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Re: Halle/Chomsky: An Eight Point Brief For LEV (Lesser Evil Voting)
Having read all of the arguments thus far at the Noam Chomsky/John Halle blog post, including those presented elsewhere as pingbacks among the comments, and supporting articles where links have been provided within comments, my respect for the Lesser-Evil Voting (LEV) point of view has grown, though I am no closer now to changing my mind than I was at the outset. Some of the arguments, both pro LEV and con, where they differ from mine, I have found to be excellent, and though this should not be a beauty contest, so has been some of the writing itself. In particular, http://editor.currentaffairs.org/2016/07/why-leftists-should-have-no-problem-voting-for-hillary-clinton/ on the pro side and http://topwallshd.com/the-logical-and-practical-bankruptcy-of/ on the con side are equally compelling.
I am saddened to see Halle, Donahue & company indulge in ad hominem sneering in some replies to those critical of LEV, which is a disservice to their own arguments and the debate, and according to Danial Falcone at CounterPunch ( http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/14/what-readers-need-to-know-about-noam-chomskys-position-on-lesser-evil-voting/ ), Noam Chomsky himself will not condescend to respond to those pointing out the many leaks in his LEV boat, least of all those apparently too-low-to-kick critics at CounterPunch. I admit the quality of writing there is erratic, sometimes appalling, and the views expressed betimes juvenile as well, but again, this should not be a beauty contest, and much at that venue is superb, needs to be said, and is just not to be found anywhere else.
My respect for this point of view has grown in that I would no longer fault a 'pragmatic' voter holding their nose to vote for Hillary Clinton in a swing state, though I myself would nonetheless vote conscience and take the long term, third-party-affirming pragmatism over the immediate, duopoly-affirming, stop-Trump kind, and I now find these are evil choices all around, with no clear winner.
Which leads me to the burning questions I have on the subject of third-party voting and building, answers to which may indeed compel me to change my mind on lesser-evil voting.
I have never understood the 'spoiler' arguments against third-parties in the context of the American duopoly. Help me out if you can. When the subject of Nader's third-party run comes up, and assuming solely for the sake of argument, as I do not believe it to be the case, that his voters in Florida did enable Bush to win, I would vote for him all over again in a heartbeat, even if I lived in Florida, no matter what kind of idiot-monster Republican I risked to win. I take the rage of unhappy Democrats as a given, along with the distinct possibility of causing a Republican victory, as I believe any good third-party voter should.
I miss the point of those who fear 'backlash.' Whose backlash are we afraid of? That of Democratic Party die-hards? Backlash from the Democratic Party seems to me the whole point, since third-party 'winning' at the national level is not in the cards. The point of a left third-party is not to endear itself to intractable, pro-capitalist, liberal Democrats, in some naive effort to obtain cooperative favors from them, but to piss them off to delirium, and coerce concessions whether they like them or not. Am I mistaken? Top level cooperation may be conceivable once a third-party candidate is elected, but it seems to me improbable beforehand given the stark divide in underlying principles. To be sure, voter recruitment comes from the un-represented Democratic Party left and its regular following among Independents, hence the 'spoiler effect,' but also from the new and non-voter block disgusted with their choices, as well as from the GOP working class. In no case, however, does voter recruitment come from the Democrat's core party-ueber-alles types. So what is lost by tweaking an already divided Democratic Party's nose by campaignng and voting for the third-party candidate?
Is it backlash from the marginalized that is feared? The marginalized dangled with a shameless tease of hope from a cynical, exploitative Democratic Party? If I were an impoverished gay Black Muslim woman I'd vote third-party in a swing state in this election—not simply to assert my values, but to advance the alternative party for the sake of my children and the future not yet born. Fear-mongers be damned, including well-intentioned leftist authoritarians who...
"...resort to fear, so as to ward off any room for ideals, visions and hope. Efforts to keep this room open are made all the more difficult by the ethically tranquilizing presence of a celebrity [here Chomsky] and commodity culture that works to depoliticize people. The realms of the political and the social imagination wither as shared responsibilities and obligations give way..." [taken from "Donald Trump and the Plague of Atomization in a Neoliberal Age" and turned on its head. Brackets and emphasis added. Indeed, Halle & co. resemble Trump in their LEV bullying much as the Clintonites do...]
It seems to me what one should look for in a third-party is iron-clad resolve to spoil the capitalist Democratic Party vote—openly, avowedly, pragmatically, defining and clarifying all along the way just why and how this is necessary to third-party building, so no one is left to say they had no idea their third-party vote could cause that fascist GOP pinhead to win. Pulling in non-voters and making some dent in the working class Republican vote seems to me secondary, a bonus if you will, at least initially. A Democrat in office may or may not be a 'lesser evil,' but the Party itself cannot be mistaken for a friend. The Democratic Party is the more effective capitalist enemy in real political terms.
Explain to me how a people's third-party shall ever so much as gain a foothold absent the spoiling of elections for the Democratic Party—or certain accusations of same whatever the reality may be. And if all the unglamorous movement-building work outside of elections does not find an electoral voice in a national third party, where is the endgame for capitalist party duopoly? Is it solely in safe, local contests that do not 'spoil' any elections—local, state or national—for the Democrats? This is not incrementalism or ground-building, it is tokenism at its worst. Ground-building means taking on Democrats at every local level, up to the top, in as many elections as feasible, win or lose. Or finally, is the endgame solely to be found in that favorite fantasy of the left—some broadly imagined, extra-electoral, scythe-and-hammer revolution of proletarian millions in some far away time?
If there is zero 'revolutionary' potential in elections, plainly there is some 'evolutionary' potential in third-party building and electoral campaigns, particularly at the high visibility national level. And as an added bonus, the affirmative context-setting potential for revolution is going on at the same time within the good work in between elections. But is this potential not abnegated from the get-go with the duopoly-affirming LEV standpoint? Is third-party campaigning and building a thing to be flicked on and off like a light switch, depending on whether some bogeyman might get in from a 'spoiler' effect? This seems to me as ludicrous as it sounds. Who would take such a party seriously?
Yet the argument is being made that Donald Trump is so bad, we ought to chuck the whole idea of third-party voting, at least in swing states 'just this one time.' As an 'historical witness,' I can see that the Bernie Sanders phenomenon has been in contrast so very good that momentum for third-party voting has never appeared better. He has shown us we do not need Nader's 'enlightened billionaire' to break us free of the electoral stranglehold, and he has progressives fired up to a truly historical level. No one knows what effects and ramifications may play out from a Trump presidency, and though I am no expert in complexity theory, I do know that change is often unforeseeable precisely because it arises well outside of linear reasoning, arising instead out of a network of causes and effects for which we have (as yet) no interpretive model for assigning a probability in advance.
You don't have to write political fiction to see how a Trump presidency could turn into the kind of fiasco that would utterly destroy the Republican Party, and indeed imaginably even catalyze an extra-electoral revolution like nothing else has. The rigid logic of LEV does not allow for the unexpected consequence, but wishes instead to arrogate 20-20 foresight of relative evils. As highly as I surely do esteem Noam Chomsky—indeed his age is heart-rending, what shall we do without him? who can ever take his place?—I daresay he does not possess any such knowledge of the future. He is making a reasonable suggestion assuming reasonable probabilities, that is all.
Third-party voting is not some decorative, forego-able option within third-party building, it is a requisite duty, integral and indispensable. And third-party building—spoiler effect be damned, nay, be aggressively sought after for the party empowerment that it is—seems to me at least as reasonable a suggestion—based on assumption of benefit no less obvious. The stark fact of the matter is that if everyone who believed 'they can't win' voted for a third-party, they would win. Third-party voting, given the virtual certainty of defeat and the possibility of 'spoiling' the lesser-evil candidacy, is the harder choice to make, that is all. To stand the LEV question on its head, are we playing holier-than-thou games with lesser-evil-voting or are we pragmatically seeking power with third-party building?
If you believe this temporizing charade has to be called out loud, that the American people need, desire and deserve a 'party of the people' in elections at every level of government, taking the world as it is, how do you expect that to come about without 'spoiling' duopoly elections? How can we give birth to a third-party without marginalized people suffering the electoral consequences? How can it possibly come into being without enabling Republican monsters to gain office and repress their opposition as well as wreaking legislative havoc on innocent millions? Tell me. Or without creating Democratic party monsters seething with hatred for said third-party and seeking every kind of obstructive repression against it along with their own legislative havoc on perhaps a different set of millions?
What is the plan to end Lesser Evil Voting in America?
Talk to me. I'm calling this research for book three in the Nine Inch Bride series, and I'm all ears.