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Beware The Spoiler Effect

By Chloe S. Maxmin

Those who follow elections often talk about the spoiler effect, which is when a third party candidate takes votes away from a major party candidate, resulting in a win for the opposition. Green Party candidate Jill Stein has put the 2012 Presidential election at risk of succumbing to the spoiler effect: If voters who would otherwise have cast votes for Obama instead vote for her, she might precipitate a Romney victory. So I appeal to anyone who cares about social justice, civil rights, or climate change to vote for Obama.

Many people I know are fed up with the electioneering of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Their influence of special interests and a refusal to give concrete details is more than frustrating. Instead, the people that I know are turning toward Jill Stein. Her main platform, the “Green New Deal,” is aimed at stopping climate change and getting our economy back on track.

I recently heard Stein speak at a rally, and her perspectives on why our political system is broken were enlightening and encouraging. It is good to know that there are people who are speaking out against the current inefficacy of American government. But while Stein’s commitment to mitigating global warming is admirable, a vote for Jill Stein is a wasted vote. She will not win this election.

The spoiler effect has jeopardized many significant elections in the past. The most prominent example is the 2000 President election, in which Green Party candidate Ralph Nadar received 94,000 votes in Florida, contributing to Democratic Party candidate Al Gore’s losing the election. Thus began an 8-year-long disaster under George W. Bush. I would count the Iraq War, civil rights abuses, a plummeting economy, and rampant climate change as all consequences of 94,000 votes that a third party candidate took from Al Gore.

The same thing happened in my home state of Maine. In our 2010 gubernatorial  election, a right-wing Republican, Paul LePage, won with only 38 percent of the popular vote. The Independent and Democratic candidates split the remaining votes, receiving 37 percent and 19 percent respectively. Now, generally liberal Maine has a Governor who has compared the IRS to the gestapo and has told the NAACP, “kiss my butt.”

As an environmentalist, I am not willing to risk anything on the chance that Romney might win this election. Like others, I have been disturbed by the pervasive “climate silence” in the presidential debates. For the first time since 1988, global warming—the most serious issue facing humanity today—was not mentioned during any of the debates. Obama mentioned the mythic “clean coal” and Romney called for more offshore oil drilling and fossil fuel infrastructure. On the whole, neither candidate has demonstrated a deep commitment to real discussion about climate change. Nonetheless, Obama is clearly more committed to halting climate change than his competitor. At the very least, he has broken the climate silence on MTV, and we cannot ignore the efforts that he has taken during his presidency to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels.

If the Romney and Ryan ticket wins, not only will climate change be pushed off of the agenda, but our civil rights will be jeopardized. These two men do not support same-sex marriage. Romney’s cavalier and objectionable attitude towards women, as evident by his “binders full of women” remark, will manifest itself in dangerous policies. Romney endorsed a GOP senator who said that “God intended” rapes that lead to pregnancies. During his time as Massachusetts governor, he vetoed a bill that would have provided emergency contraception to rape victims. If Americans elect a politician with these values, civil rights in our country will be doomed.

I acknowledge that our political system is broken and overrun with special interests. But there is a clear choice between President Obama and Governor Romney. I am too frightened for our future to sit by and hope that Jill Stein does not jeopardize an Obama victory. There is too much at stake. So, I will be voting for Barack Obama in next week’s election—and I hope that others who care about the environment and civil rights will too.

Chloe S. Maxmin ’15, a Crimson editorial editor, lives in Mather House.

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