To Lindsey Max:
I am new to your writing, having encountered it for the first time today in someone’s response to a tweet written by an irascible political commentator known as Brooklyn Dad. This morning, Mr. Dad helpfully informed the world, including his six hundred and seventy thousand followers, that if one is “voting for Trump, the Green Party, or not at all”, then one is a “selfish, stupid asshole” whom he does not “ever want to know”. Presumably, he posted this while in agitated anticipation of President Trump’s impending nomination of a Supreme Court justice. Presumably, too, he was speaking contemptibly of people like me: even though I have every intention of voting, I expect to cast my ballot for Julian Assange, an Australian citizen who is legally ineligible to run for, never mind to be elected as, President of the United States.
As stated previously, I am largely unfamiliar with your body of work, and therefore, I cannot say for certain if you are a defender of Mr. Assange. I am, however, comfortable in assuming that you are not. This assumption is based on the article linked in the aforementioned response to Mr. Dad: “Progressives Must Vote for Biden” is its title, which reminds me of one of my own op-eds, “The Oligarchs Must Support Joe Biden”, the link to which is included here. Whereas my piece was an anticipation, one which has subsequently been confirmed, that the many institutions of American corporate power would eventually support Biden’s presidential campaign, yours endeavors to craft a moral argument, not so much in defense of the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, but in disdain of a species of political animal known as “Bernie Bros” who, in your esteemed estimation, shall determine the outcome of the present presidential race.
You begin by quoting Molly Hodgdon, another person I have never heard of before, who tweeted four long and bitter years ago: “Voting third party is a good way to let marginalized groups know that your abstract principles are more important than their very real lives.” She doesn’t strike me as an admirer of Plato, nor as a regular reader of your work: after finishing the piece from which I am quoting, I took a look at another essay of yours, “Dump Trump Lovers”, in which you instruct people of “morality and ethics” (by which, I imagine, you mean yourself and like-minded people) to terminate their relationships, “be they romantic or platonic … with others who support Trump”. The reasons of these others for supporting Trump is irrelevant, in your view, and you quote Sa’iyda Shabazz, another writer with whom I’m unfamiliar, who said to Trump’s supporters: “You’re not voting for someone based on one thing. By supporting that one thing about them you do like, you’re also supporting the things you may not like.”
Noticeably, you have reversed this process of categorical assessment in your decision to scold the “Bernie Bros” for their alleged unwillingness to vote for Biden in the general election. You remind us of the shopworn rationalization offered in defense of repulsive representatives that “voting isn’t marriage” and that there is no such thing as “one who is absolutely perfect”. Afterwards, you speak rather vaguely of “a group of progressives” who are “vowing not to vote for Joe Biden because he and Kamala Harris are nowhere near as liberal and progressive as they would like”. Nevertheless, you feign empathy with them when it is convenient, admitting that you are “not happy with [Biden and Harris’s] track records” and glumly acknowledging that they won’t “advocate for the changes [you] believe this country needs”. Perhaps some self-reflection would reveal to you that your rigid loyalty to the Democratic Party notwithstanding “the things you may not like” is no more amenable or compromising than the recalcitrant Bros’ rejection of Biden.
While there are many progressives, socialists, libertarians, and other thoughtful political observers who refuse to participate in the duopolistic contest that is being held on November the Third, I am not sure why you characterize, one might say slander, this conscientious objection to Biden as the exclusive behavior of the “Bernie Bros”. You have no statistical evidence that the majority of those who voted for Bernie Sanders in this year’s primaries will not vote for Biden, just as you have no such evidence that those who have voted for Sanders in the past declined to vote for Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election. As an aside, your rather unlettered criticism reflects your ignorance of committed Green Party voters, many of whom did not and do note vote in the Democratic Party primaries at all. Needless to say, there is some very rich irony in your self-aggrandizing lament for “marginalized groups” at the same time that you speak so superciliously of the smallest of all voter demographics.
Sadly inexpert though you are when building an argument of your own, you are astonishingly inept in responding to others’. We shall quote the three, allegedly prepared by so-called “Bernie-lovers”, which you fail to confront, much less to discredit:
“A vote for Biden is a vote for Biden, a vote for Trump is a vote for Trump, a vote for Bernie is a vote for Bernie.”
“If we want to change the two-party system, we need to vote third party.”
“You can’t bully me into voting for someone.”
Your only response, as vacuous as it is terse, is as follows: “These arguments are naïve, unrealistic, and dangerous.” In the first place, it is not naïve to suggest that a vote for X is a vote for X, a vote for Y is a vote for Y, and a vote for Z is a vote for Z: evidently, you struggle with quantitative and with qualitative reasoning. In the second place, it is not unrealistic at all to suggest that voting third party effects (not affects) change within the two major parties; in arguing that it is, you betray how little you know of history, for even a progressive novice ought to know that the Liberty Party was invaluable in bringing the abolition of slavery to the political mainstream, several years before the Republican Party, then in its infancy, delivered Abraham Lincoln to the White House. As for your insistence that it is dangerous to claim one can’t be bullied into voting for someone, I have to ask: should I read that as a threat?
The only threat that you perceive is that which is posed by the Trump Administration. No doubt, you subscribe to the theory of the unprecedented iniquity of the current president, a theory that is rooted in historical illiteracy, as well. Still, let us be fair: you reference the two hundred thousand Americans who have succumbed to COVID, the rise in violent and nonviolent hate crimes, and, of course, the undocumented immigrants locked away in facilities which you accurately describe as concentration camps. Truly, a devastating portrait of our repulsive nation, a portrait that Biden has done everything within his power to paint. You must know of Biden’s promise to deny universal Medicare benefits, even going as far as to claim that any attempt to do so would be to denigrate the memory of his deceased son? Where do you develop your confidence that he will be any more compassionate in his approach to the coronavirus than Trump? Similarly, I trust that you were not unaware of the use of these same concentration camps throughout the entirety of the Obama Administration. Surely, you must know about the woman who, as an undocumented immigrant, was arrested and separated from her child—permanently, even losing a lawsuit to regain custody? While the number of these crimes against humanity have undoubtedly increased under Trump’s sadistic supervision, we have not the slightest reason to believe that Biden will even attempt to solve the problem.
What we can expect, though, is for the corporate media to reduce significantly its coverage of these activities, lest it damage the public image of Biden, Harris, and the Democratic Party. Not unlike the concentration camps, the hate crimes that are inspiring massive protests did not begin in 2017: on the contrary, there was considerable outrage, much of it destructive and violent, in the aftermath of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and several other victims of our brutal judicial system, a judicial system that Obama operated without significant complaint. It may not be amiss to mention that Kamala Harris, whose record as a prosecutor was disturbing at best and homicidal at worst, has been largely exonerated in the mainstream press, her reputation sheltered by the establishment’s information apparatus.
But then again, perhaps these concerns are merely “abstract principles”? Perhaps you possess some evidence, incontrovertible and strong, of Biden’s many political virtues? This proof must not come short of overwhelming, lest it be swallowed up by the same muddled sludge that forms the majority of arguments made in Trump’s defense. There is an argument to be made for Trump, of course, just as there is an argument to be made in defense of Biden, but the former is not the primitive, racist stereotype on which you relied to write your unbecoming response, any more than the latter is your own shallow scribbling. I will leave you with an interview in which Noam Chomsky, a man from whom you might learn a thing or two, refers to Biden’s marginal environmentalism to mount his desperate defense. You won’t watch it, of course, but maybe a few of your readers, who deserve better than your condescension, will.
Dack Rouleau, overwritten.org