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A Vote For President is Not Just a Vote For President



There are candidate-specific reasons why people on the left of the American political spectrum should not vote for Stein or Johnson. We’ll come back to them in another post. But even if Stein and Johnson weren’t rather ridiculous crackpots, there are more general reasons why people on the left of the American political spectrum should not vote for Stein or Johnson. Thomas Geoghegan get at three of the most important ones, and I recommend his piece in its entirely. A couple of highlights, starting with a point that has also been a longstanding hobbyhorse here:

May I pile on the reasons why even the most bitter Sanders supporter should vote for Clinton? Forget the Supreme Court—it’s too obvious. Here are three others:

1. It’s not about Clinton herself. Your vote puts not just Clinton in power but literally thousands of appointees. It may be the deputy administrator in an EPA regional office, or the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the new policy and strategy chief at U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services—or a new member of the National Labor Relations Board, or even chief number cruncher at the Census Bureau.

And the civil rights division of the DOJ. And the EEOC. And the OHSA. And on and on. Very different kinds of people staff executive agencies during Democratic and Republican administration. And these executive branch appointments are hugely important to both policy-making and policy implementation.


And while there’s been enough banging on about that one vacancy in the Supreme Court, think about the lower courts, especially the trial courts. Think of the wage theft or Title VII cases that will be settled—and will keep, say, a pregnant plaintiff out of a homeless shelter. Here’s just a passing news item to tell you what these lower courts do: The other day, three federal appellate judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down a North Carolina voting law that with “almost surgical precision,” to quote the opinion, was intended to keep black Americans from voting. Who were the judges? Three appointed by either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. If you don’t stop restrictive voting laws, how is a Sanders movement ever going to come back?

If Romney had won, not only would be there no Clean Power Plan, the composition of the D.C. Circuit would have ensured that the next Democratic president couldn’t implement one either.

Sure. You think after four years of Trump there will be another Bernie or Bernie-like movement. There won’t. Even assuming Trump doesn’t, in a Putin-like fit, cancel the 2020 elections, by then the country, or what’s left of it, will be beyond your reach. The other side—the real Other Side—has four years to lock down policy with a lock that is bigger than the one on Fort Knox: requirements for balanced budgets, rules on redistricting, changes to the Voting Rights Act, federal voter ID laws, and on and on.

The odd thing is, if you want the Left to come back, you have to put the center-left in power. It sounds paradoxical, but it’s true: Give people a little taste of equality and they will want even more. The women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the huge egalitarian transformations of the 1960s came about in large part because of the much more egalitarian and prosperous country created by the New Deal and yes, the Great Society itself.

Let any Republican get in and it will always go the other way.

Liberals — let lone those further to the left — have never had a majority coalition that could govern without compromise in the United States. But there is a huge difference between administrations that can be pressured from the left and those than can’t. Clinton can be. Trump can’t. And the idea that electing Trump would mean that democratic socialists would then be able to govern without compromise is a puerile fantasy.

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