First, a disclaimer. While this essay is published on the Green Party of Michigan blog, this is strictly my own personal opinion and does not represent a position of GPMI. It might provoke some discussion in the comments, and that might be a good thing.
My prediction is that in November, someone will win the presidency with the support, as counted by votes, of 25-30% of the eligible voters. It’s phrased that way because a good number of voters will be unenthusiastic about casting a vote for whoever they consider the lesser of two evils. “Support” is actually too strong a word to describe all of those who will vote for Trump or Hillary.
70-75% of us will be disappointed the moment the results are announced, and a good portion of the 25-30% will be disappointed in a year or two. That’s because while there are lots of legitimate reasons for voting for or against presidential candidates, neither of the ‘mainstream’ candidates will actually succeed in carrying out their promises of economic prosperity.
Let’s say that you believe Trump would make an absolutely horrible president, and that for all her flaws, Hillary is the preferable candidate, so you plan to vote for her. That’s a legitimate position.
Let’s say you belileve that having Hillary as president would be such a disaster that, for all his flaws, Trump is the preferable candidate. That’s a legitimate reason to vote for Trump.
Let’s say that you you understand that either Trump or Hillary would be a disaster because neither one has policies that would advance your values; Trump is obviously terrible by denying climate change outright and Hillary is terrible with a decades-long record of advocating and supporting multiple wars. There’s no reason to believe either one will change. That’s a legitimate reason for voting for neither one.
If you think progressive policies such as the Green New Deal, free education and universal single-payer health care ore needed, then this is a legitimate reason for voting for Jill Stein. If you believe an unrestrained free market is going to solve all our problems, then that’s a legitimate reason for voting for Gary Johnson.
In both thes cases – Jill or Gary – you don’t have to expect that the person you are voting for will thereby win the presidency this November. Whether Trump or Hillary wins this time, it will be necessary to build a party and a movement to oppose them and to advance your values for the next election and the next; to keep plugging away while the next occupant of the White House demonstrates how innefective their policies are at solving the actual problems facing the nation and the world.
Personally, I lost faith in the invisible hand decades ago, though I never had that much faith to lose. There was a period in the middle of the 1970s when civil rights seemed firmly established, the US was out of Vietnam, the economy was recovering from the OPEC oil embargo and my son was born that I was optomistic. I thought our major problems as a society were pretty much solved and that we had the tools to work on anything else that would come up.
In short – boy, was I wrong. A whole list of issues – wars, pollution, climate change, increasing inequality, disappearing jobs, police getting away with murder, the freedom of personal computers and the internet being taken over for the use of the surveilance state, and many more – were not even close to dealt with by the tools we had in the 1970s. What actually happened was that the tools of civil rights, of protest and of free elections were more and more obviously broken.
If you think Trump is the best candidate because at least he will not try to take away your pistols and rifles, that is clearly a legitimate position. If you think Hillary is the best candidate because at least she will not try to deport all 11 million undocumented aliens and she will not attempt to suppress voting by poor people, that is clearly legitimate. I think both these positions are extremely short-sighted and very possibly wrong, but they are legitimate.
For that matter, yet another position is entirely legitimate. That is the position of people who look at the prospect of this election and conclude, “I don’t see anyone worth voting for.” Especially when so many people have so many immediate issues in their daily lives to deal with, this is an entirely legitimate attitude. It’s short-sighted to be sure, but when your personal life is in some kind of crisis, short-sighted is possibly a good way to survive.
The point is, no matter how you decide to vote (or not), and no matter how wrong-headed anyone else believes that decision is, your decision is legitimate. That’s how free elections work.
Now, why will neither ‘mainstream’ candidate succeed in creating a prosperous economy?
The reason is depletion. First, in the conventional sense; many important mineral resources – oil, natural gas, iron, copper, silver, gold, rare earths, etc. – are depleted to the point that restoring the old economy of cheap commodities and rapid growth is impossible. Peak oil is a well-studies aspect of the issuef, but depletion is true of much more than oil reservoirs.
Second, many essential ‘renewable’ resources are also depleted (soil, fish stocks, aquifers, forests) or so heavily polluted that they cannot safely be used (dead zones in the oceans, radioactive zones around and downstream of meltdowns, air around many cities, fresh water sources around the world, GMO crops).
And then finally, the capacity of the atmosphere and the oceans to safely absorb emissions is not just depleted but exhausted, yet reviving the old economy by any combination of tax policy, stimulus, tariffs or incentives means still more of those exact emissions. The industrial economy of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries is degrading the planet and impoverishing all our lives. It does not offer a future that we should want.
In short, the global industrial economy cannot be revived, nor should it be. But neither ‘mainstream’ candidate has any other goal.
Thus, no matter which ‘mainstream’ candidate becomes president, the overwhelming majority of people in this country will unsatisfied – many immediately and most of the rest soon after. What we need to do is use this election to build a party and a movement to continue opposing continued growth of an energy-intensive society after the election.