by Mara Ahmed
October 24, 2016
IT’S LIKE clockwork–every four years, the U.S. presidential elections kick in and unleash a spate of summary unfriendings on social media. This year in particular, the country is seized with a paroxysm of fear, and any sign that a so-called leftist is implicitly supporting Donald Trump by not voting for Hillary Clinton leads to colorful displays of righteousness by keyboard warriors.
The scourge of “lesser evilism” has resurfaced, without the necessary contextualization that voting for subpar politicians consistently is exactly what has brought us to this juncture in history and made Trump’s political genesis possible.
Police brutality, mass incarceration, the breakup of families via record deportations, pre-emptive wars, remote-control wars, dirty wars, the deepening of the surveillance state and the widening of economic disparity, the continuing corporatization of the government and the poisoning and pillaging of the planet–these didn’t just start with Bush or slow down during Obama’s presidency. If anything, these policies were turned up a notch over the last eight years.
In his discerning article “Neoliberalism–the ideology at the root of all our problems,” George Monbiot describes how the idea of competition forms the core of neoliberal ideology:
It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.
Regulation of competition, expansion of government services taxes, or even the existence of trade unions are seen as impediments to efficiency and freedom. Inequality becomes a virtue, as it reflects the indisputable justice of the free market, with dire economic, social and political consequences:
As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: In the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.
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THIS HAS been going on since the 1980s, and we are seeing some of the most clear-cut cumulative consequences of this rightward movement in the present elections.
It’s important to remember that Bill Clinton’s eight years in power did nothing to reverse, or indeed stall, this neoliberal shift. His strategy was to appeal to middle-class Republicans, not embrace liberal principles of social justice and egalitarianism–hence the drive to dismantle welfare, produce a crime bill that would assuage the white middle class while wreaking havoc on Black families, cheerlead free trade, push through NAFTA and deregulate Wall Street.
Although Hillary Clinton cannot be fully implicated in these disastrous policies, it is good to remember Hillarycare and Travelgate, and acknowledge that her role as First Lady went far beyond White House niceties.
As senator, Clinton famously voted for the Iraq War, one of the most shameful crimes against humanity in modern history. Then, as secretary of state, she led the military campaign in Libya with high-spirited abandon, supported the coup in Honduras and continued to spew retrograde rhetoric about Iran. In terms of domestic policy, too, Clinton is the out-of-touch, corporate-sponsored establishment to Bernie Sanders’ grassroots revolution.
Our choice is clear. It’s true that the Electoral College distorts democracy, but what’s the point of voting at all if one cannot support the policies one wants? What if those policies cannot be found in the highly circumscribed two-party system? Was this what the Voting Rights Act of 1965 sought to achieve? Was this what the fight for women’s suffrage was all about? Lesser evilism and the compromised calculus of who can win?
But more than that, it’s time to boycott the Democratic Party and its apparatchiks. Clinton’s blatant condescension, her description of Sanders supporters as “baristas” and disillusioned nobodies “living in their parents’ basement” who need a political revolution to reboot their self-worth, and finally her own estimation of “occupying the center-left to the center-right,” should be enough grounds for a final divorce.
The Democratic Party doesn’t care about liberal concerns. They sabotaged Sanders, their own candidate, because he was not properly aligned with neoliberal values. This is why rather than rally disaffected liberals, they choose to focus on Trump’s following. They should not be able to count on our votes, come what may, every four years.
On a more personal note, I have to confess that what scares me as much as Trump’s racism and misogyny (I know something about that, I am a woman of color, an immigrant to this country with a Muslim last name) is Clinton’s impermeable cult following.
Lesser evilism is one thing but hardcore Clintonism is another. The complete break from reality (couched in inclusive, feminist language), the privileged belief that as long as we recycle our trash and drive fuel-efficient cars, we are going to be okay, and the lack of empathy with the pain we create in the world and at home, astonishes me.
This criminal indifference is embodied by the “Pantsuit Power” flash-mob video for Hillary Clinton. It’s a particularly troubling skill to cover up real-life stink with well-choreographed dance and peppy music, and make oneself believe that everything’s hunky-dory.
Let’s not forget that however reprehensible Trump’s words (or life) might be, Hillary Clinton has been responsible for the destruction of entire societies. That’s a far more vile obscenity.
Trump hates Black and Brown people, Clinton incinerates them. Trump is a sexual predator, Clinton is an imperialist one, who gets women like Honduran indigenous and environmental rights activist Berta Cáceres exposed to murder. Trump is a scam artist, Clinton is a fraud who profited off of the most vulnerable people in Haiti in the aftermath of a gruesome disaster. Is this the kind of experience third party candidates are supposed to lack?
The thing is, it’s not morally viable to prop up the status quo anymore. As to the rest, que sera sera.
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from the archives:
Chris Hedges: We Have To Step Outside This Corporate, Two-Party Duopoly + Jill Stein on Donald Trump’s Psychosis and Hillary Clinton’s Distortions
What Hillary Clinton Privately Told Goldman Sachs by David Swanson
Ralph Nader: The Two Party System Brought Us the Corrupt Political System That is Driving Our Country to the Ground
Podesta’s Leaked Emails Show Excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s Paid Remarks to Wall Street
Voting for the Lesser of Two Evils is Still Voting for Evil
#PayToPlay Clinton Faces Corruption Scandal After Links Between Donors and State Department Exposed
Pingback: The Banality of Evil of The Evil of Two Lessers + The Democratic Party’s Raison D’être Is To Co-Opt, Absorb, Marginalize, and Neutralize The Left, by Phil Rockstroh – Dandelion Salad
Pingback: Starve Out the DNC– Boycott The Democratic Party! by Michael Hudson – Dandelion Salad
Pingback: Left Liberals and Counter-History by Gaither Stewart – Dandelion Salad
Pingback: John Pilger and Julian Assange: Secret World of US Election – Dandelion Salad
Pingback: Does The Lesser Evil Lead To Less Evil? – Dandelion Salad
Pingback: John Pilger: Hillary Clinton May Well Turn Out To Be One Of The More Dangerous Presidents – Dandelion Salad
Pingback: Jill Stein: Outrageous That We Have To Choose Between A Proto-Fascist and A Corruption Queen – Dandelion Salad
Pingback: Michael Hudson: Hillary Clinton Will Be a Vindictive Dictator – Dandelion Salad
Doing away with the Electoral College…who will have the courage to take the first step in this correct direction? Eliminate corruption-creating pockets wherever possible.
Pingback: Inside the Invisible Government: War, Propaganda, Clinton and Trump by John Pilger – Dandelion Salad
Pingback: Abby Martin and Ralph Nader: The Rigged Corporate Two-Party Dictatorship – Dandelion Salad
i agree. this article is not an endorsement of jill stein but rather a call to vote one’s conscience, whatever that may entail, and to divorce the democratic party, irrespective of the “fear” du jour.
Thank you for writing this piece, Mara and for Socialistworker.org having a copyleft policy so I can republish here.
Thanks for dropping by and commenting, too.
thank u for reposting 🙂
So glad you didn’t mind me republishing it. 🙂
Excellent post Mara, thank you for this wise, insightful and principled advice. I met George Monbiot at the 2015 Oxford Real Farming Conference here in the UK (our most radical and empowering forum) when he gave an enviably cogent unscripted address and he usually gets it right. I’m not a US resident, but I hold dual British and Canadian citizenship, so I remember the NAFTA crisis well & witnessed years of exposure to US predatory tactics; I have also lived in both France and Ireland.
The way I see it, whichever way the neoliberal coin flips, it’s going to be disastrous for us all; so I applaud your sentiment. Voting for either one or the other as a protest is a ludicrous waste of one’s voting right. If everyone who votes their conscience were to influence one or two others to do the same, we’d soon witness an exponential sea change in US politics ~ it might not have much immediate impact, but nobody can predict the next few years. The stakes are high.
david, thank u for ur wonderful comment. couldn’t agree more – yes, monbiot does usually get it right, and yes, the stakes are high. we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again (i.e. voting for a red or blue neoliberal) and expect different results.
dandelionsalad, i must appreciate ur readers 🙂
Thank you again, Mara. And yes, the readers here are wonderful. 🙂
I agree with most of this article, but not its condemnation of lesser evilism. I will be voting for Jill Stein, BECAUSE I see her as a lesser evil. She is evil, because I have not heard her call for an end to capitalism. She has called for reforms and compromises and concessions from capitalism, but not an actualy end to it. If I were truly “voting my conscience,” as so many Greens have urged me to do, then I would be voting for some incredibly minuscule socialist party.
“It’s not morally viable to prop up the status quo,” as Mara Ahmed has said, but part of that status quo is the widespread myth that capitalism can somehow be reformed, that it is possible to “get the money out of politics” while continuing the enormous economic inequality of our society.
I totally agree with you, Lefty. Mara Ahmed may, too, I don’t know.