Sunday, November 4, 2012

Two Reader Comments vs. Bernie Sanders and Bill Willingham on the Folly of Voting for a Third Party Candidate and the Perils of Ideological Orthodoxy in 2012

One of the wiser men to enter my life was a humble but impressive itinerant history professor, who taught satellite college courses to soldiers stationed in small bases, scattered throughout Western Germany (back when Germany was still divided). He once gave me very good advice I've tried to live by ever since. "Choose your causes carefully," he said. "If not, if you try to champion every good cause that comes along, you'll wear yourself out, at best, and worse, become a dilettante -- an ineffective dabbler. 
Pick a few that are the most near and dear to you, and give them your all, trusting that others are out there handling the other causes with equal fervor." So let me pass along his wisdom by urging you to choose your causes carefully, and in this case, champion better causes than trying to prove that one unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) entertainment story might owe too much to another. There are worse crisis and better things for which to boldly take up arms.
These are wise words. Bill Willingham, graphic novelist and creator of one of my favorite comics Fables, is spot on in his warning about pie in the sky political orthodoxy, and how single issue concerns can be to the detriment of the Common Good.

[These Internets are amazing. A person can go looking for information on if the TV series Once Upon a Time is a rip off of Fables and come upon a smart and sharp observation about the sociopolitical. Good stuff.]

One of our recurring--and welcome--issues of contention here is centered upon the merits of voting for third party candidates in the upcoming election. I am on the public record as an Obama supporter. Is he perfect? No. Is he a black Superman? No. And I would not want him to be one. Are his center Right policies flawed in some instances? Yes. Is Mitt Romney an acceptable alternative? Absolutely not.

I do not believe in political parties. I respect the wisdom of the Framers on that matter. However, we live in the world as it is; we do not live the world as we wish it to be. Third parties are useful for keeping the two institutional parties on their toes. Third parties can also be a useful check on the ambitions of either the in-party or the challenger depending on one's level of sophistication and style of strategic voting.

In a close election, such as what will come to pass this Tuesday, the calls by the purists and progressive ideologues on the Left to subvert Obama as a "protest" vote, defy all good sense. If these voices are willing to destroy the village in order to liberate it, then their wasted votes on third party candidates such as Jill Stein and others make sense.  I respect Utopian dreaming. But, in this moment of peril and crisis, I must be a pragmatist and utilitarian who makes a choice based upon the greatest good for the greatest many.

Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator from Vermont, would seem to agree.

By contrast, one of our frequent commenters, Nomad, has noted for example how:
"The one dimension left out of the discussion is the only one with a hope of remedy for the present situation; which really is new: this Bush/Obama era. It's only been around since 2001. How quickly we get used to nooses around our necks. What you do in voting for either of these 2 party corporate puppets is validate the new status quo, the one created by George Bush. 
You just move a step closer to fascism. I notice that your advocacy of Obama never includes any thing positive about his policies. Primarily you focus on the fact that he is a victim of discriminatory attack and for the reason of race identity we should rally around him. Well, there's too much at stake for epidermal politics. What difference does it make what color the downpresser is. He is still the downpresser. And if you encourage people to vote for a downpresser then at least tell them that that's what they're voting for. So they want be surprised when he starts downpressing. Matters and stakes are much too high. Know what you're voting for."
Makheru Bradley, another friend of WARN, also observed the following:
"I would not call people who have not broken the monopoly which the corrupt two-party system has on their minds silly and childish. The seductive power of “spiritual wickedness in high places” is strong. On the other hand Dr. Asa Hilliard did say “mental slavery is invisible violence.” It’s crystal clear Nomad, these people have been psychologically traumatized. 
My position is that Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer did not get beaten in the jail in Winona, Mississippi and Mrs. Viola Liuzzo did not get killed by the KKK on Highway 80 in Alabama for me to choose between injustice (Barack Obama) and immorality (Mitt Romney) in a presidential election. However, if people want to vote for a war criminal or someone who is dying to become one, that’s their prerogative. 
Perhaps on November 7 we will know if the contradictions in American society will continue to be nebulous, or if they will become clearer."
Brother Cornel West came around to the logical and sensible choice in supporting Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. Thus I ask, what will it take to bring in those good folks who will cast "principled" votes for a third party candidate--and by doing so help to usher Mitt Romney into office--to a more practical and pragmatic point of view?

Will these third party boosters sleep well knowing that they have helped to defeat Barack Obama? And if he loses, have these Obama detractors surrendered any right to complain and protest given the mess they helped to create?


Shady_Grady said...

It is not a question as to whether any candidate is perfect. That's a straw man. No human being is perfect. No one is going to align 100% with what I want. Even if I ran I wouldn't be able to do 100% of what I want.

The issue, and this is unfortunately something which Obama's supporters in particular like to overlook, is that there are several fundamental bottom line issues on which Barack Obama is wrong. He's made an affirmative choice to do wrong. I'm on one side and he is on the other. I'm not talking about tax policy or the preferred size of social programs or if he's appointed enough LGBT black women to positions of power. I'm not even talking about ignoring Bloomberg's stop-and frisk policy aimed at Black citizens while bringing every resource of the Federal government to prevent Arizona from identifying non-citizens (mostly Hispanics). I'm not even talking about being silent about the SC affirmative action case while speaking all day every day about " (white)women's issues".

I am talking about operating a kill list.
I am talking about claiming the authority to murder US citizens.
I am talking about signing indefinite detention legislation for US citizens.
I am talking about refusing to prosecute those Americans who sanctioned and carried out torture.
I am talking about spying on Americans without warrant and then trying to prevent them from challenging it in court.
I am talking about murdering children overseas via drone attacks and undeclared wars.
And so on.
Any one of these policies is anathema to me. All of them together? Well there is a reason that Professor Turley called Obama a disaster for civil liberties.

If you happen to be a person who is concerned by such things there is no way you can vote for Obama. Support someone else who doesn't wipe his or her bottom with the US constitution.

My preferred candidate will not win. That doesn't mean that I lose the right to complain, agitate and organize any more than black/liberal voters did in 1984 when they all supported a candidate who won a grand total of ONE state.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Shady Grady on every point he/she makes.

CNu said...

There's SO MUCH MORE than Obama's exceptional serial malfeasance on civil liberties and global license to kill.

Obama was not politically produced by the black community but presented to it after he had made his way through the mostly white elites.

That fact bears repeating.

Obama was not politically produced by the black community but presented to it after he had made his way through the mostly white elites. His political ties to the black community are not organic but symbolic. His arrival in the political class is hailed as the progress of a community when in fact it is the advancement of an individual.

At a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in September he told his former colleagues: "Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying." Compare that to the meeting he had with bankers not long after he was elected when they thought he was going to impose serious regulation. "I'm the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks. I'm not out there to go after you," he told them. "I'm protecting you."

This would not be the first time that the black Americans have shown great loyalty to a Democratic president who did not return the favour.

Supreme Court, yo said...

When it comes down to the lesser of two evils at the Presidential level, I always vote for the Dem no matter what. Why? The Supreme Court. (Of course, if you live in a place where your vote doesn't matter to the outcome of the election, it doesn't matter.)

While the truths talked about here are noble, I can't get past the Supreme Court going more conservative. Then those truths, and more, could become legal.

nomad said...

For my birthday buy me a politician.

makheru bradley said...

Co-sign @CNu

I sleep well knowing that I did not vote for Barack Obama in 2008. I did not vote for a President who drops bombs on babies; who assassinates American citizens, and who facilitated the lynching of Black people in Libya. And that's just for starters.

Under normal conditions this would be bad news for the sitting president: “the October unemployment rate (U3) for African-Americans rose nearly a full point to 14.3 percent, up from 13.4 percent in September.” Need to get inside the numbers to see what drove this spike. One thing is clear, more of the long-term unemployed—the people whom the Clinton Administration stopped counting as unemployed—returned to the labor force. Per the BLS table A2 11,645,000 Afrikan Americans were not in the labor force in September. In October that number decreased to 11,295,000. When people are dropped from the labor force unemployment decreases. When they start seeking work again unemployment increases if there are not enough jobs. Only 171,000 jobs were added in October.

The fact that the long-term unemployed are no longer counted is the real why economists like Dr. Julianne Malveaux say that the real Afrikan American unemployment rate is above 25 percent.

Of course Obama’s supporters blame George W. Bush and the Republicans for this economic mess, but compared to today unemployed Afrikans Americans would love to have the unemployment rates of the Bush era as this chart (Jan/2012) from Mike Konczal shows.

nomad said...

"The most intellectually honest argument for Obama can be summarized as “he’s an evil man who has gutted the constitution and done everything possible to enshrine oligarchy, but he’ll probably appoint a Justice who will keep Roe. v. Wade and a few shattered spars of the Bill of Rights around.”

The key thing to realize is that Obama is the President who normalized Bush’s Republic. ...He made sure the rich not only stayed rich, in the face of a financial collapse which he could have used to break their power, but has increased inequality significantly.... Yes, Romney will be worse than Obama in certain respects, but if Obama is not in charge, then the Democrats are far more likely to oppose both civil liberties abuses and efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Let me tell you how Obama’s second term will play out.

1) He will appoint a milquetoast “liberal” to the Supremes. ...

2) The economy will struggle along till he gets his grand bargain, then it will absolutely crater. You’ve got a couple years of lousy but not awful economy at most, use it, because years 3 and 4 are going to be awful.

3) He will make a Grand Bargain... The Republicans will give him just enough votes to pass it, so that it will be the Democrats who have gutted SS and Medicare.

4) The Republicans will nominate a right wing crazy in 2016. He will stand a good chance of winning, because the Democrats, having cut SS and Medicare will now stand for nothing other than “fear the Supreme Court!” In fact, the Republicans will run as the defenders of SS and Medicare.

Black Sage said...

In the words Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report Editor, “President Obama is not the lesser of two evils, he is the more effective evil.” He’s correct, and I believe that a third party is in fact the only sensible option.

Additionally, just to throw in a small morsel to stimulate further critical thinking: Why isn’t Bernie Sanders a Republican (Repubmafia) or Democrat (Demomob)? Bernie is the longest serving Independent in the history of this country. Hell…., he even self-describe himself as a democratic socialist. It is obvious that he doesn’t think very highly of either major political parties. Why then is he so vocal about pitching the vote for another four years of Obama’s complicity in a duopoly?

Both of these political parties have worn out their usefulness. There needs to be a major shift in the electorate’s thinking and the amount of voting options afforded to the common PEOPLE. Therefore political education amongst the PEOPLE must a part of the solution as well. Currently, the electorate is hopelessly hemmed in the valley by two eclipsing and indifferent forces without knowing how to organize and collectively respond.

The only way to slowly remove the two major political parties from office without the clash of arms, is to create, vote and usher in members of new political parties. The new party members must have the courage, will power and support of the people to exile current political elites to Antarctica, if needed. These political elites have essentially hijacked the controls of this country and have intentionally caused the vast majority of misery amongst the American populace and abroad. After all isn’t this the essence of an empire?

In summation, what we have here is Lord Acton’s dictum in full swing: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Razor said...

CD, I.m not sure that the village must be burned in order to liberate it. However, I would agree with the writer who penned the article "Peasants Get Your Pitchforks".

I agree with all of the commenters, except Supreme Court, yo..and especially agree with Black Sage's reference to Glen Ford's point that "Obama is the more effective evil" because of the uncritical "political cover" that he recieves from a denuded and corrupted black leadership class. CNU's point that Obama is not a product of the black community but a self-interested and loyal corporate creation is spot on.

We are taking leaps and bounds towards facism under Obama whether we like admit it or not. The leaps and bounds progression is precisely because of Obama's uniquely multi-racial packaging. Post-Fraudulent WTC War on Terror mental hijacking of America combined with corporate elite sponsored election Obama, which at the same time put nearly 95% of people of color to sleep and unhinged nearly 60% of white people, have all created a climate for the almost complete takeover of America's government and it's treasury by the corporate elite. Another Obama term in my opinion would be disasterous.

Razor said...

I neglected to mention tat I early-voted and voted for the Green Party candidate Jill Stein...and I feel good about it.

I refuse to feel guilty for not voting for Pres. Obama. I did that in 2008, in part out of the fear of Sarah Palin (a verifiable backstabber and nutcase) one breath away from the Presisency, and in part to make history.

nomad said...

"Another Obama term in my opinion would be disasterous."
That's the point at which we're at. When both officially sanctioned choices are disastrous the most sane and logical action is to choose neither. Vote third party or stay home. At least the criminal government will not have your endorsement. Here is what these mofos is up to:
"'s not really about getting one or the other figurehead presidential contenders elected. It is to prepare everybody for "the grand bargain" or as Bill Black calls it, "the grand betrayal" of the dismantling of Social Security and Medicare. Either candidates will suffice for the needs of the top 10% of the top 1%."

nomad said...

Hate the game. But also, hate the playas.

nomad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nomad said...

Remember, remember
On the sixth of November,
The two party treason plot.
I see no reason
The two party treason
Ever should be forgot.

Bruto Alto said...

@ Shady Grady

Senior Al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki,his son, and another America-born militant are the only people killed in those Bush/Obama Policies. Bush detainees have not been released by Obama, but answer me this after there release then what?

"he's appointed enough LGBT black women to positions of power"

Name three that are LGBT and does
it matter if they are gay?

Bruto Alto said...

@ CNu
"Obama was not politically produced by the black community but presented to it after he had made his way through the mostly white elites."

Nice and without a doubt true.

CNu said...


A complaint very similar to this one serves as the cornerstone of my indictment of race studies in higher education.

IMOHO - over the 40 years or so of its existence, race studies has functioned as the most effective and most cost-effective political counter-insurgency of all time.

When college and university faculty and administration vet a race studies scholar, you can rest assured that that individual is not going to be too black, or too strong in his/her political activism.

The Brookings Institute knew EXACTLY what it has recruited, developed, and cast into the role of narrator-in-chief with BHO, and, that BHO could be depended upon to stick strictly and faithfully to the script of this production.

Dr. Waffle said...

I have a piece of advice for third party boosters: stop whining and build the sort of grassroots infrastructure that would actually allow a third party to be a viable alternative to the status quo. Every election season, the holier-than-thou purists emerge to decry how evil the Democratic and Republican parties are and mock the naivete of their supporters; yet when it comes time for actual movement-building (i.e. the four-year interregnum between Presidential elections) they're nowhere to be found.

I congratulate those who've salved their conscience by voting for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or whoever. Now it's time to put your money where your mouths are and treat politics other than something that can satiate your vanity.

nomad said...

"stop whining and build the sort of grassroots infrastructure that would actually allow a third party to be a viable alternative"

Do both. Nothing happens till you start whining. Then do something pragmatic. Put your votes where your mouth is. A journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step, true, but it continues with second.

"...there is a potential game changer in this election cycle that the mainstream media and political establishments don’t want you to know about, and it could transform the face of American politics: the 5% threshold for third-parties. If a third party candidate receives at least 5% of the national popular vote, his or her party becomes eligible for ballot access in all fifty states in 2016, and will gain access to federal campaign funding that will help to dramatically level the playing field.

There are presently two third party candidates capable of this aspirational but still attainable goal: Libertarian candidate Gov. Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Google them. I guarantee that you will like what at least one of them has to say.

Should Johnson or Stein receive at least 5% of the vote on Tuesday, their parties will respectively qualify for universal ballot access and federal campaign funding in 2016. Virtually over night, a third party or parties will become potentially viable in the next election. With the heightened media attention and campaign funding that this entails, it will give third party candidates an opportunity to get their platform into the national conversation, dramatically increasing the likelihood of a third party candidate polling above the magic 15% threshold in 2016, in turn qualifying them for inclusion in the televised presidential debates."

Dr. Waffle said...


I respect Jill Stein. Gary Johnson is despicable. Libertarians are the hippies of the right ("free markets maaaaaan"), only with better hygiene.

The success and endurance of the Republican and Democratic parties were not earned overnight, nor by accident or conspiracy. It took decades, centuries even, of coalition building, grassroots organizing, and, yes, compromise. The reason they have been able to survive mediocre candidates and disastrous defeats is because they've rooted themselves deeply into the soil of American politics.

I observe no similiar fortitude or resourcefulness among any of the third parties. The reliance on personalities, the refusal to engage the public after elections, the puritanical standards; all add up to a losing formula, even if a candidate could garner 5% of the vote.

Speaking of: how's the Independent Party doing these days?

Razor said...

Dr. Waffle you are right...but so is are all of those who communicate with others the basis of their refusal to quietly go along with vain and counterproductive electoral efforts.

If you have been paying attention, then you know that just communicating a contrary democratic and free opinion is considered dangerous during this Obama administration...especially when others begin to listen. The right words conveying ideas spoken at the right time do have real power. That is why nearly all of the media has been monopolized by the controlling elite.

Yet, Dr. Waffle, we do need to do what we can. But holier-than-thou purist, if you resist the mental raping? I don't think so. You also don't know what I do.

Dr. Waffle said...


I have been paying attention. I mourn the loss of the Occupy movement, the members of which changed the national dialogue (at least temporarily) by putting themselves on the line and not by merely confining themselves to complaining via the Internet.

What I don't have sympathy for are the backseat-driving puritans who have never actually had to exercise authority of any significance and who offer no solutions other than meaningless protest votes. I concede that this country suffers from a paucity of voices; but Greens, libertarians, Independents, etc. do themselves no favors by hitching their hopes to campaigns that are doomed from the outset.

Even if by some miracle Jill Stein was elected, she'd be entering office facing not one hostile party in Congress, but two. And therein lies the problem regarding third parties: they concentrate their energies on races that they have no chance of winning instead of focusing on constructing a broad-based, grassroots coalition capable of winning elections from the municipal level on upwards.

nomad said...

Right. So what's the point. Let's just roll over and zombie out. Except that GOP or Dem, we're on the expressway to hell. You know, I am actually for a 2 party system. I just don't think both of them should be right wing.

Razor said...

Dr. Waffle, I am not of the opinion that a party per se will get us out of this mess, but it will in fact be from grassroot efforts that you speak of that will compel change in whatever party that is in power.

The socialist and communist parties with their strong grassroot level labor and worker appeal in the face of the very same corporatist and plutocratic abuses within this hybrid democracy, along with their willingness to die for their cause, is what compelled both the Democratic and Republican Party to change and then make the kind of compromises that people could live with leaving them both intact without a viable third party emerging. That's what lead to FDR's New Deal. He pushed that only because he had to..the ruling elite was willing to make that compromise to stay in power.

However, just as soon as they did, they have been steadily and relentlessly working to undue it, bit by bit. Along the way they have become masters of the media and master manipulators of the American psyche. They were then able to not only neutralize the socialists and their wayward cousins, the communists, who every working man and women owe a huge debt of gratitude, but more importantly they succeeded in effectively demonizing them, their biggest threats whose identity was the very soul and voice of the working man. The Red Scare...the crown jewel of media manipulation..that was until the total BS of the War on Terror...the mother of all media inventions.

Every real effective grassroot movements since then have been met with brutal force and assasinations, ie., Kent State Massacre (anti-war), MLK (labor and anti-war combined) and now the treeling Occupy movements (corporate, labor and political system and potentially threatening all systematic structures.

So, yes, grassroot efforts are now the only option for real change..but the ante has been upped since American workers were the the big producers of the world. The majority of Americans who are subjected to 24/7media manipulation are nothing more than carnival "marks", while racism/ white power/privilege and the new Obama inspired Black classist indifferences, are all in play.

My third party vote, though not likey to be the deciding one, is nevertheless far from being wasted. I speak from my heart and mind. The way I see it, I don't even have the opportunity to even make a decent compromise this election...not with a clear mind and a clean conscience. I choose not to get mugged again and not at least report it. You remain free to do as you please.

nomad said...

As CNu would say, Razor is truth. Accept no substitutes.

nomad said...

"Is Mitt Romney an acceptable alternative? Absolutely not."(Chauncey)

I agree.

"...the very best thing about Obama is that so many people who are not members of the ruling class think that Obama is on their side. Even after Obama has systematically betrayed all those "ordinary" people for the last four years, they still think he's really on their side. He just couldn't do what he wanted to do -- which happens to be exactly what all those good liberals and progressives wanted him to do -- because: a) evil Republicans; b) evil Republicans left a really, really, huge mess; c) evil Republicans kept messing with him; d) evil Republicans kept stealing his toys; and e) evil Republicans.

The beauty part about this is that I'm totally not exaggerating. This is, like, straight reportage.

The great thing about this confabulation is that, if Obama is reelected, lots and lots of people will continue to believe this even when he leaves office in 2016. And by then ... well, it's not going to be pretty. But Obama meant well!"