The centrists and moderates who control the mainstream Democratic Party repeatedly tell progressive voters that they are not needed or wanted. But when progressives refuse to vote Democratic, they are vote-shamed.
Front and center in the raging debate among liberals and progressives over whether they should support Joe Biden or opt out of the two-party trap by voting third-party or not at all is the assumption that Biden would do less harm both to the world and to American leftism than Trump.
Even many hard-core Bernie-or-Busters accept the premise that Biden wouldn’t be as bad as Trump. They believe the additional damage that would result from a second Trump administration is an acceptable price for teaching the DNC a lesson and building a progressive movement.
But it’s not true that Biden wins the harm mitigation sweepstakes.
For every respect in which Biden would be better than Trump—or less awful—there is a compelling counterfactual that carries equal or greater weight.
If Trump wins, for example, we can count on his uniquely toxic combination of anti-science propaganda and organizational ineptitude to unnecessarily prolong and increase the body count of COVID-19. The WHO says that millions could die in the dreaded second wave; a disproportionately high number of those people could be Americans. Let’s guesstimate half a million dead here in the U.S.?
The net cost of Trump is equal to the total number of deaths here under his second term, minus the number that would occur under Biden. Since Biden can’t do anything about the pandemic until late January when he takes office and herd immunity appears to be closer than we previously believed, whether a ridiculously incompetent Trump or a refreshingly competent Biden is president after January probably doesn’t make a big difference. There’s a chance we have seen the worst of COVID-19. Still, it’s fair to say that thousands more Americans will succumb to the coronavirus under Trump and Biden.
On the other hand, Biden is likelier to start wars than Trump and Trump is likelier to end them. Biden voted to bomb Bosnia and invade Afghanistan. He was a big cheerleader and enabler for the Iraq war. Currently he’s threatening to start a hot war with Venezuela and new cold wars against China and Russia. He also promises to keep increasing the defense budget. Donald Trump was the first American president in decades to directly negotiate with the Taliban, with whom he signed a peace agreement to bring home all American troops from our longest war.
When we assess which candidate would do the most harm, even the breathtakingly disgusting body count from COVID-19 doesn’t come close to the over 1 million people who died in the Iraq war alone. Will Biden go to war against Iran? North Korea? Anything is possible. Biden’s record is clear; he is an extremely dangerous man. And even if you don’t care about all the brown people he would kill as president, remember 9/11. Our wars come to our shores sometimes.
Despite the usual election year hysteria, there is no daylight between Trump and Biden on most major issues. Neither old white man promises to restore the $600 a week supplemental unemployment insurance. Neither is in favor of the Green New Deal. Neither wants student loan forgiveness. Neither would sign Medicare For All. Both prioritize corporations over individual citizens. Neither would significantly liberalize immigration policy.
Even on the issue of the year, police violence, Trump and Biden are competing to see which one is more palatable to the Blue Lives Matter crowd. “You know me,” Biden assured the far right in a recent speech, referencing his authorship of the notorious mass incarceration crime bill and the USA-Patriot Act that destroyed fundamental privacy rights. “You know my heart, and you know my story, my family’s story. Ask yourself: Do I look to you like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” When someone tells you they are an authoritarian, believe them.
The real difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump has nothing to do with policy. No matter which evil man wins, we are in for a lousy four years.
This election comes down to personality. How do you like your monsters? Obnoxious and buffoonish? Or polite and affable? I prefer truth in advertising: Americans are up in arms about crappy American policies precisely because Donald Trump puts an appropriately nasty face on them.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Liberals like to make fun of ignorant conservatives for ignoring basic health protocols during the COVID-19 crisis like wearing masks and attending mass gatherings. But they have their blind spots as well. They want K-12 education as well as colleges to open up this fall even though there’s no reason to believe that they would be able to enforce social distancing.
Nothing, leading Democrats say, matters more than beating Donald Trump. 2020, they argue, is the most important election of our lifetimes (OK, they always say that).
It’s not true. If you’re a progressive voter, taking back control of the Democratic Party from the DLC-Clinton-Biden centrist cabal is more important than defeating the incumbent.
For four long decades progressives—Americans who put people before profits—have been living in the political wilderness. Progressives account for 72% of Democratic voters. Figuring lefties had nowhere else to go, party leadership took them for granted, ignoring their desire for a stronger social safety net and fewer military adventures in favor of a pro-corporate agenda. What other choice did they have, vote Republican?
People who often didn’t vote turned out for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 primary campaign, proving that many non-voters weren’t apathetic. They were disgusted. After the DNC got caught pulling their usual dirty tricks, however, sabotaging Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton, enough Bernie-or-Busters boycotted the November general election or cast protest votes for Trump to cost her the election.
Look at what happened! Progressives scored their first major win since the War on Poverty of the 1960s.
Yes, Trump has been a disaster. He is a terrible president, an international embarrassment, insane, brazenly corrupt, overtly racist, with over-the-top authoritarian tendencies.
But consider the alternative.
If Hillary Clinton were running for reelection, progressivism would still be on the outs. Like Obama, Hillary wouldn’t have appointed a single liberal, much less progressive, to her cabinet. She’s so far to the right of Trump on foreign policy that she might have gone to war against Iran. Russian national security analysts concluded that Clinton was crazy enough to start World War III. She’s equally awful on domestic stuff. Hillary is against any increase in the minimum wage. She opposes Medicare For All. She hates the Green New Deal. Her bankster backers would be running wild.
Because progressives withheld their votes in 2016, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the Democratic frontrunners, enjoying the combined support of 50% of primary voters. Both support a $15 minimum wage, Medicare For All, free college tuition and the Green New Deal. There is no way, no how, that those policy positions would be part of a Clinton 2020 campaign.
Progressives are so close to seizing control of the Democratic Party that they can taste it. Why, at mile 25 of this political marathon, should they let up on the pressure? They’re about to win!
If Bernie Sanders is the nominee, supporting him is a no-brainer for progressives. He’s been one of them forever. He’s trustworthy. (It’s a different calculus for leftists like me. Among other things, he needs to swear off militarism.) Progressives will vote for him.
Warren’s bonafides are squishy. She used to be a Republican, endorses capitalism and keeps Hillary on her speed dial. Is she a prog-come-lately or another fauxgressive who would sell out to Goldman Sachs? She would have to come up with some way to reassure voters that she’s more Sanders than Clinton.
But what if the DNC shoves Joe Biden or another centrist/moderate/corporatist down our throats again? As usual they’ll say that we have to pull together behind some turd in order to defeat the dastardly Donald Trump. But why?
History is clear. Lame-duck presidents don’t get big laws, new wars or much in the way of policy accomplished during their second terms. Nixon had Watergate, Reagan was hobbled by dementia and Iran Contra, Clinton was impeached because of Monica and the second Bush spent his last four years in the quagmires of Iraq and then the bursting of the subprime mortgage meltdown. Obama avoided scandal but an intransigent Republican Congress left him with little to show for years five through eight.
By 2021 Trump will almost certainly have already been impeached. Congress will probably still be Democratic. I ask my fellow Trump-haters: what exactly are you so afraid of in a second term? What do you think the president can do in a second term that he hasn’t already done? Does he strike you as the kind of person who has been plotting some big right-wing surprise to unleash in case he wins reelection?
Forget the Supreme Court-is-everything argument. As Obama proved when he refused to push for Merrick Garland, Democrats don’t move the needle. Anyway, it’s a right-wing court now. Write that sucker off.
There is a nightmare scenario: Trump dies early on. Mike Pence has three years to establish himself before running in 2024. That would really and truly suck. That is a real risk. But is fear of a Pence planet powerful enough to go back to letting the centrist scum take progressives’ votes for granted?
If the DNC robs Warren or Sanders in favor of Biden or whomever or Hillary again, Democratic progressives have little to lose by boycotting the general election again. It may be that the corporatists need to be taught the same bitter lesson a second time: without progressives there is no Democratic Party.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Every time there’s a mass shooting, partisan members of the media scour social media and public postings to see if the perpetrator had a political agenda that they can blame as extremist and therefore responsible for the latest massacre. What’s going to happen when they find that the killer is a boring centrist moderate swing voter?