My political cognizance dates back, roughly, to 1980 and Ronald Reagan’s successful run for the White House. To some, the best of times. Not to me. But that’s offered merely as a matter of historical context.

My first presidential vote was cast for Michael Dukakis. (womp womp) My first successful presidential vote was cast for Barack Obama, whom I regard as the best president in my lifetime, to date. But what about Bill Clinton? Nope, never voted for him. Or Gore, for that matter.

My post-Dukakis Democratic rift was the result of entering primary politics. I suppose I was drafted by my college roommate, who came home from class one day in 1992 all fired up for Jerry Brown. I’m still not sure what moved her. But, after reading enough campaign literature, I felt very comfortable joining the Brown camp. Off we went, rallying students across Virginia Commonwealth University to join us Brownies. Each candidate had a fair shot, right? Not so much.

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The first indication that something was a bit rotten was discovering a Clinton “mole” in our ranks, reporting our moves back to some Democratic hierarchy. The point was made clearly when the Richmond Democrats in charge of the primary decided that rather than hold a simple primary vote to make a last-minute change to an in-person, midweek caucus. Undeterred, we Brownies still won the day, at least in Richmond.

What I really won was a political education, a realization that political parties are not public institutions so much as privately run strategy machines free to make their own rules, just as any political party has that right. It’s simply that I had grown up with Republicans and Democrats. We refer to U.S. politics as a “two-party system.” That’s merely conventional wisdom, though. There’s no constitutional requirement that we restrict ourselves to two parties, to Republicans and Democrats. We’ve just gotten so used to it that anything else seems nearly pointless.

Still, I couldn’t deny my observation that an entrenched two-party system is far from optimal. Other countries function well with multiple parties. Wouldn’t it be much better, I wondered, if the U.S. had more viable parties, which would the obviously favor those parties that could lead coalitions? The answer I came to was yes. It’s the answer I always come back. It’s a “yes” that gets louder as the country becomes more splintered, as Congress remains essentially deadlocked.

So, in 1994, shortly after graduating and moving to Portland, Ore., I jumped ship and joined the Greens. Not a very counter-culture move in Portlandia, granted.

While I still supported Democrats in various races and even canvassed for a gay Republican, the first real challenge for my new affiliation was Gore v Bush v Nader. I voted for Nader. I thought Gore would be a fine president. I also knew that polling had Oregon squarely Blue. Other states weren’t so certain, and Democrats were blasting Greens for rocking the boat. Schemes were concocted whereby Democrats in secure states would pledge to vote Green in exchange for Greens pledging to vote for Gore in less-secure states. All I would’ve needed to vote for Gore was a request from him: I would like the Green nomination. The Green Party wouldn’t have any reason to give it to him, but it would’ve been enough for me. But strategy is strategy, and it doesn’t do the Democratic Party any good to have the top dogs acknowledge – legitimize – an alternative. And Gore still won! Even if that’s not how the election was finally recorded.

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I was not moved to get behind a Democratic presidential nominee again until Barack Obama. Having relocated from Oregon back to D.C., my affiliation became D.C. Statehood Green Party. And on their primary ballot, I wrote in Obama. I did it again four years later. And, last month, I wrote in Hillary Clinton on my Green primary ballot.

Between her and Bernie Sanders, I really had no favorite. And Dr. Jill Stein is wonderful. But by the time D.C.’s primary rolled around, it seemed clear that Clinton was going to be the nominee. I wanted to show some solidarity.

Most of those who share my political values seemed to be feeling the Bern. Fine by me! Love him. Looking at Clinton, yes, I was very bothered by her vote to allow the Iraq invasion. I’m guessing she even knew better at the time. But she also had calculations to make if she hoped to win the White House. What would the future look like? Would sticking with the minority in opposition hurt her chances? Quite likely? Her presidential math needed to include her gender. Would a future presidential debate try to paint her as unprepared to be commander-in-chief because she’s a woman, too delicate to pull the trigger on Iraq? Fair questions. She knows the electorate loves stereotypes.

Bob Hattoy, 1992 DNC

Bob Hattoy, 1992 DNC

On the plus side, I remember the 2007 memorial service for Bob Hattoy at the Capitol. Hattoy was the gay man who told a national audience during the 1992 Democratic National Convention, “I have AIDS.” His convention address was groundbreaking. At this intimate celebration of his life, Hillary Clinton spoke. Bill wasn’t there, for whatever reason. The heavy-hitters in the room were all women. I think that’s important. And I think she’ll make a better president than did her husband – and I fully grant he was a pretty good president. But he was never vetted like she’s been. She’ll have more experience than he, should she make it into office. I hate to think of the alternative.

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We’ve all got a choice to make in November, whether for one of the big two, for a Green or a Libertarian or another party’s candidate, or for none at all. I will be voting for the candidate with unmatched credentials and experience, who has faced down an army of irrational detractors. If she’s successful, again, I’m certain she’ll make an outstanding president. If she’s not successful, I fear for my country’s future.

Besides, I can’t imagine the change I’m looking for will occur in presidential, top-down fashion, but through putting Greens into local offices and building up from there. For that reason and others, this Green is with her.