Here we go again. Now that Bernie Sanders has completed his predictable circuit of loss and capitulation, leftists—those who stand for socialist and anti-imperialist, or even serious social-democratic and antiwar, politics—again confront the quadrennial quandary: Must one vote for the thoroughly neo-liberal and imperialist Democratic presidential nominee?
“The lesser evil is still evil.” “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.” “Trump!“ The Supreme Court!” ‘Round and ‘round we go. It is a frustrating, enervating, and, in the U.S. electoral duopoly, inescapable ritual.
Not just because Bernie—and, more importantly, Bernie’s agenda—is out of the picture, but because of the way he was taken out of the picture by the Democrats, the situation of extraordinary crisis in which it happened, and the horrible-on-every-level leading man the party settled on, 2020 has given us a gloriously clear version of a Hobson’s choice.
I won’t be voting for Joe Biden. Here’s why, and here’s what I make of the arguments why I should vote Biden no matter what, a corollary of Vote Blue No Matter Who (VBNMW).
The basis of the VBNMW argument is that there is a decisive, dispositive, ethico-political difference in kind between the Democratic and Republican parties. In this line of thinking, the Democratic Party as an institution, and/or its nominee personally is, or wants to be, a force for progressive change on behalf of working people, and the Republican Party is the primary institution obstructing such change.
2020 has certainly left that argument in tatters.
We all know now what the Republican Party stands for. Its purpose is to advance the interests of capital against the interests of the working class. Given the demographics of the country, it needs to be, and has become, quite adept at using issues of race and culture to divide the working class and lure sections of it to vote for them. Thus Donald Trump, who is, as expected, doing a bang-up job of exacerbating inequality and social division.
And the Democratic Party? Does it, in contrast, advance the interests of working people against the predations of capital? This pretense has been barely breathing since the last crisis, when the Democratic tribune of the working middle-class, Barack Obama, bailed out the banks, allowed the 1% to soak up most of the wealth, and left the working class to rot in the social devastation of the cool new gig economy. Even the supposedly not “working-“ but “middle-”class is now driving from their six-figure debt palaces in their five-figure debt chariots to queue up for bags of “welfare” food.
In that context, this primary season, the party—led from behind by President-emeritus Obama in his $12 million Great Pond community-organizing compound, and in coordination with its allied “progressive” media—launched a full-spectrum offensive against the softest of social-democratic campaigns, led by Bernie Sanders. With its coronation of Joe Biden as its nominee, and Bernie’s own always-already given capitulation, the party has dispelled any lingering aroma of an FDR-style soft welfare-state legacy that it had long-since snuffed out. The Democratic Party has again—and finally, I hope—revealed itself to be an intractable enemy of the working class, the main obstacle of any serious program of the left, and a dedicated tool of the dictatorship of the ruling class. I mean, Joe Biden.
Yes, the main obstacle. Given the demographics and the state of the social economy, the Republican Party, under any leader, could not stop any social-democratic policy that a real opposition party and press representing working people’s interests wanted to enact. Those policies are not stopped by the opposition of the Republican Party. They are stopped by the opposition within the Democratic Party, which takes them in its false embrace, to co-opt and kill them. As it just did with Medicare-for-All.
Really, register this: The principal immediate goal of the Democratic Party in this primary (and when I say “Democratic Party” I always include “its allied media”), in the midst of a pandemic, was to kill single-payer healthcare, the most basically humanistic and politically advantageous social policy—indeed, as the present pandemic makes clear, the most obvious social necessity—one can imagine. The Party strangled it, and smothered any other such initiative, by coalescing around Joe Biden, who has vowed to veto Medicare-for-All even if it passes congress, has long sought to cut Social Security, and promises his billionaire donors that, if he’s elected, “nothing will fundamentally change.” No Republicans necessary.
We won’t even mention the principled difference between the two parties regarding U.S. imperialism (or whatever else you want to call it: militarism, American exceptionalism, regime-change wars, “foreign policy”), because nobody even pretends anymore that there is one.
Furthermore, there is no longer the facade of personal charisma that distinguished Obama, and identity correctness that distinguished him and Hillary from Republican opponents, and inspired a lot of energetic support among Democratic constituencies. That thin, but at the time politically effective, façade lost most of its luster in the mire of Barack and Hillary’s real actions, and with Biden’s ascension, it’s gone, baby, gone. Joe Biden is arguably at least as much of a racist, a sexist, liar, and war-monger, and more incoherent and cognitively impaired than Donald Trump.
There is no affirmative case for Joe Biden. The Democrat Party knows that and fears it—not just because it makes Biden a loser, but because it demonstrates that there’s no affirmative case for the Party itself. That is why Democrats are frantically worrying about whether to replace him before August. He’s like an email that was sent by mistake. If they can figure out how to recall him before the voters get too far into him, he will have the honor of being the first presidential nominee deposed in advance.
And what would be the Democrats’ alternative? Cue the Cuomo Craze. All the #Resistance Dems, who can see Biden decompensating, are in a rapturous tizzy over Andrew as a Great White Obama who can swoop in and save the party from the disaster it has brought upon itself with Joe. They are again completely taken in by a smooth-talking neo-liberal con-man who’s good at playing the anti-Trump on TV. Cuomo—who put his investment-manager donor in charge of closing hospitals and medical schools, who eliminated 20,000 hospital beds, and rejects Medicaid funding rather than raise taxes on the rich—is the guy the Democrats have anointed the healthcare hero of the pandemic.
Actually, he is the perfect exemplar of how the Democrats and Republicans make one big friendly-contentious family, filling themselves up at donor daddy’s table. As a friend of mine who worked as a restaurant hostess reminded me, it’s a family affair:
“Hey Jim. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I used to seat Mario Cuomo at Trump’s table in The Edwardian Room at the Plaza Hotel. This was back in ’95. He was, by far, the rudest person I ever dealt with. Always a nuisance to me.”
Accentuate the Negative
So, 2020 has shown clearly that there is no affirmative case for Joe Biden or the Democratic Party. There is, at best, a case for sympathizing with the sincere left-progressive actors—many of whom understand all this, and themselves feel trapped within and fighting against it, because they are afraid to leave.
Indeed, the best—at least most honest—arguments are from those who acknowledge how horrible—not trivially “problematic,” but unequivocally horrible from a left perspective the Democrats and their candidates are. A couple of very clear versions of that position can be found in articles from Daniel Ellsberg and my friend Tom Gallagher. Ellsberg put it perfectly:
“”Supporting Biden? Me?!
“I lose no opportunity publicly… to identify Biden as a tool of Wall Street, … someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war… “Would you call that support?“…
“I don’t ‘support Biden.’ I oppose the current Republican Party.”
Ellsberg acknowledges that
“the differences between the major parties are not nearly as large as they and their candidates claim, let alone what we would want. … It’s even fair to use Gore Vidal’s metaphor that they [the Democrats and Republicans] form two wings (‘two right wings,’ as some have put it) of a single party, the Property or Plutocracy Party….”
And my friend Tom Gallagher wrote a forthrightly-titled article: “Vote for the War Criminal – It’s Important!” He acknowledges that it’s “fair” to say their “military policies would ultimately turn out to be essentially the same,” and asks, pointedly: “So if we were to consider Biden as he really is, that is, among other things, a war criminal, how can we even vote for him, much less argue that it’s important to do so?”
For both of them, of course, the answer to that question was that Trump would be worse, at least on domestic policy. As Gallagher says “on domestic policies there are clear opportunities” for making a choice. Per Ellsberg, Trump would be “much worse, even catastrophically worse, on a number of other important issues: …Supreme Court appointments, the economy, women’s reproductive rights, health coverage, safety net, climate change, green energy, the environment” than Biden. [Ellsberg’s italics]
Oops, those Ellsberg and Gallagher quotes are from articles they wrote in 2012 about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I changed the names to highlight the point: No matter who the candidates of the two parties are, and no matter how bad the Democrat is, the Republican is always “catastrophically worse”—mainly because of alleged differences on domestic policy. And the person insisting on the catastrophic necessity to vote for the acknowledged criminal Democrat always assures us that, as a real critical leftist, s/he will absolutely, positively, pinky swear, continue, as Ellsberg promised, to “lose no opportunity publicly… to identify [Tweedledee Democrat] as a tool of Wall Street,” war criminal, etc.
I’m not sure about Ellsberg, but Gallagher takes the same position about Biden today. And if Obama is a war criminal and tool of Wall Street!—Well, Biden has quite a list of items despite which it’s important to vote for him.
Maybe you’re thinking, “But Trump! He’s Hitler. I read it in The Nation. And Bernie says he’s ‘the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.’ He’s so much worse than Romney. And so much worser than Biden, than Romney was than Obama.” Really? But wasn’t it easy to think the above quotes were talking about Biden and Trump? Looking back, does anybody think the difference between Obama and Romney—now a “moved to tears” hero of the Democratic #Resistance!—was “catastrophic,” or much of a difference at all? And when did Bush—he of the million-casualty war—get demoted from arguably the most dangerous modern president to Michelle’s and Ellen’s best bud?
Please consider that it’s the same line they trot out every four years, jacked up this year to Hitler level because it’s got to be worse than, and you need to forget, the previous overstatements. The Democrats have spent the last four years focusing all your attention on demonizing Donald Trump as a Nazi-Russian agent, rather than analyzing the structural problems of U.S. capitalism that produced him, precisely in order to get you to accept that line for Election 2020. But this time, like every time before, it really is different? Abusive relationship, anyone?
Past behavior being the best predictor of future behavior and all, let’s leave aside campaign rhetoric and consider how the projected “catastrophic” differences between the Republican and Democrat have actually worked out in past political practice, even in terms of domestic policy. Let’s remember the panoply of ways our votes for them ended up doing little more than enabling “war criminal and Wall Street tool” Democrats to continue burnishing their reputation.
The two signature Democratic-legacy safety-net programs, Social Security and Medicare? Did I mention Joe Biden? Hasn’t he been bragging about trying to cut them for decades? Didn’t Obama and he try to cut Social Security with their Grand Bargain? What about the devastating priority concern for Americans today, healthcare? Didn’t Obama, with a veto-proof Democratic Congress and Senate, institute Mitt Romney’s plan for that? Didn’t that Obama-Romney plan become, as it was intended to be, an impediment to real single-payer healthcare? Hasn’t Biden promised to continue using it as a blocking substitute for Medicare-for-All? The Supreme Court? Truly terrible. Too bad every single Democratic senator voted for Scalia. And Clarence Thomas? Did I mention Joe Biden?
We could go down the line, and what we end up with is: Whatever differences there will be on specific issues, what actually gets accomplished is unlikely to be as “catastrophically” different as the fear-mongering campaign rhetoric suggests—not least of all because what actually gets legislated depends on the resistance of the opposition party, and the Democrats will put up significantly less resistance to a Democrat/Biden cutting Social Security than to a Republican/Trump.
And don’t forget, domestic issues only! To browbeat leftists, invoking the specter of Hitler, that it’s “our high moral and political responsibility” to vote for the Democrat, we have to put aside both Joe Biden’s war-mongering history and disposition, and the now-banal observation of such analysts as Ajamu Baraka, Glenn Greenwald, and Robert Parry, that the Democratic Party, which impeached Trump for not sending deadly weapons quickly enough to actual Hitlerite fascists (whom Biden helped bring to power!), is “now the aggressive war party.” That’s excluded from the calculus of our high moral responsibility.
But for those leftists who have a different conception of who rules the polity—that it’s actually not a party that rules but a class that both parties serve—the lack of catastrophic difference between the two parties’ actual programs is quite understandable, even evident. Real catastrophe has and will come from what Republicans and Democrats together, ignoring anything that they said during the election, continue to do to increase the power of capital, extend U.S. imperial power, and perpetuate the inherently unjust domestic and international system. Real prevention and resistance will have to come from outside the Democratic-Republican family feud.
Isn’t it ironic?
Let’s also consider how honest the I-know-how-bad-he-is pundits can be about their promise never to let up on, “to lose no opportunity” to make their thoroughgoing left critique of the war criminal and Wall Street tool they are insisting we must vote for. Pundits like the old SDS’ers who wrote the appeal in The Nation, and who also “think ‘endorsing’ [their scare quotes] Joe Biden is a step too far,” and just want to “work hard to elect him.”
After all, those who are not-really “endorsing” but only demanding votes for Biden, know very well they are addressing a lot of passionately-committed people who are pissed off at Joe Biden’s sudden ascension to the nomination and Bernie Sanders literally forfeiting his campaign with half the country left to vote—people who: a) do really support the basic social-democratic platform of single-payer, medical and student debt forgiveness, free public colleges, strengthening not cutting Social Security, etc. that the Sanders campaign purportedly stood for; b) do really support an end to imperialist war, including the war (and sanctions) on Syria and Iran and Venezuela, and an end to U.S. support for Zionist colonialism, etc.; c) do really support a fair, transparent, unbiased, election process, and are extremely suspicious of one that results in wins contrary to exit polls for a candidate who did not have a single office or canvasser in state; d) do really support as fair a hearing for a woman accusing a Democratic senator of sexual abuse as one accusing a Republican judge; e) are really repelled by the multiple incidents of “hugs, kisses and touching [of women and children] that women … said made them uncomfortable”; f) are really repelled by a politician who constantly lies about his involvement with the civil rights movement and its iconic figures; g) are really worried about a man who struggles to make coherent sentences and mistakes his wife for his sister, etc., etc.
Those people are not just disappointed; they are enraged by what they perceive the Party has done and will keep doing. From now until November, the must-vote-for-Biden folks are going to have to convince enough of those disillusioned people in enough swing states not to stay home or vote for a third party that really does support their positions on important issues, but to go out and vote for Joe Biden to save us from the fascist apocalypse. In trying to fulfill that moral imperative, will they really “lose no opportunity publicly” to say: “Joe Biden is indeed an imperialist, functionary of finance capital, sexual harasser, compulsive liar, and cognitively challenged.” Or will they take the tack some on the VBNMW “left” took about Obama, telling the “rancid sector of the far left” to “please stop your grousing!” and shut up and vote for Biden?
We all know the answer. It was given by those old SDS’ers themselves. The closest they could come to a criticism of Biden was their remark that the DSA leadership “see[s him] as a representative of Wall Street capital” (which reads a lot more like a criticism of the DSA leadership) and their grudging reference to him as an anodyne “capitalist democrat.” It’s a discourse that disappears Joe Biden, and is all about Trump.
As it has to be. You can’t really “work hard to elect” Joe Biden and avoid unironically endorsing him. Once you decide you have to choose sides in the two-horse American electoral race, because “the very existence of American democracy is in jeopardy,” you cannot continually acknowledge to enraged Bernie supporters and other leftists what a dog your nag is. If you do, you will not get enough of their votes, you will lose, and American democracy—whatever that is, “You know, the thing”—will come crashing down. To prevent that from happening, your fellow travellers on the Biden bus will discipline you. They will browbeat you to fall back to focusing on the apocalyptic evil of the Republican and to hide or avoid the truth about your terrible-in-his-own-right Democrat, because the truth hurts your cause.
Get Off Of My Cloud
If that’s your position, so be it. I won’t accuse you of some moral failing for voting for Biden.
I won’t even accuse you of “lesser-evilism.” That’s a convenient shorthand, and Bruce Dixon’s “more effective evil” is the best version of it, but “evil” is a theological, anti-political word I prefer to avoid. Voting for Biden or Trump or neither will not rank someone on some linear scale of “evil.”
These are all tactical choices in a corrupt electoral system that makes an unambiguously “good” choice impossible, and makes whom you vote for not terribly important. A venal sin, at worst.
Nor, however, do I accept that anyone in the must-vote-for-Biden camp, Bernie Sanders included, is in any high moral and political position to denounce my “irresponsibility” if I refuse to vote as they think I should.
Bernie and Noam and The Nation’s SDS’ers are making different political judgments than I about how Hitlerian Donald Trump is, how democracy-saving Joe Biden is, and how catastrophic the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is—judgements that flow from different ways of understanding of state-party-class relations in the U.S., not from a moral fault or lack of responsibility.
I do not accept the substitution of unpolitical lesser-evilism with absolute evilism, which is exactly what the invocation of Hitler is. It’s not I who is demanding purity; it’s they who are assuming it.
Particularly annoying is the “If you don’t vote for Biden, you’re voting for Trump” line, which hides a number of logical and ethico-political flaws.
Sure, there’s a logic to that in our zero-sum electoral system, where any third possibility is effectively excluded. That logic is also, indisputably, reversible (as Caitlin Johnstone has pointed out in a trenchant way): If not voting for Biden means actually voting for Trump, then not voting for Trump means actually voting for Biden. Either way you put it, it’s just re-stating the obvious: The guy who gets the most votes wins.
VBNMW partisans hate that riposte from leftists. They see it as false or in bad faith, and they get angry, dismissive, and morally self-righteous about it. That’s because they assume a leftist is a Democrat by default. They think, therefore, that a leftist who doesn’t vote for Biden is taking something away that was assigned to the Democrat by definition, and should know better than to betray their natural allegiance.
I doubt those working hard to elect Joe would take that attitude when addressing a voter they treat as truly independent of party, one whose vote they cannot assume is theirs to be taken away. They better not. Such a voter would respond to “if you don’t vote for Biden, you’re making it easier for Trump to win,” with: “No kidding? You mean the guy who gets the most votes wins. Thanks for spelling that out for me. Now tell me again why I should vote for your guy.” For such voters—the majority of voters in the United States—Democratic/Biden surrogates can’t expect that “He’s not a Republican” will win them over. Which, since they don’t have anything else to say, is why they do not get the majority of voters to vote for them.
I hate to puncture the Fox-vs.-MSNBC paradigm that has taken hold in the recent history of U.S. politics, but we do know better. As understood by this old SDS’er, increasing numbers of politically-active Americans of all ages, and the millions of people who have participated in the world’s left and socialist movements over the past 170+ years, being a leftist has nothing to do with being a Democrat.
Flash 1: Political Left and Right do not correlate with Democrat and Republican; they correlate with class positions. The left—the socialist and anti-imperialist or even serious social-democratic and antiwar left, not the MSNBC, equal-opportunity imperialism “left”—has no intrinsic relation to any capitalist party or candidate.
Flash 2: The Democratic Party is not a party of, or for, the working class. It strains—and only intermittently—to attract working-class support, precisely because its programs and politicians do not advance working class interests against those of corporate and finance capital in some way that is significantly, let alone catastrophically, different from the Republican Party. Despite any conjuring of the ghost of FDR-past, the Democratic Party is, as I mentioned above and as increasing numbers of Americans recognize, an enemy of the working class.
So, The Democratic Party is not a party of the left. The idea that there’s any natural connection between the left and the Democratic Party, or that someone on the left is a Democrat or should be expected to vote for a Democrat, by default is—well, a figment of the MSNBC bubble universe.
In any given circumstance, a leftist decides whom to vote for, or whether to participate at all in a corrupt capitalist electoral system, not based on their assumed Democratic identity, but based on an analysis of whether and how it will advance working-class power. A leftist does not betray their position by not voting for or supporting a Democrat; they betray their position by voting for or supporting an enemy of the working class.
Did I mention Joe Biden?
As a leftist, I’m pleased to count myself among the majority of voters who are equally independent from, and tendentially dismissive of, both the Democratic and Republican parties, and owe no allegiance or vote to either. And when you tell me Biden will lose if he gets fewer votes than Trump, my response, too, is: “Thanks for spelling that out for me. What else you got?”
The Way You Do The Things You Do
There’s another signature rhetorical maneuver of the “If you don’t vote for Biden, you’re voting for Trump” cohort (especially the “even though we all know how bad he is” group) that reprises a classic liberal concern for shedding and assigning guilt in a way that I find particularly deceptive and offensive.
I refer to the surreptitious elision of political and moralizing discourses, a perceptible shift from a “political” register when they talk about whom they are voting for, to a “moralizing” register when they talk about whom you are not voting for: “Me, renowned leftist, a Biden supporter? I’m not supporting him (or any of the terrible things I acknowledge he has done and will continue to do), I’m just voting for him. But, you, if you don’t vote for Biden, are complicit in and responsible for all the horrible things the other guy, whom you didn’t vote for, may do.”
It’s an attempt to attenuate their complicity with Biden’s likely terrible policies by describing their act of voting for him in terms of political realism, only then to adopt a moralizing discourse that hangs responsibility for Trump’s possible future actions on voters who did not vote for him. They’re trying to shame people for what they are not voting for, while minimizing responsibility for what they are.
Nice try, but you can’t make the indirect, negative choice more moralistically consequent than the direct, positive one. The most direct line of complicity is from the voter to the candidate s/he votes for.
You want to make me responsible for Trump even if I don’t vote for him? If you vote for Biden, you are going to be more responsible for his war on Iran than anyone who refused to vote for Trump will be for his war on Iran or any other of his policies. Shall we go down the list of Biden’s likely policies that you’ll be responsible for? Politically and ethically, voting for Biden is exactly as important to you as being a war criminal and tool of Wall Street, et. al., isn’t.
There is plenty of irresponsibility to go around. Nobody comes out of American elections with clean hands. If you want to vote for Joe, I won’t accuse you of being evil, or hang on you the high moral responsibility for blowing up the world if/when he attacks Iran, because I know how insignificant your vote was in this specific Hobson’s choice. Don’t dare try to make me responsible for what I didn’t vote for.
What this leftist is doing by not voting for the Democrat is refusing to endorse and to participate in what is undeniably a perpetual race to the right. Because, guaranteed, there will arise another demonic Republican to scare you off again, in…How soon? Think about it: With an election season, counting primaries, of at least a year (more than a quarter of a presidential term), for how long are we allowed to oppose the horrible Democrat before we have to shut up and work hard to elect him or her again?
And when will this stop? When will today’s Biden/VBNMW voters say “Enough!”? When will it not be irresponsible to say that? According to their present logic: never, because the Republican will always be worse.
I’m sure all of the VBNMW acolytes would insist they’ll get to that point eventually. I’m just getting there before they do.
Why Do You Have To Be A Deal-Breaker?
And, of course, this is not just a matter of time, but of principle. Ethico-politically, everyone has, and should have, a line they won’t cross, a deal-breaker. For any leftist of any kind, there is some issue that would immediately stop them cold from voting for a Democratic candidate who held it.
To reprise a point that Conor Friedersdorf made quite sharply here and here, if we were faced with Democratic and Republican candidates who both favored criminalizing abortion, or inter-racial and same-sex marriage, or the teaching of Darwinian evolution, or a preventative nuclear attack on Beijing (pick your deal-breaker), then, no matter what their positions were on every other issue, a whole bunch—most, I dare say —of today’s “Must vote for Joe” crew would refuse to vote for either and would urge others to refuse that choice as well. And of those who still thought it was necessary to VBNMW, very nearly none would deny the legitimate argument, let alone castigate the high moral irresponsibility, of those who refused to do so.
VBNMW implicitly has its deal-breaker: being a Republican. But that’s a hollow criterion that cannot hold, even for those who promote it. At some point, in some instance, the question “Don’t you prefer the better to the worse?” dissolves in the face of: “Are you really good with that?”
The difference between me and Bernie, Noam, and The Nation’s SDS’ers is that they find no deal-breaking that in Joe Biden, in the Democratic Party, or in the electoral system itself, while I find a slew. (Gotta wonder what it would take.)
Indeed, for me and many others, not just a certain number of his policies but the whole of Joe Biden’s the Democratic Party’s policy paradigm is a deal-breaker.
But let’s pick just one.
Let’s go with the one highlighted by Thomas J. Adams and Cedric Johnson in a brilliant article:
“If this catastrophe makes one thing clear it’s that at this moment the most meaningful divide in US political life is between those actively working toward single-payer health care and those unwilling to embrace it.”
This real catastrophe we are living through has made it glaringly obvious that healthcare as a human right, not a commodity or perk of employment—universal, single-payer, free at point of service—is, ethically and politically, a minimal, indispensable demand. It’s a policy that was settled decades ago in every other advanced country in the world. It’s a program against which there are no arguments except the need to preserve the profit-making prerogative of private health insurance companies. Even the “How are you going to pay for it” argument has now evaporated in the light of a $4.5 trillion bailout!
It’s also a program that would virtually guarantee an election victory for any candidate or party that embraced it and really fought for it fiercely. It’s a program that Donald Trump and the Republicans could not stop—if there were an opposition party with a leadership and an allied media that enthusiastically explained and promoted it, that would ferociously demand of any opponent: Name the person who should be afraid to go the hospital to treat their coronavirus or their cancer. Name the parents who should be afraid to take their child to the doctor because they can’t afford it—for a single day, for lack of a single nickel. And if you don’t name your own child or yourself, then sit right the fuck down.
I have zero tolerance for any more evasive bullshit about this issue. Every argument and hesitation against single-payer is an excuse and a hypocrisy. Opposing it at this point is gratuitous cruelty to the people on behalf of the insurance companies. As far as I’m concerned, any and all of the candidates and parties who don’t support it—and certainly Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, which have made a point of setting themselves against it—deserve no leftist’s political support or vote. Anyone who urges voting for a candidate or party that does not support this, and will not challenge that party or candidate directly, constantly, and as pointedly as suggested above, is a silent shill and has no claim to be acting as a critical leftist.
But can you be a determined Biden vote-getter and do that? I do not think so. You will necessarily be speaking positively for Biden and the Democrats when you should be speaking critically to and about them.
Really, this is the time! Concoct for me the more propitious crisis/opportunity we should wait for. This—healthcare as a human right, single-payer, universal coverage, free at point of service—is as clear a moral and political imperative as ending Jim Crow or opposing the Iraq War. Those who do not support it loudly and insistently right now will look back at this moment in their political lives with eternal regret.
That’s a deal-breaker for me. One of them.
It’s one of the many reasons why, in this time of extraordinary crisis, rather than participating as Democrats in promoting the electoral charade, I think leftists should be incessantly demanding this and other social advances. Rather than working to get out the vote for the Democrat—and they are mutually exclusive—we should spend every minute working to turn what’s effectively a state-imposed lockdown into a workers-led general strike. People should refuse to go back to work unless every one of them gets get healthcare, paid family leave, cancellation of student and medical debt, and other fundamentals of a secure and free life. We should be spending all of our time helping workers exercise the power they have, which the crisis has just revealed. It’s only that power, not any vote, that will—and it will—get what they need from Donald Trump, Joe Biden, the Republicans, the Democrats, and the damn Supreme Court.
If it’s not a deal-breaker for you, if you think, rather, that it’s important to work on getting those votes for Joe, so be it.
But if you try to tell me I’m betraying my “high moral and political responsibility” because that shit I will not eat, I’ll tell you to sit right down.
My summary response to the argument that leftists have some political or moral imperative to vote for the Democrat: You got nothing.
About The Polemicist
Left-socialist analysis from Jim Kavanagh, a New York City native and denizen. Also publishing on Dandelion Salad, CounterPunch, Op-Ed News, The Greanville Post, Reader Supported News, Z, and various sites on the net.
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