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I’ve heard from many people recently, from both the left and right, including Gavin Polone’s guest column in the Aug. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, that they are planning to sit out the presidential election or are considering voting for a third-party candidate such as Gary Johnson or Jill Stein.
This is not the election to take that stance.
Not only are there plenty of real, discernible policy differences between the two leading candidates for president — starting with the fact that one of them clearly does not have the temperament, experience or knowledge to hold the highest office in the country — but this presidential election is of even more import because of the current and near-future composition of the U.S. Supreme Court.
With gridlock holding our legislative politics in nothing short of a chokehold, the makeup of the Supreme Court is, and will continue to be, of paramount importance for years to come. Despite Polone’s comment, “Do you think there will be a Supreme Court in the future where all of its members are in their mid-40s and POTUS will have no effect on the court’s makeup?,” this election truly is unique in that it presents us with the first chance at a progressive majority on the Supreme Court since 1971. I’m going to say it again, in caps: THE FIRST CHANCE AT A PROGRESSIVE MAJORITY ON THE SUPREME COURT IN 45 YEARS!
I have my own list, but make up your own of all the appalling and discriminatory decisions that could have been prevented with a common-sense majority on the court over the past several decades. Bush v. Gore? Citizens United? District of Columbia v. Heller (2nd Amendment)? Bowers v. Hardwick (upholding Georgia’s anti-sodomy law)? Shelby County v. Holder (crushing the Voting Rights Act)? Or how about the virtual certainty of the reversal of Roe v. Wade if Donald Trump is elected?
I won’t take much space to critique the candidacies of Johnson or Stein, except to say that, with apologies to Obi Wan Kenobi, they are not the saviors you’re looking for.
Polone says, “Only through an affirmative push by voters to investigate, support and promote third-, fourth- and fifth-party candidates will we ever get out of this trap of having to choose the ‘least worst’ nominee. And we need to start now, not because this election isn’t ‘so important’ but because all of the future elections are.” I am with you, Gavin. I devoted years of my life to third-party politics before I got involved in the film business. In fact, showing movies on campus while attending Penn State to raise money for uber-progressive student groups WAS my start in the film business, but I digress.
Having begun my political activism while in high school, in 1980 I started the Centre County, Pa., chapter of the Citizens Party (known in Pennsylvania as the Consumer Party). Our goal was a nationwide vote total of 5 percent for our presidential candidate, professor and author Barry Commoner. While Commoner’s candidacy ultimately received scant national attention, we did get 5 percent of the vote in one county nationwide, and yes you can guess where that was.
In 1984, at the age of 24, I ran for the state legislature in Pennsylvania on the Consumer Party ticket and received more than 20 percent of the vote and got the endorsement of Centre County’s only daily newspaper, The Centre Daily Times. I remain proud of that campaign and all that we accomplished with the Consumer Party before I left town and high-tailed it to California in 1985 to pursue the bright lights of the movie business.
I’m all for building a real, sustainable progressive party, just as I remain interested in pushing the Democratic Party to serve as that progressive engine as well. Personally, I don’t care whether we have two viable political parties or 10, as long as at least one of them represents the progressive values I feel so strongly about.
Hollywood loves a surprise ending, but this is one we can’t afford. We in the entertainment industry may have a unique understanding of how Trump resonates and connects with his supporters, but it is incumbent on our very industry to make sure he does not become President.
In short, the moral imperative of our time is to prevent Donald Trump from winning this election and to ensure a progressive Supreme Court majority for the first time in 45 years. We must elect Hillary Clinton President of the United States of America.
Tom Ortenberg is the CEO of Open Road Pictures, the distributor of 2016 best picture Oscar winner Spotlight.
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