July 6, 2015

Voting in the Mafia neighborhood called America

Sam Smith - One of the damages contemporary media and advertising have done to politics is to turn our elections overwhelmingly into a choice between purported icons rather than between the programs of competing political parties. We become obsessed with candidates to an extent that we forget that even presidents are just part of a much larger political picture. We ignore the fact that, even if we don’t like any of the candidates, we can at least pick the best battlefield to fight upon.

When I mentioned this to a long-time British activist and journalist, he said that something similar had happened in his country, beginning with Tony Blair. Like us, the Brits no longer vote so much for a party and its program as for a fictitious walking and talking symbol promising a better life.  

This isn’t such a good idea in the best of seasons, but if one faces – as we do now – the probability that we will have one of the worst presidential choices ever, it could easily contribute to disaster.  

And adding a minor third choice – such as Green Party candidate Jill Stein doesn’t help because politics isn’t religion. It’s not about displaying your personal virtue – in which case Stein would be the obvious choice. It is about helping a country survive in a time where now, as I once put it, we all live in a Mafia neighborhood.

What is needed in such a moment is not righteousness but smarts. I was one of the founders of the national Green Party but I have differed with my party friends on this issue because a Green presidential candidate getting a few points not only may not help the country, it doesn’t help the party. For example, we are still being attacked for Gore’s loss in 2000 even though it was clear from polls that it was Gore himself who blew the race in the last two months of the campaign. And if a Green Party presidential candidate gets, say, two percent of the vote, all that does is to strengthen the general view that the party is insignificant and not to be bothered with.

I helped the Green Party get going after having been involved in starting the DC Statehood Party that held at least one seat on Washington’s city council and/or school board for 25 years. What encouraged me in part was my sense that such parties, if truly connected to their communities, can provide a political wing for activist efforts. Some sit in, some boycott, and some run for office. It can all be part of a grassroots organizing effort.

Living in Maine where the Greens have some clout, I am regularly reminded of the importance of having this political/activist connection, if for no other reason than that the media is more likely to quote a Green city council member than a Green organizer.

And I have encouraged, albeit futilely to date, people such as union members and blacks to vote the way they want but to register as Greens. If there was major Green registration by those not traditionally considered part of its family, the message would come across quite loudly.

Most of all, though, it has to come from the bottom up. Just look at what has happened in marijuana policy, gay marriage and local food. No presidential candidate made them work; it was from the bottom up.

Further, when you’re dealing with a presidential election you need to do something more than illustrate your virtue by your vote.

To be sure, if it is Clinton vs. Bush there is no personal salvation in either choice. But imagine instead, that you approach this election as one between Democrats and Republicans.

Yes, there is an appalling similarity on many issues. Let’s accept that as a miserable given.  But let’s consider a matter such as food stamps. How many lives would be saved if we managed to have the Democratic rather than the GOP approach to this matter? Now expand this to a wealth of issues including health, labor and various other social programs. Now add to this the question of who gets nominated to the Supreme Court over the next four to eight years.

Hillary Clinton is not to be trusted in the best of times, but she is only part of the story. These elections are not another version of Shark Tank or American Idol, as the mainstream media would have you believe. It is a matter of choosing the most likely environment for the good to survive or improve.

And if you want to add a moral factor, imagine that because you stayed home on election day or voted for a third party candidate, Jeb Bush wins. Would you feel any personal responsibility for the hungry who die as a result?  Virtue can be more complicated than a simple symbol.

I wouldn’t lend my car to Hillary Clinton and I regard the Democratic Party as betraying not only the American people but its very own heritage from the New Deal and Great Society. But even with this burden, absent some revolutionary change between now and then, I shall go the polls and cast my national vote based not on anger and disgust but on a bitter assessment of which party will do the least damage to the least number of Americans and which will provide the most favorable environment for those seeking real change. Then I will save my personal virtue for those Greens running in my state and town.


Anonymous said...

Well, if you want World War III, go ahead and vote Hillary. She put Ms.Nuland in charge of Ukraine, and is the genius behind provoking China with her Pivot to Asia.

At this point under Democratic Evil Rule, I'm starting to wish we could go back to Cheney's days as Master of the Universe. Back then, we went a whole 18 months between starting new wars, we always had a least Congressional fig leaf votes, and we never risked World War III by constantly trying to start a 2-front war with the world's major powers. The latest strategy from the Pentagon under the Democrats is the purely evil strategy of attacking anyone who grows powerful enough to challenge US supremacy.

I'm used to the idea that (D) is for Liar. But I'm surprised to have learned that hey were lying even when they call their version of evil as 'lessor'. The more peaceful days of Dick Cheney look better and better and I'm not the world will survive 4 more years of the Democrats and their version of evil. If we never stand up and say NO!, then it only keeps getting worse.

And, as Obama has gone around overthrowing democratically elected governments, fighting alongside Al-Qaeda in 3 wars, and supports Israel, Bahrain, Ukraine, Honduras, Saudi Arabia and others in killing and attacking innocent civilians, it does my soul quite a bit of good to say I never voted for him and none of his barrels and barrels of blood is on my hands.


In the 2000 election in Florida, more than 200,000 registered Democrats voted for George W. Bush. Tell that to everyone who still blames Ralph Nader for Al Gore's supposedly losing Florida to Bush. I wrote "supposedly" because, months after the election, a few newspapers determined that Gore actually won Florida once ALL the votes were finally counted, but Gore conceded too soon. What we know for sure is that too many registered Democrats voted for Bush, and that Bush's dad's hand-picked Supreme Court "justices" stopped the vote count and picked Dubya as President, an outrageous and unconstitutional decision which was allowed to go unchallenged by the Democrats.

Anonymous said...

With single issue voting you make one issue the litmus test for that election, and tie the issue to Congress and the President. Those against the issue lose. The suggested issue: Congress passes and the President signs into law the abrogation of Buckley and stripping of Court veto on that issue, omnibus legislation ending corrupt election and media practices. All quite legal under Madison's Constitution. An electorate revolt, takes 20% to target the unwilling and swing the election. Been done in the past as by the Anti-Saloon League, worth doing again.

Anonymous said...

Just because Hils runs with a 'D' after her name you actually suppose she'd be any different than the nut cases running in the other party?
Are you serious? This post was not a joke?
As Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report has stated for years now, the Obama presidency, due to perceptions not unlike those you assert above, has proven to be the most effective evil. What Republican would be allowed to foist a similar agenda upon the American people and not get castigated for so trying? Imagine the ills another Clinton will be able to perpetrate. There is no way in hell that this voted will ever perform any kind of act that might result in the greater ascendency of any Clinton or their DLC minions.
Can you feel the Bern?
Go Bernie Sanders.
Strength through unity, Power to the people.

Anonymous said...

We DO NOT pick our battlefield, the financially powerful provide a few battlefields, all of which serve their own interests. Most all are to the detriment of the voter. The voter is under the spell of Main st Media and clueless.

Walter F. Wouk said...

"Better the Devil you know..." with the exception of Hillary Clinton who is the Devil you don't want to know any better.