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ARE ENVIRONMENTALISTS TOO PURE TO BEAT DONALD TRUMP?

An Open Letter

We the undersigned are lifelong activists in the environmental movement. Many


of us have been taking to the streets to prick the public conscience since the 1960s.
Others have served the cause as writers, public interest lobbyists, scientists, community
organizers, or leaders of environmental organizations. Some of us started Earth Day in
1970; some were engaged in the protests and legislation to save California’s redwood
forests in the 1970s; others helped organize the Seabrook nuclear power plant
demonstration in 1977, a massive act of nonviolent civil disobedience; still others led the
outcry over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010; or the resistance to the Standing
Rock pipeline in 2016. Some got arrested just months ago in peaceful demonstrations at
the “Fire Drill Friday” climate crisis rallies on Capitol Hill.

We have learned in the course of decades that militancy can build awareness of
the environmental threat to human life itself, and activists younger than we have inspired
us with the Green New Deal, the Sunrise Movement, Greta Thunberg, and other leaders
of a new generation. But in 50 years of agitation, we have also learned what the powerful
know. Elections matter most in the end. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a ballot
is a good guy with a ballot, and this year, our ballots will be cast for Joe Biden and
Kamala Harris.

Some of us supported Biden in the Democratic primary. Others backed one of his
rivals. Now only one candidate, a humane, progressive alternative to four more years of
decay, can beat Donald Trump. Many of us have voted for third-party candidates in other
elections, convinced that a party called “Green” was the only principled choice. Not this
year. This year the only meaningful green votes will be cast for the single candidate who
can end Trump’s disastrous presidency. Only by rallying behind the Democratic Party
can we end the Trump administration’s unprecedented malignancy, fear mongering,
pathological lying, and atrocious policymaking. This is not the year to make a utopian
statement or to waste a single vote. This is the year to unseat Donald Trump and his
shameless congressional enablers.

Angry right-wing voters and liberal absentees put Trump in the White House in
2016. In 2020 the same unholy team could keep him there. Progressives who vote for the
Green Party candidate, or write in Henry David Thoreau, or refuse to vote at all for lack
of an ideal choice will give Donald Trump precisely what he wants, and enough such
pious gestures will produce catastrophic results.

Four years ago, Trump carried Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which
lifted him into power, by margins of less than 1 percent. He would have lost all three if
the votes cast for the Green Party had gone to Hillary Clinton instead, let alone the votes
of the many thousands of progressives who failed to show up at all. The result was an
unchecked race toward an uninhabitable climate, a broken country, and the horrifying
narcissist who has brought it to its knees.

Twenty years ago, the Green Party snatched the White House from a climate-
change leader and handed it to George W. Bush. In Florida, no less than 97,488
progressive voters snubbed Al Gore for Ralph Nader, letting Bush win the state, and
therefore the presidency, by 537 votes, or so the Supreme Court ruled. The result was no
moral victory for Green voters. The result was the Iraq War, hundreds of thousands of
violent deaths and environmental devastation in the Middle East, two conservative
Supreme Court justices, including the chief justice and a right wing reactionary, and eight
unrecoverable years of accelerated climate change.

This fall we have two choices -- another four years of Trump, freed from all
constraints and empowered by a subservient Senate, or a progressive Democrat who
actually cares about our society, the environment, and future generations. In his 36-year
Senate career, Biden was an enlightened voice on nearly every issue, despite well-known
mistakes. During eight years as vice president, he nudged President Obama toward better
environmental policies. Now he has a plan to invest two trillion dollars in a lifesaving
program to arrest and reverse the catastrophe of manmade climate change that Trump
may accelerate beyond repair. Sure, he isn’t perfect. Which of us is? But in the 2020
election, the most crucial since 1864, we have only two meaningful options: We can
make a lifetime humanitarian our president, backed by an able cabinet and a progressive
Congress; or expand the strongman rule of Donald Trump, who desecrates his office
every day, spreads racism and a fatal virus for political gain, ignores environmental
justice, embraces the fossil fuel industry, and calls the climate crisis a hoax.

Every generation is accountable for its leaders, and we are accountable for Trump.
We can beat him and his congressional enablers at the polls or help him stay in power by
wasting our votes or staying home, and tell children not yet born we were too pure to vote
for Democrats. All we have to lose are our country and the planet.