A Leap of Vision

Peter Weisberg
Thursday, March 1, 2018

Voting for people who we charge with running our government should not be about voting for the least offensive candidate. It should be about developing a positive vision of the future and the people you vote for should be the one's shaping OUR vision.

I vote in California, which has afforded me the opportunity to vote my values. Over the past 40+ years, I have never voted for a Republican or a Democrat, with the exception of Bernie in the 2016 primaries. Perhaps I would have voted for Bernie if the Dems had allowed him to win and run against Dump. For those of you who live in one of the few contested states, the decision to vote your values is understandably a lot harder.

With the midterm elections fast approaching, there is intense pressure from some moderates and most democrats to change the color of congress, castrate Trump politically and …. other ways, so the damage he brings to the body politic and the global community can be thwarted. Turn the waves of selective anti-government legislation back upon itself. I share the dismay of many as the more liberal policies of the past are being dismantled. I get it. I feel it. And yet I firmly believe I have to do more than simply replace one group of politicians with another when I know their allegiances are moving us down the same destructive paths, even if the pace is slower.

Voting is a leap of faith. Calling it a civic duty is not enough. Either you believe that the system is both changeable and worth changing, or you don’t — and most new voters are not convinced the system is changeable. 100 million eligible voters did not votein the 2016 election!

Of those that do vote, virtually all (96-98% in the 2012 and 2016 presidential election) vote for the Democrat or Republican candidate, maintaining the Establishment power elite. Nothing changes: wars, poverty, bad main street economy, unfullfilling or no jobs, poor quality of life, health care dilemmas, racism and sexism, etc.

If you were to ask why many young people don’t vote, polls show that many of the issues they care about — climate change, civil rights, the war on drugs, immigration, prison reform — are not discussed by Democrats or Republicans. There is such a wide gulf between what candidates say they will do, and what they actually do, it’s near impossible to trust anyone. For many, this leads to apathy and cynicism Why bother. That apathy is actually supported by the evidence.

The two parties have been slowly merging for decades, and at this point there are mostly cosmetic differences between them. I will concede that there will less bad (‘better’ might be over-stating the case) Supreme Court nominees, and that certainly can’t be discounted. The civil rights of most under -represented communities would probably be slightly improved with Dems in office. I know this is also of importance. Yet one need look no further than the African American communities across the US to see the lack of substantive improvements under both parties, despite decades of promises. A substantial part of Trump's base are blue collar whites who have also been abused by both parties. Whether administrations are Republican or Democrat; wars will continue; lobbyists will write legislation that their bought-and-paid-for Congress members will introduce and vote for, the rich will continue to get richer, the poor, poorer, and the middle class will continue to shrink. Please do not think that its numbers are diminishing because some of them are working their way up the ladder of financial success; no, they are tumbling into poverty due to high medical bills, college debt, and lack of decent employment. The alluring but vicious myth of America being the place of economic equality for all willing to work hard is fracturing. The U.S. is among the lowest when it comes to economic mobility compared to other developed countries, so even if you had bootstraps, you are more likely to give up trying to pull them up and simply keep your slippers on all day..

As President Donald Trump runs amok on the world stage, we are now told that, yes, the saviors are coming! And who are these saviors? The same people who thwarted the will of the members of their own party just a year ago. The same party who abandoned the working class for the shiny object known as neo-liberalism. These, we are told, are going to rescue the world from Trumpism.

Democrats may decry Republican and Trumps middle school bully threats against North Korea, but both also say that ‘all options should be on the table’.

Many among Democratic elected officials want the U.S. to remain in and abide by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, yet they are only too happy to vote for sanctions against that country unrelated to that agreement.

Democrats, like their corrupt Republican counterparts, are, for the most part, unwavering in their support of Israel, which is in violation of numerous international laws.

  • The ethics violations of the current White House, the intermingling of Trumps and Kushner's businesses with their political influence, are happening with very little protest heard from the Democrats.

  • Both parties support the neoliberal trade agenda. Dems just do it with more civility. Even Trump with his “America First” trade posturing, is for the most part just trying to bully trade partners. He doesn't mean to be an isolationist. Many of the US based International corporations now depend on over 50% of their sales from foreign trade and they are not about to give that up.

  • Obama deported more undocumented immigrants than any Republican. He prosecuted more whistle-blowers than any other president. Where was our outrage over these injustices?

  • The drone warfare program promoted by Obama clearly places the value of American soldiers higher than the countless civilians in the middle east and Africa that have been killed by that “smart” warfare. Where's the outrage?

  • Neither party have challenged the NRA on gun control even though both have had control of congress at one time or another and the fact that public support greatly favors serious controls.

  • Both parties rail against Russian involvement in the electoral process(justifiably), but neither party will admit the century of US involvement in even more serious illegal intrusion of other countries elections and sovereignty. Outrage?

  • Union membership and the voice of labor threw collective bargaining have diminished under Dems and Republicans.

  • Yes, Democrats at least acknowledge climate change, but few are willing to take the radical actions that will address the urgency of the problem and avert the civilization changing consequences coming soon.

  • Income inequalities have increased under both parties. By system design. And lets recall that both Occupy WS and Black Lives Matter emerged during Obamas' presidency, a clear sign of civil discontent.

  • Neither party supports money being removed from the political process. Rescinding Citizens United does not address the fact that money influencing politics in the US has been a major problem forever, long before that gross supreme court decision.

  • Most importantly for me, neither party will ever challenge the underlying capitalist economic system. Capitalism vs capitalism light are not the choices I find significant. Period. A market based economy will always favor the elite. A reconceptualized framework for society going forward and a reorganized economy is needed.

The movers and shakers of U.S. governance have established a system whereby it is next to impossible for a third-party candidate to gain the same viability that the Republicans and Democrats enjoy. The Dems weren't even able to deal fairly with the progressive wing of their own party and continue to prop up the old machine candidates against those seeking changes that are supported by public sentiment. A recent poll showed 70% of African Americans and 55% of latinos have a favorable view of the Sanders platform. And until such a party is able to compete within the corrupt, current two-party system, we will continue to see greedy and unethical candidates elected at all levels of government. Consider the possibility that when you vote for the lesser evil, you're creating fertile ground for the greater evil to grow. Obama to Trump.

So what's a radical socialist to do?

For those of you like myself, who are reluctant or refuse to vote for the lesser offensive candidate, there’s still plenty of opportunities to speak your truth.

As the Zapatistas say: “We the Zapatistas never tire in saying that you should organize yourselves, organize ourselves, each one in their place, we struggle to organize, we work to organize, we think to begin to organize … to unite our organizations for a world where the peoples govern and the government obeys.”

”Our idea isn’t to promote voting. Nor is it to promote abstention or casting blank votes. Nor is it to impose our thinking on others… For us, Zapatistas, what we’re interested in is knowing how to resist and confront the many heads of the capitalist system that exploits us, represses us, disappears us and steals from us… it is the people themselves who are going to make the changes that are truly necessary. That is the only way that a new system of government is going to exist.”

Short of a complete collapse of capitalism, which might happen under its own flaws, I will continue to gravitate toward what I consider to be the core issues crucial for a just global survival:

  • Real solutions to Climate Catastrophe, mandatory enactment.
  • Broad programs of empathy training and civic involvement.
  • Bold defense and promotion of the commons shared by all humanity.
  • Quality Health care for all from cradle to grave
  • Access to Free lifetime education for all
  • The elimination of all nuclear weapons and foreign military intervention.
  • Labors' control of their own future
  • And end to all forms of discrimination.
  • Support of social movements that focus on solidarity among ordinary people.

We live in a time of unrest and justified cynicism towards those in power; Democrats will not win if they continue to bring a corporate centric knife to a populist gunfight. Nor can Democratic leaders and operatives be seen as real allies of the working class if they’re afraid to alienate big funders or worry about future lobbying prospects.

Building an intersectional coalition — one that unites the working class across racial lines while addressing issues specific to people who are targeted based on identity — is key to creating an electoral force that can not only win, but also overwhelm the small group of wealthy white men the GOP works to further enrich. If the Democratic Party is to become such a political force, it will require a much bolder economic agenda to directly challenge corporate power. And I'm skeptical, given the overwhelming weight of history, that this is possible. On the hopeful side, recent polls with millenials show a growing acceptance of socialism and a dissatisfaction with the current economic reality.

Clara Zetkin, a radical socialist active in the late 19th and early 20th c., cautioned against demonizing the rank and file of fascist movements. She reminded us that only when the real and profound grievances of those attracted to fascism are addressed can they be pried from its grip. What weighs on them above all is the lack of security for their basic existence. This lack of security has spread from blue collar families to a growing number of middle class communities. The same analysis is shared by Dr Keenaga Yamata Taylor, a professor at Princeton and one of the founding members of Black Lives Matter. “There is a legitimate insecurity in the lives of ordinary white working people, that racist politicians can exploit at the expense of blacks, latinos and muslims.”

I admit to being conflicted regarding the effort to win back staunch conservative blue collar workers, while accepting the validity of the concept. A mass movements energy in the context of our efforts to maintain our daily lives, is not limitless. Devising tactics and strategies that consider the human energy equation is something I think about often. Identity politics is understandable, but my concern is that there are so many organizations pushing for change as individual silos, constantly seeking money and volunteers to promote their cause, that our collective progressive energy becomes diluted in our efforts to build a mass social movement with effective teeth and the long term ability to endure the many hard battles to come.

If and when you vote, take a moment to consider the long term view, not just the immediate election. Be supportive of ideas and groups that think outside the narrow box of the 2 party capitalist system, a box many have come to accept as the only realistic choice, when in reality, its the very box that has brought us to this precarious moment in history.