By Roger D. Harris
Posted on September 15, 2016 by the Communications Committee
A somewhat different version of this article appeared at Counterpuch on Spetember 16.
Open Letter to My Progressive Pal Who Votes for the Lesser-of-Two-Evils
I asked you who is the lesser evil when even the Washington Post posits Hillary Clinton to the "political right" of Trump on international issues?
And you responded: "So I guess I should vote for Trump?"
Gimme Shelter: Fleeing Trump to the Democrat’s Big Tent
You are right that there are differences between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. No one recognizes that better than the ruling elites who are tripping over each other to join the Clinton bandwagon.
Mainstream Republicans, such as Romney and the Bush bunch, are gravitating in droves to the better Republican who happens to be a nominal Democrat. To the right of them, practically the entirety of the neo-conservative establishment is converting to born-again Hillaryistas.
Charles and David, the ultra-libertarian Koch brothers and Republican Party kingpins, have rejected Trump, cutting him off from a major source of funding. Another billionaire politico and sometimes Republican, Michael Bloomberg, gave Clinton his endorsement at the Democratic National Convention.
Refugees fleeing the land of the GOP are finding succor in Clinton’s big tent. Clinton’s New Democrats are actively courting the conservatives being pushed out of the GOP by the embarrassing Mr. Trump.
The ruling elites are practically unanimously opposed to Trump for two reasons: he’s unreliable and he is not a good snake oil salesman for their cause. Those of us to the left of Attila the Hun also oppose Trump, but not for the same reasons. See, for instance, Peace and Freedom Party presidential candidate Gloria La Riva’s description of Trump as a “disgusting bigot, the embodiment of the worst excesses of the capitalist system.”
First, the ruling elites find Trump untrustworthy to carry their water. Maybe Trump will come around on “free trade” issues or maybe he won’t. But with Clinton they have a proven faithful servant.
Back in 2008, when Wall Street demanded a bailout with no strings attached, mainstream Republican President Bush devotedly accommodated the banksters as did Democratic presidential candidate Obama. But Republican presidential candidate McCain thought that some conditions should be put on this gift of free money from the American tax payers.
That is when former CEO of Goldman Sachs, and architect of the bailout, Hank Paulson – incidentally serving as Bush’s treasury secretary – blackmailed McCain to either genuflect to Wall Street, or Paulson would come out publically for Obama. Wall Street got the bailout and later trillions of dollars more under Obama’s “quantitative easing”. The financial elite migrated en masse to the new Democrats.
That migration continues with Hillary Clinton, Wall Street’s anointed retainer. Unlike in the past when the big financial interests hedged their bets by contributing to both Democrats and Republicans, the smart money is going to the donkey party in 2016.
Second, Wall Street understands that not only will Clinton be more compliant, but she will also be better at legitimizing their class rule. Trump with his open chauvinism and nativism would be too obvious and could provoke a greater resistance to the neoliberal project. It’s not that the ruling elites are squeamish about racism and imperialism, but they are adverse about making it so plainly obvious.
Sympathy for the Devil: Voting for Clinton
Absent the few Bernie-or-busters, the net result of the Sanders candidacy has been to deliver a new generation of voters into the Democratic Party. A Pew poll predicts 90 percent of unwavering Sanders supporters plan to vote for Clinton in November. There they join the great majority of African American voters as a captured constituency to be flagrantly ignored by Clinton.
Given the logic of the lesser-of-two-evils voting, these citizens have no recourse but to suck it up as Clinton rushes to the right to woo the remnants of the Republican Party. A Gallup poll reports Republicans want leaders who stick to their beliefs, while Democrats more readily accept compromise.
December’s Children: Opposing Neoliberalism by Voting for It
The lesser-of-two-evils defense dictates that we vote for Clinton – despite all her admittedly bad stuff – for fear that a Trump presidency would dismantle public health care, attack the unions, and stack the Supreme Court to the right. This argument fails on two counts: it perpetuates a drift to the right with no prospect of reversal and it creates the conditions for an even more noxious phenomenon than Trump come 2020.
On the first count, you say that you’ll hold your nose and vote for Clinton in November and then in December you’ll lobby against her. But Clinton isn’t stupid. As long as she knows that lesser-of-two-evils adherents will still vote for her, she’ll continue feinting to the left and moving to the right. Unions will still be targeted, because Clinton knows Wall Street will abandon her if she doesn’t deliver low wages and high profits.
Bill Clinton was able to end welfare as we know it, pass the NAFTA “free trade” scam, enable the incarceration of multitudes of poor people of color, conduct “humanitarian” bombing of Yugoslavia to achieve regime change, etc. This was a rightist Republican agenda, which the Republicans could not enact. Yet a slick Democrat could deliver precisely because the lesser-of-two-evils adherents voted Bill Clinton into a second term.
I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: A Clinton Presidency
On the second count, there is a curious relationship between the Clinton and Trump candidacies. In short, Trump is the symptom; Clinton is the disease. In other words, the conditions that have allowed for a candidacy such as the likes of Trump were the product of neoliberal policies personified by the likes of Clinton.
Trump has been able to tap into a genuine sense of powerlessness and dispossession among the American people. These sentiments are materially based on rising income inequality. We are working longer hours – surpassing even the Japanese work week – and we are more efficient than ever, but our living conditions are stagnating or depressing.
This time around, we got a repugnant blowhard like Trump. But we don’t have to worry about him getting elected in 2016. The ruling elites will take care that he will be lucky to win Alaska. Trump’s already fatally shaky presidential prospects will be enormously even less impressive as the corporate media continues to whittle him and his big hands down.
But what will the prospects be after four years of Clinton’s police and security state, imperial wars without end, austerity for working people, and free money bonuses for Wall Street? Come 2020, the conditions – as the US heads into a deeper and more damaging recession – for an even more ominous and threatening rightist reaction will be created by Clinton’s neoliberal agenda. The lesser-of-two-evils adherents will again admonish us to re-elect Clinton for fear that an even more dangerous demagogue is running against her.
Wild Horses: Breaking with the Two-Party Duopoly
Every four years the American people are treated to a beauty contest, euphemistically called elections, where only two billionaire-sponsored contestants are allowed to compete, thanks to the exclusively private Commission on Presidential Debates. Little wonder that someone as unpopular as Hillary Clinton will win on the basis of (I’m not making this up) congeniality, because her recognized opponent in this dichotomized universe of two-party politics is Trump. Bottom line, Clinton’s biggest asset is Trump.
So the choice dictated by with the lesser-of-two-evils strategy is either Big Sister or Big Hands, because it’s two-horse race. But now is the time to vote for someone who reflects our politics and begin the protracted process of building an opposition movement outside the two corporate parties. If not now, when?
Gloria La Riva, the Peace and Freedom Party presidential candidate, admonishes:
The Democratic Party establishment is kicking its lesser-of-two-evils blackmail into high gear, arguing that the only way to beat Donald Trump is to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton. We need to see beyond the current election cycle that every year brings us a worse and worse pair of choices. Break the cycle, vote socialist, and fight for a socialist society where the right to education, housing, health care, a job and a real say over your future are guaranteed.
VOTE GLORIA LA RIVA FOR PRESIDENT, PEACE AND FREEDOM PARTY
Roger D. Harris is interim chair of the Marin County Peace and Freedom Party.
For more of Roger Harris' analysis of the 2016 campaign, see