It is frustrating dealing with so many people, usually the “respectable,” who feel or think that it is not “respectable” or “prudent” to vote for those they consider marginal candidates, those like the nominees of the Green Party or the Libertarian Party, those who have no chance to win. So, it is concluded, better to vote for one of the candidates put forward by our two “major” parties, even though that means voting for someone who is “the lesser of two evils.”
As “respectable” and “prudent” as this strategy appears to be, it overlooks a singular fact of political or communal life, viz., that change, significant change, only comes after people, especially people in groups or in large numbers, step out. Stepping out, that is, rejecting in one way or another the established order, even in what seems like and what are presently losing causes, is the key to fomenting significant political, social, or economic change. And without this stepping out, the status quo, no matter how unsatisfactory it might be, not only continues but is fortified. That lesser evil becomes a greater evil.
Think about it. The conservatives in the Republican party stepped out in the 60’s, by nominating Barry Goldwater who was then defeated in a landslide by LBJ. Yet, in 1980, Ronald Reagan, who first came to the nation’s attention by means of his speech supporting Goldwater at the 1964 Republican convention, was elected president in 1980. Al Smith in 1928, a “wet” Catholic and a New Yorker to boot, after being nominated by the Democrats, went down to a landslide defeat to Herbert Hoover, only to help prepare the way for the election of FDR in 1932.
Stepping out, African Americans in the 60’s lit a blaze that became the civil rights revolution of the 60’s, which included the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of the same year. Stepping out, women banned their bras, took the pill, and generally reclaimed their bodies, their selves at about the same time. Stepping out or “coming out,” gays and lesbians chanted, “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’d like to hello!” And now gay and lesbian marriage is the law of the land and no longer can gays and lesbians be punished criminally for who they are or what they do.
This is why the supporters of Bernie Sanders were right to feel betrayed or “burned” when Sanders, unlike them, refused to step out against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment. No stepping out, no change; just more of the same kind of politics we have had to live with since at least the presidential election of 1992, a politics that has enriched the wealthiest Americans and impoverished the middle and lower classes, while keeping us involved in what have been endless wars. No stepping out, no change. It’s just a fact of political or communal life.
Every vote not for Clinton or Trump represents a stepping out and, as such, each such vote undermines the status quo. So, show some smarts. Step out in November. As was once said, you have nothing to lose but your chains.