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Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Something of a firestorm has broken out in the comments section of this normally staid blog.  The reason, I think, is that we are all so distressed by the choices we are being presented with in this election year.  Let me say just  a word to explain why I shall do whatever I can to secure Clinton's election over Trump.

I am genuinely frightened that Trump is a fascist whose election could destroy what remains of American democracy.  I am old enough to remember 20th century fascism, and there is nothing that Clinton would do that compares with it.  I do not need a lecture on all the reasons to be dismayed by her, I really do not.  But just recall what Germany and Italy looked like eighty years ago.

Any hope we have of creating and strengthening a genuinely progressive political movement in this country -- never mind socialism for the moment -- depends fundamentally on the availability of the possibilities offered by electoral politics.  If you are having fantasies of "revolution," forget them.  None of the objective conditions required for a revolutionary moment are present [and they were not present in the fabled Sixties either.]

Our best hope -- our only hope -- is to elect Clinton while also building on Bernie's successes to create a standing working-class movement, by an endless supply of small donations, so that we can elect countless local, state, and federal representatives in states all over the country.  That is possible.  It really is.  I have been astonished by Sanders' success.  I never would have predicted it. 

Get a grip, folks.


Tom Cathcart said...


Derek said...

To your last point: I think people who intensely support Bernie sometimes forget how much actual success he has had merely by continuing to be there. Not just in "proving the media wrong," etc. He has shown that a large number of people really do want drastic change that isn't along Tea Party/Trumpian lines. He's shown that these people have a voice and money, and are willing to use both. He's shown that people who want to be elected need to acknowledge that, which shifts the conversation on TV and in debates, which in turn comes back to help shift conversation in the household and on the street. That's an important victory, and could prove far more enduring than an election.

What Occupy tried to do, Bernie is doing; that's a pretty big deal, win or lose the primary. Movements don't just appear in the morning, accomplish their goals during the day, and go home at night well-rested. One could go even further and argue (though I'm not sure if I accept this view or not) that Bernie might have the most influence if he loses yet stays in a position partly outside the system, where he can continue to engage these issues relatively unrestricted, something many conservatives have done for decades to real effect.

Jordan said...

In fairness to the Bernie supporters who claim they won't vote for Clinton -- the Democratic primary season really is not over, and saying "I won't vote for Clinton even if she is the official nominee" is intended to do something other than just convey the meaning of the sentence. It's a way of marking one's wholehearted support of Bernie; in particular, it's a way of saying that one hasn't given up on the cause, that one is still fighting, that one isn't content to merely fall in line with the party establishment. I doubt very seriously that most of those who say that really won't vote for Clinton in the general when it comes to that. Of course they will; but it does little good for their cause NOW to come out and say that.

s. wallerstein said...

The U.S. electoral system, for all its faults, gives some people the possibility to vote their conscience, in this case, vote Green, not Clinton.

Chomsky generally counsels people who live in states which could go either way to vote for the lesser evil, in this case, for Clinton and those who live in states which always vote either Democratic or Republican to vote their conscience.

Of course, it's wise to check the polls just before election day before making one's decision.

Anonymous said...

Professor, maybe you can help me out here and fill in some details. When people say something like this:

"I am genuinely frightened that Trump is a fascist whose election could destroy what remains of American democracy....But just recall what Germany and Italy looked like eighty years ago."

And then their only prescription is to vote for Hilary and then support a grassroots Bernie movement, that makes me question just how much those words really mean. Think about what you are suggesting. If what you are saying is true, we really should be stocking up on weapons right now, no joke. Because if the next Hitler or Mussolini is possibly coming, we are going to have to fight him with something other than blog posts and votes. That is just a fact.

This disconnect between the threat and the response makes the whole argument harder to take seriously, from my point of view.

Jerry Fresia said...

"That campaign ought to be directed to sustaining a popular movement that will use the election as a kind of an incentive and then go on, and unfortunately it’s not. When the election’s over, the movement is going to die. And that’s a serious error. The only thing that’s going to ever bring about any meaningful change is ongoing, dedicated, popular movements that don’t pay attention to the election cycle. It’s an extravaganza every four years. You have to be involved in it, so fine. We’ll be involved in it, but then we go on. If that were done, you could get major changes.” - Chomsky

When Bernie uses the term "political revolution," my inference is that he is basically talking about what Chomsky and you both are. It would be a shame, then, if Bernie stops building a popular movement and simply endorses Hillary.