lesser evilism 2016

a great read from Lance Selfa @ socialistworker.org

What will lesser evilism look like in 2016?

The party primaries are still playing out, but the shape of the general election this November is becoming clearer. Lance Selfa, author of The Democrats: A Critical History, considers one of the central dynamics in all U.S. presidential elections and what it will look like this year.

BERNIE SANDERS’ campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination has had a huge impact on national politics. With his message about the need for a “political revolution” and his forthright identification as a democratic socialist, he injected a surge of energy into the 2016 election.
Sanders won far more support than most observers, Socialist Worker included, guessed at the start. For a time after the first few primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Hillary Clinton campaign–and the ranks of the Democratic Party leadership that stand behind it–was running scared.
But realistically speaking, the tide had turned. Sanders will still rack up votes and win important primaries through June, and for sure, he will keep generating excitement for large numbers of people. But for him to win the Democratic nomination, two implausible things would have to happen: First, he would have to sweep the remaining contests with around 60 percent of the vote overall. And second, he would have to convince the elite Democratic “superdelegates” to abandon Hillary Clinton and back him.
Given that one of these scenarios happening is unlikely–and both happening together is very, very unlikely–the stage is set for a November matchup between Clinton and whoever the Republicans manage to put up.
So now is a good time to start pondering what that will mean.
At this stage, the most likely Republican candidate is racist billionaire Donald Trump–unless “hateful fanatic number two” Ted Cruz slips by him. Neither option makes the Republican Party leadership happy. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham compared the choice between Trump and Cruz to deciding on “being shot or being poisoned.”
Graham may have been musing about the dilemma for Republicans. But for those who want to see real change in U.S. society, the hard truth is that the November election between the candidates of the two mainstream parties will present a similar non-choice.
Is that an exaggeration?
Whoever the Republicans pick–even if somehow they finagle the nomination for a more respectable figure, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich or House Speaker Paul Ryan–their candidate will be an enthusiastic servant of the rich; a dedicated opponent of immigrants’ rights, civil rights and women’s rights; and an advocate for U.S. empire. In a word: poisonous.
But what of Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate? Her long record has shown her to be an enthusiastic servant of the rich and advocate for U.S. empire. Beyond campaign rhetoric, she’s not really a champion of either immigrant rights or civil rights. And while Clinton will appeal for voters to “break the glass ceiling” and elect the first woman president, her record on women’s rights is hardly inspiring, as Zoë Heller documented recently in the New York Review of Books.
Despite the long, strange trip of the 2016 election campaign since it began last summer, for anyone left of center, the November presidential vote is shaping up to be the same as usual: Predominantly a choice between the “lesser evil” and the “greater evil.”
That’s not the way Clinton’s partisans will put it. In fact, if they end up facing Trump–as they hope they will–they will do everything they can to make choosing Clinton a vote to save the republic from the “fascist” barbarian Trump. Liberal groups–including those officially supporting Sanders now–have mapped out a multi-level plan to create a “movement” to respond to Trump’s rise, which they characterize as a “five-alarm fire for our democracy”
When the choice is put this way–between “fascism” and “democracy”–this will put enormous pressure on anyone opposed to Clinton on the basis of her ties to Wall Street, her hawkishness in defense of imperialism and so on. The tide of “lesser evilism”–the argument for voting for the Democrat to stop the Republican–will be huge.
And when that time comes, Clinton’s enablers will probably have no better ally than Bernie Sanders.
Sanders has said from the beginning of his campaign that he will back the eventual Democratic nominee, whoever it is. Though he is now speaking more combatively about what Clinton needs to do to get his support, that promise will almost certainly be honored in the end.
Clinton knows that in November, she will need the voters that Sanders mobilized in the Democratic primaries. What better way to win them over than to have their champion endorse Clinton and urge his supporters to vote for her in a great crusade to save democracy itself?
In this way, Sanders’ capitulation–and that’s what it would be if and when he calls for a vote for the very symbol of the status quo that he called on people to rebel against–can be cloaked in the gauzy rhetoric of unity against a bigot. This is what lesser evilism is likely to look like in 2016.
So what’s so wrong with voting for the lesser evil when the “greater evil” of Trump or Cruz would clearly be a disaster for working people?
Before we consider this question, let’s clear a few red herrings out of the way.
The first of these is the standard liberal charge that socialists like us believe there are “no differences” between the Democrats and Republicans. No one on the left–and certainly not this newspaper–has ever made this claim. The U.S. political system works precisely because there are some differences between the two parties. It simply wouldn’t be credible–nor would it be a recipe for election success–for the Democrats and Republicans to run on identical platforms.
But as the two governing capitalist parties in the U.S. political system, the Democrats and Republicans carry out the policies of the capitalist class. They differ on the details, not the overall aims–and their differences are actually smaller than what unites them.
If Republicans openly flaunt their favoritism toward the rich, the Democrats are, in the words of former Republican adviser Kevin Phillips, “the world’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party.” Meanwhile, the neoconservative “hawks” who flocked around former President George W. Bush worry that Trump won’t fulfill commitments to U.S. imperialism–and so many have already said that they consider Clinton the candidate most committed to the imperialist project.
Another red herring is the claim that we’re just against voting in principle. The counter is that voting only amounts to a few minutes of effort every few years, and we can spend the rest of our time building grassroots movements for change.
The problem with this argument is that if you’re serious in believing that elections offer the hope of social change, then a “few minutes on Election Day” isn’t enough. In fact, tens of thousands of people have devoted countless hours to getting out the vote for Sanders in the Democratic primaries.
This year, the AFL-CIO will spend millions of dollars to get out the vote for Clinton. Those millions could be spent, for example, organizing Wal-Mart workers into unions–which would have far greater impact on advancing organized labor’s agenda. So the strategy of voting for the lesser evil does divert resources away from the real fights that need to be waged.

read entire piece here …

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