Dump the Lesser Evil? Part II

Part 2 (Cont'd from last week: www.rfc.org/blog/article/444)

As the sun rose on the morning of January 20th after Scott Brown’s victory it dawned on me that while, in the short term there can be very good reasons for voting for the Democrats (there certainly were good reasons to vote for Obama/Biden over McCain/Palin), by voting the lesser evil into office we make it more likely that the greater evil will soon return. When people really desire change, and the Democrats fail to deliver it, voters have nowhere else to turn but back to the Republicans.

That’s what happened here. After eight years of Bush’s vicious incompetence, even the usually contented center desired something dynamically different. Obama has and will continue to fail to satisfy this desire. Thus, the disaffected in Massachusetts voted on January 19th for a photogenic unknown Republican because there was no other substitute to the entrenched and unadventurous Democrats. So, what crystallized for me on that sad post-election day was that while the lesser evil might make sense and lessen people’s pain in the short run, it almost inevitably leads back to the greater evil in the long run: Republican domination, followed by Democratic failure, followed by Republican domination, ad infinitum.

Does this mean I’ll never vote for the lesser evil again? Not necessarily, but it does make me even more leery of working within the two-party system. And the recent Supreme Court decision giving corporations full first amendment rights (what a travesty!) pushes me in the same direction. I’ve heard a lot of talk about passing a constitutional amendment or getting congress to pass legislation to undo the decision. I hold out little hope for the success of either. The former requires a lengthy process that could take a decade or more, while gobs of corporate money create slick First-Amendment-protected propaganda to defeat it. The latter could be much quicker, but does anyone think there are 60 senators who would support such a bill?

I’m pinning my hopes on unintended consequences. Between the Obama Campaign, Moveon.org and other efforts, the Democrats and their allies managed to out-spend the Right in the 2008 election. Perhaps it is more than just a coincidence that this latest Supreme Court decision which served to tilt the financial playing field sharply to the right comes at this point. Just when liberals thought they’d figured out a way to pump as much money into getting their candidates elected as conservatives could, a bunch of right-wing Supreme Court hacks ensure that won’t happen. Maybe it is just as well to disabuse progressives of the delusion that they can achieve financial parity with corporate America.

I’m sure there are a lot of progressives who have given up hope of creating a mass presence to the left of the Democratic party. Even with over 15% real unemployment, a huge amount of personal debt, a shredded safety net, skyrocketing foreclosures and health care costs, we’re are still, for the most part, a very prosperous nation. Furthermore, we are drowning in a swamp of distracting “entertainment” and pervasive right-wing propaganda. But if we are correct when we argue that those in power are not addressing the world’s underlying problems, then we are headed for even greater crises, making radical change more likely. In that case, the most important thing progressive people can do is lay the groundwork for mass movements that can seize the opportunity that may be on the horizon.

2008 presented a moment to create a mass movement for radical change, but the left was unprepared. If our analysis of current circumstances is correct, then there will be even bigger and better opportunities in the not-too-distant future. It is time to get ready.

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