Alice Embree :
OPINION |We have a binary choice in November

A second Trump administration would be an existential crisis for democracy, the planet.

Image from Needpix.com.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | May 19, 2020

I signed a letter with Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer and 75 other founders and early leaders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that appeared online in The Nation, April 16, 2020. The letter was directed at young activists of today. It argued for support of Biden to defeat Trump.

Biden was not my first, second, third, or fourth choice. I did not vote for him. But this fact was known by the time COVID-19 shut down open society: Biden had gotten more votes than Bernie by a decisive margin. More important now, Bernie has endorsed him and so has Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

I do not believe that electoral politics is the only path to change. I do believe, however, that we have a binary choice in November. We live in a winner-take-all electoral system, deformed by the Electoral College, warped by partisan gerrymandering, and made toxic by corporate campaign contributions. The other side in this fight believes that they must suppress the vote to win, and they are doing everything they can on that front. They are obstructing, among other things, the means of voting safely, by mail. These are the cards we are dealt in 2020.

‘My vote doesn’t matter, so I’ll vote Green’ is an adage I choke on every four years.

“My vote doesn’t matter, so I’ll vote Green” is an adage I choke on every four years. I hear it from residents of California, New York and Texas, from coast to shining coast. What kind of democrats (lower case) concede so easily? What kind of Texans? Really? Only swing states matter? That’s a feeble concession to the status quo from people who claim they aren’t conceding an inch. At least, put some of your citizen privilege into advocating for the National Popular Vote Compact. Then, we might be able to live in a better system than the one framed by slaveholders in 1787. In this 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, voting should matter.

As progressives we must fight for democracy, educating and mobilizing for an expanded right to vote, campaign finance reform, fair Congressional districts, voting by mail, and the abolition of the Electoral College. Maybe, in a reimagined democracy, our choices would not be binary, our voting power would be visible. We do not live in that reimagined and vibrant democracy at this time.

A second Trump administration would be an existential crisis for democracy and the planet. A poisonous stew of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny will be massively emboldened by a second Trump term. We do not live in a country with proportional voting, one where a coalition government is required, where socialists can bring their party numbers and visible votes to bargain in the formation of a government. We live with a binary choice.

Another Trump term will be a poisonous stew of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny.

I don’t go back as far as Eugene Debs, but I remember the 1968 election. I would not vote for a Democrat then. It was the party that had escalated an imperialist war and denied seats to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. In August, I was in the streets of Chicago in the tear gas, but not at the polls in November. I get it. I also got Nixon as President, seven more years of the war in Vietnam and U.S. complicity in a military coup in Chile, to name only a few Nixon by-products. You couldn’t have convinced me at 23 to vote for Humphrey. But, I’ve learned many lessons in the decades since.

I remember the hope and promise of the Rainbow Coalition of Jesse Jackson with its bold platform in 1988. Bernie endorsed Jackson then. Jackson won the primary in five southern states before he won Pennsylvania with 47% of the primary vote. Jackson didn’t secure the nomination. Dukakis did. But, the Rainbow Coalition rearranged the Democratic Party, breaking the previous campaign mold. Bernie learned from that.

The pandemic has exposed every fault line in this nation. The need for Medicare for All is self-evident. Every day we watch what a broken health system can’t do. We watch what happens when ventilators and personal protective equipment for hospitals are treated as capitalist commodities. We see the toll taken on communities of color where COVID-19 has been most deadly. We live with the tragic consequences of “leaders” who don’t believe in science or governance. We can also see what a Green New Deal might promise in the way of a massive jobs program at a time that fossil fuel is in a capitalist crisis.

I do not believe that electoral politics is the only path to change. I have offered my support as the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) canvass for Medicare for All, for Paid Sick Days, for Affordable Housing, for Reproductive Justice, and for a Green New Deal, as well as for Bernie. Progressive gains have been made. They will be made in the next four years with a Democratic victory. I will continue working on progressive campaigns, finding ways to add my 74-year-old voice to the chorus for change. That doesn’t stop.

A Trump victory will embolden reactionary forces, further erode the public sector, wreak havoc on the most vulnerable, and further enrich those with the greatest wealth. We’ve seen that playbook. We can help write a different one. In the words of “Solidarity Forever,” we “can bring to birth a new world on the ashes of the old.”

Here’s the SDS letter published at The Nation: https://www.thenation.com/article/activism/letter-new-left-biden/.


[Alice Embree is an Austin writer and activist who serves on the board of directors of the New Journalism Project, is associate editor of The Rag Blog, and was a founder of The Rag, Austin’s legendary underground paper, in 1966. Embree, a veteran of the women’s movement and a contributor to the 1970 anthology, Sisterhood is Powerful, is active with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in Austin.]

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31 Responses to Alice Embree :
OPINION |We have a binary choice in November

  1. Steve Russell says:

    I resemble Alice Embree’s remarks right down to driving from Milwaukee to get my fair share of abuse. I thought when we won the Wisconsin Primary for McCarthy, we had done our duty and if McCarthy sputtered we had Bobby-Come-Lately.

    Like Alice, I could not vote for the Hump after the delegates we worked so hard to elect got shut out. I could not vote for Jesus Christ if Mayor Daley endorsed him.

    Like Alice, I came to regret it. I was 21. I pissed away the first ballot I cast.

    Next to The Donald, Tricky Dick was a prince among men.

    • Wizard says:

      Counselor, has anyone ever written a fantasy novel about what woulda happened had Humphrey triumphed in 68? That would be kind of fascinating, no?
      Like, how soon do you think he would have ended the war? How many of LBJ’s advisors would have been held over? Would Humphrey have opened up China? Would the 60s have gone on longer?
      I voted right-in that time, do not regret it to this day. Neither Nixon nor Humphrey was a fit leader for a free and democratic country. (Oh but right — that got shot down in Dallas five years earlier.)
      Still, it would be a fascinating alter-history.

      • Steve Russell says:

        The Hump would not have ended the war. He would have gotten out of the way and let the Vietnamese end the war, which they would have before the election had Tricky Dick not suggested to the government in the South there was a better deal to be had.

        You and I wanted it ended because it was a war. There was nobody on the other side who wanted it to go on because it was a war. It was a means to an end, and the ends I heard proposed on the left did not pass the laugh test. Do you remember the oil fields in Vietnamese territorial waters? Do you remember the fantasy of South Vietnam as a military power?

        What the US wanted was a notch down from what the French wanted: a soft landing. Everybody with any sense, regardless of politics, knew that the age of imperialism was over, never to return.

        That’s a tide of history it was not possible to swim against. When we were making the attempt, we couldn’t do it for any price we were willing to pay.

        If we got out of the way, somebody else would have to keep the Vietnamese from running their own show. I remember betting a BLOC (Big Leftist On Campus) ten bucks that Vietnam and China would be shooting at each other within ten years of the US pullout. He didn’t pay.

        Nixon had to keep up the pretense he started to wreck the Paris Peace talks. Other than that, what do you think took him so long to bail?

        On domestic issues, Humphrey would set out to be the second coming of LBJ. Would he have cut a deal on civil rights to stop the Southern Strategy? I don’t think so, but I suppose that’s an example of the sport in counterfactuals.

        You know, the counterfactuals you and I can gin up about the 1968 election have analogs in every other election in our lifetimes. How long will it take for people to see that exercise in alternative history as an all-purpose rebuttal to those who claim voting to be a meaningless exercise?

        • Don Hyde says:

          “Imperialism is Dead” is the funniest/dumbest thing I have heard this week on the Rag Blog.

          • Where did you see that on The Rag Blog, Don?

          • Steve Russell says:

            Not is dead.

            Was dead circa 50 years ago.

            Imperialism requires that the nation-state be the most powerful form of political organization. The Transnational corporation occupies that status.

            I suppose you could rejigger “empire” in some manner, but it seems confusing and hardly worth the trouble.

            On the other hand, “the Google Empire” has a certain je ne sais quoi.

  2. Very good, Alice. Keep on keepin’ on

  3. Wizard says:

    Alice, or anyone else knowledgeable, do you think the DNC will put money into Texas this time? Will the candidates stump in Texas? (With whoever is the Veep choice hopefully most prominent in that?) This is a crucial question, imo.

    BTW, I’m in complete agreement that regardless of one’s ultimate top job choice on the ballot, one can support voter registration and education, GOTV, and progressive Democrat candidates in the down-ballot races that are so crucial in the success or failure of any administration. I’ve recently joined Democrats Abroad (16 electoral votes, the majority pledged to Sanders!) and hope to be able to assist their efforts to mobilize voters and help them get ballots from their states.
    I hear your arguments for a Biden vote. I hear my other sister Pam who reminds us that Williamson County, where she lives and votes, went Blue in, I believe, the midterm elections and possibly (?) in 2016. I hear Barbara H’s critique of white privilege voting. We’ve all heard the discussions, and taken different positions at different times, on the primacy of electoral work and its optimal form.
    But as long as we’re trying to change people’s consciousness, and still dreaming of and working for a more equitable world, I still think it’s important to challenge and go beyond the two-party system in general. The binary choice you so aptly describe is false in its essence, a manipulated, cornered, tortured, say-anything imposter in the halls of democracy. Until minority positions receive proportional representation, we will continue to be tooled over by the unitary super-rich.
    Let 10,000 flowers bloom! This is a time of unrest and distress unequalled in recent history. There are no wrong acts in opposing the present regime. “You have to speak to the people where they are at,” and they are in a lot of places right now.

    I am so proud to be your friend, Alice Lou. You go, woman! May your tribe increase!

    • Steve Russell says:

      For the record, two Commissioner precincts in Williamson County went for Obama in 2008, leading me to think that I might get to experience the move from hopeless to hopeful again just once more if I settled in Williamson.

      • Alice Embree says:

        I am so fed up with the people who don’t lift a finger to change democracy for four years and then pontificate about how their vote doesn’t matter.
        It matters. People died for this right. Women struggled 150 years for this right. It matters. Down ballot it matters. For gerrymandering it matters. Any gains matter. It isn’t about the DNC. It matters if we flip 9 legislative districts that we might be able to flip. It all f—ing matters. It matters to wage the fight even without a certain victory.
        All day people have said to me: won’t the Supreme Court overturn yesterday’s judicial ruling in TX on vote by mail. Does that make it not worth fighting? Celebrate the small victories. Organize for the future.
        And watch your white privilege when you say it doesn’t matter.

        • Lori Jo says:

          The blood, sweat, and tears of the Civil Rights Movement should not be allowed to be forgotten. It is an insult to all the mostly Black people who died to get the right to vote to say that a vote does not matter.

    • Claire Wilson James says:

      Yes. I love you, Alice.

  4. I agree with this. Thanks Alice. How the circle has turned and we are in a binary choice situation. I remember Martin Wigginton hollering against electoral politics [why is he not on the Departed Friends list?] and I still agree that the Democratic Party has done little (and in fact sometimes the opposite) to challenge the capitalist status quo.
    This is a watershed moment. We really need to get rid of Trump and his gang of thieves, liars, racists, and real estate moguls.
    Martin Murray

  5. Allen Young says:

    Yes, 1,000 times to what Alice wrote.

  6. Choke away, Alice.

    I haven’t voted for a Dem for prez this century and sure as hell ain’t changing that over Joe Biden.

    • Alice Embree says:

      You misread the paragraph. I am sick and tired of people saying “my vote doesn’t matter, so…” and blaming the Electoral College. Get to work getting rid of it. That is possible.

      • Larry says:

        Seismic times call for seismic solutions, such as eliminating the EC. Glad you continue to work at shaking things up!

  7. Teresa Perez-Wiseley says:

    My first bog. I hit a winner! Best part is I actually know Alice and was lucky to know some of her friends like Glen Scott (and Richard Croxdale) who was way out there early. Hell, I didn’t always understand her but she knew how to drag me into one cause or another.

    Today, I know this much my first campaign was John F. Kennedy, my role was that as a Kid for Kennedy down in Corpus Christi, Texas collecting money for him in wax buckets. Saw him at the airport, he never left his plane but he waved at us mostly that day were Mexican Americans.
    We put his picture on our front door with JC and a sign that said we are Democrats. He gave us hope.

    Today, I am 68 and can see that all the marching and loss of lives that were given to the movement seem to be going to waste. I am glad that I have not given up and I still stand up for my rights.

    But when I read Alice’s blog…I couldn’t help but be inspired again.

    Three of my top choices were not Joe Biden, but I know that if we don’t get him elected we will never see
    America where it was when President Obama left (I was a Clintonite) but knew we had to get him in. I am sick of electing white old men!

    Our problem is that folks can’t get off who the were supporting after they are not even in the race anymore. Why can’t we make our children and the next generation after them understand how bad our situation really is.

    We have got to get our candidates in or the future generations will not know what the American Dream is or even gain a retirement. Maybe, those of us currently receiving (what we paid into) will see it lose its value.

    The madman at the helm wants to destroy everything we have worked to earn or fought to protect! He won’t be happy until he sees the futile system back.

    If, I ever get to go to out of the country again, I fear I won’t be let back in since I am a person of color living in Texas that he or his kind may chose to not let back in. But if they say go back where your people come from, yea I will be headed to Texas!

    Actually, SocarticGadfly you choke at least I am not afraid to say who I am!

    • Larry says:

      Really enjoyed your story and comment, Teresa. Thank you.

    • Steve Russell says:

      I agree with you in that Biden was not my first choice or second choice or third choice. He was not even in my top three among the geezers. But as Alice so eloquently showed, he is now our only choice.

      I’m hoping he has sense enough to put one of the younger generation on the ticket as VP and to give her a heavy policy portfolio emphasizing wherever she’s light–probably foreign policy, although I can name some women who are heavy in foreign policy.

      Then he retires after one term as the hero who slayed the dragon and makes way for the first woman POTUS.

      My late wife Donna used to say that it would be harder to elect a woman than to elect an African-American. She was right, and some folks still do not accept that a black guy named Barack Obama could be POTUS–a woman will have them climbing trees.

      Trump has taken on destroying Obama’s legacy root and branch. It’s grounds for firing that Obama appointed somebody. It’s grounds for changing policy that the one in place was put there by Obama.

      No insult is too petty. Now we hear there will be no ceremony to unveil the portrait of Obama. I am not informed if The Donald intends to hang it in a closet.

      Is The Donald a racist?

      The racists certainly think so, or wiping Obama from the history books is just a cheap short cut to policy positions they are unable to articulate.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just want to acknowledge that Teresa is one of the bad-ass peers I’ve had the good fortune to work with in Texas Alliance for Retired Americans (TARA). I sure prefer an organizer like Teresa to the pontificators during these hard times.

  8. Larry says:

    It’s great to see such leading lights in this comments thread, Thorne. Thanks for encouraging such. Be well, my friend.

  9. Don Hyde says:

    People. It’s all about who is going to be VP. Will you vote for Condi Rice or Hillary Clinton?

  10. Jay Jurie says:

    Write on!

  11. Scott Pittman says:

    I’m certainly glad I read this! Alice Embree wrote the f–k word! She is 74 years old (6 years younger than me) and I never would have thought that she would have said such, let alone publish it.

    I claim “old and in the way” rights to vote, not vote, or walk around with a sign on a stick. I also love the way Alice presents her argument against every one who doesn’t vote Biden. But I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of the game of electoral politics that has, so far, not produced much in the way of freedom, democracy, peace, enlightenment, etc….

    • Anonymous says:

      Scott, I am pretty sick and tired of people who don’t organize in between elections. Are we surprised the Dems went centrist? Surprised that we didn’t win bold progressive change through a primary? This is a lifelong struggle. Even seismic change at the ballot box has to be defended by organizing as soon as the election is over. I have never believed that elections are the best or only means of making meaningful change. (I think I said that three times in the post).

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