To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky

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John Halle has taken to calling my CounterPunch article, No Lesser Evil, Not This Time, “idiotic” and part of the “lunatic and sociopathic left”. These pathetic and childlike insults are part of a left that spends more time giving itself a thousand cuts than one good jab at the common enemy. I was even more hurt to read that Chomsky, quoted by Halle, thinks my article represents “”left…self-destruction” that is “adding new dimensions” through “contemporary irrationality and refusal to think”.

Hurt, because I respect Chomsky’s work, having driven 12 hours to just interview him for 40 minutes, and being an avid reader of his philosophy, linguistics, and political analysis. I was saddened to learn he lacks political imagination at a time that calls for demanding the impossible. Even more, I was baffled by the aggression, when my article was respectful in tone; the response has been the furthest from.

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”.

Simply put, their political strategy on voting is bollocks, straight up.

If you advocate that third parties should be abandoned in contentious states, then you are advocating that third parties should be abandoned. We can call this the “risk nothing, win nothing” political strategy. When there is a left flank, Chomsky and Halle have advocated that it should be abandoned if it threatens the Democratic contender against a Republican. Why should the Democrats care about progressive demands when the Congressional Progressive Caucus is only 29% of the party and there is no left flank to apply pressure? And why should they feel threatened by a left flank that will abandon itself as soon as there is anything substantial at risk?

Think Nader in 2000. Now every four years that “spoiler” argument is pulled out, which has become a sardonic display of manufacturing consent for the LEV.

Because they themselves treat the Democrats as the most left option in contentious elections, and openly advocate against voting for third parties in those contests, they relinquish any possible power people could have over the Democrats. If anything, the self-destruction of the left occurs when scions of the left advocate against it as a matter of pragmatism, a pragmatism that actually reproduces the American political apparatuses rightward drift. Thus, they are actively supporting the blackmail of American formal democracy and scolding anyone who doesn’t accept it.

LEV has been a quadrennial present of radical public intellectuals to all the rotten structures of movements that have long since decayed. The labor movement, especially the bureaucracy, has tied itself so fundamentally to the Democratic party that the SEIU endorsed Clinton, a candidate who didn’t even support their campaign for a $15 minimum wage. That sirs, that is suicide, to actively vote against your own stated interest, to vote against your own largest ongoing labor campaign. Is it any wonder with allies like these why the annual number of work stoppages involving 1,000 workers or more are at an all-time low of 12, down from highs in the 400s?

Should there be any surprise that xenophobia is on the rise under a President who has become known as the Deporter-in-Chief? Chomsky himself labeled the Obama administration “champion in deportation”. It is this deportation apparatus, put on steroids over the last 8 years, that has been destroying families. It is an apparatus that will be continued under either Clinton or Trump, along with expansion of the private prison system that turned incarcerated bodies into profit. Truly, how can we call something “lesser” when it creates the framework for the “more”. It is foolish to do so, and only sensible if we ignore chronological order in causal relations.

When will we stop accepting the ludicrous notion that Democrats care about climate? Under the Obama Administration arctic drilling was approved, which only was stopped due to the drop in oil prices, itself a result of overproduction. Further, CO2 has continued its exponential increase, with a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in temperature already a foregone conclusion. This fact is written off as frivolous in comparison to imagined, nightmarish Republican attacks. Back in reality, it doesn’t matter who rhetorically accepts climate change when there is no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in either case (i.e. the effects of policy, despite the rhetoric, is the same). Exclaiming that the Republicans will do away with the EPA, while Democrats push a trade agreement that would allow corporations to sue and abolish regulations that interfere with profits, is to not understand that there are many roads to ruin. As I said before, damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and no less damneder a situation on the horizon.

Actually, and as any leftist should intuitively understand, what matters are the movements, the alternative structures that can apply pressure on the current political order. What matters for changing environmental policy are the level of environmentalism and environmental activism, not politician’s rhetorical beliefs (see Welch and Mazur in The Environmental State Under Pressure for an empirical study). If you think getting behind a politician who is the largest recipient of fossil fuel cash is the lesser evil on climate, you are woefully naïve. Don’t worry, I am sure the candidate supported by Henry Kissinger will allow Bolivia to continue calling for respect for Pachamama and the repayment of ecological debt. I know Kissinger acolytes have always been good stewards for left movements worldwide.

Yet, we who say “Never with Her!”, we draw the ire!

Even odder about the retort that the Republicans are worse is that Chomsky says in a BBC interview that “in many ways [Obama] is worse” than Bush or Blair. He then goes on to list ways that Obama is worse, such as the escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan which was destabilizing Pakistan. This is the same Obama who Chomsky said was the “lesser evil” against John McCain. So, Obama is the lesser evil, but is more evil than 2000’s more evil Bush, when Chomsky was exclaiming that Gore was the lesser evil. We can only imagine how evil our LEV will be if this poor political strategy is allowed to limp along much more.

And this is the exact issue, the poor political strategy of it all. The people putting forward a decent political strategy are being ignored. Kshama Sawant and Jill Stein who’ve been calling for Bernie and his supporters to break and support a third party are effectively demonized by this LEV strategy. By saying we should do anything to stop Trump regardless of its negative effects on organizing alternatives, we admit to the Democrats that we on the left are captives. We won’t lay any groundwork for the future, but instead we will ensure four more years of political terrain that saw the violent, coordinated repression of Occupy, the sprouting anew of fascism in the context of an economic wasteland, and the continued expansion of the surveillance state and the military-industrial complex. We will kick the can down the road another four years, with the high probability of dealing with something far worse and no principled opposition around, because that opposition sullied its political capital on the LEV blight.

What if instead of Chomsky getting coverage for supporting Clinton as the LEV in swing states, he spent his time calling for Bernie to break from the Democrats and begin building an alternative party? What if Halle and Chomsky spent the same amount of energy advocating with Kshama Sawant and Jill Stein? What if we had a radical imagination in the US again?

Look, like I said, I respect Chomsky immensely. I think it is ridiculous to call Chomsky a “Zionist double agent”, gatekeeper, or other such nonsense. Further, I understand if people want to vote Hillary to stop Trump. I don’t think it is an effective strategy, nor do I think she is a lesser evil, but understandable considering the Oompa Loompa’s insanity. However, when LEV supporters begin labeling fellow leftists lunatics, and all sorts of other garbage, they should be called out for their bogus argument, which is counterproductive to the current task, the building of a radical left.

Due to such behavior, Halle has proven himself incapable of holding a mature debate with anyone who dissents. He uses the conspiracists to deflect and avoid having to enter into earnest debate about important strategic matters.

Halle is the lowliest type of hater.

Whatever may come, I hope we unite to confront the right and the dark tide that haunts the world. I am optimistic, we all should be.


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Andrew Smolski is a writer and sociologist.

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