This week, the progressive-left blogs and social media accounts are aflame with what has been a constant of the presidential electoral season, whether the Green Party should embrace the “lesser evil/safe states” strategy, most recently and prominently on display as an open letter bearing signatures from Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher, Leslie Cagan, Ron Daniels, Kathy Kelly, Norman Solomon, Cynthia Peters and Michael Albert. However, the Palestinian-American media critic and journalist Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy has argued for years now a different strategy, Vote Pact, that offers a small-d democratic third option which both negates the spoiler accusation and is not a form of vote swapping.
“We’ve had at least five presidential election cycles, meaning we’re above two decades at this point, where this feud has gone on! It’s allowing the policy agreement between the Democrats and Republicans to be sidetracked by this tactical disagreement because there’s no underlying cohesive strategy or meaningful dialogue going on here,” said Husseini. “The Democrats and Republicans are brilliant at appearing to be fighting while actually working hand-in-glove! There are disagreements but they are generally calculated to keep the voters from deviating from backing one or the other of the establishment parties.”
“At this point, to undermine the relevance of the Green Party in the outcome of the 2020 election would to seem to effectively be doing Joe Biden’s work for him,” says Husseini. “You are minimizing the leverage of somebody like Bernie Sanders to argue that his is more electable because, if he’s the Democratic nominee, you’ll have more progressives voting for him than you will for the Green Party or any other progressive third party run. So just on a tactical level I don’t understand the timing of this critique of the Green Party.”
Over 150 years ago, Mill articulated his Considerations on Representative Government, which formed the basis of the European parliamentary system and included a robust critique of American federalism. Eighty years earlier, The Federalist Papers were even more explicit in describing that the American Constitution was being designed intentionally to marginalize working people while protecting the rich under the guise of electoral politics.
Trump is a vicious thug with a white nationalist cadre loaded to the gills with firearms. The auxiliaries of the Republican ideological program, such as Fox News and the NRA, have dropped all pretense of respectability politics and articulate a blatant racism that portends a larger recession in our cultural discourse. The earlier status quo within GOP of polite manners barring overt racist demagoguery was vaporized by the Nasty Narcissistic White Nationalist Game Show Host presidential candidate and his 2015-16 three ring circus.
The question of how to defeat the reactionary aspects of Trump’s agenda (but also being clear that some of his policies in geopolitics were proactive moves towards peace) requires a multitude of answers that are attenuated to the complexities not of the electorate but instead the nuances of the entire country. The reality we confront includes Trumpism remaining a mainstream political current for several more election cycles after his exit from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, much like Roosevelt’s orientation remained mainstream for three decades after 1945. The antecedents of Trumpism quite obviously descend from American settler-colonialism but, in the most immediate sense, the 2016 election was the election of a Tea Party president, a man whose political career in this era began with his trafficking in the noxious Birther conspiracy theory, and that current is not going anywhere soon.
Part of the issue with Vote Pact, when I present it to those leaning leftwards, is their refusal to contemplate socializing with a conservative, let alone entering into political agreement. “We have hate-driven political system and that’s escalated since Trump has become president. I actually believe in a lot of things that Martin Luther King, Jr. said, that the only thing that trumps hate is love. Hillary Clinton fans have placards that say ‘LOVE TRUMPS HATE’ but I don’t believe they love Trump supporters. How else is this country going to meaningfully change without people dialoguing, particularly with those we disagree with?,” he asks.
In this sense, Vote Pact initiates the project of political education that can eventuate turning voters away from reactionary inclinations in a fashion that is much more productive than reliance upon the hypocritical Democrats who promised heightened aggression towards Moscow, privatization of Social Security, and tax raises to bail-out private healthcare corporations in the 2016 elections.
Frankly, it is very difficult for white progressives to claim they don’t know at least one conservative in their family. “As an Arab American, I end up at a table with my mom and her friends who are Trump supporters, in part because they thought that Trump would support the Christians in Syria, they took him at his word as a non-interventionist,” Hussenini says.
The issue for me is not defined by Election Day 2020, instead the question is what you as a person with your pricked conscience are doing in the other 364/365ths of the year. A ballot is not meaningless but it exists in quite close proximity when you fail to heed the wisdom of Joe Hill, “Don’t mourn, organize!” And in Trump-time, if you are a self-described radical who isn’t organizing in the community you inhabit, you abscond a tremendous moral obligation, one that the authoring of polemics and voting does not alleviate.
“Instead of cancelling your vote out with a Republican, you both vote for something that you believe in more.”