Also in Counterpunch
Before a single primary vote has been tallied a number of big-shot progressive Democrats are already calling for the Green Party to stand down in an “open letter.”
Of all the issues we face, why focus so narrowly on marginal election maneuvers? Of all the movements we need to organize, why try to demobilize a dissident political party? Of all the great debates to be had, why spoil a discussion by faithfully repeating the failed DNC narratives of 2016: Elevate Trump, Lesser of Two Evils, Spoiler, and Vote Blue No Matter Who?
Nina Turner captured the failure of 2016 when she said:
“We should have been speaking to people’s hearts and not trying to shame and boss grown folks around.”
How does this shaming and bossing around work?
First and foremost the letter is only convincing if you accept the existing electoral system as permanent. A far better politics targets the rigged system itself as a starting point for reform. The open letter collapses in the face of a simple reform like Rank Choice Voting.
The strongest three arguments of the open letter are Trump, Trump, Trump. As in 2016, Trump is cast as the avatar of all evil but that role play masks the deep systematic evils of empire. Politics is not a morality play or a Marvel movie filled with superheroes and archvillains. Politics is a power struggle and in that struggle, all voices of real opposition and resistance are necessary — including the Green Party.
As a practical political matter, elevating Trump is designed to rally the party faithful– otherwise its a dud. The DNC elevated Trump in 2016 — failed. The DNC elevated Trump in Russia-Gate — failed. The DNC elevated Trump in impeachment — failed again. Hanging on to a winning strategy is understandable, hanging on to a losing one is not.
If we do not understand the institutional nature of power we will never overcome Trump or the corporate empire he leads. The corporate wing of the Democratic party and the rigged electoral system are part of the problem — not part of the solution. Elevating Trump again cannot hide that.
The real threat to Sanders and Gabbard comes from the DNC itself which will try to protect its own power — even at the cost of nominating lose/lose candidates like Warren or Biden. We lose in the short run if Trump prevails and we lose in the long run if they “win” because corporate politicians refuse to deal with the political crisis that produced Trump.
Again it’s a practical political matter. Since the Reagan revolution realigned elections so-called centrists Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry and Hillary Clinton were all losers. Only Bill Clinton wins as a centrist and his main accomplishments achieved longstanding Republican policy objectives. Obama proved himself centrist but won because he ran as an agent of change. The open letter forgets all this: centrists are losers.
Thanks to the war machine and corporate drive for unlimited profit we are 10 years from irreversible climate chaos. There is nothing about Clinton (or the current DNC) to suggest that they would’ve acted in a decisive way had Clinton won. The DNC disarmed its own Green New Deal Committee for starters.
The DNC continues to attack Trump from the right by pushing the New Cold War, the New McCarthyism, the Space Force, and the New Arms Race. Nothing like amping up the existential threats of nuclear war, world war and climate chaos to knock the “lesser” out of the lesser of two evils. And the history is clear: both major parties have been managers of empire and corporate power long before Trump came along.
The timing of the open letter is just so revealing. Since there is no nominee they are calling on us to support anyone that gets it. Even billionaires who buy their way in? Since their arguments do not depend on Sanders or Gabbard winning the nomination this is a preemptive strike pushing us to “vote blue no matter who.” They counsel surrender just as the electoral battle is beginning.
The open letter holds back from promoting Sanders or Gabbard because then the co-signers would have to take aim at the DNC instead of just repeating the DNC’s narratives.
For at least fifty years lesser of two evils voting has been the primary strategy of radical voters. Did it work? We have been conned into giving up our right to be represented by candidates and parties that actually stand for our class interests and political values. 50 years of surrender has enabled both major parties to run hard to the right. When we give up on democracy we get the likes of Clinton and Trump — and in 2016 that meant we got Trump.
Predictably, the open letter falls back on “the spoiler.” They talk about vote counts in swing states to give their worn-out arguments the weight of math — but it is not math by a mile. Major elections are complex equations with at least 20 or 30 variables determining the outcome. The spoiler fallacy isolates a single variable — third party votes — and ignores the rest. That won’t get you passed high school algebra, but it will earn you high marks in the arts of scapegoating.
It’s not even good arithmetic as they never add or subtract the millions of non-voters because that would undermine the main assumption of the spoiler fallacy — that there is a scarcity of votes. There are millions of votes for anyone with vision and capacity to motivate them.
These lame arguments have failed for decades and will not work now. If the Democrats have a strong anti-austerity, anti-war and Green New Deal program — like the Green Party does — they can win over independents or the 90+ million US voters that stay home.
In effect, the open letter has already given up on Sanders and Gabbard. Instead, they punch down and punch left on the 1.5 million Green voters. Ganging up on the Green Party is not going to win Sanders the nomination.
Sanders and Gabbard supporters, you already know this to be true: these attacks against the Greens have and will be used against you too.
Worse yet, the authors totally dodge their responsibility to stand for democracy and reform the electoral system. Imagine if the DNC had put all its weight into election reform and ending voter suppression instead of Russia-Gate?
Harvard University’s Election Integrity Project (EIP) evaluated the US as the most dysfunctional electoral system among so-called “western democracies?”
As Global Research reports:
According to the EIP, U.S. elections scored lower than Argentina, South Africa, Tunisia, and Rwanda — and strikingly lower than even Brazil. Specifically compared to Western democracies, U.S. elections scored the lowest, slightly worse than the U.K., while Denmark and Finland topped the list.
The Green Party shooting itself it the foot will not make up for the failure to fight for basic democracy. The authors’ lip service to electoral reform means they have given up their right to condemn the Green Party — or anyone else to their left.
Electoral reform as mild as the “top two” primary in California has already produced credible Green campaigns for Congress in districts where no Republicans are on the ballot. Rodolfo Cortez Barrigan is a visionary candidate who got 24% of the vote in 2018 and will do far better in 2020.
Ranked Choice Voting would totally destroy the entire argument of the close-minded “open letter.” In Maine — where the people forced the politicians to accept Ranked Choice Voting — Green, teacher and activist Lisa Savage is running for Senate. People can vote for their interests and build a multi-party system at the same time — with no spoiler or lesser of two evils.
Imagine a system without voter suppression; without the constant meddling of billionaires and corporate media; without the year-long propaganda primary that gives big money and big media enormous power; without gerrymandering; without electoral fraud; without the electoral college or superdelegates — without the stranglehold of the two-party system.
Instead imagine elections with Rank Choice Voting or other forms of proportional representation, multiple parties, universal registration, automatic recounts, easy ballot access for dissenting parties, paper ballots, public funding only, or real debates. Imagine that.
But alas, the authors of the open letter appear more interested in supporting the establishment and bossing people around than reforming the system.
Dear Noam Chomsky et al:
In response to your recent admonition that the Green Party should not run a candidate in 2020, I have a question for you:
If the Republican candidate were Adolf Hitler, and the Democratic candidate were Genghis Khan, which one would you vote for?
Which one? You MUST vote for one of them, or the other one will win.
What’s that you say? You wouldn’t vote for either of them? Oh, so it turns out your lesser-evilism isn’t an absolute; it’s just that you don’t think the Dems have yet sunk to the level of Adolf Hitler or Genghis Khan.
Support for policies that are inexorably leading us to Global Climate Catastrophe? Check. This alone dwarfs anything the Nazis or the Mongol hordes ever did. The Dems are fully complicit in policies that have sacrificed the future of the human race for short term profit.
Support for an unimaginably obscene war machine that has hotwired the planet for destruction, slaughtered untold millions of innocents, and is now branching out into space? Check.
Genetic fuckery of the food supply? Check. Ever more rapid and complete enclosure (aka privatization) of the commons? Check. Support for sadistic, genocidal dictators throughout the world? Check. A Total Information Awareness 24/7/365 police state that knows more about you than you do? Check. A propaganda machine that Goebbels could never have even imagined? Check.
I could go on (and on), but you get the idea.
There’s a technical term for people like you…Insufficiently Outraged.
Quiet yourself for 5 minutes. Summon the grief you felt when a loved one died. Then multiply that by the millions the U.S. Empire has tortured, killed, and left in a roadside ditch, or thrown from a helicopter, or caged in concentration camps, or doused with napalm, Agent Orange or white phosphorus. Or shot. Or starved. Or condemned to lives of ceaseless toil and oppression.
THEN mark your ballot.
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Thank you Wilton!
Excellent post Wilton. I suspect Chomsky would vote for Genghis Khan since that’s really not much worse than Clinton or Obama. I’m not convinced that either side of the global warming debate is as evil as Hitler. But I get your points in general, particularly about murder and torture on a global scale.
Thank you so much for your courageous article, I’ve been so aggravated for so long by Chomsky’s simple-minded analysis leading him to vote for obama and clinton and whoever runs democrat. It’s so short sighted and conciliatory.
He likes to say the very small difference between the parties actually affects millions of people. Then he cites global warming as the point issue. Meanwhile the democrat leaders’ foreign policy is every bit as heinous as the republicans. Even sanders is a hawk bragging about his war crimes and saying he’ll gladly do it again if anybody dare call him a pacifist. He voted for every war coming down the pike including the Iraq war in 2003 three months in to the war there was a vote to commend Bush on the excellent war and to encourage him to continue Sanders voted Yes (see H.Con.Res.104 2003). Nobody reports that, since it doesn’t fit with the narrative of the day. What obama did to Libya deserves life without parole but nobody cares or notices when these guys do it, only when republicans do it. Obama made war “good” and sanders will make it downright saintly. How can Chomsky really think that’s better? It doesn’t matter if they’re murderous pimps for corporate power as long as they take the right position on global warming? Chomsky used to be smarter than that. Poor people living hand to mouth and being bombed in their own homes do not care primarily about global warming. Only rich people with real estate on the coastline care about it. And Chomsky.
He said we should vote lesser of two evils then hold the people elected to their word by protesting. But that’s not what happens, that’s fantasy, in reality people go sound to sleep after a democrat takes office. And that’s how obama moved this country further to the right in 8 years than any republican could dream of being able to do. Obama told people Bush’s “bad” wars were actually “good” wars in his hands and everybody was like okay that’s fine then. Then he spent eight years murdering a huge number of people burning women and children alive on a daily basis with impunity. That’s what Chomsky somehow thinks is better. And very very few on the left dare challenge him. I couldn’t argue with anybody on the left to vote Jill Stein they all cited Chomsky. Somebody has to push back. So thank you!
Thanks Greg and your points are very well taken.
Thank you. BTW none of the people I’ve met who did vote Jill Stein would have voted for clinton had the green party not run. So that’s another false assumption on the author’s part. We’d have written in some protest vote or not voted at all.
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Yea, we do not have great research on that but it seems true for a majority of Green voters.
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