This was one of the highlights from the political primaries in the USA last year, along with a similar humdinger between Chris Hedges and Robert Reich. Kshama Sawant comes in with her verbal machine gun, unerringly on target, yet Rebecca Traister shows great fortitude in holding her ground. Faced with this overpowering screed, while having to propound the dubious merits of Hillary Clinton and the crooked DNC, I’d have been tempted to cry off and fake an illness. So, to me, Sawant easily wins….but I’d still have given the “bout” to Traister on the grounds of Donald Trump being a real and present danger; a menace; a walking ‘dirty bomb’ in a too long necktie.
There is an idea – and it is somewhat coming to pass – that a President Trump has reawakened what passes for a U.S. left; that the scoundrel can’t get anything done. Whereas a President Clinton would have immediately split the ‘left’ with, especially, female writers, the Elite, White Feminists, as Liza Featherstone calls them, those like Traister, whose career is seemingly to regularly apologise for Hillary Clinton, jumping through all sorts of hoops to rationalise another coup, another bombing campaign, another financial “mystery”, another heartless example of Republican-lite. Like the Congressional Black Caucus who were cowed from doing anything against Obama because they didn’t want to sully the hopes of the next African-American president, the feminists would have deflected and obfuscated on Hillary’s behalf. Why wouldn’t they? If getting a female president was so important prior to the election, they’d have been good soldiers afterwards too. First it would have been to make sure that she wasn’t a ‘one-termer’ and then it would have been to protect the idea of again voting some day for another female president, whenever that was to be, somewhere down the line.
The trouble with the idea that Trump will be bringing down the Republicans from the inside is that there are too many dominoes that have to fall in the correct direction. It might happen. It might not. I suspected that four years of a President Hillary would have led to scandal and chaos which, in turn, would have led to eight years (after 12 years of Democrats) of Zodiac killer, Ted Cruz and Cruz is like Trump but way more vicious and way more intelligent. Cruz is a different brand of buffoon: he’d have been able to get things done. Yet, that, I think, would have been a bridge that one crosses when one comes to it. Despite the resistance of the phoney-baloney ‘left’, a President Hillary could have received a primary challenge and been 86’d before the 2020 election.
One of Clinton’s admirable qualities is that she’s not very good at lying. People like her huckster husband and Obama the Drone King are both very talented in bullshitting and giving a false sense of security while Hillary is so not liked, so shady, so untrustworthy that I don’t think that she’d have been able to keep the Democrats together. The resistance to Hillary and the Democrats’ tired neoliberalism would not have knuckled under again for 2020.
If I was an American, I’d always vote Green party in a non-swing state, but for the corporate Democrat in a swing state. Despite Hillary’s egregious qualities, I think that I’d have voted for her in no matter what state I was living, just because it would have been important to hand the short-fingered, orange bully the most almighty hammering. His second amendment comments, for one thing, were outrageous. He did it once, got away with it and did it again. He should have been in prison, much less running in an election, much less winning an election.
The reason to rake though all of this is that it looks like it’s all going to happen again in 2020. The Democrats show no sign, zero sign, in changing. There’s been four special elections since Trump got his tiny little hands on the keys to the White House and the Democrats have blown all four. They are pointless; they are useless. One can understand why they’re ‘phoning it in’. The American political pendulum has a history of swinging one way and then the other and those in positions of power aren’t financially hurting under Trump. José Mourinho used to predicate soccer success on the idea that the team which made the fewest mistakes would win football matches and you make mistakes when you’ve got the ball: the Republicans will have a lot of the ball for the next months and years.
Those Democrats who look like they would overturn the apple cart and run strongly are Tulsi Gabbard, Nina Turner and Bernie Sanders and they get attacked…by the Democratic side. Nina gets seen as too much of a loose cannon, someone who won’t toe the line and shut up. Tulsi makes the other Democrats look like venal scoundrels because she refuses to accept big money backing any longer, since Sanders changed that paradigm, and she has the backbone to speak to those who are part of an equation, even if they’re unsavoury characters, and Sanders reminds liberals that no one irks a liberal more than someone who outflanks them to the left. If only Sanders hadn’t kept harping on about Hillary’s miserable record then she might have been in the White House today, they bleat.
Bernie and the other two should’ve broken away to form a third party or reconstitute the Greens. They’d have been attacked, sure, but they get attacked anyway because the establishment thinks that they’ve got nowhere else to go. If they do stay inside the tent, my fear is that they’ll all be neutralised somehow and another corporate Democrat will be put forward as the nominee to take on Trump or Pence, if Pence is number 46 in the meantime and Trump’s been taken to the hoosegow. Remember that only 9% of the U.S. put up both Trump and Clinton as the respective nominees: if the real progressives are to be discredited, it only has to be with a very small percentage of the country in order to keep them out.
If indeed it is going to be a repeat of that horrible ‘Hobson’s Choice‘, those who try to sell the ‘least worst’ theory have got to up their game. The scolding and finger-wagging won’t work; quite rightly as adults have no liking for being spoken to like they’re miscreant children, when they only want to vote for their favoured candidate, or just do what they want to do. It’s never a good technique; it replaces actual logic and engagement with contempt and bad feeling and who feels the need to respond positively to contempt? Very few. I remember when there was some anniversary for the Queen’s reign here in the UK and some British republicans made sure to turn up in person to demonstrate against the monarchy. Many Brits understand the arguments and are sympathetic to them, in theory, but yawningly accept the Royal Family as a signifier of national identity and also will take any excuse to have a party. To turn up on such an occasion, to figuratively finger-wag and remind people of what they already know, didn’t sit too well with me, even though they were logically correct.
An acceptance of the lesser evil candidates’s flaws might be a good start; not trying to flim-flam the candidate as something they’re not. Some pieces tried to hold up Hillary Clinton to be some progressive fighter in 2016 due to things she did twenty, thirty or forty years previously or they just propagated the idea that a woman was intrinsically worthy of liberal support, even as her record belied that perspective.
The zaniness of the U.S. voting system, wherein the presidency goes to the person who draws 270 electoral votes from a tally of all of the fifty states, means that, depending on where one lives, there is some logic in voting for, say, the Green party, even if they can’t win overall, because if a smaller, ‘third’ party achieves 5% or more of the national vote then they get federal funds to help the party grow and campaign in the future. The U.S. might be a two-party system, due to the electoral college, but it hasn’t always been the same two parties. The Whig party had four U.S. presidents before the Republican party ran it out of town on a rail, for example. However, in the swing states, the logic for voting for someone who can’t win starts to crumble.
The idea of ‘teaching the Democrats a lesson’ doesn’t tally with reality. Firstly, it’ll always be the progressives who’ll get the blame (when the onus and responsibility should be the politician to earn people’s votes – as Hillary herself said when launching her campaign – rather than people unthinkingly ‘delivering’ their votes to a candidate) and, secondly, the Democratic leaders will think that they can use a time out of power to their advantage; watch the other side mess everything up and swoop in to save the day when everyone’s grown sick of the Republicans, which the public surely will.
There’s also a disconnection in logic for those who are disgusted at the choices offered in a national election – okay, fine – but they then go on to seek solace within that same corrupted national election process by voting for a (Green?) candidate anyway. It’s tacit acceptance of one only participating in politics once every two, four or five years and then going away again. A Green party must run in as many states as possible, to act as some kind of counterweight to the Democrats’ backsliding. If they only run in non-swing states then they’re essentially an adjunct to the Democratic party. However, a Green vote in a swing state is one fewer vote required by the maniac Republicans. A Green vote is a vote wasted within that swing state context, I think.
I was proud to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party in the recent UK General Election and I enjoyed voting for Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats in 2010 but, those aside, I’ve always been a Green who’s voted in national elections for the strongest anti-Conservative party in my area as merely the only weapon left to hand. It really shouldn’t be a hard choice. On one occasion, I traveled to the polling station, determined to vote Green and traveled back from the polling station, cursing the fact that I couldn’t vote Green but with that piece of paper in my hand, knowing that I had to vote anti-Conservative in the most meaningful, productive way possible, I did so and would always do so.
The secret is to engender an understanding in people that the national elections are when the choice boils down to a position where you’ve got very little room for manoeuvre….so why waste time, effort and worry about what’s right in front of you? On other days, probably on the other 364/365 days of the year, one will be able to make better choices; in local elections, one will be able to make better choices. The importance of national elections is in the realisation that it is not that important, it is not the be all and end all. So, therefore, you make the best decision within that constricted framework and move on with your life. Successful ‘lesser evilism‘ has to square this circle; importance comes from recognising its lack of importance so you make the correct call from the two options that, no matter how close, no matter how corrupt and distasteful, are not exactly the same.
Ralph Nader and the Greens’ vote in 2000 is often used as a stick to beat people and keep them in line to vote for the milquetoast Democrat. One way to help people to give their indulgence and their vote to the corporate Democrat the next time is to take this myth off of the table. The argument is that the 2000 election was decided in Florida. It’s an egregious excuse anyway, just on the basis of the vast difference in wealth and reach between the U.S. Democratic party and the U.S. Green party, to blame the Greens for the Democrats’ miserable failures, again tacitly suggesting that the Democrats are somehow ‘entitled’ to certain votes but, going in closer, it doesn’t prove out anyway.
The vote count in Florida was stopped in 2000 and Bush was made in the winner on the basis of being a mere 537 votes ahead. Leaving aside that the eventual counting would have made Gore the winner (so, there and then, we can blame the Supreme Court for spitting in the face of states’ rights and for Bush’s “victory”) the Greens’ 97,000 votes, when Bush “won” by 537, was the burning tire that was necklaced around the Greens and the Green cause. However, in Florida, 308,000 registered Florida Democrats (over three times the Greens’ contentious total) found the Gore/Lieberman Democratic presidential ticket so nauseating that they didn’t vote Democratic, they didn’t vote Green, they didn’t stay home but they voted for the Bush/Cheney crime syndicate.
Further more, Al Gore banned a ready, willing, able and 63% approval rating popular sitting president, Bill Clinton, from campaigning for Gore in his home state of Tennessee. Even giving Florida to Bush, a home state win for Gore would have put Gore back into the White House anyway. Gore lost his home state. Even though Tennessee leans more Republican normally, one could ask what someone thinks they’re doing in trying to be the leader of all fifty states if they can’t even convince their home state to support them. Trump lost New York in 2016, as did Nixon in 1968 while President James K Polk did a Gore and lost his own Tennessee in 1845 but it’s still a rarity.
Was Tennessee 2000 the fault of Ralph and the Greens? No. Even if one adds the Greens’ Tennessee vote to Gore’s Tennessee vote in 2000 (19,781 + 981,720 = 1,001,501) Bush/Cheney’s vote in Tennessee of 1,061,949 would still have won by a clear 60,448 votes. Throwing this myth in the trash bin and resolving to take responsibility for Democratic failures might help get people on side for the future. Democrats know this deep down anyway as few of them point to the New Hampshire vote in 2000 when its four electoral votes (which would technically have put Gore on the required 270) went to Bush as Gore lost the state by one and a quarter per cent while Ralph Nader and the Greens picked up almost four per cent. To argue over New Hampshire, while more factual, would be more pathetic within a population of 320 million people. Far more faux-justifiable to whine about Florida’s 29 electoral votes than New Hampshire’s 4.
Another impediment to ‘lesser evil’ voting is the morning after. The vote in 2016 was for Trump or against Trump but to see a grinning Hillary Clinton claiming a victory for herself and her terrible candidature over a short-fingered menace like Trump would have been the fear. Obviously, it would be problematic for politicians themselves to put out a message of “Yes, I know that I’m terrible and I got propped up due to my opponent being worse so yay for me” wouldn’t fly but that’s why there are surrogates and operatives. A promise to be magnanimous after the danger’s over might help a catastrophe to be averted. Smug smiles, misrepresenting one’s vote, stores up trouble for the future.
In the UK, for example, Labour’s ticking time bomb is that Corbyn’s party was clever and fleet-footed enough to draw votes from those who wanted to leave the European Union but in a less insane, reckless manner than the Tories, and the revenge of the 48% ‘remainers’ who might well have loved to take up the Liberal Democrats’ promise of a second referendum but knew that the only realistic antidote to the Tories’ death wish was a vote for Labour. It’ll be some deep future trouble for Labour if they try to ignore the strong vote that they received from those who are strongly pro-Europe.
In the US, voting day for progressives, if faced with a Republican maniac and a neoliberal Clintonite as an “alternative”, should be made into an episode of street theatre. I think that it was Michael Moore who once said that he got one of his small children to pull the lever in the booth for him, in voting for Bill Clinton’s second term, because he didn’t want the ‘blood on his hands’ from voting for a pro-death penalty, pro-war scoundrel like Clinton. Maybe take that as a theme for next time and promote it through social media? News crews, on that Tuesday in three and a half years time, will be wandering around, filming lines of voters, and will be bored to tears. What if loads of people turned up to vote in fancy dress, all across America, wearing huge hockey gloves; motorcycle gloves; industrial accident-type clothes? Like a modern ‘Hands Across America‘ that simultaneously fights both neoliberalism and maladroit fascist buffoons:
“Why the fancy get up, may I ask…?”.
“Yes, well I don’t want Trump again but I also don’t want to have my vote misinterpreted as a vote FOR Cory Booker/Joe Biden/Kirsten Gillibrand/Mark Zuckerberg/Mark Cuban’s trite neoliberalism so I’m making a point, and we’re all making the same point, that this is being done under protest; that it’s a dirty, disgusting job but one that I’m/we’re doing for the wider good.”.
Social media could parlay this up into a meme that couldn’t be ignored. Sure, many apologists would then criticise this, while grinding their own axe, as a way of deligitimising the new Democratic president and not allow them their hard earned ‘day in the sun’ but let the new president prove the naysayers wrong and conduct a good presidency, then. It’s a wonder to see so many try to push a certain candidate as if they’re some great person, someone with whom one has to be friends if they could, someone to be liked. Wrong. Let the honour of being president or prime minister act as its own balm.
A politician might be honest and trustworthy but it’s more than that. They have to, in 2017, be seen as straight-shooters, someone who’ll stand up for what they believe, come what may. That’s where people like Jeremy Corbyn, like Bernie Sanders, like Tulsi Gabbard, like Nina Turner and, indeed, like Donald Trump win big with voters because they all come across like they like to speak with people, rather than it being some chore that comes with the job.
Of course, Trump is a phoney, a fake populist, a fake ‘genuine article’, but I think of a piece in the Huffington Post after the election results. Trump’s ludicrous insanity was interpreted as someone who wasn’t calculating: “It shows he’s not just trying to get elected.”. Social media has smashed the old paradigm of the shifty-eyed, calculating, polished politician being seen as legitimate; as the serious choice. To people now, those are the ones to be deeply distrusted. Things have changed.
It might be lost to history now but in the 2015 Labour leadership election in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy not only caught the imagination of the Labour membership but it also goosed the candidacies of the other three Blairite challengers as Jeremy ran them up a tree. Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham both greatly improved along the way while Yvette Cooper finished extremely strongly, much better than how she started out. If she could somehow drop and lose that phoney-baloney Blairite way of talking and presenting herself – it’s not her fault, it’s a fake ‘polish’ that permeated all politics during the Clinton/Blair era – she could be a leader in the future.
My suspicion, though, is that a Clintonite/Blairite will be the Democratic nominee who’ll face off with Trump (if he stays out of prison) in 2020. The establishment Democrats have just got too much money, power, position and too powerful a media ‘megaphone’. Again, with Trump having proven to be such a horror show, the prescribed impetus will be the play it even more ‘safe’. When centrist/corporate Democrats win, it’s taken as a conformation of the value of their centrism; whey they lose, it’s taken as a need for more centrism. A Bernie/Tulsi/Nina new party or reconstituted Green party could break the Democrats (both the Republicans, with Lincoln, and the Democrats, with Andrew Jackson, formed behind already known figures) or, second prize, leverage them to the left, thus allowing Bernie/Tulsi/Nina to endorse a legitimate Democratic platform but I don’t think they’ll do it in time for 2020. If the Democrats try any primary ‘shenanigans‘ again, it might well happen for 2024.