“One: …Your vote puts not just Clinton in power but literally thousands of appointees. It may be the deputy administrator in an EPA regional office, or the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the new policy and strategy chief at U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services—or a new member of the National Labor Relations Board, or even chief number cruncher at the Census Bureau.
“Many of Clinton’s appointees—and her appointees’ appointees—will be young and idealistic… Demographically, because of age and willingness to forgo a private-sector salary, it’s likely that many of these appointees will be Bernie voters. Over the next four years, these thousands of people will perform a million little acts of mercy—for you, me, for all of us.
“As a lawyer who represents the poor, the middle class, the post-middle class and maybe members of your family, I can swear under oath that many of these appointees will do, off-handedly, the most saintly acts in the world. They will do things that transform so many individual lives, like an NLRB official who gets a 20-year-old black kid back into a Painters Union job. Appointees in the embassies and consulates can sneak in 10-year-olds from Honduras. By your vote—or decision not to vote—you will decide the fates of all of those who could be saved by these little acts of mercy.
“[Moreover], these mid-level appointees—many of them, by the way, intoxicated with the causes of the Left—will in turn bring in decent, public-spirited young Berniecrats to fill the lower spots... It takes a village to run a federal government, and under any Democrats, we get villagers who case by case are going to show mercy. Welcome the stranger. Feed the hungry. Are you really so hard-hearted that you don't give a damn?
“And while there's been enough banging on about that one vacancy in the Supreme Court, think about the lower courts, especially the trial courts. Think of the wage theft or Title VII cases that will be settled—and will keep, say, a pregnant plaintiff out of a homeless shelter.
“Here's just a passing news item to tell you what these lower courts do: The other day, three federal appellate judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down a North Carolina voting law that with ‘almost surgical precision,’ to quote the opinion, was intended to keep black Americans from voting. Who were the judges? Three appointed by either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. If you don't stop restrictive voting laws, how is a Sanders movement ever going to come back? And that gets to my next point:
“Two: If Hillary is out, the Left is out. Not just through 2020, but in four, eight, 12, 16 years from now. Fight for $15 is over. The fight against wage theft is over. If she is out, there is no center-left to push. Sure. You think after four years of Trump there will be another Bernie or Bernie-like movement. There won't. Even assuming Trump doesn’t, in a Putin-like fit, cancel the 2020 elections, by then the country, or what's left of it, will be beyond your reach. The other side—the real Other Side—has four years to lock down policy with a lock that is bigger than the one on Fort Knox: requirements for balanced budgets, rules on redistricting, changes to the Voting Rights Act, federal voter ID laws, and on and on.
“The odd thing is, if you want the Left to come back, you have to put the center-left in power. It sounds paradoxical, but it's true: Give people a little taste of equality and they will want even more. The women's movement, the civil rights movement, the huge egalitarian transformations of the 1960s came about in large part because of the much more egalitarian and prosperous country created by the New Deal and yes, the Great Society itself. Let any Republican get in and it will always go the other way…
“Furthermore, there is a broader point: When the center-left really is in power, and I mean full power, with true and not just nominal control of Congress, it usually is the heyday of the party's real left. Look at the two great periods when the Democrats were in control: 1935-37, and 1965-66. Social Security, the Wagner Act, in the first, and Medicare, the Voting Rights Act, and the Immigration and Nationality Act in the second, transformed this country. FDR exasperated the Left of his day, and even compared to Hillary Clinton, Lyndon Johnson was no progressive. Yet the lasting legacy of the real Left came in these two fleeting periods when a largely center-left Democratic party had—for once—unchecked control. Why give up any chance to have that happen again?
“As it is, we’re still living with the legacy of Nixon and our shrugging and letting him in the belief that we could always come back. In many ways, the Left in this country never really came back. Nixon led to Ford who led to Carter who led to Reagan, and to the medieval-like inequality in this country today. And you—who have a real chance to push the country to the left if we can keep the executive branch in the hands of the center-left—will not come back either. The same logic of history is going to apply to you. Not voting for Clinton will just put real change in this country even farther out of reach.
“Three: Consider the irony of a protest vote for the Green Party—a party of the global Left, not a national one—when the future of the globe itself is what’s at risk. Should such a Green vote indirectly put the GOP in power, it is the end of the Paris Accords on Global Warming. It's not just that the United States would drop out—with the U.S. gone, other countries would, too. What would be the point of any other country complying? This would be devastating to the global—not to mention the planet…
“By closing your eyes to the loss of a million little acts of mercy, are you not taking a morally dubious means to an even more politically dubious end?”
Thomas Geoghegan is a Chicago-based labor lawyer. He is the author of several books, including Which Side Are You On?, The Secret Lives of Citizens, The Law in Shambles, Only One Thing Can Save Us, and Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?