In a fascist or Bolshevik dictatorship, I would be forced to vote for a single party that didn’t represent me.
Since I live in a democracy, why should I limit myself to voting for one of two parties that don’t represent me?
The Democratic presidential candidate is Hillary Clinton, who is literally a paid servant of Wall Street, who is almost certain to involve the United States in more wars and who may possibly bring on World War Three.
So why vote for either of them? Why not vote for a candidate who favors peace, opposes Wall Street and upholds historic Constitutional rights?
Now you may disagree. You may think that either Clinton or Trump represents a positive good and not a lesser evil. If you do, nothing in this post applies to you. It is aimed at people who think they have to choose between a greater and a lesser evil.
Many liberal Democratic friends agree there is some truth in what I write about Clinton, but they see it as their duty—and my duty—to vote for Clinton. They say that to vote for anybody but Clinton, or to refrain from voting, is the same as voting for Trump.
They have two main arguments, which I call the Nader argument and the Hitler argument, which I will address below.
The Nader argument is that people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 tipped the balance from Al Gore to George W. Bush. So liberals and progressives should limit themselves to voting for the Democrat, no matter who, to prevent such a thing from happening again.
The Hitler argument is that Hitler came to power because the main German political parties—the Catholic Center Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party and the conservative anti-Hitler parties—were unable to bury their differences and unite against Hitler. So liberals and progressives should bury their own convictions in the interests of stopping the supposedly Hitler-like candidate on the right.
What’s interesting about these arguments is that we all live in New York state, which is as certain to go for Hillary Clinton as anything can be. All my presidential vote does is to express where my loyalty lies—to a political party or to my own beliefs.
Vaclav Havel, the great Czech playwright and dissident, wrote in his 1979 essay, The Power of the Powerless, about the manager of a fruit and vegetable shop under Communist rule putting a sign in his window saying, “Workers of the world, unite.” The manager didn’t care about workers of the world uniting, and the sign wouldn’t affect whether workers of the world united or not. What he was really doing by putting up the sign, Havel wrote, was saying: I am obedient and have the right to be left in peace.
I’m not comparing myself to somebody in a Communist country who would be persecuted for refusing to follow the party line. The worst thing I risk is the mild disapproval of a few people. What I am saying is that the issue is the same. Where does my loyalty lie?
THE NADER ARGUMENT
In 2000, Ralph Nader, running on the Green Party ticket, drew enough votes from Al Gore to give the election to George W. Bush. The number of people who voted for Nader was greater than the difference in the vote counts not only in Florida, but also in New Hampshire. If Gore had carried either state, he would been elected President.
So, it is argued, Nader is to blame for every bad thing that happened in the Bush administration—the intervention in Iraq, the USA Patriot Act, torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Not George W. Bush. Not Vice President Dick Cheney. Not Gore’s campaign. Not voter suppression. Not the “Brooks Brothers riot” that prevented a recount of the Florida ballots. Not the Supreme Court decision giving the election to Bush. It is the people who voted for Nader instead of Gore.
The assumption is that Gore would have been clearly better than Bush. But we don’t know that. Bill Clinton chose Gore as his running mate partly because he supported authorizing George H.W. Bush to wage the 1991 Gulf War. Gore supported the low-level war against Iraq carried out by the Clinton administration. He named Joe Lieberman, one of the leading Democratic war hawks, as his own running mate. He supported authorizing Bush to use military force in Iraq. The science fiction writer Ken MacLeod wrote an interesting alternate history novel in which Gore carried Florida.
Ralph Nader and the other small-party candidates argue that it is necessary to think in a longer time frame than just until the next election. Yes, the worst candidate may defeat the second-worst candidate, but the only way to get a better candidate is to hold out for one.
Voting for a small-party candidate who represents your views tells the leaders of the big parties what they have to do to get your vote. Alternatively, over time the small party may become a big party. The Republican Party was once a small-party alternative to the Whigs.
THE HITLER ARGUMENT
Now there can be a situation in which one candidate is so dangerous that all other considerations cease to matter. That was certainly the case when Hitler was on the verge of coming to power.
Do we face a similar situation in the USA? Donald Trump would make a worse President than Mitt Romney, John McCain or even George W. Bush because of his ignorance and lack of self-control. But these very qualities make him a less effective evil. It would be much easier to checkmate his plans than to stop Hillary Clinton’s.
I think the real danger to American democracy will come not from Donald Trump, but from some future smart, self-disciplined candidate who appeals to Trump’s followers and doesn’t make Trump’s mistakes.
When political leaders, who can’t agree on anything else, unite to defeat one dangerous rival, that rival has already half won. The demon candidate’s opponents are trying to defeat a positive with a negative.
The permanent defeat of Hitler in 1930s Germany would have required a government that could have effectively dealt with unemployment, Germany’s war debts and Germany’s national humiliation.
I’m not denying the appeal of Hitler’s anti-Semitism and racism. I’m saying that if there had been an incumbent government capable of dealing with the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression, Hitler would not have come to power.
Hitler in fact did end unemployment, and did make Germany a feared and respected nation—at the cost of denying Germans political, intellectual or personal freedom, and then launching a war that left millions of Germans dead, many millions more homeless and hungry and Germany itself a nation in ruins and under foreign occupation.
The way to prevent somebody like Donald Trump from coming to power is to help the people who are hurt by economic globalization and immigration. Otherwise there will be an endless series of Donald Trumps.
OTHER PATHS TO REFORM
I think of myself as a political liberal, but if you are opposed to needless wars and law-breaking in high places, I think of you as a kindred spirit, regardless of where you put yourself on the imaginary political spectrum.
I have no quarrel with you if you want to try to reform one of the two major political parties from within. That is more than I am doing, sitting on the sidelines and writing this blog. I will support you by voting for reform candidates, if and when they get nominated, and by casting my vote elsewhere until and unless they are.
Likewise, I have no quarrel with you if you choose to work for a reform movement such as Fight for Fifteen, Black Lives Matter, a labor union, a peace protest or an anti-fracking organization. That, too, is more than I am doing. I will support you by voting for candidates who support reform, and withholding my vote from those who don’t.
Obama the Conservative | Tracking Obama’s abandoning of the progressive agenda and the disconnect between his words and deeds by Ilari Kaila. A comprehensive roundup. Worth bookmarking.
Faced with Trump and Clinton, Americans yearn for third choice by Chris Kahn for Reuters.
Donald Trump Isn’t the Presidential Candidate We Should Be Worried About by John Feffer for TomDispatch. The real danger is the smarter, more capable neo-fascist politician who will rise in his wake.
Find out just what any people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.
It is better to vote for what you want and not get it, than vote for what you don’t want and get it.
==Eugene V. Debs