Jay D. Jurie :
OPINION | Biden our time?

A reply to David P. Hamilton about the 2020 election.

Weimar Republic cartoon. Caricature from Simplicissimus.

By Jay D. Jurie | The Rag Blog | May 20, 2020

Trump wants to turn Washington upside down — that was his first message and his winning message. We want the exact same thing. — House ‘Freedom Caucus’ co-founder Mick Mulvaney, 2016

SANFORD, FLA. — David P. Hamilton has written a critique of Joe Biden, presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee for president (“Opinion: Why I Won’t Vote for Joe Biden,” The Rag Blog, May 16, 2020). He argues that since Texas will invariably vote for Trump it makes more sense for progressives to vote for the Green Party than for Biden; if the Greens get enough votes, they’ll score federal matching funds. Hamilton’s critique of Biden is largely on target; there’s much to dislike about his record and candidacy. Similarly, there is appeal in garnering funds for progressive electoral politics.

In this regard, it’s too bad Hamilton spends so much time detailing what’s wrong with Biden while the only case he makes for the Greens is an opportunity to “assert your progressive principles.” Additionally, while it obviously makes some difference to Hamilton who the Democrats run for president, one is left to wonder if he’s advocating support for the Green candidate, regardless of who that turns out to be. That seems premature, if nothing else.

Unfortunately, there’s a whole lot more at stake than simply not voting for Biden or picking up matching funds. This coming November is truly a watershed election. Over seven years ago The Rag Blog published an article I wrote wondering when the U.S. might arrive at a “Weimar Moment.” This referred to the 1932-33 period in Germany when the Social Democrats and Communists were preoccupied with fighting each other rather than the Nazis.

We are now at a Weimar Moment in the U.S.

We are now at that Moment in the U.S. We have a similar conflict, with the Democrats poised to nominate Biden, versus progressives such as Hamilton espousing a vote for third party candidates along with others contending they aren’t going to vote at all. According to a recent open letter from 1960s activists to the current generation, “We were mindful… of the cataclysm that befell German democracy when socialists and communists fought each other — to death — as Hitler snuck by and murdered them all.”

As far back as the Nixon presidency, the Republican Party began to ditch the idea of bipartisan compromise by which this country had largely been governed throughout the 21st Century. 1960s social and cultural protest movements shook the far right and corporate interests to the core. A glimpse of some of this is seen in the current cable TV series “Mrs. America” about Phyllis Schlafly and the 1970s conservative opposition to ERA ratification.

Formed in the late 1970s, the New Right contributed to the 1980 defeat of incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter and the ensuing pro-Corporate America supply-side economics of the “Reagan Revolution.” Building on gains under Reagan, Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey launched the “Republican Revolution.” For the first time in decades in 1994 both houses of Congress were captured by the Republicans. They promoted a “Contract with America” that sought pro-corporate deregulation, “tort reform,” and cuts to the social safety net.

‘Culture war’ issues morphed with Evangelical religious appeals, xenophobia.

Throughout the 1990s, “culture war” issues including feminism, reproductive rights, gay rights, gun laws, and the separation of church and state, among others, frequently morphed with Evangelical religious appeals, xenophobia, nativism, and racism, and were manipulated to build a far right and pro-corporate mass base.

At the same time, as globalization and changing domestic demographics generated socioeconomic discontent among elements of this base, they were encouraged to find right-wing solutions to their problems. In order to maintain an electoral majority, anti-democratic maneuvers such as gerrymandering and voter suppression were increasingly employed. Constantly stoked by extremists and funded by pro-corporate entities, these trends raged through the first two decades of the 20th Century.

In 2009, the far-right Tea Party was created for the avowed purpose of shifting the Republican Party to the right. This effort was enhanced by the “Red Map” strategy introduced by conservative strategist Karl Rove in 2010, the intent of which was for Republicans to seize control of state governments. Red Map has been wildly successful, with Republican majorities, or supermajorities in states across the country, dominating not just legislatures, but executive mansions and judicial appointments.

The Republican Party was reshaped by the far right and their corporate backers.

When the U.S. House Freedom Caucus was formed in 2015 by Tea Party-affiliated representatives, it was clear one goal of the events that had been set in motion over 40 years earlier had been accomplished: the Republican Party had been taken over and reshaped by the far right and their corporate backers. Moderates who had been willing to compromise with at least some portions of the Democratic Party agenda were marginalized or ousted.

Even more ominously, the stage was now set for the realization of another goal favored by many among these same forces: fashioning and firmly cementing into place a one-party state.

However, worse was yet to come. Donald Trump, widely criticized for his seeming lack of intellect, had the acumen to recognize he’d arrived at exactly the right moment. He understood he could ride what the right had achieved into the White House and bend it to his own particular will.

Available evidence strongly suggests Trump is engaged in consolidating his power, as evidenced by his vulgar disparagement of critics, his executive branch appointments, and the dismissal of those under his command. If he wins reelection, especially after impeachment did not result in his removal from office, it should be anticipated his authoritarian control will be extensively expanded.

White supremacists and hate-mongers will function as his shock troops.

It can be expected the Department of Justice and other governmental agencies can and will be used by Trump to persecute his opponents and otherwise serve both pro-corporate as well as his own personal interests. White supremacists and similar hate-mongers will increasingly function as his shock troops, as they already have. He has already resorted to virulent nationalism, a hallmark of classical fascism.

In the near term, there is only one opportunity to derail, or at least set back, the juggernaut we are facing, and that is the November election, now only a little over five months away. Hamilton concedes “current polls show Trump only slightly ahead in Texas, but all bookies have Trump running ahead of his polls.” That sounds like the race might be closer than he would have us believe.

Since he contends Texas will go for Trump regardless, Hamilton suggests why not persuade 500,000 progressive Texans to cast their votes for the Greens rather than the Democrats? It is inconceivable the Green Party has the apparatus in Texas needed to produce such a tally.

We might use the 2000 Florida election for comparison purposes.

We might use the 2000 Florida election for comparison purposes, where the Green Party electoral machine was sketchy at best. There, where Democrat Al Gore lost to Republican George W. Bush, allegedly by less than 1000 votes, just under 100,000 voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.

What Nader had going for him was name recognition, which is highly doubtful the 2020 Green Party candidate will be able to match. With a somewhat smaller voter base than Texas, if Florida was able to produce fewer than 100,000 votes for a Green candidate in 2000, it is unlikely in the extreme that half a million can be produced this year in Texas.

In Florida’s razor-close 2000 election, it is estimated some 300,000 registered Democrats crossed party lines to vote for Bush. If the Democrats had expended just a bit more time and energy in Florida, it is quite plausible to assume the election result would have been different. It would be considerably more tragic if willful neglect or disregard allowed a similar result to occur in Texas this year. While there’s much to dislike about Biden, it is imperative that Trump and what he represents has to be stopped.

We also must take into account down ballot races. Hamilton does not urge us not to vote for Democrats in Texas statewide and local elections, but as he advocates a split ticket at best, this sends a double message. There are doubtless important local elections in Texas where it would be substantially better if a Democrat rather than a Republican won.

Like the saying goes, “elections matter.” They don’t just reflect ideological abstractions, real lives are at stake.

[Jay D. Jurie, an occasional Rag Blog contributor, is a retired associate professor of public administration and urban planning who lives in Sanford, Florida.]

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7 Responses to Jay D. Jurie :
OPINION | Biden our time?

  1. Allen Young says:

    When I was 7 years old, I observed my parents working hard to garner votes for Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party candidate, against Harry Truman. Not much came of this effort. In the 1960s, I voted for Dick Gregory for President on the Peace & Freedom ticket. In the 1980s, I voted for independent liberal John Anderson instead of Carter or Reagan. Later I voted for Al Gore, and was upset when the Nader Green Party candidacy helped put George Bush into the White House. In conclusion, I am now a senior citizen, a Democrat, vice chair of my small town’s Democratic Town Committee, and I support the Democratic Party, where progressive, ethical and forward- looking legislators and individuals have a practical role to help bring progress to the USA and to our planet — and of course to defeat Trump. Utopian socialist visionaries (some of whom are my friends) are good people who waste a lot of time and energy, in my humble opinion, and i know something about this, because i once embraced that political realm myself.

  2. mike munk says:

    I’m just bidin’ my time
    ‘Cause that’s the kind of guy I am– Greshwin

  3. SocraticGadfly says:

    As I told Alice on a previous post, I’ve voted Green every presidential election this century and sure as hell ain’t changing for Sen. MBNA, Clarence Thomas Biden.

  4. John Welch says:

    Absolutely right, Jay. Two more points:

    (1) If we look for parallels to the disaster in Weimar, note that German conservatives had money and status, but had no mass base. They could not mobilize people as the Social Democrats, who led the labor unions and who had local organizations all through the country and up and down layers of society. Yes, libraries, study class, youth groups (a sort of radical boy scouts), soccer teams. The Communists had smaller versions of the same thing. Conservatives leaned on the Nazis to provide the base from which to win elections. (Details in Robert O. Paxton, “Anatomy of Fascism”, 2005 or so). Looking homeward, Republicans have been a minority, led by people like the Bush family and Romney (“People call you the 1%, but I call you my base”). The Trump fanatics, the gun-loving MAGAs, have given Republicans a base, and, like the Nazis, pushed aside traditionally leading conservatives.

    (2) A fundamental problem with the Green Party, and with any third party movement in the US is that the US political system operates by winner-take-all elections in geographically spread single-member districts. To have power, a third party needs to win a majority of elections in city and county councils, state assembly and state senate, governor, US House and Senate, and the Presidency. Lose the state, and your third party will be gerrymandered out of existence. Notice how hard it is for the Democratic Party to function in the South, which has been a one-party place since the Whig Party disintegrated over slavery about 1850. (Except for a few years when Reconstruction gave blacks the right to vote and gave the old Republican Party life) Third Parties have formed, struggled and died over and over in the US. Notice that the US system has the same winner-take-all system as the UK, where the Liberal Party has been nearly irrelevant ever since the rise of the Labour Party. And where the only successful third party is regional — the Scottish National Party.

  5. David Hamilton says:

    Notes on Jay Jurie’s article.
    – I support the creation of a new party on the left. There is a movement afoot to achieve that and I support it. In the meantime, I regard the Green Party as a placeholder that I’m not ashamed to support, regardless of who they name as their candidate. They have a track record. I’ll bet they won’t nominate a demented capitalist tool with a long history of war mongering and racism. The front-runner for the Green Party nomination is now Howie Hawkins. He too is a placeholder and in my dreams he drops out and they nominate Danny Glover and Media Benjamin.
    – The “watershed election” trope is older than I am. It is resurrected every four years like clockwork. Tell me that this is more of one than 2004 after George W. had started two wars, killed a few hundred thousand people and passed the Patriot Act. Then our lesser evil was John Kerry, who promised to “Make America Stronger”, which has a familiar ring. “Watershed election” is the most standard of sheepherder calls.
    – Those dastardly Republicans of the 1990’s who demanded “pro-corporate deregulation, “tort reform,” and cuts to the social safety net” found a hero in Bill Clinton.
    – We have a “one party state” now. Except that party has two names. Both of them are self-avowedly capitalist parties. They have collaborated for a hundred years to repress socialist alternatives. No socialist party is allowed and if that is your politics, you have no potential representation. These capitalist parties clash on issues of identity, but not on class issues. They are both owned by elements of the corporate ruling class. One billionaire faction has realized that identity politics doesn’t negatively affect their profits. The other billionaire class is dependent on a misogynistic and racist base to which they throw bones in exchange for blind allegiance. Regardless, political power is a commodity you cannot afford. As Gilens and Page have conclusively demonstrated, the US is an oligarchy and the average citizen has no influence whatsoever.
    – The Democratic Party is as corrupt as the Republican and arguably more hypocritical because they masquerade as “left”. 88% of Democratic Party voters in a recent poll indicated support for Medicare for All. But it has found no support from Biden or Pelosi or Schumer or Schiff. That is because they are all corrupt lackeys of the PC billionaires who have a major stake in the health care industry. They do not want health care to be a right. They want it to remain a commodity that they own and profit from and they always get their way. The current stimulus package supported by the DP leadership has the government pay the COBRA premiums on the policies of the 20 or so million folks who just lost health care coverage when they became unemployed by the pandemic. This means that the corporate DP solution is to give more money to insurance companies instead of expanding Medicare and Medicaid to make health care a right and part of the public sector, as it is in every other developed country in the world. Such are the “leftists” of the Democratic Party.
    – The Bernie Sanders campaigns have demonstrated conclusively that the DP will not allow a progressive transformation of the party from within. At the point when Sanders surged ahead in the race for the nomination, the corporate lackey leadership of the party formed a cabal to “stop Bernie” and they did. In so doing, they proved themselves to be impervious to progressive change. They will never allow that transformation to happen. The lesser of two evils is the only choice they will ever give you.
    – Were Trump reelected, he might indeed have his Dept. of Justice indict Brennan, Clapper and Comey for attempting to bring down sitting president with the baseless Russiagate allegations and that would be a very good thing to happen. The current Democratic Party is hand in glove with the professional liars and war mongers that make up US “intelligence” agencies, the cutting edge of US imperialism, notorious for subversion, murder, kidnapping, torture, drug running and sundry other crimes for decades. Whenever you find yourself on the same side as the CIA, reappraise you position.
    – In Florida in 2000, six different candidates got more votes than the Bush-Gore margin including Pat Buchanan. But all you hear about is Nader. This is a reflection of the arrogance of the DP in thinking they own any vote left of fascism. It is assumed that they are the automatic default option for socialists, regardless of even their more progressive candidates being “capitalist to the bone”.
    – Having a popular Green Party candidate on the ballot will obviously help down ballot progressive Democrats. The alternative for Green Party voters is to stay home and not to vote, rather than vote for the decrepit and corrupt Democrat presidential candidate offered us, who is a literal monument of the party’s debasement. Every ecologically minded voter knows that Joe Biden is totally unsuited to confront the challenges of climate change looming on our horizon. To put your faith in Biden being effective in combating climate change or end perpetual imperialist wars is laughable.

  6. Gilberto DeLeon says:

    the socialist, communist, anarchist left has no standing nationally and is irrelevant to the two neolithic state parties and their race for the Big Slave House.

    the importance of the the huge and ongoing demonstrations triggered by the spate of lynchings is that they are spontaneous, multi racial, multi ethinic and set the stage for massive local struggles.

    the Defund and Dismantle the Police campaigns will play out in thousands of cities and communities and give the left…DSA, Socialist Alternative, the Green Party and many others an opportunity to gain respect and responsibility at the local and state level standing with the most oppressed.

    if the left can make gains at the local level, that will translate into being more than an irrelevant flea bite on the Demi-shits butt.

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