Now would be a good time to dust off an old idea: “critical support.” That idea, along with much else associated with the Left, effectively went missing during the 1980s.
It may seem like splitting hairs, but critical support is not quite the same thing as unqualified support. When critical support is offered, support is qualified and disagreement is expressed. With straight out support, disagreements, if any, are overlooked.
In elections between Democrats and Republicans, or in primary elections between Democrats, it is always tempting to opt for the lesser evil, but there are rarely good reasons to offer any support at all.
In principle, the same holds for primary elections between Republicans. However, the point is moot because there are never good reasons to support anyone who would run for office on the Republican ticket – not critically, and certainly not without qualification.
Except in local contests, there is rarely anyone running in Democratic primaries who merits support either. However, there is a candidate running for President in the Democratic primaries next year who will merit at least critical support from the Left — what is left of it, that is.
That candidate is Jim Webb, the former Senator from Virginia. Webb has not yet declared his candidacy, but he is showing all the signs.
Voters who could care less where a candidate fits on a left-right spectrum – the majority of voters nowadays – may find, as they learn more about Webb, that they have no problem supporting him outright.
But those of us who look forward to a time when an authentic Left reemerges, do care. We care that Webb is soft on capitalism, not that any other Democrat is better; and we are queasy about where he still stands on the Vietnam War. He may not be the best candidate in the field on gender issues either, though the evidence on that is ambiguous at best.
In any case, the plusses swamp the minuses – to a degree that is unprecedented in recent decades. This is why, for us, critical support seems about right.
Custodians of conventional wisdom – the reporters and commentators heard over National Public Radio (NPR), for example – describe Webb, when they talk about him at all, as a “moderate.” They call Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi “liberals,” implying that they are more left than Webb is.
Perhaps they are, by NPR’s standards. Perhaps Barack Obama is more liberal too. But with liberals like these, calling a potential candidate something else – even a “moderate” – is an outstanding recommendation.
Webb is also the only candidate with any chance at all of exciting the voting public enough to derail the Clinton juggernaut. Neither Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren has a chance.
But this is not the only reason why at least critical support for Webb, but not for Sanders or Warren, is warranted.
* * *
Both Sanders and Warren are, by the usual accounting, more liberal than Webb. They are more liberal than Schumer or Pelosi — or Obama – too.
Neither of them are actually in the running, at this point, but they both – Warren especially – set liberal hearts aflutter.
Webb, on the other hand, does not; not so far.
Like the former Maryland Governor, Martin O’Malley, a decent enough mainstream Democrat, Webb is in the liberal field of vision only because he is more or less in the race, and because nobody — except a few unreconstructed Clintonites, second-wave feminists hoping to see a woman in the White House before they die, and Wall Street banksters — really wants Hillary to win.
Understandably, liberals think that the more liberal a candidate is, by conventional wisdom standards, the better.
But for those who think the way generations of people on the Left once did, and as some of us still do, this is a dubious criterion.
But even allowing that there is a connection between being liberal in the sense that matters to those who nowadays call themselves “progressives” and being authentically on the Left, this is the wrong way to think about Webb’s candidacy, and also about Sanders’ and Warren’s.
Misperception is not the problem. By no means is Webb a man of the Left, and there is no Left homunculus deep inside him that might someday break free if only, as liberals used to say of Obama, a mobilized liberal public would force him to do what he really wants.
Sanders and Warren are more liberal, but for anyone who holds authentic Left values – anyone for whom the point of politics is to enhance equality and social solidarity, and the forms and varieties of freedom that maintain and enhance human dignity for all — a Webb presidency promises more than a Sanders or Warren presidency would.
In the circumstances we now confront, it promises more even than the presidency of a bona fide Leftist would.
This is all moot, in any case; no bona fide Leftist is about to become President. Sanders, a septuagenarian Jewish man who calls himself a “socialist,” doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell either. Officially, he isn’t even a Democrat.
Warren, who might have a chance even if the full weight of Wall Street came down upon her, steadfastly refuses to run. She seems to mean it too; and, as they say, you can’t win if you don’t play.
Comparisons with Webb are therefore otiose.
But this is not the main reason why supporting Webb, critically or otherwise, makes sense, while supporting Sanders or Warren does not.
Organized support for Sanders is sparse, in any case; but, for months now, liberal groups, like MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, have been urging Warren to run and promoting her candidacy assiduously.
No doubt, most, maybe all, Warren supporters are sincere, but it is worth pointing out that, for groups like MoveOn and DFA, urging Warren to run is useful for bringing people despairing of Hillary into their fold. For them, Warren is a good organizing tool. In that sense, supporting her non-existent candidacy does make kind of sense.
There will come a point, though, when this will have to stop – inasmuch as there is no reason to think that Warren is merely being coy. When she says she will not run, she means it – “no” means no.
This is probably a good thing too. As a Senator, she can crusade against bankster greed, and help get the word out. Were she somehow to win the Democratic nomination, the party establishment’s first order of business would be to zipper her mouth shut on matters of concern to Wall Street, forcing her to focus instead on less threatening, more anodyne, Hillary-style “issues.”
Obama in 2008 was at least a blank slate upon whom voters could project their hopes; it took a while for disillusionment to set in. Were Warren the Democratic nominee, disillusionment would set in immediately, courtesy of the Wall Street flunkies who call the shots.
Not so with Webb; he is cut from a different cloth. The Democratic Party establishment wouldn’t know what to do with him.
Or so it seems from the perspective of the present.
Jim Webb is not yet a well-vetted public figure. He does have more of a public record than Obama did at a comparable point a year before the 2008 election, but the pertinent evidence base is nevertheless slender.
This is why it would be unwise, this early on, to draw more than tentative conclusions. So far, though, what we know looks good.
* * *
From the time Bill Clinton and his co-thinkers, including his wife, effectively took over the Democratic Party, purging its small but not insignificant left wing, it has been hard not to feel queasy about Democrats.
They must be presumed malevolent until proven otherwise. In recent decades, the few who could overcome the presumption of malevolence have been, without exception, marginal figures; Dennis Kucinich is a case in point.
Progressives dream of a charismatic candidate with Kucinich’s politics who exudes gravitas and who wields a political machine mighty enough to crush the opposition. They are looking for a new John Kennedy or rather, for an up-dated version of the illusion that JFK publicists installed in the public mind.
It is hard to believe now, but in 2008, Barack Obama was supposed to be the answer to their prayers.
It was a disabling illusion then, just as its prototype in 1960 had been. Had Kennedy not been assassinated, his reputation now would be dirt, just as Obama’s will be (unless comparisons with President H. Clinton make him look good in comparison).
With Big Money corrupting our politics now even more than in the past, the idea that a President will come to save us, as only a Messiah can, is more disabling still.
Change for the better will not come about the way “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” hopes – and not just because there are no plausible candidates around who qualify for Messiah status.
Webb doesn’t qualify either, but it doesn’t matter — because this is not how democracy happens.
By almost any measure a liberal might apply, Webb’s politics are worse than Kucinich’s, and worse than Sanders’ or Warren’s. Also, there are no Kennedy-like political machines, clean or otherwise, backing him, and no rogue billionaires eager to shovel money his way.
But, so what! If a viable Webb candidacy does take hold of the public imagination, it will be a different kind of phenomenon from the one that progressives harboring Messianic illusions yearn for.
It will be more like what happened with the Tea Party – but without the plutocratic seed money and without the reactionary tilt. And instead of reinforcing the existing power structure and system of domination, a Webb candidacy will help undermine it.
* * *
A condition for the possibility of our wretched status quo is the disempowerment of the working class. The process has been going on so long, and has succeeded so well, that even the words “working class” nowadays seem quaint.
How could it not when, with acquiescent labor leaders in tow, a bipartisan consensus of politicians and pundits continually remind us that we are all “middle class” now?
A condition for the disempowerment of the working class is, and always has been, its divisions — mainly, but not only, along racial and ethnic lines. The beneficiaries of the status quo have always done their utmost to maintain these divisions and, whenever possible, to exacerbate them.
As Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” unfolded, large segments of the white working class, mainly but not only in states media deem red or purple, actually crossed over to the GOP side.
This has to be turned around for things to get better. A Webb candidacy, followed by a Webb presidency, is the best, perhaps the only, way, at this point in time, to begin the process.
A Clinton presidency, on the other hand, would exacerbate the trend. It would be like a third, fourth, fifth and sixth Obama term condensed into four dreadful years.
Were Hillary Clinton to become President, the only hope would be that things would become so god awful that, finally, a popular insurgency would force the downward spiral to bottom out.
The most likely outcome, however, would be change for the worse, not the better. Fascism, we now know, is not as dead a letter as was everywhere supposed as recently as a decade or two ago.
Thanks to neoliberal austerity policies imposed by EU institutions and banks, and by the International Monetary Fund, the European south is especially vulnerable.
But it could happen anywhere; it could happen here.
In Greece and Spain and elsewhere, genuinely progressive forces are fighting back; they are an inspiration for the world. But they could lose; and, if they do, the consequences will be terrible.
A Webb candidacy, were it to take hold and were Webb then to go on to become President, is our best bet for reversing the downward spiral that has empowered neoliberal ideologues in America and around the world.
It is therefore the best chance we have for holding at bay those forces that threaten to put liberty itself, along with tolerance and common decency, in jeopardy – as the consequences of the one-sided class war neoliberal ideologues wage become increasingly salient.
Since the United States remains the global hegemon, the good news would be felt around the world.
Thus Webb can do something even a candidate with Kucinich-like politics and Kennedy-like power and charisma could not: his candidacy could help unite and reempower the working class.
If anybody can reverse the Southern strategy, Webb is the one. If anyone can bring the white working class back onto the right side of history – without the white-black-brown divisions that limited progress in the past, and that are now undoing much of the progress attained fifty and even eighty years ago — Webb is the one for that too.
Were he to become President, or even were he to affect the course of the Democratic Party significantly, it would change the circumstances we confront in ways that would make a genuinely constructive politics possible again – for the first time since before the Vietnam War undid the Great Society.
It might even open up possibilities that have been off the agenda since the New Deal’s most radical phase expired during Franklin Roosevelt’s second term.
* * *
Anything can happen, and fear-mongering liberal pundits are already sowing seeds of doubt. Nevertheless, it is as certain as anything can be that the Democratic nominee in 2016 will win the presidency. As that still unindicted wordsmith of the Bush era, Donald Rumsfeld, used to say, this is a “known known.”
A Democratic victory is a sure thing because the Republicans will not be able to field a candidate whom most Republican voters, the Republican “base,” will enthusiastically support, and who will also not scare all the moderates away — along with Democrats and independents who still have the sense they were born with.
Jeb Bush is their best shot. He could win the Republican nomination; he will too, if, like in 2012, the Republican establishment gets its way. But he cannot win the general election. He has even less chance than Mitt Romney.
The Republican base won’t go for him because they think he is too “liberal.” In reality, his hard right credentials are beyond reproach; Jeb puts even his big brother to shame. But in the Republican netherworld, reality hardly matters. Pre-given misconceptions are all.
The rest of the electorate has a different problem with Bush; he is his brother’s brother. Guilt by association is unfair; and it is especially unfair to be held to account for a sibling’s bumbling crimes. Jeb is not his brother’s keeper.
But for God’s sake, there are limits: George W. Bush was the worst President ever. It will be years before the full extent of the catastrophes he caused unfold. It is not just the Middle East that he broke; it was the rule of law and Americans’ basic rights and liberties too. The last thing any sane voter should want is another Bush in the White House.
That any sane voter would want another Clinton in the White House is hard to grasp too. But the Clintons are only garden-variety neoliberal miscreants, notable only for their slick opportunism.
George W. Bush was more monstrous even than Bill Clinton — by many orders of magnitude. The very thought of electing someone who shares his genes and who was raised in the same household is, or rather ought to be, unthinkable.
But, if not Bush, who? The other contenders — Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and so on — make Sarah Palin look good. They are godsends for late night comedy shows, and disasters for the GOP.
Rand Paul seems a tad less risible, but he is just libertarian enough to worry the GOP establishment, and just conformist enough – especially on matters of war and peace and foreign policy — to keep libertarians from boosting his cause the way some of them boosted his father’s.
Against that field of candidates, the Democrats could run a turnip and win. They could even run a Clinton.
Another known known is that on most matters of concern to voters, it hardly matters who the President is.
This is because Big Money runs the show, and both parties are thoroughly on board.
There is a decent chance that the Democrats will retake the Senate in 2016; in 2014, the open and vulnerable seats were mainly in states considered reddish or purple; in 2016, the center of gravity is more blue.
But with Chuck Schumer in the driver’s seat, can anyone who is not a bankster or a card-carrying Israeli agent really be cheered by that prospect?
Thanks to gerrymandering, there is less chance that the Democrats will win back control of the House. But even that is not impossible, if the turnout for the Presidential contest is high enough.
If the Democrats win back one or both chambers, it will make the next President’s life easier. But it won’t change much in what we now call the “homeland,” except around the margins.
Both parties feed from the same trough; both know what their paymasters want, and both deliver as best they can. Democrats are especially effective at delivering – because they are able to deflect or neutralize potential opposition.
Paul Krugman, along with many others, thinks that in 2016 there will be a stark difference between the Democratic and the Republican candidate – that the Democrat will retain New Deal and Great Society programs, while the Republican will cut them to the quick and privatize whatever is left.
How pathetic that the best he and other Democratic Party cheerleaders can say about the Democrat they expect to vote for in 2016 is that she will not turn the clock back fifty years!
But are they right even about that? Maybe not.
Bill Clinton was the best – most effective – neoliberal President ever; no one undid more of the New Deal and the Great Society than he. He puts Obama to shame, and he leaves the two Bushes and Reagan himself standing in the dust.
Krugman et. al. are right about how execrable Republicans are and about what they would like to do. But, for keeping neoliberal depredations at bay, Democrats, though better intentioned and generally nicer, may be even more dangerous.
And even by Democratic standards, the Clintons – there is no light between them on matters such as these – are as dangerous as it gets.
* * *
Neoliberalism underwrites the much discussed “democracy deficit” that now afflicts much of the developed and developing world.
No matter how voters vote, no matter which party or candidate wins, the outcome is always basically the same – it is whatever the capitalists who control the commanding heights of the global financial sector want it to be.
This phenomenon registers differently in the United States than elsewhere because, as the global hegemon, sovereignty is less compromised in the imperial center than in other capitalist “democracies” and in the empire’s various dependencies.
But, except for “patriotic” (jingoistic) reasons, it hardly matters, for most Americans’ lives, that the orders that impose neoliberal nostrums upon Americans are issued in Washington DC, rather than in the headquarters of extra-national institutions based abroad.
The consequences are the same: domestic policies are whatever financiers and corporate bigwigs want them to be — regardless whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge.
A President Sanders or a President Warren might try to test the limits. But the way the system works, he or she wouldn’t get very far. Before they could change the system, the system would change them.
For real change to happen, an enraged public – not a Senator or two — would have to mobilize and organize to take on the money interests, and to beat them back.
If this ever comes to pass, be sure that nothing Sanders or Warren could do – as presidential candidates, or even as Presidents — will have had much, if anything, to do with it.
Therefore let them stay in the Senate where, by articulating the left-most views the power structure can bear, they may yet be able to advance public awareness of what is going on, and may even improve legislation a tad.
It bears mention too that neither of them have views that are in any way counter-systemic. Even Sanders, the nominal “socialist,” is as wedded to our private property regime as any of his Senate colleagues; or, for that matter, as the Clintons have always been.
Neither do either of them advocate the kinds of aggressive Social Democratic programs that, in the past, helped advance Left values within a still capitalist framework.
What they both propose are legal reforms that, if implemented, would restore some of the regulatory powers that used to smooth out the rough edges of pre-neoliberal capitalism.
A few decades ago, their views on economic policy would have seemed unremarkably mainstream, hardly out of the ordinary even for Republican liberals or moderates. That they seem almost radical now only shows how dramatically our political culture has declined.
This is not to say that, on the domestic front, it doesn’t matter which party is in power. It matters on issues that don’t substantially affect the fortunes of capitalist elites, and it matters because one of the Constitutional duties of the executive branch is to nominate federal judges. With several Supreme Court vacancies likely to fall due before long, this is a not insignificant consideration.
Democratic administrations try to put centrist and center-right jurists on the bench; sometimes they succeed in pushing their appointments through the Senate, though, with Republican obstinacy, this isn’t easy, even when Democrats are in charge.
Republicans favor rightwing ideologues. Over the past several decades, they have succeeded in putting quite a few of them in office – much to the detriment of liberty (not economic liberty, but the kinds that make human life better), equality, and any and all forms of social solidarity.
They have served the one percent well; to such an extent that what little democracy we once had is now rapidly disappearing. Thanks to their success in identifying “campaign contributions” with Constitutionally protected free speech, the rich now control our politics to a degree that would have embarrassed even the great Robber Barons of the Gilded Age.
This is one reason, one of the very few, why a Democratic President, even a Clinton, probably would be a lesser evil than a Republican President, all things considered.
But Webb is a Democrat too; whatever Clinton can do, he could as well.
Would he do it better? There is no reason, at this point, to expect that he would. Most likely, like Obama and like Bill Clinton – and like Hillary, should she become President — he would be good for damage control, and nothing more.
Foreign policy and related military and “national security” matters are another story.
It was hardly the founders’ intention, but the executive branch now effectively runs that show. Since 9/11 especially, the consequences have been horrendous. They need not be, however – not with the right President in charge.
This is where Webb could make a difference great enough to warrant critical support at the very least.
* * *
Hillary Clinton is the devil we know – far too well.
Sanders has a record too. In brief, his instincts are more decent than Clinton’s and, when pushed, he is more likely to do the right thing. But, going by his votes in both the House and the Senate, the positions he is inclined to favor are not spectacularly better than the ones most Democrats support.
Warren has a sparser record; what there is of it is even less encouraging.
Webb ran for the Senate in 2006 and decided not to run in 2012. In his six years in office, and in the years before and after, he was an ardent and consistent opponent of the Bush-Obama Middle Eastern wars.
During his time in office, he was also less obeisant to the Israel lobby than almost any other member of the Senate or the House.
The common thread is that Webb’s worldview is that of a professional soldier, not a career politician.
His life is built around two other passions as well.
For one, he is a serious writer – not just a politician who writes novels. He writes about what he knows: about war, especially the Vietnam War. Informed critics consider his work impressive. They liken his books to Norman Mailer’s on World War II.
His other passion is his people, “the other Americans” of rural Appalachia.
Solidarity between poor whites and poor blacks in southern and border-states is hardly new. Political opportunists and entrepreneurs, promoting white supremacy, have often succeeded in undermining it; but unlike the liberal good will that flourishes throughout “enlightened” America, the roots of white-black working class solidarity run deep. Where it exists, there is nothing hypocritical about it.
With a power structure intent on supplying white workers and farmers with a despised race to look down upon, it is hardly surprising that racist attitudes would flare up as often as they have, and still do. But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
Throughout the entire Jim Crow period, black and white tenant farmers and others in similar straits often found that class solidarity swamped racial animosity.
This was not just a proletarian phenomenon; throughout the larger white community, there had always been pockets of opposition to racial segregation, and, within limits prescribed by custom and law, examples of connectedness between blacks and whites.
In the 1960s and subsequently, some of the most ardent militants in the Civil Rights movement were southern and white. In recent decades, on matters pertaining to cross-racial solidarity, white Southerners have often put white Northerners to shame.
By all accounts, Webb is cast in this mold. There is ample evidence too that, throughout his life, he has fought the good fight – in the military, and in civilian life as well.
Reportedly, it rankles Webb that, in America today, “rednecks,” Appalachian rednecks especially – along with Arabs and, lately, Muslims in general – are the only people left who can still be derogated and mocked in mainstream, “politically correct” circles. In these circumstances, Appalachian pride, much like black and brown pride, takes on a progressive flavor.
This was well understood by black and brown Americans struggling for dignity in their own right in the 1960s, and by the social scientists that fashioned Great Society programs.
It is yet another understanding that, along with the Left itself, has gone missing of late, and that calls out to be revived.
* * *
Webb was an Air Force brat, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968. He went on to a storied career as Marine, earning the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and two Bronze Stars. He was wounded twice, earning two Purple Hearts.
After being medically retired, he took a law degree at Georgetown, going on to work for several years in various legal capacities on Capitol Hill.
It was during this period that he began his literary career. His first book, Fields of Fire, is considered a classic Vietnam novel; it is still in print. Another early novel of his, A Sense of Honor, set at the Naval Academy, is similarly well known and highly regarded.
In 1984, Webb won an Emmy for his front-line television reporting with the Marines in Beirut. Ronald Reagan then put him to work in the Pentagon – first as Assistant Secretary of Defense, then as Secretary of the Navy. He later resigned that post, ostensibly in protest over fleet cuts.
From that point on, until he ran for the Senate in 2006, he did pro bono legal work and consulting. But most of his time was taken up with writing. He has published ten books so far.
Reportedly, Webb still thinks that the Vietnam War was strategically necessary, and he was evidently fine, thirty years ago, working with the Reagan administration.
These are troubling facts to take on board, though they are arguably more understandable, in view of his service in Vietnam and his military background, than, say, Hillary Clinton’s days as a Young Republican at Wellesley, and as a Goldwater Girl.
It is relevant too that, for the past four decades, Vietnam has played a large role in Webb’s life.
He has gone there many times. He speaks fluent Vietnamese and is said to know the country well. In the 1990s, he did work as an advisor with American and other Western companies doing business there. He is married to a Vietnamese woman.
Webb has also traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia – from Micronesia to Myanmar (Burma) — in various capacities, even before becoming chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
In that role, he engaged frequently and constructively with government officials, in Vietnam and elsewhere. He is said to have friendly and respectful relations with many of them.
Webb is surely wrong about the strategic necessity of the Vietnam War. But there is no questioning his moral seriousness or intellectual integrity. The contrast with, say, John McCain is striking.
And the contrast with the chicken hawks who direct America’s foreign policy these days is more striking still.
No doubt, Webb’s military past at least partly explains his consistent opposition to neoconservative ideologues and to the wars they peddle – whether for “humanitarian” or outright imperial reasons.
No one else running for the Democratic nomination or thinking about it, and certainly no Republican, has anything like Webb’s record of opposition to the neoconservative-inspired, and now out-of-control, Bush-Obama wars on the historically Muslim world.
This is why if anyone can begin to make right all that Bush and Obama broke, or at least keep the situations they created from deteriorating further, it is Jim Webb.
On the other hand, if anyone is likely to fan the flames of war wherever she can, it is Hillary Clinton. Her record as Obama’s Secretary of State proves this beyond a reasonable doubt.
Webb is also the only actual or potential candidate in the running for the nomination of either major party who is committed to the idea that the United States should deal with Israel just as it would with any other country.
Once upon a time, this is what Zionists said they wanted; they wanted normalcy. They got it under Eisenhower, and under no American President since.
For years, Israeli governments – left, right and center — have taken their right to wag the dog for granted. With very few exceptions, the dog has been more than willing to oblige.
Indeed, to this day, Congress misses no opportunity to reaffirm America’s dedication to providing the Israeli government with a blank check to do whatever it wants to Palestinians. And, to this day, it enables Israeli governments to ignore international law at will.
When he was in the Senate, Webb was one of the very few American legislators not to go along.
It is true that he wasn’t running for office when his fellow Senators were going out of their way to disgrace themselves by supporting the latest Israeli atrocities in Gaza and elsewhere. Perhaps he knew early on that he wouldn’t be running in 2012. If so, this would take some of the luster off his stance. But no matter what his plans were, just saying No took courage, a virtue in very short supply in Democratic ranks.
* * *
A Webb candidacy could work wonders, but, at this point, it is a very long shot at best. In all likelihood, Hillary Clinton will get the nod. If she does, the Clintons will be moving back into the White House in January 2017.
Therefore, I will probably end up voting, as I always do, for the Greens. The Green vote is likely to be miniscule; it always is.
For voters who are on to what Democrats are about and who live in states where the Electoral College votes might as well be assigned right now, voting for Hillary Clinton makes no sense. Why pile it on? Why help her claim a mandate? There are no good reasons.
There is only a bad reason – because liberals fret that, if they don’t vote for the Democrat, the lesser evil might win. In the 2016 presidential contest, this is a needless concern.
Liberals would do better to worry about who the lesser evil actually is, especially if Hillary Clinton is the Democrat they will be voting for.
Voting for the Greens is a futile gesture, a protest vote only. It may be the best option though – not the least evil (because it isn’t evil at all), but the only one that is acceptable.
In that vein, I would rather vote, if I could, for a political figure whose views, as best I can tell, I unreservedly support. I’d rather vote, for example, for Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant.
This is a non-starter, of course, and not just because, having been born abroad, she cannot, according to the U.S. Constitution, ever be President; and not because the move from Seattle City Councilwoman to President, unlike the even move improbable move from First Lady to New York Senator, might strike even sympathetic voters as a bit too much.
And neither is it a non-starter just because her party, the Socialist Alternative, would have an even harder time than the Greens getting on enough ballots to have even a theoretical possibility of winning the general election.
It is a non-starter because even were these obstacles somehow overcome, supporting her unreservedly, though personally gratifying, would do less good, in the end, than critically supporting Jim Webb.
His candidacy, unlike even hers or the Green Party’s candidate (most likely, Jill Stein again), and unlike Sanders’ or Warren’s, could actually be a game-changer.
And any game in which a Hillary Clinton presidency is virtually inevitable needs to be changed – urgently and radically.
The chances of success are slim, but they are not zero – not if progressives get behind Webb.
Lesser evil voting is bad policy — for reasons that have been explained many times and at great length on this site and elsewhere.
And Hillary is bad news – for reasons that are so obvious that they hardly merit repetition. This was how it was eight years ago too – except that now, after her tenure as Secretary of State, there are many more reasons than there used to be.
For the critical critic, she is easy prey.
But liberals don’t get it; it is not in their nature.
If it were, Edward Snowden and Monica Lewinsky Democratic Clubs would now be springing up in every corner of the nation.
Instead, plutocrats are springing up in all the places where plutocrats congregate — with checkbooks in hand.
Some think that, by he time it is over, the rich and heinous – along with fretful liberals and other ordinary people from what the Clintons used to call “the great forgotten middle class” — will have dumped nearly two billion dollars in Hillary’s lap. That figure, other experts say, may be as much as a half-billion dollars low.
Nothing can beat all that “free speech”– nothing except people power. But, for that to happen, the people need an alternative to rally around.
Finding a candidate with better politics than Hillary Clinton is child’s play; finding one who is willing to run against her is a lot harder. But an alternative with better politics is not what is needed at this juncture.
What is needed is someone who can unify the working class and bring it back to its historical mission; someone with authenticity, and with the kind of background and character that voters, enough of them to carry the day in Democratic primaries and caucuses, can mobilize around.
What is needed for the electoral season ahead and, if that can be made to happen, for the next four or eight years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is Jim Webb — not a man of the Left, but the only Democrat in many years that proponents of Left values can conscionably, albeit critically, support.
ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).