The logic of American electoral politics is deeply perverse. Each election cycle we return to the polls, voting not for the candidate who will represent us, but for she who merely appears less antithetical to our interests. Since the 1970’s, wages of all but the upper class have stagnated; war and environmental degradation have continued unabated. That our political system does not address these problems indicates its very inability to represent the vast majority of Americans.
Lesser evilism is the sustaining logic of this broken politics. The argument goes like this: our political system consists of two options, the Democrats and Republicans. Any vote for a third party will only facilitate the greater evil’s ascendance to power. Because a third party will never rise to national prominence, we must support the lesser evil. This logic dates to the Cold War, when it justified U.S. support for murderous dictatorships over the greater evil of communism. Yet if this logic facilitated extermination campaigns and wide scale torture, then its impact today has hardly diverged.
Because we accept lesser evilism, we will again vote for Obama, a man who has: murdered thousands of Afghan civilians with illegal drone strikes; executed a swift and merciless removal of civil liberties for Muslims—Guantanamo is still operating—and Muslim Americans, hundreds of whom having “disappeared” into prisons on unsubstantiated charges; quietly granted himself the authority to murder American civilians without trial, provided they are suspected terrorists on foreign soil; overseen more deportations of “illegal” immigrants than any preceding president; failed to halt rising healthcare costs, instead implementing a mild reform that will leave 25 million citizens uninsured and further profit private insurance companies; failed to propose environmental legislation that will curb alarming levels of CO2 emissions; failed to regulate Wall Street speculation; failed to restart a faltering economy, opting instead to bail out an entire class of billionaire CEOs and financial thieves, leaving millions of Americans in suffocating economic hardship.
We are all conscious of Obama’s crimes. Yet the specter of Romney—the specter of the greater evil—has instilled in us such fear that we will nonetheless pour our political hearts and souls into the Obama campaign.
This is a historical problem. Through the last forty years, both major parties have shifted rightward. Democrats and Republicans alike have helped to eradicate social benefits and protections, deregulate finance, and now, under Obama, maintain a permanent war machine. The Democratic Party is no longer the party of New Deal welfarism or Keynesian job creation. Its policies—regarding the environment, war, social programs—diverge little from those of mainstream Republicans. The last four years provide the greatest evidence of the growing Democratic-Republican consensus; there is no way to vote for a pacifist, an environmentalist, or an advocate for the working class.
Responsibility for this political regression lies largely in ourselves. It lies in we pacifists, environmentalists, liberals, and socialists who have continued supporting the Democratic Party—with our money, our time, our intellects—even as it has betrayed the working class and massacred thousands overseas. The historical trajectory is clear: every year the working class loses a little more, the environment further degrades, war wages on. Only a radical break with this system of immense destruction will deliver us from further political deceit. By voting Democrat, we further legitimate the very policies we oppose.
Now, more than ever, we need to vote third party. Both the Green and the Justice parties offer us such an option. Change will not occur until the millions that despise the great Democratic conservatism finally renounce their last illusions that this party represents anything other than political opportunism and war. Voting third party will not be easy. In the short term, it may propel the far Right into the oval office. Yet the fault will not lie with the third party but rather with an entire system that conspires against real social progress. Whether we elect Romney or Obama, incomes will continue disappearing, civil liberties will further erode, drones will not cease their murderous, midnight flights.
~by Eli Lichtenstein