Thursday, December 24, 2015

People are starting to get it

Thanks to Gadfly, via Twitter... this.

If Hillary Clinton ends up winning the Democratic nomination for president, some Bernie Sanders supporters will vote for her anyway. I can respect that decision. While the differences between Democrats and Republicans are often overstated -- to give just two examples (there are many), the same people advise Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz on foreign policy and Hillary Clinton is at least as cozy with Wall Street as most Republicans -- there are some real and important reasons to worry about a Republican White House. The Supreme Court and heads of agencies are, in my view, the biggest concerns in this vein. I'd have low hopes for Hillary Clinton's appointees but no doubts that they'd be better on balance than those offered by a Trump, Cruz, or Rubio.

Yet I will not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. While I understand the lesser-of-two-evils mentality, I disagree with it; most of Clinton's policy positions are unacceptable to me. If Sanders loses the primary, I will probably vote for Jill Stein.

I don't know if Ben Spielberg of 34justice reads the same things I read or came to the conclusions I did months ago by reading Brains, but it's not all that big a stretch if you value actual progressivism and do some thinking.

Wouldn't that be a strategic blunder, some friends and family ask me? Democrats who aren't quite as polite ask if I'm an idiot. Don't I realize that this type of thinking led to George W. Bush becoming president in 2000 and that I may similarly "blow this election" by deciding to vote my conscience?

The premise of these questions, however, is completely wrong, and not just because, as Jim Hightower documented at the time, voting records show that "Gore was the problem, not Nader," in the 2000 election. In fact, refusing to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election is both a principled and strategic decision that I encourage more people to embrace.

There are two possibilities when it comes to my vote: it will either impact the outcome of the election or it won't. If my vote won't impact the outcome of the election, I might as well vote for the candidate with the best policy positions, regardless of his or her supposed electability.

If my vote will impact the outcome of the election, I may have to decide which matters more: (a) the differences between a bad Democrat and worse Republican over the next four years or (b) the degree to which I'd undermine our chances to enact fundamental change to a broken political system in the long-run by pursuing a lesser-of-two-evils voting strategy.

I'm going to do the linear, bipolar Democrats a favor here by making their argument -- the one they need to make to non-voters, not to people like me and Spielberg.

"Not a dime's worth of difference."  "Don't vote; it only encourages the bastards."  (I have a Facebook friend -- a former Democratic precinct chair, then a former Green, now a voting atheist who uses that second phrase s good bit.  THE most argumentative person, in the harshest of various ways, I have ever encountered.  And that's quite definitive, but it's also a digression.)

Back on point.

... (T)he type of political "pragmatism" that would lead someone to choose (a) undermines power-balancing policy goals. Because politicians and Democratic party officials know that many voters think this way, they have little incentive to listen to our concerns. Instead, they can pay lip service to progressive values while crafting a policy agenda and decision-making process more responsive to wealthy donors than to their constituents.

That dynamic is on full display already in the 2016 Democratic primary election. Clinton is campaigning against priorities, like single-payer health care, that Democrats are supposed to embrace. While early union endorsements for Clinton initially improved her rhetoric on education issues to some degree, she is already backtracking to assure corporate donors that her positions are unchanged. The unions who endorsed Clinton early have no negotiating power relative to rich donors who make their support contingent on Clinton pursuing their interests; given that fact and her record, she seems unlikely to keep her promises if elected.

The Democratic National Committee's actions are also illustrative. The party establishment lined up behind Clinton before the race even started, and the DNC's debate schedule is, despite their protestations to the contrary, quite obviously constructed to insulate Clinton from challenge. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz's recent decision to suspend Sanders' campaign's access to its voter data (in response to a data breach by a since-fired Sanders staffer; the access was restored after the Sanders campaign sued the DNC) has caused even party loyalists to believe that the DNC "is putting [its] finger on [the] scale" and pro-Clinton journalists to acknowledge that the DNC's behavior "makes Clinton's lead look illegitimate, or at least, invites too many 'what ifs.'"

What is developing for 2016 -- and I thought it was obvious before I wrote yesterday's post -- is that the 'status quo' candidate(s) are going to be, indeed already are, at a strategic disadvantage.

Both Clinton and party leaders are making a mockery of many of the principles the party is supposed to stand for. And pledging to support Clinton in the end -- no matter what she and the DNC do -- enables this kind of behavior. It's hard for me to see how we will ever fix our political process and reclaim our democracy by refusing to draw some lines in the sand.

I could accuse those who disagree with that assessment of propping up a sham political system. I could say that, by downplaying the unfounded smears the Clinton campaign has spread against Sanders and insisting that we must support Clinton in the general if she wins the nomination, they are destroying the Democrats' credibility and thus helping to ensure ever more privilege-defending and corrupt elected officials and government policy. But it would be a lot fairer of me to acknowledge that a lot of the Republicans are really scary, that my strategy isn't guaranteed to work the way I think it will, and that people evaluate the risks differently than I do.

That last sentence is the kindest acknowledgment that can be extended to the Clinton folks.  Spielberg is about to make up for it, though.  Bold emphasis is mine.

Similarly, those who disagree can continue to accuse people like me of "helping the GOP" in the 2016 election by pointing out that the Democrats have extreme flaws and don't always deserve our support. But it would be a lot fairer of them to acknowledge that millions upon millions of people have suffered at the hands of lesser-of-two-evils candidates over the years, that an open commitment to support a lesser-of-two-evils candidate robs voters of bargaining power, and that the Democratic Party has brought voter discontent upon itself.

Bottom line: if Hillary Clinton loses to Donald Trump, it won't be anybody's fault but HERS.  I had to defriend someone on Facebook just yesterday who couldn't understand this, kept typing "Trump/GOP thanks you for your support," etc. and so on.  There's no time to waste with horses' asses, led to water, who refuse to drink.  Too many people outside the current electorate that need persuading to forfeit effort teaching swine to yodel.

Here is another olive branch.

Hopefully Sanders will win the Democratic primary and this discussion will become a moot point. In the meantime, it's good for those of us who believe in social justice to push each other on our tactics. We would just do well to remember that reasonable people with the same goals can disagree about which electoral strategy is most likely to help us achieve them.

Clinton people can do their thing, Sanders' people can do theirs, at least until he is disqualified.  It  makes more sense than to continue antagonizing each other on social media, no?  I don't think not voting sends the right message -- somewhere around 75% of Americans already do that, and I don't get that the powers that be are listening.  I also don't think writing in Sanders' name in November is a good way to go, but at least it's a protest vote and not a protest non-vote.

An alternative to vote in favor of, and not against some objectionable candidate or party -- outside the 'left-right, left-right' -- that matches up best with one's progressive populist principles.  I also think that the movement -- a political revolution, thanks Bernie -- makes the strongest statement when it advocates for a living wage.

Bernie Sanders has many of the right economic ideas, but he's also still too beholden to the military industrial complex as well as an abbreviated version of the Second Amendment (truncating the "well-regulated militia" part, like the NRA and all of its adherents do).  And I simply don't think that his social justice message is going to reach enough minorities to help him get to the lead, and even if he got a sudden groundswell of support that pushed him to the front after winning Iowa and New Hampshire, that the DNC establishment would allow him to claim the nomination.

So the question remains: cast no vote, cast a symbolic protest vote, or cast a vote that really sends the loudest message to the DNC.  The choice has always been, and will continue to be, yours.

All the best of the holiday season to all my readers.  A few Toons posts lie ahead but nothing serious -- unless circumstances warrant -- until after Christmas.

1 comment:

Gadfly said...

I knew you'd like this in part because, like your one great piece, it refudiates the bullshit about the 2000 election, too.