Tag Archives: Citizens United decision

Don’t be Deluded into Voting for the Green Party.

Don’t be Deluded into Voting for the Green Party.

Being a party to discussions among disaffected Bernie supporters or Green Party advocates is like living in an alternate universe. They act as if there is no significant difference between Hillary Clinton and the Democratic program and Donald Trump and the Republican program. And they claim that their vote for the Green Party will make an important statement about their rejection of mainstream politics, thus advancing their vision of a progressive agenda. When pressed on these issues, they often make the claim that if enough of those similarly disaffected can be reached by their campaign, Jill Stein has a chance of being elected. To be quite precise, I heard Jill Stein make precisely that claim at this year’s Left Forum, and Cornell West made the same claim on a recent Bill Maher program.

Besides the evident absurdity of that claim – by any realistic assessment, she would be “lucky” to obtain 5% of the vote, and most likely will be closer to 2-3% — one must wonder at the purposes hidden behind their absurd claim. Cornell, for example, is far too intelligent not to know that what he is saying is absurd. So one can reasonably wonder at the psychological motivations hidden behind his expressed views. But speculation about such psychological motivations are beyond my immediate concern. What could possibly be a rational argument for voting for the Greens? One would have to believe that there is no significant difference between electing Trump or Clinton, or that the Green “protest vote” will significantly influence the future behavior of American politics. But is either position tenable?

One might argue that Nader’s 2000 campaign did influence the future of American politics, but only by denying Gore the Presidency. That certainly did not advance progressive politics, but it did give us the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war, and the Right-wing Supreme Court that gave us Citizens United and the evisceration of the Voting Rights act, to mention just a few of the most obvious results. Just think of the difference in future Supreme Court nominees between a Clinton and Trump administration, to understand the inevitable disaster that could be awaiting us.

As for the United States Green Party providing a progressive alternative to anything, that belief flies in the face of everything that the Green Party has actually done over the last 50 years. They talk a good game, but they do not do anything effective. I have for years watched them operate on Long Island, and they spend their time attacking “the System” and the Democratic and Working Families Parties as “sell-outs” – while rarely ever attacking the Republicans. But they devote little energy to building an effective political party on a day-to-day basis. Only mobilizing energy in political campaigns where they can run a candidate “to the left” of Democrats in districts where the Democrats could beat the Republicans, thus effectively drawing support away from the Democrats. The best that can be said of those campaigns is that they have been historically totally ineffective. Other than that, they engage in random and almost universally random acts of ineffective protest, but have had no significant influence on the political process and are generally not paid any attention to. I can think of no significant policy result to which they have contributed, even the successful opposition to fracking in NYS was accomplished primarily by more “establishment” opposition, such as that of the WFP, Citizen Action, the Sierra Club, etc. I could go on at length about the destructive nation of the Green Party – which talks a progressive game, but only effectively weakens the progressive movement – but I will rather reproduce a recent article from The Nation Magazine which does an effective job in making the national case against supporting the Green Party from one who used to be a member.

Your Vote for Jill Stein Is a Wasted Vote

If you want to join a party that has no chance of effecting progressive change, the Greens are for you!

By Joshua Holland

The Nation, SEPTEMBER 21, 2016

If the last three presidential elections are any guide, 75 to 90 percent of those who say that they’re planning to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in November won’t follow through. Yes, there are some dedicated Green voters, but much of the party’s support is an expression of contempt for the Democrats that evaporates in the voting booth. I’m a registered independent and a supporter of the Working Families Party, and my disdain for the Greens springs from my own experience with the party. I agree with much of the Greens’ platform, but when I went to Green Party meetings, I found a wildly disorganized, mostly white group that was riven with infighting, strategically inept, and organized around a factually flawed analysis of American politics. There are effective Green parties in Europe, but ours is a hot mess. And while the Greens’ bold ideas are attractive, what’s the point of wasting one’s time and energy on such a dysfunctional enterprise?

The Green Party claims to have “at least” 137 members in elected office. That might sound respectable, but that’s 43 fewer than it had in 2003. And there’s a reason that number is shrinking: The Greens focus the lion’s share of their limited resources on getting their quixotic presidential campaigns on the ballot rather than on building the party from the bottom up. One could argue that running presidential campaigns earns candidates like Stein and David Cobb (for whom I voted in 2004, in a safe state) more media attention, but that hasn’t resulted in a growing number of seats for the Greens. The hyper-local Working Families Party, which backed 111 candidates in New York State alone last year—71 of whom were successful—makes headlines by winning fights over things like minimum-wage hikes and school funding rather than running symbolic presidential campaigns.

The Green Party’s primary pitch to voters on the left is that there still isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties. When Ralph Nader made that claim in 2000, there was a kernel of truth to it. Today, that claim requires a great deal of dishonesty to make. By every measure, Democrats and Republicans have moved toward their respective ideological poles since the 1990s. According to Pew Research, since 2011, the most conservative Democrat on Capitol Hill has still been more liberal than the most liberal Republican, based on their aggregate voting records. It’s also true of the Democratic base—according to Pew, the share of Democrats who hold “mostly or consistently liberal” views almost doubled between 1994 and 2014. And it’s true of the 2016 party platform, which Bernie Sanders, among others, hailed as the most progressive in the party’s history. Today’s low-information voter is as likely to be aware of the major-party candidates’ differences as a highly engaged voter was in the mid-1970s.

You might notice that Greens tend to steer the conversation away from the myriad issues—health care, education, abortion, gun control, climate change, and on and on—where the Democrats and Republicans are diametrically opposed, and toward foreign policy and national security, where there really is significant overlap between the major parties’ policies. I agree with the Greens on many of those issues. But they’re not sufficient to substantiate the claim that there’s no difference between the Democrats and Republicans at all.

And the Greens’ critique of the Democrats is often unmoored from reality. Stein goes beyond (rightly) criticizing the Obama administration’s strategy in the aftermath of the 2009 coup in Honduras by charging that then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave it “a thumbs-up.” (Not only did the US oppose the coup, American embassy personnel tried to talk Honduran military officials out of it.) During her 2012 campaign, Stein consistently claimed that the 2009 stimulus plan “was mostly tax breaks for the wealthy.” The truth is that tax breaks accounted for 38 percent of the plan, a majority of them targeted toward low- and middle-income households. That’s not criticism from the left; it’s a dishonest, scorched-earth campaign against the only party that can keep Republicans out of the White House. (And if you think that Stein wouldn’t have attacked Bernie Sanders with the same vigor if he were the nominee, then it’s a safe bet you’ve never attended a Green Party meeting. Remember that the Greens ran candidates against Ralph Nader in both 2004 and ’08.)

Two disastrous wars and a few Wall Street–precipitated recessions have helped push the Democratic Party leftward. Demographic changes in the electorate have made it less reliant on courting white swing voters. But the shift in the party was in large part a result of tireless work by the Democrats’ own base, passionate progressives who pushed the party to change.

Many Greens think that their vote isn’t wasted because it sends a powerful “message” to Washington. But why would anyone in power pay attention to the 0.36 percent of the popular vote that Jill Stein won in 2012, when 42 percent of eligible voters just stayed home? Political parties are merely vessels. The Green Party provides a forum to demonstrate ideological purity and contempt for “the system.” But the Democratic Party is a center of real power in this country. For all its flaws, and for all the work still to be done, it offers a viable means of advancing progressive goals. One can’t say the same of the perpetually dysfunctional and often self-marginalizing Greens.

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Building a Equitable Economy

As every now knows — primary thanks to the Occupy movement — American society is more unequal than ever. The wealth gap is even far worse than most Americans think, with, for only one example, the ration of the pay of CEOs of major corporations to that of their average workers having gone from about 40 to 1 in the early 1970s to now more than 400 to 1 by most reports.  And this wealth gap has both been created by explicit political actions (and non actions), as carefully analyzed by Hacker and Pearson in their excellent book, Winner Take All Politics, and reshaped the political landscape through gerrymandering, right-wing corporate domination  of talk radio, the stacking of the courts, and a series of horrendous legal decisions, primarily the Citizens United case in which the court effectively abolished the ability of government to control campaign spending.

Thus, what has been the American vision, and self-understanding, of our democracy as a representative government characterized by “one person, one vote, has effectively become a corporate plutocracy, run by and for the “one percent.” And, as we organize and struggle to limit the disasters of such an effective corporate and right-wing “coup d’etat,” we recognize that this necessary and vital struggle is a long and up hill battle unless, and until, we change the underlying structure of our economy, which guarantees wealth and power to those at the apex of the global corporate conglomerates that control our economy and politics. So that while we continue to “fight in the trenches,” educating and mobilizing the populace to understand what has happened, and to limit, and where possible, to undo, the disasters of “one percent politics,” we need to begin to lay the groundwork for a more egalitarian and truly representative economy and politics.

In many places across this country, and often out of local necessity, that is fortunately already happening. We need to understand, popularize, and build on this emerging — “under the radar” — movement for “Building Community Wealth through Cooperative Community Economic Development.” The vision for this movement has been succinctly outlined by Gar Alperowitz in his book that I have taken as an organizing manual, What Then Must We Do? He has followed up that work with the creation of “The Next System Project.” These efforts are linked to many others, most notably The Democracy Collaborative and the Community Wealth web sites. I am seeking to implement this vision locally through the Long Island Progressive Coalition’s Task Force on “Building Community Wealth,” and statewide through the Citizen Action of New York’s Task Force of the same name.

Cooperative Development can be understood as a systemic effort to build an alternative democratic, effectively egalitarian, and truly representative economy within the interstecies of American corporate capitalism. (A suggestive understanding of this process is presented in Worker Cooperatives and Revolution, by Chris Wright.) Such a cooperative economy has numerous aspects, procedures, and structures, among which can be included movements supporting worker cooperatives, participatory budgeting, public banking, community land trusts, B corporations, credit unions, Mondragon-type integrated cooperatives — as with the Evergreen coops in Cleveland, linked to key community “anchor institutions” — and government-supported worker training and support centers. Of all of this, more to follow. But I invite everyone to start thinking of how you can participate wherever you are in this process of people taking control of their local economy.

Creeping Fascism is no longer creeping

For years now, many, myself included, have warned of creeping fascism in the United States. We have seen it: with the growth of a Radical Right Evangelical movement; with the violent attacks on women’s health clinics; with the growth of Radical Right talk radio, and the neo-fascist Fox News; with the vast transfers of wealth to the corporate establishment and the 1/10th of 1%; with the increasing disenfranchisement of the poor and minorities; with the use of gerrymandering to insure Radical Right control of the electoral process, vastly augmented by outrageous Supreme Court decisions that unleash corporate money while restricting the ability of the populace to reign in corporate abuse; and with the use of a radicalized class of increasingly economically threatened white working class as quad-storm troopers to threaten or harass those who do not support this Radical Right agenda. We have effectively seen a coup d’etat by which this corporate funded, talk radio motivated Radical Right has taken over the Republican Party, and installed an American version of neo-fascism. And yet the political and media establishment, for by far the most part,  does not recognize and describe this neo-fascist takeover, but  continues to treat our electoral process as if its politics as usual — just more of the same two party competition. They still insist on referring to the Radical Right as conservative, when they are anything but!!! And this only plays into the hands of those on the Radical Right who wish to present themselves as a legitimate democratic alternative. We must stop treating the Radical Right — and that means almost all contemporary Republican leaders, as if they are conservative. We must begin to call them what they. And respond to them as the danger to American democracy that they most certainly are!!!! And no one better exemplifies this American neo-fascism than Ted Cruz. Though the rest of the Republican Presidential field are not mush better — though, clearly driven by their need to appeal to the corporately mobilized “storm troopers” of talk radio and the Evangelical Radical Right — all, with the partial exception of John Kasich, who is just a very conservative rightwing Republican — someone who should be a marginalized right winger in any normal democracy. We must see the Republican Party for what it has become, and recognized that we are no longer dealing with politics as usual, but with a straight forward attempt to take over what is left of American democratic institutions. That’s the challenge before us. From now on, I will regularly comment on what is happening to our democracy — and what we can do about it. Let me hear your thoughts — and stay tuned.

On The Importance of the Greek Election

The victory of the “radical left” in Greece this past Sunday, along with the remarkable ascent of Podemos in Spain, could truly be the dawn of a new day for progressives in Europe. It certainly bears watching, and I find it quite hopefully. Especially, with the deplorable state of politics in America — fueled by the destructive influence of the very wealthy following the Citizens United decision. Here’s a brief excerpt from Reuters, that suggests that the new Greek government is quite serious in its challenge to the EU’s conservative economic policies.

“In his first act as prime minister on Monday, Alexis Tsipras visited the war memorial in Kaisariani where 200 Greek resistance fighters were slaughtered by the Nazis in 1944.

The move did not go unnoticed in Berlin. Nor did Tsipras’s decision hours later to receive the Russian ambassador before meeting any other foreign official.

Then came the announcement that radical academic Yanis Varoufakis, who once likened German austerity policies to “fiscal waterboarding,” would be taking over as Greek finance minister. A short while later, Tsipras delivered another blow, criticizing an EU statement that warned Moscow of new sanctions.”