"Our values should be the driver of democracy," she said.The first year I could vote for president was 2000. George Bush was running against Al Gore, and Green Ralph Nader was a third party candidate. I voted my values; I voted for Nader. That was the first and last time I thought of voting as an exercise of free will.
The backlash I got from all corners of my social circles was severe -- "I was the reason Bush won," "How could I be so stupid as to take votes away from Gore," "Now look what I have done!"
As the years passed, it was obvious I made a grave mistake. Super-nationalism and a sharp political shift to the right after 9-11, backtracking environmental gains of the 1990s, and worst of all, the Iraq War, have all weighed heavily on my conscience.
Until I had the privilege of interviewing Jill Stein for IVN, I had made up my mind -- I would strategically vote in a manner that will make sure my vote does not threaten what I hold dear as an American: civil rights, conserving natural resources, and good international leadership. I would sacrifice voting for a candidate I liked if it meant a candidate who stands against my values did not win.
What is the difference between voting for my values and voting against "not-my-values"? I already outlined the crucial difference in one of my first published articles, 50 Reasons Why You Should Vote:
I quoted IVN readers, Eric and Rachel Jones:
24. “If people won’t vote for good candidates…because we think they won’t win, why will good candidates continue to run?” - Eric and Rachel Jones
And my own strong sentiment born of a realist nature:
20. If you don't vote for your interests, who will?
In fact, many of the reasons listed in 50 Reasons Why You Should Vote are inherent in the notion that we should "vote our values" as Stein suggested. Voting against "not-my-values" instead of for my values was, as Stein pointed out, "the politics of fear." At least, she was right in my case -- I was voting out of fear.
In fact, voting out of fear was the first assault on my values, and there are wide-ranging, salient consequences that follow: I can't represent my interests if I do not stand up for my own interests; there will never be a candidate that will support my interests if I don't support that leader simply because he or she may not come out on top. Democracy is a competitive art, and if I am not competing with my true interests, my interests will surely lose.
Voting outside of my true will, and out of fear negates most of the noble reasons for voting I listed in 50 Reasons to Vote:
6. “Without the vote of a free man, I am but a slave without power to make decisions.” – Gary Olson 10. So you can complain with integrity. 19. We build our nation with votes 21. “A wise man will not leave what is right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.” – Henry David Thoreau
So, instead of fear, I must believe in something that I have largely abandoned: Hope.I spoke out against Bush II, even though I was violently attacked by loyal 'patriots'; I protested against moving American Indians from Yucca Mountain, and installing a nuclear waste depository; I railed against the Iraq War in 2002, when CIA officials made it clear that the Bush administration was data mining for false information -- it didn't make a difference. Super-nationalism has morphed into a bitterly divided extreme political culture in the U.S., and our environment and international integrity seem to be plummeting, despite the election of Democrat
One thing I push for, and I questioned Dr. Stein about in our interview, is citizen action. It is a core American value for me to be active in politics -- to vote, to attend city council meetings, and contact my representatives. Stein made me think deeper about the consequences of my actions. As Thoreau campaigned in Civil Disobedience, it is not enough to merely vote -- one must take actions to propel public virtue. But what is the effect of my civic actions without, as Stein put it, a political voice?
"We have to fight these battles on a policy level."- Jill Stein
I want my interests to have a political voice, and they will never if I do not find and support candidates who amplify my position. When it comes time to vote, if a candidate I support is not on the list, I will still vote for the lesser of two evils, according to who can better represent me.
In the meantime, I am on a mission to find that candidate that I can support to fight for my interests on a policy level and support them, with the hope that together we can build a better tomorrow. I haven't found a candidate like this yet, but I will not give up -- I will not diminish my voice and values to the power of the majority.