Against Less Evil-ism


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Mon, 08/01/2016 - 9:00am to 10:00am
Arguments against voting for the least bad candidate (again)

Well-read Red Frann Michel gathers arguments from the left against the insistence from liberals that we must vote for Hillary Clinton in order to defeat Donald Trump.


The spectacles of the Republican and Democratic national conventions will have appalled most KBOO listeners, though we've found some solace in Theresa Mitchell's reporting from the Socialist Convergence, as well as some of the commentary on Democracy Now.

The Republicans featured D-list celebrities and plagiarism, while the Democrats excluded Sanders delegates from their seats and replaced them with by paid seatwarmers holding Clinton signs, and ran white noise machines over their chants of No more war, drowning them out with nationalist chants of USA!

Now anyone to the left of Goebbels is being told we have to hold our noses and vote for Satan, or else Cthulhu will win!

Noam Chomsky, that anarchist, has been advocating lesser-evil voting in swing states.

Here's a joke from 1965: "You know," says one friend to another, "last year you told me that, if I voted for Goldwater, all sorts of terrible things would happen. You said we'd be bombing North Vietnam and sending hundreds of thousands of troops to South Vietnam. You said we'd be bogged down in ... a land war in Asia. Well, I guess you were right. I voted for Goldwater, and that's exactly what's happened."

Goldwater's family, by the way, now opposes Donald Trump and supports the woman who was once a Goldwater Girl. She also has the support of hedge funds, fossil fuel corporations, and the very financial institutions that are on the G-20 stability board’s watch list of banks that pose a systemic risk.

Here's a more recent, less funny joke, from a writer named Morgana, on Medium:

Back in 2008, and in 2012, we were told that we must vote for Obama to stop McCain or Romney; that if we allow a Republican in the white house we will have poverty, war and a string of problems. Almost every reason cited as why we need to stop the Republicans even if we do not like Obama’s policies, happened with Obama’s policies. We are still in Iraq, still in Afghanistan, and now we are also in . . . Syria, where Obama recently added hundreds more troops. [Directly or indirectly,] we toppled governments of countries we were not in, before Obama’s presidency, like Libya and Honduras. We are in . . . Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen, supporting death and destruction. ... The world continues to be destabilized, not because Bush messed up so badly, but because Obama’s policies mimic Bush’s policies of imperialism and militarism. ... We were told we cannot have another Republican because the economy will be horrible — but -- newsflash: it is still horrible.... [Poverty continues to hover around 15% according to the official measure that continue to get more and more out of date. ] Every reason cited as why we must vote for the “lesser” evil, happens anyway. All of the oppressions that exist, continue to exist. 

OK, so that wasn't really a joke. But it never has been for those on the other end of the bombs. Steven Salaita points out that

lesser evilism assumes that certain communities are disposable. It apportions people into rigid hierarchies. It judges who is worthy of safety and security. It asks us to voluntarily defer liberation. Lesser evilism may sound appealing as a practical metric, but it comes with severe human costs.... Our political imagination has to be more humane than these awful moral algorithms. US exceptionalism has always compelled people to ignore or minimize the violence of racism and colonization.

Or, as Morgana puts it,

The idea that Hillary is somehow a lesser evil only exists through a lens of eurocentrism and global white capitalist domination. ... Voting for Hillary Clinton in the wake of the rise of fascism is not the answer, it will not help stop fascism at all. In fact, insofar as Capitalist policies are the root cause of the rise of fascism, Hillary Clinton as President would exacerbate the rise of fascism.... A vote against Trump is a misdiagnosis of the rise of fascism. Fascism is not rising because Trump decided to run for the Republican nomination, it was going to rise with or without him. Adding neoliberalism to the rise of fascism is like pouring gasoline on a fire pretending like the gasoline is water.

If we want to challenge neoliberalism, we need more than just electoral politics. Ben Norton reminds us that

The Democratic Party is the graveyard of social movements. It will never allow systemic left-wing change. It never has, and never will. The only thing that has ever moved the US to the left has been independent leftist movements that work outside the Democratic Party. Democrats only later try to claim credit for their hard-earned victories. In fact, it is significantly more likely that the Democratic Party and its war-mongering, neoliberal “lesser evilism” will pave the path straight to a fascist victory on the right. Trump is just the beginning. The Frankenstein’s monsters created by a Clinton presidency will be even worse. Norton continues, The most hopeful thing ... at the DNC this year was the prominence of calls for a “Demexit” — an exit from the Democratic Party. ... This is the basic starting place — a call for building new parties, movements, and organizations that are not subject to the tyranny of capital under which both factions of the Business Party happily operate. The Socialist Convergence, a meeting of leftist parties and organizations during the DNC, tried to lay the bricks for future action, but more work — much, much more work — is left to be done.

Louis Proyect points to the Green Party, which will be holding its convention later this week in Houston. He suggests that the candidacy of Jill Stein "should be understood ... as ... opening up a space on the left that can facilitate coordination and common struggle around burning questions facing American working people." Yasmin Nair similarly proposes that we are in trouble,

regardless of who wins, and the hard work lies ahead of us. [She suggests that ] those who criticize critics of Hillary Rodham Clinton for possibly enabling a Trump victory are over-invested in presidential politics and elections to the extent they don't see how work actually needs to happen in other arenas and levels.... The work of political change happens at the local level, even in issues like the gentrification of neighborhoods -- if people were more political about such matters, and saw how connected all of that is to the larger picture, they might realize the Presidency is a blip in comparison. It's not enough to simply worry about who your President is -- worry about what's going on in your neighborhood.... [and ] to those who think Hillary Clinton can be pushed leftwards ...despite her proven record of enabling only the wealthiest, of being a hawk, and so much more –[Nair asks, ] why do you see yourself as so utterly powerless against a Trump presidency?

Those opposed to both neoliberalism and neofascism will need to continue working through and beyond November. Those activated by the Sanders campaign and disillusioned with the Democrats can join with those already in the Green Party and at the Socialist Convergence, those protesting the sweeps and working for housing for all, those asserting that Black Lives Matter and calling for No More War. In her book From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Keeanga-Yamhatta Taylor writes,

Building the struggles against racism, police violence, poverty, hunger, and all of the ways in which oppression and exploitation express themselves is critical to people's basic survival in this society. But it is also within those struggles for the basic rights of existence that people learn how to struggle, how to strategize, and build movements and organizations. It is also how our confidence develops to counter the insistence that this society, as it is currently constructed, is the best that we can hope to achieve. People engaged in struggle learn to fight for more by fighting for and winning something. But the day-to-day struggles in which many people are engaged today must be connected to a much larger vision of what a different world could look like.

Rather than voting for a lesser evil, we need to work for a greater good.

Here's more about this topic, from August 15 2016


Photo Credit: University of Tennessee

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