August 1, 2016

Two Must-Reads for Bernie-or-Busters

First, Noam Chomsky argues why progressives in swing states should vote for Hillary Clinton. Here are some highlights from his article:

"The broader lesson to be drawn is not to shy away from confronting the dominance of the political system under the management of the two major parties. Rather, challenges to it need to be issued with a full awareness of their possible consequences. This includes the recognition that far right victories not only impose terrible suffering on the most vulnerable segments of society but also function as a powerful weapon in the hands of the establishment center, which, now in opposition can posture as the “reasonable” alternative. A Trump presidency, should it materialize, will undermine the burgeoning movement centered around the Sanders campaign, particularly if it is perceived as having minimized the dangers posed by the far right.

"A more general conclusion to be derived from this recognition is that this sort of cost/benefit strategic accounting is fundamental to any politics which is serious about radical change. Those on the left who ignore it, or dismiss it as irrelevant are engaging in political fantasy and are an obstacle to, rather than ally of, the movement which now seems to be materializing."

Chomsky then articulates eight principles for "lesser evil voting": 

  1. Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites.
  2. The exclusive consequence of the act of voting in 2016 will be (if in a contested “swing state”) to marginally increase or decrease the chance of one of the major party candidates winning...
  3. One of these candidates, Trump, denies the existence of global warming, calls for increasing use of fossil fuels, dismantling of environmental regulations...Trump has also pledged to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants...Trump has also pledged to increase military spending while cutting taxes on the rich, hence shredding what remains of the social welfare “safety net” despite pretenses.
  4. The suffering which these and other similarly extremist policies and attitudes will impose on marginalized and already oppressed populations has a high probability of being significantly greater than that which will result from a Clinton presidency.
  5. 4) should constitute sufficient basis to voting for Clinton where a vote is potentially consequential-namely, in a contested, “swing” state.
  6. However, the left should also recognize that, should Trump win based on its failure to support Clinton, it will repeatedly face the accusation (based in fact), that it lacks concern for those sure to be most victimized by a Trump administration.
  7. Often this charge will emanate from establishment operatives who will use it as a bad faith justification for defeating challenges to corporate hegemony either in the Democratic Party or outside of it. They will ensure that it will be widely circulated in mainstream media channels with the result that many of those who would otherwise be sympathetic to a left challenge will find it a convincing reason to maintain their ties with the political establishment rather than breaking with it, as they must.
  8. Conclusion: by dismissing a 'lesser evil' electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve."
* * * * * 

Vox's Dara Lind points out that Bernie-or-Busters are squandering their chance to hold Hillary accountable, and in so doing they're squandering their chance to advance the progressive movement. 

Lind writes that Hillary has shown that she's responsive to the demands of her constituents. When her base applies heavy pressure for her to move left on a given issue (e.g., criminal justice reform, a $15 minimum wage), she generally moves to the left. And in this regard she's no different than most politicians. For instance, liberal activists applied heavy pressure on Obama early in his presidency -- e.g., interrupting some of his speeches before the repeal of DADT or "before he implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young unauthorized immigrants in 2012" -- and in private he essentially ackowledged that such tactics worked. "In meetings with progressive activists, Obama often tells a story about Franklin Delano Roosevelt telling labor leader A. Philip Randolph, 'I agree with you, now go out and make me do it.' Ironically, FDR probably never said that — but Obama's use of it reflects how he himself understands politics. And when pressured enough, on immigration or the Keystone XL pipeline, he delivers."

"Here’s the thing, though, about working to get a politician to move to the left (or in any other direction): when the politician tells you what you want to hear, and supports a policy to pander to you, that’s a victory. It doesn’t matter whether they actually believe the sentiment. It matters that they know you believe the sentiment, and they’ve decided the most important thing is to do what you want.

"That usually means that the most effective activists in this style make clear demands of politicians about what they want to see, and then praises the politician when it happens.

"When Bernie Sanders was asked to say that black lives matter, and did — and started name-dropping Sandra Bland in speeches — that was a victory. The activists who’d criticized Sanders and his campaign acknowledged and praised it (even while remaining annoyed with some Sanders supporters)."

Many Bernie-or-Busters, on the other hand, have made it clear that they'll be against Hillary no matter what. Their goal doesn't seem to be moving Clinton to the left but demonstrating that she is illegitimate. 

"This is the question that left dissenters need to ask themselves about Hillary Clinton, if they haven’t already: is there anything that Hillary Clinton can do to redeem herself to you?

"If there isn’t, you can continue to protest her existence, but don’t be upset if she doesn’t respond — you wouldn’t accept a response if you got it.

"If there is, figure out how you can make her do it — especially (if she is elected) in January. You won’t be alone. In fact, you might be surprised to see that some of the people who supported Clinton in 2016 are right alongside, waiting to remind her of what she owes."

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