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What Readers Need to Know About Noam Chomsky’s Position on Lesser-Evil Voting

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Recently there have been a number of articles that explain Noam Chomsky and voting patterns in the US electorate and how they relate to US policy in terms of the concept known as LEV or “less than evil voting.” David McDonald has written, “Lesser Evil Politics: Really, Noam? Hubert Humphrey?” In the piece he writes, “Back in ’68, Chomsky says, ‘the ultra-left faction of the peace movement’ caused the election of Richard Nixon by ‘minimizing the comparative danger’ of a Nixon presidency, thereby making the huge strategic mistake of foisting Nixon on the world, prolonging the Vietnam War by ‘six years’ and causing senseless deaths and untold suffering because we voted our hearts, not our minds.”

When I asked Chomsky about this article he indicated that he didn’t even bother responding and that the author completely missed the point.  Of course, Chomsky asserted, the “ultraleft” itself was too small to swing the vote, but they were referring to the far greater group who accepted McDonald’s position, who very likely did swing the vote.

Andrew Smolski also, on Chomsky’s voting position, in his, “To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky,” states that, “Worse yet, Halle and Chomsky are decidedly wrong in their assessment, hiding behind their religious belief that the utilitarian logic they employ is obvious and a priori correct. They willfully ignore that the logic of lesser evil voting (LEV) is a causal mechanism pushing the political structure to the right. They cannot fathom that their strategy is part of the rightward drift, even while they admit that that rightward trend exists, which is why, in Chomsky’s words, Democrats are now “Moderate Republicans”.

Here too, Chomsky remarked that the piece was basically not worth a review, although easy to see why those who are trapped by the propaganda about the quadrennial extravaganza can fall into the error.

Priti Gulati Cox wrote, “All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein,” a title that speaks for itself.

Maybe I’m being far too kind, but I think these articles are well written and contain useful and helpful information. At the same time, I believe they invite certain misconceptions about what Professor Chomsky believes about voting in the US.

For starters, Chomsky has long held that the US political system has intentionally offered weak candidates close in ideology, while presenting the illusion of choice, and both wings are dedicated to the business class and business run society. This is why, Chomsky states, we have an extraordinarily violent labor history.

I also think the premise that Chomsky advocates less than evil voting is incorrect. Chomsky, in select circumstances does not advocate less than evil voting, he simply suggests, but never insists, on strategic voting. Simply put, Chomsky holds that if you live in a state that is safe for Democrats, you have the options of: voting for the Green Party, not voting, but most importantly perhaps, carrying on with democratic action and organizing, which Chomsky holds to be the more significant part of the political process. The process is entirely independent of voting and since voting should occupy about five minutes of our time, we need to keep up the important work.

Then, if the state you reside in is not safe, meaning it is a toss-up state that Republicans can win, it’s wise to vote for the Democrat. He never suggests that Democrats should be voted for necessarily, but that voting against Republicans is vital. For one thing, they are not even a party, but a renegade group that can’t even admit climate change is real. Even if someone did not vote for a Democrat in a toss-up state, Chomsky, I think, would be more interested in what the citizen was doing to be collectively engaged.

Chomsky thinks that we shouldn’t so easily tolerate the view which, for example, consigns hundreds of millions of Bengalis to a grim fate as the sea level rises, following Trump-Republican prescriptions. Or at home, the view that says that it’s fine if we get four more Scalias on the Supreme Court.

In reality of course, Smolski, McDonald and Cox share plenty of common ground with Chomsky. Is there a difference between a Democrat and a Republican when it comes to Noam Chomsky’s politics? Yes, but very small. Usually, this is the case anyway, but since the GOP has abandoned parliamentary procedures, they are no longer a political party.  They are, literally, a menace to survival and hence the need to vote strategically.
But in the small difference, now maybe colossal, Chomsky maintains, there lies a potential for far reaching consequences when in a toss-up state. But again, as always, there is no substitute for the active citizens that devote themselves to on-going issues to participate in. This, to Noam Chomsky, is true participation and why he likes to quote Howard Zinnand the importance of “the countless small actions of unknown people.”   
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