Bernie Sanders: We cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.
Jonathan Tasini: Yet people go out every two or four years and vote for those two parties. Incumbents keep doing those things, and they keep getting reelected.
Bernie Sanders: I think a lot of that has to do with people voting for what they perceive to be the lesser of two evils.
I have voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in every election for the past forty years, often as the lesser of two evils. I can no longer do so. A little personal history first before I explain.
Even before I could vote I supported a Democratic nominee for president, Hubert Humphrey, who defended the Vietnam War, which I adamantly opposed. My support was reflected in my participation in demonstrations, including a small one at a Richard Nixon rally, which took place in the field behind my high school. During Nixon’s speech I held up a sign, “Debate Humphrey,” something Nixon had been avoiding during the campaign. He saw my sign and responded, “Humphrey is a debate himself!” A marvelously inept response, but it was Nixon. Not so good on his feet. As he was walking off the field I took my sign and stuck it in front of him. A secret service agent reached out to push it aside, allowing Nixon to walk past me and my fellow protesters. (The next time I ran into Nixon there were secret service agents lining the stairs up to the Lincoln Memorial. This was during the 1970 demonstration in Washington against the bombing of Cambodia. I was one of the students Nixon met at the Lincoln Memorial. A story for another day.)
I dig back into my past here to defend my bona fides as a loyal Democrat, supporting the party’s candidates even when I had deep reservations about them. Why? Because I felt a moral obligation to vote for the lesser of two evils. If I didn’t vote for the lesser of the two, especially for president, I would be responsible for terrible consequences, for example, right-wing ideologues on the Supreme Court.
But you know what Einstein said: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
I’ve decided I don’t want to be insane.
The lesser of two evils has not worked. It’s a short-term fix. It seeks to prevent the crazy guy on the other side from wreaking havoc, but there are long-term consequences to this strategy. For one, it reinforces the power of the Democratic Party elite by allowing them to use fear as a firewall. When push comes to shove, the insurgents will return home to mama and papa, because after all, who else will protect them against the Big Bad Red Menace (both commies and the GOP, all reds). This tactic has helped produce a generation of Democratic Party leaders comfortably ensconced in the Corporate-Washington Nexus, whose careers depend on getting some people elected, which in turn allows them to play ball with the big money kingpins. They will not challenge a system that has been so lucrative. But we need to be honest here. It’s not just the current leadership. Bill and Hillary’s redirection of the party in the 1990’s has led many, if not the majority, of Democrats to believe the narrative that incremental change is all we can expect. I suppose if you are a reasonably well-off Democrat, a member of the professional class to whom the Clintons appeal, then this isn’t so bad. For the vast majority of Americans, especially a younger generation facing an uncertain and dark future, it is a recipe for disaster. The systemic problems are too deep for incrementalism. As a matter of fact, incrementalism with its Band-Aids often serves to maintain and mask a perverse and unjust system
Oh, yes, I can hear the wailing now. If you don’t vote for Hillary, assuming Sanders loses the nomination, we could end up with l’enfant terrible Trump. But here’s the thing. For Americans living in all but a handful of swing states, it doesn’t really make any difference who you vote for. (Yes, the not so dirty little election secret: Your vote doesn’t really matter in most places in presidential elections.) Your state will go red or blue with or without your vote, or tens of thousands of votes. The odds are that you won’t actually be supporting the nightmare Trump in any way that counts. So if you are in a deep red or blue state, you can send a message with little worry about nurturing evil, while also saying, your vote shouldn’t be taken for granted.
What about those in genuine swing states? It’s not an easy choice, but if you are deeply unsatisfied with the present system, you have to be prepared to say: it may need to get worse before it can get better. A sacrifice in the near-term may be the only path to assuring a markedly better life for our children and their children and future generations. If we continue to allow the two major parties to count on their respective bases, there won’t be any significant change. We will continue on the road to plutocracy. Oligarchic tendencies already manifest will become more pervasive. In due time, probably in the not too distant future, we will stop being a democracy. For all practical purposes our Congress will become the modern day equivalent of the Roman Senate after the emperors took charge. (You can take this to the bank, one of the two or three that will be left.)
I won’t be voting for Hillary. And yes, I do have the luxury of living in NY, which will not go for a Republican. Nevertheless, I don’t believe I would vote for her even if I were in a swing state. I won’t go into all of the reasons here, which would include the shady tactics that the DNC has used to prop up its chosen candidate. I will say that this election has made transparent the fact that the elite of the Democratic Party is unequivocally a part of the Washington-Corporate Nexus. Follow the money. The revolving door between congressional Democrats and major corporations is little different from the GOP’s. They won’t bite the hand that feeds them. (The best we can hope for is the legislative equivalent of Hillary’s exhortation to Wall Street when she took a brave stand and told them to “cut it out.”) I cannot in good conscience continue to collaborate in this travesty. I don’t want to see democracy disappear in thirty to forty years. I don’t want my children’s children to be denied the opportunity to have their votes count, because I failed to take a stand and I continued to vote for the lesser of two evils.