An opinion on the upcoming U.S. presidential election
by Roberto Flores
I really don't think that it matters in the long run who is in office, not for the working poor, not for the majority. On the other hand, what does seem to matter is how organized the bottom is, that is - how organized and able is the bottom to deal with whoever is in power.
As long as the left has continued to think in terms of "the lesser of two evils" the lesser evil has gotten increasingly evil. Now it is to the point that the lesser evil is much more evil than the initial evil.
The left of civil society began to go along with the lesser of two evils during the early Jesse Jackson campaigns in '84 and '88 because there was hope that this would spark and create a powerful grassroots organization to which the Democratic Party would be forced to be accountable. This never happened or was minimally short-lived. The effort was unable to rally into an autonomous and politically independent organization.
Today, it seems to me that as long as a significant number of progressives continue to vote for the lesser of two evils, the lesser will be encouraged to move more to the right and become more evil (to the allowable extent). I believe that the inverse is also true; that is, if the left would join the majority and either boycott or vote for Ralph Nader there would be an increase in the space for a people's agenda.
There seems to be a growing sentiment today (that I personally agree with) that calls for no one to feel compelled to vote for the short-term cutting of losses (disguised as pragmatic gains) at the cost of long-term visions and possibilities. There is a sector of liberal-progressives that still have plenty of hope and faith in the ability of the state system to reform and have little faith in the potential role of civil society. It seems to me that civil society for the most part is not allowing this sector to guilt them into voting for those who will perpetuate the serious harm being done to billions of people throughout the world on the basis that someone else would do more harm to more people.
There is no justifiable reason to vote for anyone one who does harm to the majority! Furthermore, it is not the fault of those who don't vote or vote for Nader that Republicans and Democrats carry out policies based on corporate interest. Those that don't vote don't have the power to carry out the policies of the Republican Party and the other Republican Party. In this sense those who don't vote or vote for Nader vote for democracy and justice.
The majority seem to view the electoral system as rigged against the majority. What they sense from the electoral system is participatory oppression. Much of civil society has already (in an individual and uncoordinated fashion) decided not to participate in their own oppression. Growing numbers of people are feeling that voting makes no difference for a good reason. If the left were to vote for Ralph Nader or not vote, at least then, the progressive vision get stronger.
The focus and main activity should be on civil society developing its vision and organization -- especially now that the state system has a deminishing capacity to even faint reform. In addition to examining evil in absolute, instead of relative terms, and taking responsibility for what we can decide on and not taking responsibility for policies that oppress the majority, I also question whether what the left calls "the lesser of two evils" is really less or more evil.
In a sense, the Democratic Party is more hypocritical, less truthful, more deceiving and perhaps in this sense more evil. For these national elections, I would encourage all to, in a true sense, cut our losses right here. Focus on organizing the bottom and prepare ourselves for whoever represents the neoliberal system. Don't gag on your vote. Deliver it with dignity and determination to rid any and all evil policies that oppress the majority.
Published in In Motion Magazine September 28, 2000.
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