Editor’s Note: The editorial board is divided on this issue, and there’s a variety of carefully thought out positions spanning a number of options—none of them pleasant and none very productive, considering we are yet again being forced to witness a cynically rigged game, a shameless charade in which only the plutocracy can emerge a clear winner. Many in our group think that the time is come to boycott capitalist elections in the US entirely and focus our attention on the building of a vast and capable movement; others believe that voting is mandatory but only tactically (i.e., boycotting the Republicrat duopoly and coming out just for third-party candidates); others argue that only the presidential contest should be boycotted but other elections should be joined depending on the candidates and issues; and then there are people like the legendary Daniel Ellsberg, who in this essay argues outright for the reelection of Barack Obama. His elegant reasoning sounds like yet one more instance of Lesser Evil argumentation, albeit one understandably influenced by the horrid conditions that the enemy of humanity, global corporatism, has forced upon just about everyone living on the planet these days, and that includes nature itself. The motives for this position are clearly enunciated below. For the record, the majority of the editorial board is against voting for Obama, and yielding once again to the manufactured fears that keep the Lesser Evil alive as a noxious, self-replicating factor in each cycle of so-called US elections. If the world is to have a chance, this fetid joke has to end. Expressing a counterpoint to Ellsberg’s position, we have selected some extremely cogent comments from the original thread at Common Dreams, a site we thank for providing this public service. —PG
Advice to progressives in swing states, vote for reelection
by Daniel Ellsberg, Common Dreams
It is urgently important to prevent a Romney-Ryan administation from taking office in November. The election is now just weeks away, and I want to urge those whose values are generally in line with mine — progressives, especially activists — to make this goal one of your priorities during this period.
An activist colleague recently said to me: “I hear you’re supporting Obama.”
I was startled, and took offense. “Supporting Obama? Me?!”
“I lose no opportunity publicly,” I told him angrily, to identify Obama as a tool of Wall Street, a man who’s decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together. “Would you call that support?”
My friend said, “But on Democracy Now you urged people in swing states to vote for him! How could you say that? I don’t live in a swing state, but I will not and could not vote for Obama under any circumstances.”
My answer was: a Romney/Ryan administration would be no better — no different — on any of the serious offenses I just mentioned or anything else, and it would be much worse, even catastrophically worse, on a number of other important issues: attacking Iran, Supreme Court appointments, the economy, women’s reproductive rights, health coverage, safety net, climate change, green energy, the environment.
I told him: “I don’t ‘support Obama.’ I oppose the current Republican Party. This is not a contest between Barack Obama and a progressive candidate. The voters in a handful or a dozen close-fought swing states are going to determine whether Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to wield great political power for four, maybe eight years, or not.”
As Noam Chomsky said recently, “The Republican organization today is extremely dangerous, not just to this country, but to the world. It’s worth expending some effort to prevent their rise to power, without sowing illusions about the Democratic alternatives.”
Following that logic, he’s said to an interviewer what my friend heard me say to Amy Goodman: “If I were a person in a swing state, I’d vote against Romney/Ryan, which means voting for Obama because there is no other choice.”
The election is at this moment a toss-up. That means this is one of the uncommon occasions when we progressives — a small minority of the electorate — could actually have a significant influence on the outcome of a national election, swinging it one way or the other.
The only way for progressives and Democrats to block Romney from office, at this date, is to persuade enough people in swing states to vote for Obama: not stay home, or vote for someone else. And that has to include, in those states, progressives and disillusioned liberals who are at this moment inclined not to vote at all or to vote for a third-party candidate (because like me they’ve been not just disappointed but disgusted and enraged by much of what Obama has done in the last four years and will probably keep doing).
They have to be persuaded to vote, and to vote in a battleground state for Obama not anyone else, despite the terrible flaws of the less-bad candidate, the incumbent. That’s not easy. As I see it, that’s precisely the “effort” Noam is referring to as worth expending right now to prevent the Republicans’ rise to power. And it will take progressives — some of you reading this, I hope — to make that effort of persuasion effectively.
It will take someone these disheartened progressives and liberals will listen to. Someone manifestly without illusions about the Democrats, someone who sees what they see when they look at the president these days: but who can also see through candidates Romney or Ryan on the split-screen, and keep their real, disastrous policies in focus.
It’s true 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 form two wings (“two right wings” as some have put it) of a single party, the Property or Plutocracy Party, or as Justin Raimondo says, the War Party.
Still, the political reality is that there are two distinguishable wings, and one is reliably even worse than the other, currently much worse overall. To be in denial or to act in neglect of that reality serves only the possibly imminent, yet presently avoidable, victory of the worse.
The traditional third-party mantra, “There’s no significant difference between the major parties” amounts to saying: “The Republicans are no worse, overall.” And that’s absurd. It constitutes shameless apologetics for the Republicans, however unintended. It’s crazily divorced from present reality.
And it’s not at all harmless to be propagating that absurd falsehood. It has the effect of encouraging progressives even in battleground states to refrain from voting or to vote in a close election for someone other than Obama, and more importantly, to influence others to act likewise. That’s an effect that serves no one but the Republicans, and ultimately the 1%.
It’s not merely understandable, it’s entirely appropriate to be enraged at Barack Obama. As I am. He has often acted outrageously, not merely timidly or “disappointingly.” If impeachment were politically imaginable on constitutional grounds, he’s earned it (like George W. Bush, and many of his predecessors!) It is entirely human to want to punish him, not to “reward” him with another term or a vote that might be taken to express trust, hope or approval.
But rage is not generally conducive to clear thinking. And it often gets worked out against innocent victims, as would be the case here domestically, if refusals to vote for him resulted in Romney’s taking key battleground states that decide the outcome of this election.
To punish Obama in this particular way, on Election Day — by depriving him of votes in swing states and hence of office in favor of Romney and Ryan — would punish most of all the poor and marginal in society, and workers and middle class as well: not only in the U.S. but worldwide in terms of the economy (I believe the Republicans could still convert this recession to a Great Depression), the environment and climate change. It could well lead to war with Iran (which Obama has been creditably resisting, against pressure from within his own party). And it would spell, via Supreme Court appointments, the end of Roe v. Wade and of the occasional five to four decisions in favor of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The reelection of Barack Obama, in itself, is not going to bring serious progressive change, end militarism and empire, or restore the Constitution and the rule of law. That’s for us and the rest of the people to bring about after this election and in the rest of our lives — through organizing, building movements and agitating.
In the eight to twelve close-fought states — especially Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, but also Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — for any progressive to encourage fellow progressives and others in those states to vote for a third-party candidate is, I would say, to be complicit in facilitating the election of Romney and Ryan, with all its consequences.
To think of that as urging people in swing states to “vote their conscience” is, I believe, dangerously misleading advice. I would say to a progressive that if your conscience tells you on Election Day to vote for someone other than Obama in a battleground state, you need a second opinion. Your conscience is giving you bad counsel.
I often quote a line by Thoreau that had great impact for me: “Cast your whole vote: not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.” He was referring, in that essay, to civil disobedience, or as he titled it himself, “Resistance to Civil Authority.”
It still means that to me. But this is a year when for people who think like me — and who, unlike me, live in battleground states — casting a strip of paper is also important. Using your whole influence this month to get others to do that, to best effect, is even more important.
That means for progressives in the next couple of weeks — in addition to the rallies, demonstrations, petitions, lobbying (largely against policies or prospective policies of President Obama, including austerity budgeting next month), movement-building and civil disobedience that are needed all year round and every year — using one’s voice and one’s e-mails and op-eds and social media to encourage citizens in swing states to vote against a Romney victory by voting for the only real alternative, Barack Obama.
To read and distribute a proposal from RootsAction.org for strategic voting for president, click here.
Daniel Ellsberg was put on trial in 1973 for leaking the Pentagon Papers, but the case was dismissed after four months because of government misconduct. He is the author of “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.”
Read the COUNTERPOINT ARGUMENTS BELOW
COUNTERPOINT: Why voting for Obama is NOT morally or politically justified
Is it OK to stop voting for him when he puts a commission together that is skewed far enough to the right that its guaranteed to recommend cuts to social programs that Americans depend on for their very survival?
Is it OK to stop voting for him when he refuses to jail any of the banksters that caused a world wide near depression by their criminal acts?
Is it OK to stop voting for him because he has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage act than all other presidents combined when he promised to have a transparent presidency?
Is it OK to stop voting for him when he flies drones over multiple countries killing innocent people?
Is it OK to stop voting for him when he says he has the right to kill you or anyone you love and/or detain you or them indefinitely without a trial? Is it OK to stop voting for him when he kills a US citizen and his son without due process?
He has done all of the above, and yet we are told we should still hold our noses and vote for him. And read that last paragraph again. He has already killed Americans without due process and wants to be able to do it to more of us. Again exactly how bad does a democratic president have to get before we get the OK from our respected left wing leaders to not vote for him?
The concern that Romney would most likely get to appoint more than one Supreme Court Justice is a legitimate one, but remember all nominees must be accepted by the Senate. All the right wing hacks that are currently sitting there now are there because of the approval of the Democrats that were in power at the time of their appointments. We have Citizens United because of the lack of backbone and/or gleeful approval of Democratic Senators who voted for the right wing nut jobs that now sit on the highest court in the land.
Remember if Romney puts any right wing wackos on the SCOTUS it will have to be done with the approval of some democrats. So exactly how are they the lesser of two evils?
If we don’t push back on the Democrats why should they ever stop their incessant march to the far right?
Exactly how evil is too evil before they no longer deserve our votes?
Nicely stated NC. Obama won the power to indefinitely detain citizens in typical stealth fashion, lobbying for it while claiming to oppose it, and then suing to retain the power when challenged in court.
This, together with his assertions of the right to execute citizens extrajudicially, makes it obvious to anyone without a blindfold that Obama poses an imminent threat to our core freedoms and democracy.
By core freedoms, I mean the right not to be deprived of life or liberty without due process. Try protesting against climate change from Guantanamo. Or a mass grave.
Unfortunately, our democratic institutions probably won’t survive either Romney or Obama, but they’ll have to consolidate their police state without my help.
These are all good arguments. But the problem is, they are framed in terms of right and wrong, Rubicon lines etc. “How can yoluntarily vote for a guy who did this?”
Ellsberg, on the other hand, is making a tactical argument. That’s what the lesser evils strategy is all about. “Despite Obama’s malfeasance, which candidate is going to be better overall, for the long term?” It is precisely this argument, the tactical one, that must be defeated.
And the place to start, the very foundation of the lesser evil argument, is the false assumption that Obama is in the lesser evil. As I said in a comment here yesterday, it may, although I think this is debatable as well, be that Obama’s actions might be slightly less destructive than Romney’s in the short term. But in the long term, Obama has done more damage to the cause of progress than any Republican ever could.
To believe that Obama is the lesser evil is to completely ignore what has happened to the left wing of this country over the last four years. It is to place no value in the necessity of a popular uprising to bring about fundamental change to the trajectory of this country.
There was a growing popular uprising back in 2008. Obama destroyed it. Do I really need to spell out the significance of this? Does Mr Ellsberg think that we, the people, can arrest the ongoing attack on our people, in the form of economic warfare, information warfare, environmental warfare etc., without a mass popular uprising?
The history of progress is the history of the backlash that ensues when authoritarian regimes over reach. The French revolution, American revolution, New Deal, and many more, all resulted from this backlash.
It was precisely such a backlash that Obama’s presidency has squandered*. A one in a million chance for real reform, real change, killed on the spot by the “change president.”
How’s our mass uprising now? Dead. Deflated like a hot balloon.
The greatest threat to the Plutocracy is a strong, coherent, and willful Left wing movement. Nothing matters more. Nothing. Matters. More.
Obama has not only decimated our fledgling left wing movement, but he’s actually been able to get many of our numbers to support acts that we vehemently opposed only a few years before.
How was this possible? Could Mitt Romney do that?
* [disseminated, original]
Metalious, good points about lesser evilism vs more effective evil. But for me, it’s not even a question of who is the more effective evil. Shouldn’t our criterion instead be whether any democracy can ever coexist with ANY President (whether Romney or Obama or anyone else) who asserts the power to execute or indefinitely detain citizens without trial?
“In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
–Thomas Jefferson (Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts)
Exactly- what a crazy mindf’ck these political decisions have become for us….. Obama’s just the nice nurse who coos at you while suffocating you with the pillow….. I think the supposed strategic strength of a lesser-evil vote is at least equalled and probably eclipsed by the strategic strength of a vote FOR Romney. People will never wake up until it gets much worse and with the false sense of satisfaction at having a “good guy” in there, they will never wake up. The stakes are so high now–that day cannot come soon enough.
Tactically speaking, we’ve been playing ‘defense’ for decades, and losing ground. The end-zone is just a few feet behind us, we’ve been in the midst of a blitz – with half of our team obviously being on the take. If the other team didn’t somehow fear losing the support of the audience they’d just stop pretending to be playing by any rules at all. This is the time or some offense, because we’re going to lose anyway. It’s long past time. The game is fixed, and the sooner the pretenses come down the better for the whole world.
kogwonton: What utter cynical b.s. Why not stick your head in the oven and get it over with?
No. That is why Dick Armey and Freedomworks created the Tea Party- to co-opt the populist uprising thumbed down by Obama after his election.
Marshall McComb •
I’m seeing that progressive issues have about 66% agreement and support by the populace. That’s far from being destroyed or decimated. What would a Romney victory do to advance progressive values? Would we not be cutting off our noses to spite our faces? Obama has clearly given us the wakeup call we need. I believe we have a better chance of organizing and prevailing — of getting money out of politics and ending all wars — under Obama than we would if crazy, cocksure, Sheldon Adelson-sponsored Republicans take the reins.
Marshall McComb: I see no evidence to support your hope in Obama. He has worked diligently to undermine everything you hope he will support. If elected a second time, you have just given him the opportunity to double down even harder for the corporate elite he has served throughout hi first term. Who will be there to oppose him?
Marshall McComb: We might actually have a chance to hold Obama accountable if the Republicans stop obstructing his presidency. They will continue even if he is re-elected. Republicans don’t respect the voice of the people. Why should I reward them with a win for that?
Marshall McComb: I’m with you, Marshall. And with Dan Ellsberg. We have to grow up and realize none of them are going to be perfect but there are glaring differences between the President and Romnehy.
Thinking that when things get “bad enough people will take to the streets” is fairyland thinking. And nobody ever offers a next step. Then what? We need to get off our butts and vote the tea baggers out of Congress and after we re-elect the President we can “take to the streets” and make our demands. Things getting “bad enough” only paralyzes the people, it doesn’t radicalize them. A real grass roots movement has not been tried and it’s people who sit around bitching about it needing to get worse to get people to “frog march” all the neocons to prison is just armchair speculation with no plan to back it up..
8 19 •Reply•Share ›
Aunt Brenda: I seriously doubt if the people whose families have been ripped apart by Obama’s 500 lb. bombs and drones and cruise missiles in the Middle East and Africa will be jumping with joy if O-bomb-a were to be re-elected. As expected, there was not one mention of what Obama has done to those wretched people in your drooling comment about getting that warmonger re-elected. Or perhaps the reason for that is that the lives of those people who have become victims of American militarism do not count because they are not American.
James R. Olson •
erroll: Erroll. Take a deep breath. Nobody I know is arguing that Obama is not a war criminal. I am pretty confident that every one reading this board is quite familiar with the bill of particulars against the president.
James R. Olson: You and the other people who are voting for Obama do not seem to get it. You admit that Obama is a war criminal and yet you apparently have no qualms for casting your vote for a war criminal. I think that you need to re-examine your moral values and acknowledge your cognitive dissonance regarding voting for someone who is unjustifiably killing innocent civilians overseas.
While you appear to find it perfectly acceptable regarding Obama’s murderous actions I find what he is doing loathsome and unworthy of receiving my vote which is why I will continue, despite your advice, to be vociferous about what Obama is doing to those people.
erroll: Why give Romney a chance to become an even bigger war criminal?
lrs63: I fail to see the logic or justice in allowing a proven war criminal like Barack Obama to become president once again.
And exactly when is Obama going to exercise his vaunted right to go after Americans and detain them without trial by going after the terrorists who launched a war of aggression against Iraq. I’ll start supporting Democrats when they stop playing Republican lite. Sure Romney would be worse, but saying that we have to therefore support Obama is like admitting to ourselves that our choices are always going to be Hitler or Mussolini, and supporting Mussolini over Hitler is as good as it’s ever going to get. I fear it has to get worse before it will get better. As Derek Jacobi says in I, Claudius, “Let all the poisons that lie in the mud hatch out.” Then maybe people will take to the streets and frogmarch all these political and corporate criminals off to prison where they belong and where they can take the places of all the harmless drug offenders “leaders” like Obamney insist on persecuting.
Ri DeCarlo •
When we don’t vote, they win, and they win big. It’s almost a self-defeating behavior to not vote. The smiles on their faces get bigger, and they gloat. The KKK and the ‘woman-haters’ and the bigots, and the anti-semites, and the ‘red-necks’ and the Muslim haters, and the homophobes win. We lose, children lose, women lose, working people lose, the poor loses, and America suffers more. I refuse to let them win. Fight them. Vote. Don’t let your voice be silenced. Exercise your right to VOTE. If you DON’T VOTE, THEY WIN! They’re counting on you to stay home, that’s what they want. When this election is over, work for our causes, your causes. Please reconsider, we need you.
18 19 •Reply•Share ›
Ri DeCarlo: Who exactly is “they?” Do you really think the biggest threats to you and the American people in general are bigots, “women haters”, and the Tea Party?
Or is it the monied power that funds both parties, is engineering our economic slavery, consolidating all power into the hands of bankers and energy barons, seizing control of all of our mass media outlets, running a massive campaign to inject trillions of gallons of toxic soup into the ground to extract natural gas, implementing an illegal mass surveillance system to monitor every word you speak or write, enacting the disassembly of our most basic tenets of civil justice, like right to a TRIAL, destroying our education system to replace it with a corporate for profit one, etc etc etc.
Turn off your freakin TV. The bigotry and prejudices of the American people are the least of our problems. We’re losing our democracy. We’re losing our livelihoods. We’re losing our drinking water.
Obama is the best thing that ever happened to the plutocracy. He said so himself, to the top banksters who were visiting the White House:
“I’m the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks.”
And indeed he was.
Let’s keep this award-winning site going!
|Yes, audiences applaud us. But do you?If yes, then buy us a beer. The wingnuts are falling over each other to make donations…to their causes. We, on the other hand, take our left media—the only media that speak for us— for granted. Don’t join that parade, and give today. Every dollar counts.
|Use the DONATE button below or on the sidebar. And do the right thing. Even once a year.|
Use PayPal via the button below.