What Must A Political Party Do To Earn Your Opposition?
A liberal philosophy professor in the Midwest is urging all progressives to come together in support of Barack Obama. In particular he is urging white men of privilege to do so. He admonishes the Left for its failure to see the real differences between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, and he speaks out against those who don't see the genuine danger which the Republican platform represents.
But as a white man myself, let me tell you what I see.
What I see is what forty years of voting for the lesser evil has wrought. I see ever increasing poverty and war. I see plunder of the environment for the enrichment of the few. I see the loss of wetlands, wilderness, and wildlife. I see repeated raids of the public treasury to subsidize private industry. I see a steady reduction in our civil liberties. I see the growing inequality in our social landscape, the inexorable concentration of wealth in a shrinking fraction of the people, and the widening disparity of wealth between those who have and those who have not.
Yes, I'm a privileged white man. But it's not for insensitivity to the consequences of a Republican victory that I stand steadfast against the Democrats. To the contrary, it's precisely out of my sensitivity that I do so. It's out of my recognition and concern for the hardship and suffering of the people — including not least those in developing nations who endure unspeakable horror to bring us our coffee, chocolate, and diamonds — that I work to overturn the hegemony of BOTH parties of capital.
I agree that some people are impervious to the differences between the two parties of the established order. And I can acknowledge and measure these differences, just as I can likewise measure the distance between two trains traveling in the same perilous direction down the track toward our ruin.
But what of the people who are impervious to their dramatic and fundamental similarities? What of the people who are impervious to the negative outcomes of their ineffective voting strategy? On these questions, the American liberal is silent.
The people of privilege I see are not the infinitesimal number who refuse to capitulate to patriarchy and its longstanding history of exploitation and oppression but rather the vast number who do not. I see armchair liberals who enthusiastically support the Democratic candidate du jour, not on grounds of track record or policy but rather for the cult of personality, for wearing the correct party label, for representing the home team.
The American liberals live in denial. They close their eyes to the reality that we are living in an unsustainable way and that neither the Republican nor the Democrats dare speak of this — to say nothing of actually having a plan to address it. They close their eyes to the folly of the capitalist premise — endless growth on a planet of finite resources.
To this they invariably cite the specter of the U.S. Supreme Court. They sound the alarm that if we fail to unite behind the Democrat, we are likely to have more justices who are beholden to industry over the people, justices who are less sympathetic to civil liberties and the rights protected in the Constitution than to commerce and profit.
I cannot but be struck by the pathos of their solution that we all vote for a party beholden to these selfsame priorities.
I'm well versed in the rationale for voting the lesser evil. For over thirty years I was its champion. For over thirty years I voted for Democrats, and in that time I witnessed the globalization of capital and our unabated march further to the plutocratic Right. And yet what they now prescribe is only more of the same.
The liberal might point out the futility of our progressive aims unless we unite. And our unity and solidarity is indeed essential. Without it we will fail. But what shall we unite behind? Shall we unite behind a government by corporation for the rich? Or shall we unite behind the egalitarian cause of the people?
The Democrats, no less than the Republicans, represent the former. And I will not join anyone whose calls for unity come with arms comfortably folded in this status quo.
Barack Obama is a man of war. If this is the best the Democratic Party can do — a candidate who escalates existing war, joins and starts new war, and supports the funding of war — then I ask you, American liberal, what must a political party do in order to earn your opposition. Anything?