By Clay Claiborne. First published by Linux Beach.
In the U.S. we elect a president every four years and during these election years, the people have a higher interest in all things political because while our representative system is far from perfect, the people do have some say over picking our rulers. Chris Hedges is being overly cynical when he says “We do not live in a functioning democracy, and we have to stop pretending that we do.” We aren’t living under totalitarian rule yet. We can still put people up for election and win seats with real power.
Unfortunately, people power has not been developed to the point were we can elect a progressive person to the highest office in the land. For over 160 years, only the two capitalist parties have had the clout to do that. The vote count of 470,000 for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in 2012 was a good starting point but it was still less than 1% of the vote. This year there is tremendous dissatisfaction with the status quote so she is likely to do much better as she is now polling between 3%-4%, but there is no doubt that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will win the election.
This year, Bernie Sanders led an insurgency within the Democratic Party, the likes of which we haven’t seen in half a century. Although Democrats ‘felt the Bern,’ they installed the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Sadly, it has been Donald Trump –the billionaire that bubbled to the top of the white nationalist muck with his money and his claim that the first Black president of the U.S. was an illegal alien — that has so far been most successful at capitalizing on the mass discontent. This has been due to a number of factors:
- Racism is far from dead: White supremacy has a long history and still deeply affects the American psyche.
- There’s no poor like the new poor: Many white workers see their privileges slipping away as the bosses decide they can no longer afford them.
- Money talks: Trump has had not only his own alleged billions behind him. Early media coverage showed he had Murdoch and Disney billions behind him as well and with Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway taking over the campaign, its clear Alt-Right billionaire Robert Mercer is running the show.
- Non-intervention has consequences: U.S. and European governments did little but complain for five years as Bashar al-Assad and his allies barrel-bombed his major cities while giving safe haven to jihadists in Raqqa, Syria. The result has been the international terror group ISIS and the worst refugee crisis since WWII. Right-wing demagogues on both sides of the Atlantic have been using the latent racism in their countries to make hay with this situation.
These factors have helped to foster a resurgence of fascism and white supremacy worldwide. In the preliminaries, Britain decided to leave the European Union in a vote largely promoted with racist anti-refugee propaganda and neo-fascist parties have made dramatic gains in France and Germany. Now comes the main event as white nationalists attempt to take over the executive of the most powerful state on Earth and the frightening thing is that Donald Trump actually has a very good chance of becoming the next president of the U.S.!
How should progressive people in the U.S. respond to this attempted takeover?
Should they fight it or ignore it?
People of color have been almost unanimous in their call for us to fight it. Republicans have never done well with the Black vote but generally they could count on 10%-15%; even Romney got 4% in 2012 against Obama. Not this year: 1% if they are lucky. And Trump’s latest appeal for black votes didn’t seem to move the needle at all; Hispanic and Muslim voters aren’t expected to contribute to his totals either. Much the same can be said for Asian and Native American voters as well.
If Donald Trump is elected president, it will be almost exclusively by white voters.
The question of whether to fight this white nationalist assault or ignore it is also posed to white progressives. Sadly, many under the leadership of the Green Party have chosen to ignore it. They say this election is fundamentally the same as when Jill Stein ran against Obama and Romney in 2012 or past elections in which the two parties have given us two unsavory choices that they found acceptable to choice from. They say it is time we stopped playing that ‘lesser evil’ game, let the votes fall were they may because what difference does it make anyway?
Looking at the congruent policies of alternating Republican and Democratic administrations, one can say that generally speaking, this has been the case. But that is not the case in 2016. In this period something new and very dangerous is taking shape, not only in the U.S. but across the world, in Europe and as far away as the Philippines.
Donald Trump is not just another GOP candidate. The Republican establishment has always courted these white nationalists at its peril and now they have overthrown the GOP establishment, hijacked its party, and are attempting to use it as a vehicle to install a fascist and white nationalist administration in the White House. Yet this is how the Green Party responds to calls for anti-Trump solidarity in their FAQ:
“The Democratic Party’s progressive supporters have been telling us to vote for the ‘lesser evil’ for decades. They’re doing the same in 2016 and they’ll continue to do so in every future election.”
According to the Green Party, there’s nothing new about this election. That is why they never warn of this looming nationalist threat. They are blind to the political world around them.
Blindly applying a general rule to every specific situation can sometimes lead to trouble. Remember the parable about “The Boy Who Cried Wolf?” His problem was that by the time the wolf actually showed up, the town’s people had already developed the rule that, generally speaking, this boy lies, and applied it without investigating. The Greens are very much like the town’s people in this story. They will tell you how we were told Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, McCain et al were dangerous fascists that should be voted against. They will argue this time is no different.
They are wrong.
Now, I have already written, at length, what I think the Green Party shouldn’t do. It shouldn’t enhance Trump’s chances of winning by running its own ticket and splitting the anti-Trump vote. But what should the Green Party do?
Sometimes its best to start at the bottom and work your way up rather than trying to jump in at the top. The people are unlikely to elect a Green Party president before they have voted in a single Green congressperson or Senator. There are at least 130 Greens in 16 states that hold elected offices in the U.S. including 4 county supervisors, a county commissioner, 2 mayors, and 19 city council members.
This is a start, but just barely.
The Green Party needs to win many more seats at the local and state level and build a broad-based party rooted in the people’s struggles before it can expect to win many positions at the federal level, let alone the presidency. This is the really hard work of building the party. Some of this is already going on.
Organizing at the community and neighborhood council level is the best way to get to know people and for them to get to know you. Being involved in local labor struggles, environmental issues, and the fight against police brutality and nationalism is the best way to win supporters and build organization. This will then lead to more city council seats, country positions, and state representatives. This is tedious and mostly unglamorous work but it is the way a mass progressive party will be built.
Given the heightened political environment of a presidential election year it also makes a lot of sense for a progressive party to run a presidential ticket they know can’t win as a way of focusing party building nationally with little concern over the outcome of the voting. But this must not be the only approach because it isn’t always the case that the two evils are more or less equivalent. That certainly isn’t the case this year and not just on the national question. Again from Chris Hedges on Democracy Now:
“And the fact is, from climate change alone, we have no time left. I have four children. The future of my children, by the day, is being destroyed because of the fact that the fossil fuel industry, along with the animal agriculture industry, which is also as important in terms of climate change, are destroying the ecosystem on which we depend for life. And neither party has any intention to do anything about it.”
He can argue that to win votes for Stein but while the first part is definitely true, we are running out of time quickly, and the second part is not true. Hillary Clinton can be expected to continue Obama’s initiatives on global warming, which as weak as they are, are likely to be somewhat better than those of Trump, who thinks global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese.
If the Green Party insists on trying to win progressives away from Clinton while they are unable to win as many voters away from Trump, they will effectively be putting themselves in the pro-Trump camp with their #NeverClinton stance. They will lose friends and influence, and if Trump does win, it will destroy the Green Party in the U.S.
If, on the other hand, the Green Party was to drop its independent bid for the presidency to stand in solidarity with the 42% of Clinton voters that say they are voting for her only to stop Trump, they would be making the right move. Those voters are using their vote strategically. They don’t buy Clinton’s bullshit, but they recognize the very real danger that Trump represents and they are realists. They know that one of these two will have to power to blow up the world by the end of January.
In that 42%, I am willing to wager you will find about 80% of the minority voters in the U.S. along with the most advanced white voters. As it stands now, the Green Party is trying to tell them that they are wrong to vote strategically for lesser evil Clinton and the Green Party just looks like it has lost touch with reality. If, instead, it validates the correct stand of these advanced voters and lets them know that it is okay to be in the Green Party and still vote to stop Trump. If it can work to educate the naïve Clinton supporters to see past her falsehoods without asking them to drop their opposition to Trump, the Green Party will have put itself in an excellent position to move forward no matter who is elected on November 8.