‘Lesser evilism, that is to say, is a structural problem not an individual one’

“In 2012 I voted for Obama, not because he had changed and was more open to left agendas than he had been four years earlier,” Adolph Reed writes in a piece called “Vote for the Lying Neoliberal Warmonger: It’s Important.” “If anything, he was worse. What had changed was the character of the Republican opposition, which had become more dangerous, more aggressive and more powerful, in part because the Obama administration had done little to mobilize against them. I voted for Obama, that is, as I’ve voted for most candidates, as a lesser evil.” I declined to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 but voted for him in 2012. Unlike Reed, I considered a guarantee of insurance and the encouragement and protection of LGBT rights enough to compensate for Libya and grand bargains. I realize colleagues on the left think the two pluses aren’t enough and aren’t much pluses. Reed:

To the extent that for some people Bernie v. Hillary became a Manichaean morality play, it simply repeated the wrongheaded good guys/bad guys understanding of politics that has underlain feckless left electoralism for more than a generation. And this points up an important limitation of the critique of lesser evilism. There is a significant difference between, on the one hand, making pragmatic choices in given instances among a range of more or less undesirable options that are available and, on the other, defining, as a matter of course, what we want only in terms of what we think can get. The former is what we have to do in life generally, across the board, as an artifact of living in a society in which we as individuals cannot define the matrix of options solely to suit our preferences or desires. The latter bespeaks a defeatist orientation, a politics with no rudder and one that flies in the face of what it should mean to be a left. Lesser evilism, that is to say, is a structural problem not an individual one. It is a pathology of opinion-shaping institutions—unions and others—that refrain from attempting to intervene in shaping the matrix of options and the terms of political debate. Only if one accepts, as many Greens do, a civics-text version of democracy in which it is the actions of free-agent citizens that determine the political agenda is it possible to assume that individual electoral statements can have any impact on the drift of lesser evil politics

If never having been a lobbyist or approved a drone rocket strike are qualifications, then Jill Stein has them. In safely blue districts, she will be the sincere choice of my readers. I was once like this. Events changed me.

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