Pro tip: don’t. Your vote is a poor messenger. You don’t vote to send a message. You carry it.

You might think that if droves of people vote for the Greens that will cause Democrats to say “hey, we need to be more like the Greens in order to get those votes.” This is what very technical people call a “category mistake:” you have mistaken political parties for businesses.

Tim Cook decides Apple is going to make watches, so they do. If they sell poorly Apple might stop selling them, like they did with the Apple Newton. Or they might completely overhaul the product, like they did with Macs. They make these changes because Apple wants to make money more than it wants to make watches. The product is not the goal; trading the product for money is.

That’s not how political parties work. The party competes for votes, but not for the same reasons businesses compete for money. The votes are a resource used to achieve the political goals of a party’s members.

Parties represent party members. That means you can’t change a party from the outside. You can only change it from within.

You don’t wait to join the party until it represents you; you join the party to make it listen to you. If you can, you bring along your friends.

Feminists didn’t join the Democrats because the Democrats started supporting feminist policies; they joined the Democrats and made them a feminist party. Gay people didn’t join the party because Democrats supported gay marriage; Democrats supported gay marriage because gay people joined the party.

That’s what Bernie Sanders did this year. He saw an opportunity to use the Democratic party to advance his principles. So he joined the party and he brought a lot of friends with him. He also made a lot of new friends in the party. He didn’t win the nomination, but as a result the party is starting to sound an awful lot more like him. The revolution isn’t dead. The revolution is winning. It just needs a bit more time.

Most Sanders supporters appreciate this. But the Bernie-or-bust people demand the party change for them first. Bernie opened a door for them, but they won’t walk through it.

This puts his revolution at risk because right now, the Republican coalition is breaking. The populist, nativist, protectionist right-wing of the party is pushing out the free-trade pro-business folks who have been the party leaders. Where will these folks go? My guess is that they, too, are looking at the Democratic party. A lot of them don’t have any real problem with gay marriage. The Tea Party has made life hell for them. And the neoliberals look like they could use a hand…

If you want the Democratic party to stand up for economic justice, join the Democratic party and stand up for economic justice. Deliver your message in person, not through the ballot box. Shake the gubernatorial candidate’s hand and tell her we need a bigger minimum wage increase. Look your congressional hopeful in the eye and tell him you are counting on his support for single-payer health care.

Above all, stay in. The party’s opinions are the opinions of its members. It will not change for you. You have to change it.

That’s the way you get better political parties.

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