimes Republicans give very good critiques of the problems in those Democratic Party proposals. Sometimes it seems to me that the best Democratic Party policy proposals are inspired by things the Green Movement or Green Party candidates have already suggested years earlier.
Many of my friends and family members strongly identify with the Democratic Party, and there are a couple who are on the other side, voting Republican. I think most of the Democrats I know think it’s a waste to vote for the Green Party candidates, but I obviously disagree. In most states, the election for the President is not in doubt; probably in thirty or more states you can vote for a third-party candidate without any realistic expectation that there will be an upset in your state. In perhaps 20 states (the so-called “battleground” states) you might hesitate to vote for a Green Party candidate, because you fear that the race is close enough that the votes for the mainstream candidate you like least will overwhelm your preferred mainstream candidate if too many people vote for third-party candidates. In such states, it does make sense to vote for the mainstream candidate you prefer. Even better, you should try to get your state to have second-choice (instant run-off) elections where you can vote for a second or even third choice candidate, and if your first choice candidate doesn’t win sufficient votes, your vote will count for your second choice candidate instead of being “wasted” on someone who couldn’t win the election.
People who say, “a vote for Hawkins is a vote for Trump” are obviously wrong. Ideally, parties most nominate persons we genuinely want to elect who propose policies we want to see enacted in order to win our votes. I like Hawkins, and I like his background, and I think he is far better a representation of me and my values than Biden or Harris. I prefer the Green Party policies to those of the Democrats. And so, ideally, people who share my values and preferences ought to vote for Hawkins, at least in the safe states where the presidential election is a foregone conclusion. On a practical level, any one person’s vote does not make much of a difference, and so people can vote their conscience without any serious concerns about an election being decided by their one vote. Also on a practical level, the mainstream parties have it within their power to change election laws to allow instant-run-off second-choice balloting in elections, and if Democrats have not advocated for such election rules, they have no moral standing to criticize anyone for casting a vote for a third party. They have protected and perpetuated a system that creates the problem they are complaining about, so I blame them, rather than the Green Party voter, for the threat to their victories posed by third-party candidates.