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June 3, 2019 by

It’s Time to Be a Single-Issue Voter for the Climate

Climate Change 3Voting for a political candidate solely on the basis of their stance on a single issue is not always the smartest thing to do. Bluntly put, it’s often a decision motivated by myopic selfishness, as well. Part of this is because single-issue voting is, in my mind, too often associated with people who vote for candidates with draconian policy positions. Consider guardians of gun “rights”, so-called Israel “supporters” who ignore domestic policy both here and there, opponents of gay marriage, and anti-abortion advocates. At this moment in time, with extreme, oppressive positions on so many of these issues, single-issue voting can feel dangerous.

But then there are the other kind of single-minded voters… people who have worthy causes they care, but who will vote for candidates with no chance of winning for the sake of “purity.” I get it: voting is an extremely personal statement of values, but it can be frustrating when this happens during a high-stakes election. Remember all those people who voted for JIll Stein and Gary Johnson during the 2016 election? Yeah… I’m still mad about that. 

So, it’s safe to say that I usually think single-issue voting isn’t the best thing to do.  Except in the 2020 presidential election. As a Black Jewish feminist I am committed to many issues that are life and death–from police violence to abortion–but for the first time, I find myself zeroing in on a singular issue: climate catastrophe.

 Globally, the U.S. ranks third in carbon dioxide emissions. And since 1965, no country has put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the United States. Time and time again, our leaders leaders have chosen profit and convenience over life. And Trump’s environmental policies are downright evil; he’s pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, endangered our national parks, and appointed an Interior Chief who said he isn’t “losing any sleep” over global heating. Around the world, the elections of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison threaten the lives of indigenous communities and our ability to fight the current climate emergency.

Jewish teaching positively overflows with commandments and exhortation to cherish the earth, but we are destroying it. As a country, we have imposed conditions on this earth that are fatal to our existence. The price of our inaction is death. We have less than 10 years to address these issues. The term of a U.S. president is four years.

So for me, this isn’t the time to prioritize mere “electability” or someone’s ability to beat Trump. Trump’s climate policies are horrific, yes. But we need someone who has the strength, the scientific reasoning, and the empathy required to make sound decisions about climate and to make them quickly, so we can ensure our survival .  In the midst of the Sixth Extinction, we are facing an existential threat, and who we elect directly impacts the ability of 1 million species— including our own—to survive on this planet for generations to come.

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to vote for someone whose values are diametrically opposed to my own just because they have good climate policies. Nor am I going to vote for someone who might cause harm to another group. But by choosing to center my voting decisions on the issue of climate change, I am standing up for life.  Because climate is not a single-pronged issue, but an issue that touches all of our lives and stems from systemic inequality, capitalistic greed, white supremacy. Any candidate who doesn’t understand this connection will not receive my vote.

Now, I can’t tell you exactly who to vote for in the primaries. Mother Jones has reported on the policies of all the Democratic candidates, and they found that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) had the most effective and comprehensive climate policies. Governor Jay Inslee of Washington is getting attention for his pledges and proposals, even if he’s less well-known in other areas. And according to their report, Former Rep. John Delaney (Md.), Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (Colorado) both do not support the Green New Deal, and are among the worst candidates for climate issues.

I will be making decisions on which candidate is more likely to lead us into the future we need, and who is most passionate about addressing inequality, which directly impacts the climate catastrophe. When I vote in the primaries, and in the general, and in local elections, I will carry with me at the forefront of my mind my dedication to ensuring there is an Earth to protect in the years to come. 

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.


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