Choose your own Revolution.
Now that both parties have officially nominated the two most hated candidates this country has ever been faced with choosing between, the rhetoric and coercion and fear-mongering in trying to convince voters which candidate to support is becoming more staggering each day. And while fear-mongering and following ones elders without question has often been a critique of the Right by the Left, the Left is pulling out all the stops this time as they attempt to make up for lost time.
What’s been truly fascinating to me has been watching my progressive friends fall in line behind the Democratic Party, all with the assurance that stopping The Drumpf from gaining the White House is now the Left’s duty as good Americans. Some of my progressive friends here in California, staunch Bernie supporters for months, began posting pro-HRC articles the very day of the California primary, before their own votes were even counted. Many took their cue from Bernie and began falling in line later after his official endorsement of her, with some holdouts waiting until the nomination was official at the epic display of party unity fail that was the DNC in Philadelphia before beginning to toe the line. And the collective rhetoric of all is now directed at the rest of us, those who are not convinced in the slightest we should vote for HRC this November, despite the horrific specter of her opponent.
And I can’t help but notice that in many instances, we progressives are now dividing ourselves along generational lines, our elders, even many of the most radical and revolutionary among them, now doing what they can to convince us to vote for HRC. And I get it. I do. The visceral fear so many Americans hold in response to the thought of a bigoted buffoon in the White House is controlling their thoughts and actions in a way they simply can’t ignore, and I fully realize they are coming from a place of doing what they think is best for this nation as a whole.
But for those of us not ready or willing to simply fall in line, the most disappointing aspect of their arguments is that so many are based on misinformation or outright lies. Last week, I shared my thoughts about the idea of voting third party equaling “white privilege” here, and will be coming back to that point in a bit. But the new focus of the Left now seems to be promoting the idea that Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate for POTUS in 2000, cost the election for Al Gore, especially in what turned out to be the final battleground state that year of Florida. The “lesson” here is supposed to be that voting third party this year will cost HRC the election, so we better get our heads out of our asses and do the right thing or it’s all on us.
Except that their premise is completely false.
The 2000 election has been studied extensively for obvious reasons, so you are encouraged to look into it for yourself, but this Salon article does a good job of breaking things down, including discussing the state of the electorate that year, the one factor that truly informs an educated opinion about the results from that election. Beyond the fact that far more registered Democrats voted for Bush than Nader in Florida that year, and beyond the fact that if Gore had even just managed to carry his home state of Tennessee, things would have turned out much differently, the reasons why Gore struggled so heavily against Bush that year are where our focus should be, not least of which because it’s that lesson that holds so much relevancy to our current predicament.
As the author astutely points out, the focus of that election–the close vote count in Florida–was not the proper takeaway, which should have been on, “…the uncast ballots of almost half of the American electorate, who chose not to vote this year largely because they feel they’ve been cast out of the process by a vacuous, cynical and elitist political system that no longer addresses their needs and aspirations.”
And who were these voters feeling cast out by the political climate of 2000 and the years preceding it?
These mostly are middle- and low-income folks, people making less than $50,000 a year. While they make up some 80 percent of the U.S. population, exit polls on Nov. 7 found that for the first time they’ve fallen to less than half of the voting population. As the Clinton-Gore-Lieberman Democrats have jerked the party out from under this core populist constituency, pursuing the money and adopting the policies of the corporate and investor elite, the core constituency of the party has — big surprise — steadily dropped away. In 1992, the under-$50,000 crowd made up 63 percent of voters. In 1996, after Clinton and Gore had relentlessly and very publicly pushed NAFTA, the WTO and other Wall Street policies for four years, the under-$50,000 crowd dropped to 52 percent of voters. After four more years of income stagnation and decline for these families under the regime of the Clinton-Gore “New Democrats,” the under-$50,000 crowd dropped this year to only 47 percent of voters.
He goes on to say:
At the same time, those who are prospering under the Wall Street boom, cheered on by the policies of both the Republican and Democratic leadership, have become ever more enthusiastic voters. In 1996, voters with incomes above $100,000 (about 3 percent of the population), made up 9 percent of the turnout; this year, they were 15 percent of the turnout.
This rising income skew among voters causes both parties to push more policies that favor the affluent minority, which causes an even greater turn-off for the majority, which causes … well, you can see the downward spiral we’re in. This is especially damaging to Democrats, since the non-voters are their natural constituency. This constituency feels discarded, not only by the Democrats, but by the whole process.
Again, sound familiar?
And let me stress that this was 16 YEARS ago, and yet many of the same neoliberal policies were continued under Bush, and especially under Obama, and now Democrats are choosing to so publicly act as if they couldn’t possibly even fathom why The Drumpf has garnered such a huge following of precisely these voters left behind by the Democrats. And their plan for righting so much of the damage?
MORE OF THE SAME.
And many people honestly believe them. Why? Because they control the conversation, they control the narrative, they control the way in which the populace is fed the wrong information, the wrong takeaway from events such as these, so as to maintain power and control. Much like asserting to this day that George McGovern lost to Nixon in 1972 in a landslide because he was too radical, too leftist, beginning the Democrats’ shift to the right as, according to them, the only option within such an increasingly conservative populace, the Nader myth has been pushed in order to keep voters from supporting third parties. And just like the fact that Nader did not, in reality, cause Gore’s defeat that year, we now know that McGovern would have lost to a fairly popular incumbent presiding over a booming economy regardless of what his policies were. As the author of the article linked to above put it, “The Democrats could have resurrected FDR and Nixon would have trounced him in 1972.”
McGovern had built a huge, diverse coalition of progressive voters, many of whom donated to his campaign in small amounts, but the success of his campaign gets buried under the narrative that the electorate was, and continues to be, far too conservative to support a truly progressive candidate on a national scale. Enter Bernie Sanders over four decades later, and the almost exact same coalition of diverse, especially young, lower to middle-income voters supported him in an extraordinary way, very nearly winning him the Democratic nomination. But how could that have happened with an electorate so increasingly conservative, Democrats say they are forced to continue their steady march to the right in order to cater to a broader section of the country?
If you guessed because the narrative that this country is too conservative to accept true progressive change amounts to a large and very noxious pile of crap, you’d be right. In a study done by Campaign for America’s Future and Media Matters for America, the authors conclude that most Americans don’t think in ideological terms, and the traditional idea that self-identifying as “liberal” correlates to alignment with the Democratic party, self-identifying as “conservative” correlates to alignment with Republicans, and self-identifying as “moderate” correlates to being somewhere in between these two ideologies is, in fact, far from the truth. What they find is that those identifying as moderates tend to agree with Democrats and progressive policies far more than they do with Republicans and conservative policies. The study quotes one of the authors’ previous works in stating:
And it isn’t just party identification; on issue after issue, moderates have opinions almost exactly mirroring those of liberals. In the NES survey, 64 percent of liberals say we should increase spending on Social Security, as do 68 percent of moderates — while only 47 percent of conservatives agree. Eighty-eight percent of liberals and 84 percent of moderates say federal funding on education should be increased, compared to only 58 percent of conservatives. Seventy-three percent of liberals and 66 percent of moderates want more spending for child care — but only 38 percent of conservatives agree. Sixty-two percent of liberals and 57 percent of moderates want to spend more on aid to the poor, compared to only 39 percent of conservatives.
So what’s the good news in all of this? The good news is that the majority of American voters are on the same damn page when it comes to social and economic policies that support the interests of the many as opposed to those of the wealthy few. So why aren’t we moving farther at a faster rate to reach those goals? Well, there are certainly many factors at play, but not least amongst them is precisely these sorts of incorrect or misleading narratives that get pushed by the reigning neoliberal wing of the Democratic party, narratives that keep the very people being hurt by their policies supporting them and continually voting them into office.
So again, I ask, when does it end? Those of us not choosing to support HRC this November are being accused of not looking at the “big picture,” yet, as I’ve argued, we’re, in fact, looking at an even bigger picture, tracing the lines along a very long trajectory begun decades ago that has brought us to this exact place. But this position is little respected amongst many precisely because it doesn’t fit the narrative they’ve either perpetrated or been fed. And unless you can retain firm control of the narrative for as many people as possible, you lose control entirely. And that’s exactly where the Democratic party finds itself.
Where does that leave us, then? Those of us progressive voters who now more than ever find ourselves staunchly divided on whom to support this November? I believe it leaves us in a position to properly strategize together for the progressive future we all desire for this country.
Now, what do I mean by that exactly? Well, publishing my piece on how and why voting third party this year doesn’t equal white privilege opened up some conversations amongst friends and friends of friends, something I always hope for. And in one particular thread, a friend stated that voting third party is, in fact, a position of privilege–but it’s a privilege of location, not race or class.
And THAT is what should inform the strategy of our progressive coalition this year–location combined with your own level of comfort in furthering our political revolution.
Look, many people are saying we should elect HRC and then begin working towards our progressive ideals, and many people are saying we hardcore progressives should in a sense forget about the presidential race and focus on down-ballot candidates. And, of course, we’re over here saying no, godsdammit, we’re voting our conscience or not at all this year.
Well, why don’t we do all three? They’re certainly not all mutually exclusive. And just like I mentioned above that the successive waves of progressive support for HRC have in some ways divided along generational lines, with older progressives seeming to fall in line behind the Democrats sooner rather than later (certainly not across the board, of course), our progressive voting strategy should take into account the fact that we’re all coming from different places, different experiences, and have a different idea of what revolution means or should look like.
And so, much like the “choose your own adventure” books of yore, I believe we’re now in the perfect position to choose our own revolution, predicated on the fact that, sure, in some respects, HRC would be a better option in the White House than The Drumpf at this point. But considering the unfathomably low bar he’s set, that’s certainly not a resounding endorsement. And I don’t mean it to be, as I do not and will not support her. However, I fully support the choice of those who do. And this is where our individual level of commitment to seeing progressive ideals implemented sooner rather than later, as well as our individual willingness to take on risk comes into play. Since I’m pretty damn sure we can all agree on supporting truly progressive down-ballot candidates this fall and for the foreseeable future, the individual parts we will all play in continuing our revolution this November will divide us along state lines combined with whatever level of revolution we each feel comfortable supporting at this point in time. And so…
Are you a diehard HRC fan who considers themselves a true progressive?
Vote for her.
Are you a staunch progressive who’s unconvinced HRC’s neoliberal policies are what we need right now, but see her as the lesser and, therefore, better of two evils?
Vote for her.
Are you a hardcore progressive who doesn’t want to vote for HRC but find yourself in a battleground state such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, or Colorado and feel it’s too risky to vote your conscience?
Vote for her.
OR are you fundamentally revolutionary down to your core and happen to find yourself in a heavily blue or heavily red state?
THEN VOTE YOUR DAMN CONSCIENCE AND LET THE HATERS HATE.
Seriously, people. I plan to write about the idea of reforming the Democratic party from the inside soon (spoiler alert: I think the plan is somewhat crap), but regardless of what the future of the Democratic party holds, I firmly believe we need to start supporting third parties in a concerted way so as to open up more options for our electorate.
Do we have a winner-take-all system that really only supports two parties?
Yes. Yes, we do.
If we begin strategizing as voters by supporting third parties at an increasingly significant margin, will the system eventually have to evolve to match the new reality?
Now, that’s a question, isn’t it?
Post originally published on thecusppolitics.com