A second Trump administration would be an existential crisis for democracy, the planet.
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.]
- Read more articles by Alice Embree on The Rag Blog.