FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hope, Lost Along the Road of Electoral Politics

by

The exiled anarchist, Emma Goldman, said, “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” After 10 months on the road, first in the Sanders’ campaign for president, working in several Northeastern states, and now in Zephyr Teachout’s (What Our Revolution calls a “down-ticket”) campaign for Congress in Upstate New York, I’m weary from being on the road and on the phone.

And in the end, Emma Goldman was probably right and the whole electoral enterprise is nothing but a gigantic waste of time. A Sanders’ presidency could have meant some measure of reform (A Stein presidency would have meant definite reform), and Teachout in Congress would be a boon in many ways.

The 1960s and early 1970s seemed to point in the direction of candidates who could foster basic change in the system. Maybe that was also like a desert mirage, or perhaps blinded by the false hope of school civics lessons? Candidates like Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern were soundly defeated and any of the inroads in humanizing the economic-political-social climate were crushed and the ashes were stamped out by the outrageously right-wing presidency of Ronald Reagan just one decade later, ushering in the anti-union, pro-corporate, pro-war climate that thrives today and is best typified by the candidacies of both Trump and Clinton. And except for the fascistic tinge to his campaign, there’s only a small difference in the two presidential candidates. It’s true that agents of the federal government wouldn’t come knocking on leftists’ doors in a Clinton presidency, but what would it matter that there are leftists at all in a society where corporate greed and militarism go largely unchecked?

I often pass Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt’s homes and Roosevelt’s presidential library and museum in Hyde Park, New York. I often visit there, also. Many say that Franklin Rosevelt simply saved capitalism from its own excesses during the Great Depression, but despite critics being accurate to a degree, there was a sense in the 1930s and early 1940s that people mattered. Of course, there existed massive amounts of racism and other forms of hate throughout the society in that historical epoch, but programs such as the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps and the Federal Writers’ Project showed that government, pushed by organized labor, responded to some degree to the problems caused by the growth of capitalism.

Now we have a predatory system of economics that twists nearly every dimension of life. Cities and towns are littered with huge consumer outlets and the poor have been relegated to ghettos and rural outposts of poverty. Endless wars suck the lifeblood out of the system and most heed the advice of George W. Bush at the beginning of the epoch of endless wars in 2001 when he told people to go out and shop. What could be better advice? Don’t question the system that has caused such grotesque levels of economic inequality and environmental ruin, just go out to the gaping emptiness and impersonal local shopping mall and shop until you drop. In other words, “Be silent, consume.”

I imagine the Roosevelts would be aghast at what passes today for democracy in the U.S. Liberalism has been supplanted by neoliberalism, and that, in conjunction with the extreme right-wing, has given us the false hope of fundamentalist religion and the national security state.

Opening up the car door to walk up the driveway of yet another rural home with campaign literature and campaign printouts in this dying landscape, Emma Goldman’s words sound all the more cogent and appropriate all these decades later!  Looking back across all of these many decades, its seems that protest worked at least to a degree long ago before the military-industrial complex became so powerful and much of protest turned to boutique-style identity politics, which do have a place, but subordinate to larger and more pressing issues.

More articles by:

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail