Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and the political revolution

Santa Monica Daily Press
By Mike Feinstein
May 23, 2016

Addressing social inequities has also been a big part of the 2016 presidential campaign, and it comes to focus today in Santa Monica with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in town.

As a Green Party organizer who went through the Nader 2000 campaign, I am very familiar with being ignored as part of movement to democratize electoral politics and give more voice to the dispossessed. In many ways, the 2016 Sanders campaign has more in common with the Green Party platform and the Nader 2000 campaign, than with the mainstream Democratic Party. Sanders is riding the energy of the Occupy Wall Street. Nader’s campaign flowed from the Seattle, anti-WTO movement of 1999. The large grassroots rallies for both were mostly ignored by the media.

Now there is debate about how to “unify” the Democrats to beat Trump, and whether Sanders voters in the primary will vote for Clinton in the general. This is a false debate in California. Owing to the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College, only about a dozen states will be in play in November. California is not one of them. You are free to speak out against Trump, but still vote your issues in California without worrying it will elect him.

Presumptive Green Party nominee Jill Stein is campaigning on a Green New Deal to address climate change and create millions of ecologically-oriented local jobs, while cutting military spending and reigning in Wall Street. We still remember the half million strong from Woodstock. What if half a million progressive Californian’s said their revolution can’t be taken-for-granted, by voting in November for Stein.

Obama won California by 2.9 million votes in 2012. If Clinton only wins in 2016 by half of that, it still won’t be close – and what if at the same time, another half a million voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson instead of Donald Trump from the right? Not only would this kind of voting send more clear policy signals from the electorate, but it would accelerate the movement to enact ranked-choice voting (RCV) for president, governor and other executive office.

Needed electoral reform

Under RCV, voters can rank the candidates in the order of their preference. For the Democrats, instead of trying to get unenthusiastic Sanders supporters to turn out for Clinton in November, they would already be at the polls ranking Stein No. 1 under RCV. If Stein isn’t elected, under RCV her votes would then go to her voter’s second preference. The Clinton campaign would only have to encourage Stein/Sanders supporters to rank Clinton No. 2.

What about electoral reform for state and federal legislature? Countries with policies that Sanders advocates elect their state and federal representatives using multi-seat districts with proportional representation (PR), instead of the single seat, winner-take-all elections used in the U.S.

Under PR, if a party gets 20 percent of the vote, they get 20 percent of the seats, and more of the diversity in society gets representation. This is the opposite of trying to funnel all voters – including the large number of independents – into the Democratic and Republican party primaries, and then only having two choices in November. Instead we need a system where as many parties as truly represent the voters have a real chance at being elected

Michael Feinstein is a former Santa Monica Mayor and City Councilmember and a spokesperson for the Green Party of California.