April 28, 2016

Getting ready for America's worst presidential election

Sam Smith - As things now stand, we are headed towards choosing a presidency that will be, no matter which way we vote, strikingly untrustworthy, unreliable and corrupt. It is not too early to to try to figure out how to deal with this situation. Here are a few suggestions.

Choose the lesser of two evils. Opposition to this approach is often used as an argument for staying home on election day or voting for a third party. Even though I helped to start two third parties, I have opposed such ineffectual involvement at the presidential level except in states where the results are obvious. Third parties have to grow from the bottom up and can get falsely blamed for unhappy national results as when Nader was charged with Gore's loss even though Gore's popularity during the campaign had declined far more than Nader's total percentage.

Further, not choosing the lesser of two evils is more like a evangelical religious act than a political one. It parades your virtue without considering the consequences to others. If, for example, your vote were to help elect a candidate who then drastically cuts food stamps, the cost of your personal virtue to others would be quite high.

In fact, we choose the lesser of two evils all the time. We call it life. And if we didn't, suicide rates would soar.

Admittedly it can be a difficult choice. For example, Lyndon Johnson, who got more good legislation through in less time than any other president, also got us into the Vietnam War disaster, Yet his opponent was Barry Goldwater who wanted more foreign escapades and accused LBJ of "making promises to buy votes at home while the world smolders and burns." Goldwater also opposed the president on issues like labor unions, and federal involvement in civil rights. Still, voting for the lesser of two evils in 1964, in balance, was the best choice.

I don't enjoy picking the lesser evil but since I don't view my personal virtue as more important than what happens to millions of others, I will, if I have to, take a barf bag along and go vote for Hillary Clinton.

Keep what Bernie Sanders started going: The Sanders campaign was the most encouraging thing that has happened in American politics in several decades. While the corporate media dutifully picks up the Clinton line that Sanders should drop out, in fact the primaries were potentially just the start of a movement that could dramatically change the face of America for the better. The next step for this movement, for example, is to move the Democratic platform closer to what it was before the Democratic Leadership Council and Bill Clinton transformed it to GOP Lite. And if Hillary Clinton is elected, the movement Bernie started can remind her daily that it is still there. Politics is not just about politics, it can also be a technique to start or grow a movement.

Treat the election as about issues rather than personality - People used to talked far more about Republican and Democratic positions than they did treating politics as though it was just another American Idol show. In this election, the White House is just one of the choices. We are also choosing a Supreme Court and perhaps even a Senate. Bad as Hillary Clinton may be, she is still a Democrat and more likely to support the better positions of her party. Yes, there are dangers, such as her pro-war tendency  but whose hand would you like closer to the nuclear button: hers or Trump's?

Organize people, not symbols and words  - As America's liberal minority has become better educated, it has placed excessive emphasis on semiotic and symbolic matters and less on the basic job of organizing people. Thus we have attacks on various signs and symbols on college campuses or on the language people use even as effective people organizing remains weak. Removing Woodrow Wilson' name from a college building does not improve urban policing in the slightest. We need more cures than critiques.

Stop dissin' the people you need on your side - Every time I hear a liberal attacking "white privilege" I think of the fact that there are almost twice as many poor whites in this country as there are poor blacks. There was a time when activists would attempt to get these two constituencies together, but that was before liberals began attacking the very people they should be enlisting.  Go after their misleaders - like Donald Trump- but help their victms find a better way to solve the problems that led them to fall for them.

Remind people of the difference between Democrats and Republicans: The Democrats have brought us Social Security, the minimum wage, food stamps, Medicare, and scores of similar programs. The GOP work on such crucial issues has varied from pathetic to opposition. A few years ago I started collecting a list of institutions and programs that prominent GOP figures criticized or acted against. Here's the list:

9/11 responders,  AARP,  Americorps,  bicyclists and bikes, black men, Census, children with pre-existing health conditions,  college graduates,  college students,  consumers,  cops,  disabled people,  disaster victims,  earthquake warnings,  employed women,  EPA,  ethnically mixed couples,  federal courts,  Federal Reserve Board, fire fighters,  food stamp recipients,  gays,  home owners,  ill people who need medical marijuana,  immigrants and their children,
internal revenue service,  journalists,  latinos,  Medicare,  Medicaid recipients,  minimum wage workers,  minimum wage,  National Endowment For The Arts,  National Institutes Of Health, national parks,  National Science Foundation,  NPR & PBS,  postal service,  public school students,  public workers,  residents of Dc-Guam-Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands  Sandy Storm victims,  scientists,  separation of church and state,  social security recipients,  state workers,  teachers,  unemployed workers,  United Nations,  wildlife,  and women


Anonymous said...

Bernie's support is real among working class people - but a lot (not all) of the campaign staff is not progressive - or they are not organized in a progressive manner - just establishment mechanical number pushers. Time is right to start moving Bernie's support base into more community based organizing in order not to lose what the Sanders campaign has helped bring to light.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe if someone drove a fencepost through my skull I'd momentarily ponder voting for that posturing, fraudulent, hypocritical, dangerous, and pathetic rerun of failed policy and grasping ambition."

I am talking about:
A) Hillary Clinton
B) Donald Trump
C) Idi Amin
D) Walt Disney

Anonymous said...

As a longtime but now former Dem, I'm just concerned about defeating Hillary. Sanders or Trump, makes no difference to me. Just as long as it's not HER. I lived through one Clinton administration and that's more than enough. They're the worst.

Anonymous said...

Choosing between Trump (or Cruz) and Clinton, will be like choosing between putting out my right eye or my left eye. I won't do either.

I live in a western state, Oregon, with 7 electoral college votes. The polls are closed on the east coast and the contest is often decided, long before polls close in my state.

The last time Oregon decided the presidential election was when R.B. Hayes was elected in 1886. Oregon hasn't gone for a Republican presidential candidate since Reagan in 1984. Oregon's votes are meaningless in the general election. We are far to little, far too late, and dwarfed by California's 55 votes.

Since my vote doesn't really matter in the general election, I'll vote my conscience, it certainly won't hurt anyone, and I'll be able to sleep at night.

Lawrence Magnuson said...

The ridiculous lesser of two evils theorem? It stops being at all interesting at a certain point, say seeing polar bears wet with sweat on their brows. But go ahead and choose or pretend you are choosing. Slim pickins, possibly fatal--too little too late? Hitler or Stalin? What do I do? What hyperbole and shamelessly playing the Stalin card! Wait, they were old school--pre-hydrogen bomb, etc. Where does this parsing called choosing lead at this particular time in the world's not endless history? But, sound logical and belly up, and what will be your not-diverging-in-a-wood-on-fire, choice? A or B?Red or Blue? Test the theorem! (Once again). Is it "from hell hill to hell hole?" or is it the more 'progressive' "from hell hole to hell hill"? With world enough and time, sure. At this late date? Only lethal doppelgangers and what's left of being free and human darkly for sale and to ruin, but, hey, they come two at a time. Salt and pepper! Different! Act now!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely NEVER EVER will I caste my vote for Hillary. If Bernie does not become the DEMs candidate, then Bernie should run for President as an Independent.

Sylvia Valls said...

i feel exactly the same way... And an Independent who might be able to sway the Green candidate to being his running mate... That would be a very interesting choice... a Bernie-Stein ticket!!

Anonymous said...


Yes! This is just what I've been thinking. I had to register democrat to vote for Bernie in the primary. I'd certainly vote for Bernie as an independent.

Leslie Armstrong said...

Although it's been that way for as long as I can remember, I'm hoping Bernie's campaign continues into overdrive. We have nothing to lose if we continue to promote his platform and get the vote out. Possibly a lot to lose if we don't. This country desperately needs a positive change (unlike Trump's proposed change). Both Bernie and Jill Stein (Green Party) share the same beliefs, as far as I can tell.

Anonymous said...

If I vote, it will be for Trump since I don't want any more wars on my conscience.

However, I might not vote at all. When I voted for Obama in his first time, I promised myself that if he sold out (as he quickly did) I would never vote based upon "promises" again. A candidate's "promises" would have to be backed up by a solid track record before I would step into a voting booth.

Trump promises to stop these endless, senseless wars. That is a dream worth voting for. But will he keep that promise? No one knows.