In the past week alone, Donald Trump has been exposed as a man who once hurled racist slurs at a former Miss Universe, and when the Internet rightly reacted with disgust, Trump doubled down by going on a late-night Twitter rant and making baseless allegations against Ms. Machado. Ironically, just a few days before the Miss Universe scandal came to light, comedian Jon Oliver did a side by side comparison of the two major party candidates. He'd have had a lot more material to work with if he had just waited another week. To summarize his point: Hillary Clinton has made a few questionable decisions throughout her career, but they are nothing compared to the total lack of ethics and good judgment displayed by Donald Trump.
Building on Jon's point, I'd like to put forward a suggestion for my left-leaning friends and allies: it's time we stopped calling Hillary Clinton evil. You'll see this a lot from supporters of Jill Stein – and to an extent, from Stein herself: the claim that people should vote their conscience and not settle for the lesser of two evils. In principle, I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Stein's position. In practice, I think it may sometimes be necessary to choose the candidate who will do the least amount of harm even if you don't particularly like that person. One should consider not just one's own interests but also those of society's most vulnerable citizens.
This is why I have no patience for people who insist that allowing Trump to win the presidency will bring on the revolution. Even if that were true – which, it isn't – how many Muslim people would suffer to bring about your revolution? Because Trump has used his political platform to stir up Islamophobic hate with measurable consequences for Muslim people. And that's just one group that he likes to pick on.
That said, I've always found the position that one should “vote for the lesser evil” to be somewhat unpalatable even if I have employed that philosophy several times over the years. So if Hillary Clinton were truly the war profiteering corporate shill that many people on the far left like to paint her as, I would probably suggest that one should vote one's conscience and not settle for the lesser evil. But I've looked into it, and so far as I can tell, she's not any of those things. Hillary Clinton is not “the lesser evil” because she's not evil. She may not be the candidate that best aligns with my personal views, but that does not make her evil, and using such dramatic language to describe her runs the risk of grossly misrepresenting the issues.
You see, if it were a simple case of choosing between the noble Jill Stein, the crooked Hillary Clinton and the monstrous Donald Trump, well then the choice would be simple, wouldn't it? People would flock to Stein in droves! But what if you have to choose between one kind of good and another kind of good? Well, that's less clear-cut, isn't it?
Fortunately, it's the sort of thing that Canadians have to do in every single election; so perhaps I can offer a little perspective. I honestly wanted Elizabeth May to be Canada's Prime Minister; I'm still happy we got Justin Trudeau. I'm a proud member of Canada's ABC Party. “What's the ABC Party, you ask?” Anything but Conservative.
I want to stress that I'm certainly not what you would call a “Hillary fan.” There are many issues where I think she's just flat-out wrong. I disagree with her on Edward Snowden. I think her stance on digital privacy and encryption leaves much to be desired. (And there are some damn good reasons to support unbreakable encryption; more on that in another article). I think Hillary Clinton needs to take a firmer stance against fracking. She's not perfect.
What do I like about her? Well, for starters her conditions on fracking are quite reasonable. I'd prefer that we just not do it, but if we're going to do it, I'm glad she's willing to take proper steps to ensure the safety of local communities. I like that Hillary Clinton has taken a firm stance against the Trans Pacific Partnership. I like that she's adopted a more progressive platform, particularly her decision to embrace some of Bernie Sanders's more ambitious plans, like free post-secondary education. More than either of these two things, I like that she has demonstrated a willingness to change her positions in light of new information.
Hillary Clinton opposes Citizens United; that, to me, is a very big point in her favour. Before anyone starts talking about the First Amendment, corporations aren't people, in my view. They don't get rights. Actual studies have demonstrated – and I quote – that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon policy.” And furthermore, “economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy.” Hillary opposes this.
A platform based on economic justice, aid to the less fortunate and strong corporate regulation: these are the views of a progressive. She falls short in some areas, but she's also demonstrated a willingness to change her mind.
Now let's take a look at Jill Stein.
What do I like about her? Disregarding her poor chances of ever taking office, I have a lot of good things to say about Dr. Stein. I like that she recognizes the fact that poverty is a solvable problem, and that she has made opposing it a cornerstone of her campaign. I like her plan to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2030. To anyone who claims that such ambitious plans are unrealistic, I strongly urge you to research the need for a rapid response to climate change.
A temperature increase of more than two degrees Celsius would almost certainly result in drastic environmental changes with potentially devastating consequences. One of the worst would be a total shut down of the ocean currents that deliver oxygen from the atmosphere down to the ocean floor. An oxygen-free ocean creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that release hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere. If that happens in sufficient quantities, the air itself will become toxic to humans.
I discuss these topics at length on the Toronto-based environmental radio show, the Green Majority. I can't stress enough how important drastic climate action is to our continued survival on this planet.
Returning to our discussion of Dr. Stein, I like that she sees access to medical care as a fundamental human right and that, if given the chance, she would do away with the medical insurance industry. I'm the sort of person who believes that the profit motive is incompatible with a functioning health care system. So, I have a lot of good things to say about Dr. Stein.
What don't I like about her? Well, she's displayed a tendency to pander to the anti-science crowd. Her arguments against Hillary Clinton are often phrased in ways that imply underhanded deals between Secretary Clinton and her donors. Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that there have been legitimate concerns about a conflict of interest between Hillary Clinton's political career and her work as a private citizen with the Clinton Foundation, but the same government watchdog groups that drew attention to this potential conflict of interest have also recommended firewalls that would prevent Foundation donors from gaining inappropriate influence over public policy.
Dr. Stein's arguments on this issue are often lacking in nuance; they tend to imply a large conspiracy of influence peddling. In short, the good doctor has a habit of appealing to the worst instincts of the Far Left instead of encouraging rational thought and honest discourse. I say that as a proud member of the Far Left.
So, what's the moral of the story? What do we take away from all this? I happen to think that the lesson here is fairly simple. No candidate is perfect; even the ones who align with most of your views still have drawbacks. Since most countries have several major political parties, most non-Americans have already learned that sometimes the race is between several good candidates and one who is undeniably awful. That is what has unfolded here in the United States. Hillary Clinton is not a lesser evil; she's just a different kind of good from Jill Stein. The key difference between them, though is that Hillary has a chance of beating Trump while Jill does not. As distasteful as it may be, viability is a factor to consider.
In the end, I think everyone should vote their conscience. But voting your conscience means making an honest assessment of the situation instead of falling back on platitudes about good and evil.
Rich Penney is a Science Fiction author and futurist. Check out his books here, and follow him on Twitter. @Rich_Penney