I hear a lot of people whine about Obama. They say he’s not doing enough. In a perfect world he’d ban GMOs, forbid the Keystone XL pipeline, and never allow an innocent civilian be killed, anywhere in the world.
And a pony.
But this is the real world, and we DO face a stark choice between Obama – who must accommodate big oil and the big Wall Street banks – and Mitt Romney, who is a wholly owned subsidiary of big oil and the Wall Street banks.
At TomDispatch, Rebecca Solnit has written a brilliant take-down of this most insidious of cop-outs, which she calls “Left-wing vote suppression”. Here’s how she takes a sledgehammer to the ”Lesser of two evils” argument:
O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears.
["The lesser of two evils"] is not an analysis or an insight; it is a cliché, and a very tired one, and it often comes in the same package as the insistence that there is no difference between the candidates. You can reframe it, however, by saying: we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.
But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to health care is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this “evils” slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.
I don’t love electoral politics, particularly the national variety. I generally find such elections depressing and look for real hope to the people-powered movements around the globe and subtler social and imaginative shifts toward more compassion and more creativity. Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.
Before that transpires, there’s something to be said for actually examining the differences. In some cases not choosing the trod foot may bring us all closer to that unbearable amputation. Or maybe it’s that the people in question won’t be the ones to suffer, because their finances, health care, educational access, and so forth are not at stake.
An undocumented immigrant writes me, “The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with.” Or as a Nevada activist friend put it, “Oh my God, go be sanctimonious in California and don’t vote or whatever, but those bitching radicals are basically suppressing the vote in states where it matters.”
Who you vote for matters. Think of Iraq, New Orleans, and the Wall Street meltdown, and then tell me the country would have been no better off under Gore than Bush. Think of rights for women, and gays, and the rest of us. Think of climate change. Think of clean energy.
Then think of utterly unleashed tar sands and fracking and coal and yes, even GMOs. And tell me that it’s not worth it to have even a partial leash on those horrors.
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About Rebeccas Solnit: As in 2004 and 2008, Rebecca Solnit and her blue-state henchwomen and men will probably invade northern Nevada on election week to swing with one of the most swinging states in the union. She is, however, much more excited about 350.org’s anti-oil-company campaign and the ten thousand faces of Occupy now changing the world. Also, she wrote some books.