Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why I can't decide if I'll vote for the Greens or the SEP or another lefty party

Two things first:

1. Spare me the lesser-evil argument. Even if I believed in supporting lesser evils, I'm in a blue state, so, thanks to the Electoral College, giving my vote to either major party is the purest example of throwing it away. The only way my vote can matter is by helping a third party win major party status in Minnesota.

2. Capital-L Libertarians claim they're an alternative to left and right, but they lie to us or themselves. You only have to look at their founders to see what they are. While I, a left-libertarian, agree with right-libertarians on many issues of personal liberty, I disagree with them on many issues of social responsibility. I wish they hadn't spoiled the meaning of "libertarian" in the US. They should've just called themselves the Return to the Gilded Age Party.

My take:

I believe in voting because it's the only way to register a protest. If you don't vote, the plutocracy's talking heads say you're content with the two parties. The two-party system is a classic Catch-22—it's designed so leftists can't take over a major party (as Debbie Wasserman Schulz just reminded us) or create a third party that can win. But that doesn't mean we should submit. If an issue as big as slavery comes along, a third party can replace an existing party. Without an issue that big, a third party still pushes the two parties—the Democrats only swing left when they're threatened by socialists.

When I ran for Governor of Minnesota in 1994, I checked out the third parties. I liked many things the Greens said, but their platform bothered me. It was a collection of issues without a uniting theme. The Greens that I met seemed nice, but they tended to be academics and idealists, people with sweet goals but no understanding of the crass side of democracy. I ended up running with the Grassroots Party, a local legalize-marijuana party, because they were just as idealistic as the Greens, but they had a strong sense of pragmatism that isn't associated with people whose politics center on pot. They did what third parties need to do: they focused on one issue and let their candidates disagree on others.

I am very pleased that thanks to the Grassroots Party, I finished third in a field of six.

I moved away from Minnesota after that. The Grassroots Party split in two, and since I returned, I haven't looked at either. My vote might go to them, but I'm waiting to see who's on the ballot before I decide.

Though I think the Greens are a gaggle of interests without a uniting principle, I've voted for them in the past. (Anyone who wants to bash me about Nader should read The Ralph Nader Myth and notice that for all the whining Dems do about 2000, they don't try to end the Electoral College because it's a useful tool for maintaining the two-party system.) I like Nader and Stein. I think the Greens could become a practical party with an influx of people who're willing to make democratic socialism their central cause.

But I like the Socialist Equality Party too. I've read the World Socialist Web Site off and on for about as long as it's been online, I suspect. I agree with a great many of the things they say, but I get annoyed whenever they veer from bashing capitalism to bashing other socialists. I realize they want to grow and therefore see other minor parties as major competition, but the greatest problem the left has is a love of ideological purity.

The SEP has a picture on their website now which illustrates how extremely conformist they appear to be: their candidates are two bearded white men in glasses who wear blue blazers and blue shirts with open collars. They could be cast as father and son. They might even be cast as clones of different ages. They suggest that joining the SEP is no different than joining a cult.

Please note when I say this that I'm not inviting people to bash the SEP. I admire their commitment, and while their current candidates are amusingly similar in appearance, parties usually run people who are alike. Neoliberals keep saying Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama are historically unprecedented, but that's because they don't realize that the rest of us look at them and just see the latest rich candidates whose first concern is Wall Street.

I want a party that's somewhere between the Greens and the SEP, a party that has a unifying message and yet is able to build a broad base, a party that understands that allies are people who disagree on some issues but will work together on others. I haven't found that party. I respect what Kshama Sawant and the Socialist Alternative have managed to achieve in Seattle—maybe someone will come forward in Minnesota with a similar combination of idealism and pragmatism.

My suspicion is I'll vote for Stein because the Greens have the best shot at making major party status this year. But I haven't decided. Expect a follow-up post when I have the chance to see the ballot.

Possibly of interest: The True History of Libertarianism in America: A Phony Ideology to Promote a Corporate Agenda

ETA: Standard disclaimer regarding the Libertarian Party: I don't like right-libertarianism, but I like some Libertarians. Radley Balko's a bit of a hero.