The Left And The Election Choices

by Edward S. Herman


July 19, 2004   


(Swans - July 19, 2004)  We live in a plutocracy with a two-party political duopoly heavily dependent on the business community for support and with a powerful and increasingly centralized commercial media that will destroy or marginalize any candidate who displays any sign of opting for serious populist actions or threatening the imperial project and military budget. In this environment and at this point in history the left isn't likely to be very important in deciding election outcomes: it is very small, fragmented, and with very limited outreach to ordinary citizens who should be its natural allies. These left characteristics may make the threat of fascism less fearsome than some think: fascism has usually been resorted to when there is a serious left threat that requires drastic measures. Of course, that history is no guarantee, and a US fascism might come in an original and pioneering manner, slowly and unobtrusively, in response to real or contrived "terrorism" that allows a business-militaristic cabal to maintain control as it carries out home and foreign policies that would be unsustainable under democratic conditions.

The left has unappetizing choices: it can stay out of the election, support a sure minor party loser, or go for the lesser evil in the duopoly. Some on the left argue for putting the major effort in building for the future by grass-roots organizing, maybe tying this in to electoral efforts at a local level, on the ground that without grass-roots power political action is futile. This runs into the considerations that large numbers of the natural left constituency are drawn into some kind of election participation, if only voting, and the impact of voting may be substantial even as between the duopolists. This last point is perhaps debatable, but I don't intend to debate it here. Much as I despise and distrust the Kerry-Edwards-Holbrooke team I think they would be a lesser global and domestic threat than the Bush-Cheney-Powell-Rumsfeld gang. The latter are a proven major menace; the former are trying to demonstrate that they can be trusted to carry forward the imperial project, but they are less committed to it, less wedded to pushing it quickly with unilateral force, have other priorities as well, and have a constituency that will press for a reorientation.

In his piece on "The Lizard Strategy" (Portside, July 4, 2004), Ricardo Levine Morales argues that a vote against Bush is justified in part because US actions impact the world, and those impacted outside the United States should be voting in the US election. As they can't, and as a vast majority of them would vote against Bush as the symbol and leader of the current aggressive phase of US imperialism, we on the left should vote against Bush as their proxy. A nice point. Morales's "lizard strategy" also has merit: when David Duke, the racist former Ku-Klux-Klan Imperial Wizard and neo-fascist, won the Republican nomination for governor in Louisiana in 1991 he faced an incumbent Democrat, Edwin Edwards, who was a corrupt, scandal-ridden machine politician. In this greater versus lesser evil scenario, the grass-roots organized to support Edwards under the slogan "Vote for the Crook: It's the Lizard, Not the Wizard." Morales argues that this is the route for handling Bush versus Kerry -- maybe "Elect the Flake; Evict the Snake." One could mobilize people on this basis without pretending that the flake will solve many of our problems, but on the ground that snake bites can be fatal.

I'm voting for Kerry, unless the election outcome in Pennsylvania is very clear, in which case I'll vote for Cobb or Nader. I agree with Richard Falk, however, who says: "I have been urging friends not to listen to what he [Kerry] says, because it is likely to be so awful as to undermine the morale needed to raise money and work for the registration of young and minority voters that will be required to defeat Bush." But I can't bring myself to give money and energy to support a man who has already sold out on so many issues ("I am no redistributionist," Sharon and the wall, staying the course in Iraq, etc.)

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Published July 19, 2004
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