FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

No Lesser Evil, Not this Time

John Halle and Noam Chomsky recently published at Halle’s blog their defense of “lesser evil voting”, “AN EIGHT POINT BRIEF FOR LEV (LESSER EVIL VOTING)”. In it they make an argument that by electing Clinton (i.e. by voting for her in swing states) this allows for the continuing growth of the left and reduces the amount of harm that will be caused over the next four years. I do not doubt their desire for radical change, nor do I doubt that they make these arguments because they find them morally justifiable in consideration of the consequences of our actions. Yet, it is dubious whether we can consider Clinton an LEV, just as much as it is dubious whether electing Clinton would enable the growth of the Left. I am not arguing from what they call a “politics of moral witness”, but argue in the same analytic vein that they have placed their brief. That is, is Clinton on topics such as climate change, trade, and militarism actually an LEV in comparison to Trump? Taking their criteria of consequences over rhetoric, there seems at best a “dimes worth of difference” on these topics.

For instance, on climate change they state that Trump “denies the existence of global warming, calls for increasing use of fossil fuels, dismantling of environmental regulations and refuses assistance to India and other developing nations as called for in the Paris agreement, the combination of which could, in four years, take us to a catastrophic tipping point.” What is left unsaid is that Clinton only rhetorically accepts the existence of climate change, that under her tenure at the State Department she pushed for privatization of PEMEX, for more fracking, and has continuously stated she would continue policies beneficial to fossil fuel companies. Further, and known most likely to both Halle and Chomsky, the Paris agreement dropped the more direct language on reparations for ecological debt that were part of the Lima draft agreement, for the less direct language about transferring knowledge and research to aid in reducing effects. Nor has it mattered whether a Democrat or a Republican is in power in terms of global CO2 emissions, which rise in either case, as production is moved around the world-system in accordance with the trade agreements pushed by both parties. Thus, the consequences for the planet are identical whomever is elected. Halle and Chomsky would be hard pressed to dispute that fact.

Together with climate change, the issue of trade agreements is highly pertinent, seeing as the ramping up of production is a major reason why companies want these agreements. It is clear that Clinton has only rhetorically changed her position on TPP, just as Bill did with NAFTA. Those trade agreements are principle mechanisms causing migration, such as in Mexico, where NAFTA destroyed the livelihood of farmers. Further, they increase resentment in the working class, typically alienated due to the weakening of the labor movement, who see their jobs go overseas and their wages slashed. This increases ethnic/racial tensions as the working class is pitted against itself in an ever more brutal competition for declining employment and livelihood, a negative feedback loop breeding racists and reversing the strides made during and post-Civil Rights Movement. The worse of it all, these agreements are entrenching even more the power of corporations, who will now be able to sue nation-states based on the fact that regulations harm profit. This is clearly a grotesque attack on environmental regulations, one much more likely to do damage than rhetorical denials.

On militarism, we have a candidate, Clinton, with a clear record, from Serbia to Libya, from Honduras to Paraguay, of supporting coups, militarization of authoritarian regimes, breaking international law, and genuinely following the neoconservative playbook in trying to make the 21st Century another century of American hegemony and empire. Militarism is highly destructive on the environment, and the US military is one the principal consumers of fossil fuels, on top of dispersing environmentally destructive materials around the world (agent orange, depleted uranium, etc.). When Halle and Chomsky write, “Trump has also pledged to increase military spending while cutting taxes on the rich, hence shredding what remains of the social welfare “safety net” despite pretenses”, this could just as easily apply to Hillary, a candidate who has already stated she would like to expand Plan Colombia-style policy in the Western Hemisphere. Further, we know Hillary supported the destruction of welfare, the repeal of Glass-Stegall, and has pushed for privatizing social security (Bill supported this at the 2012 convention with the Simpson-Bowles budget).

If we focus on domestic racial and ethnic relations, clearly Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened white supremacists and reactionary nationalists. Yet once more, how likely is it that an oligarch whose companies use undocumented labor and maquiladoras is actually going to build a wall or change trade deals? Obviously Trump doesn’t mind lying and saying whatever just to say it, that is basically his entire campaign. It was Obama who has been the deporter-in-Chief, and it is Clinton’s State Department supporting a coup in Honduras that increased the migration of children. The ban on Muslims Trump supports is possible because of the Islamophobia that Clinton herself is a part of stoking, along with the surveillance apparatus that was extended under the Obama Administration. And the Democrats have not used their executive power to curtail police abuses, but only continued to do what they do well, which is the theatre of nothing.

Thus, we seem to have words versus action. Halle and Chomsky say we are supposed to be concerned with action and consequences, yet tell us to vote against words and strategically support the action and consequences as the LEV. It is to take the unknown and make it a bogey, when we know the known is already a bogey. Or stated differently, Trump is a wild card and we really have no clue in many instances what he will do. We know it will be reprehensible, but so will Clinton’s actions. Even on the topic of nuclear weapons, with the Obama Administration recent updating of the arsenal, it is safe to assume that both Clinton and Trump consider them an option (MAD still being official policy, a lunatic with a finger on the gun). Thus, there is no “high probability” of either candidate being worse than the other. In this election there is no LEV, not even slightly.

What we are deciding is to vote for the cause or the effect. Hillary and neoliberalism/neoconservativism in general are the cause of the Trump-style authoritarian populism that now haunts the US. There is little evidence that Hillary is a lesser evil, that her presidency will cause less harm. Actually, it seems we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t with no less damneder a situation on the horizon. Hillary’s presidency would solidify much of neoliberalism and imperialism, and continue to buttress the corrupt, rotten formal institutions of our society. In my opinion, their conclusion is a fool’s bargain: “by dismissing a “lesser evil” electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve.” In an electoral season where people are itching for principle, they call for pragmatism, a pragmatism that has only ever seen in my lifetime the ideological spectrum swing to the right, where now we have a Republican in Democrat’s clothing against a Republican in demagogue robes.

At least we agree, the real work is never this quadrennial circus. That begs the question, why participate in it at all? Green Panther Party anyone?

More articles by:

Andrew Smolski is a writer and sociologist.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail