Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day: Vote Against the Tea Party

Today is election day, 2010. Midway through President Obama's first term, the Democrats who swept to power only two years ago are widely expected to be savaged. While control of the US Senate is less in doubt, control of the House of Representatives is expected by most to pass to the Republicans. In local elections across the country, Republicans are expected to do well in gubernatorial races and local state house races, which could spell problems for the upcoming legislative sessions that will reapportion congressional voting disticts according to the recent US census. That census has population moving south: a number of northern states are set to lose representatives in favor of states like Florida and Texas. Republican gerrymandering of election districts could result in permanent damage to the allegedly representative nature of the House. (Interestingly a number of Republicans and teabaggers have come out against the constitutional amendent that provided for direct election of US senators; apparently across the board the right wing hates both Democrats and Democracy.)

I'm voting for the Working Families Party line here in New York State. The WFP is a progressive, independent party in the state with its own platform and basis of unity. In truth most of the candidates on the WFP line are also the Democratic Party candidates, though in the city council district I used to live in here in Brooklyn the WFP ran a candidate against the Democrats; a candidate who also happened to win. I think the WFP model is a useful one for this day and age: it allows people to the left of the Democratic center to organize around our own values, while passing electoral votes to the Democrats to defeat right-wing candidates that, frankly, need defeating.

This voting for the WFP line means voting for some candidates, like gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, who are not particularly progressive. Indeed while Cuomo has taken a number of progressive positions (marriage equality among them), he promises to be a nightmare for organized labor, and here WFP has been forced into a corner to make a deal with the devil. According to NY State Law, third parties maintain their ballot line by getting a certain number of votes in state-wide contests. Thus WFP needed to endorse Cuomo to preserve its ballot status. Unfortunately running a candidate to the left of Cuomo would only be a losing symbolic gesture--and there are others already making that gesture. Fortunately voting for Cuomo does mean the probable defeat of our local teabagger candidate, the angry racist and anti-gay bigot Carl Paladino.

The WFP has also endorsed two US Senate candidates, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer. Gillibrand has been trying hard to impress liberals with her bonafides; in general I find her candidacy no more or less offensive than any other liberal Democrat. Charles Schumer is, unfortunately, deeply tied to the Israel lobby. He among the most hawkishly pro-Israel members of government...if Harry Reid is defeated by his racist opponent Sharon Angle, it's likely that Schumer will be up for the job of Democratic Senate Leader. Democratic performance in the Senate has left much to be desired this past season, as right-wing Dems hold a pivotal balance of power. However, given that the Senate will be controlled by either Republicans, newly juiced up with ultra-rightwing teabagger candidates, or by Democrats, at least paying lip service to some causes important to me, I believe that preventing a teabagger takeover of Congress is worthwhile. The Senate remains a den of thieves: its members are largely racist, warmongering, anti-gay, and anti-working class. But that's the job description of capitalism: My vote is against giving the far right legislative control. I wish a victory for the Democrats would imply that a progressive agenda had a snowball's chance in Washington. I don't think it does.

The election of Obama two years ago was a moment of hope. I mean that sincerely: for all of his failings, both the ones we knew about in advance and the ones that took us by surprise, something important happened. I believe that for a moment, the good guys won. And by good guys I don't mean the Democratic machine, and I don't think I even mean Obama himself. Obama is likable, gives a damned good speech, and....is, well, the President of the U.S. in all its contradictory glory and awfulness; he does terrible things; that's what Presidents do. It saddens me that Americans proved to be so politically unsophisticated creatures with such short memories; that the independent streak that Obama capitalized on has now turned on him with a bunch of dangerously crazy and ultra-rightwing candidates set to win their contests. I don't know, ultimately, who's going to win the war for America's consciousness: the progressive aspirations of the left or the fear and hatred and anger of the right.

It's so important to continue to dream of what could be possible: to organize for justice, for peace, for liberation, for economic justice, for a new collective reality. But sometimes you gotta look down in the gutter and pick a side, even if that means voting for a bunch of sell-out Democrats. It could most definitely get worse before it gets better. And if voting is ultimately not how transformational political change will be made it seems foolish to sit out the electoral game.

I've read leftists pissed off at Obama saying they won't vote for Democrats. I think that's, well, stupid. These leftists accuse people like me of playing the "fear card" by invoking the teabaggers, by invoking the threat of a Sarah Palin presidency as a manipulative cover for supporting Democrats. And my answer to that is that Sarah Palin should scare the fuck out of you. John Boehner? Mitch McConnell? Mainstream republicans who scare the crap out of me. And they are positively liberal compared to the teabag lynch mob coming up from behind. So yes, it is appropriate to play the fear card. They are a real threat. These elections, and the next ones, and the ones after that until there is some fundamental paroxysm in electoral politics, will not be won by a progressive third party. These elections will be won by Democrats or by Republicans. That's not the way it should be, but it is the way it is. Organizing in groups like the WFP is an important step in the right direction, but the bottom line remains that compromised victory in a deeply compromised country is about the best we can expect.

So get out there and vote...against the "tea party" takeover.

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