Monday, November 5, 2012

David McReynolds: On the Eve of the Election

Hi.  This morning's Democracy Now provides a poignant demonstration of a great
news agency covering a disaster, with the news team covering Rockaway, Red Hook,
New Jersey, and Amy covering Staten Island.  It is truly fascinating and revelatory
of the victims needs, who's helping and who's not, and how one community began
spontaneous organizing immediately, themselves; now the most organized and
most helpful of the lot. The cast is repeated here in LA at 9am, and on Dish,
at 9am, 3 and 4 pm.  This is one not to miss.
The spirit of the above leads directly into the conclusions of the article below,
provided by my friend David McReynolds, still doing it in his eighties.  -Ed
 From: David McReynolds []
Sent: Monday, November 05, 2012 12:22 AM
Subject: EdgeLeft: On the Eve of the Election

EdgeLeft: In Defense of Independent Politics, Page One
by David McReynolds. EdgeLeft is an occasional column.
It can be freely used without further permission

This is Sunday night, and my only excuse, weak though it may be, for this late intervention
in the 2012 election discussion is that I was in California
for three weeks, then
myself engulfed by Sandy (
that is, with no power, phones,
internet, etc.).

There will be two parts
to this, the second to be written after the election (not because the
election will change my thinking, but because
the two parts are too much for one post).

First, on the essential issue, no I won't vote for Obama. I'm in a "safe state" (New York)
where a vote for Obama is truly wasted.
Since the Socialist Party is not on the ballot here,
ll vote for the Green candidate. I think there is a difference in who wins - not much, but
some. (Sometimes a great deal - I doubt Al Gore would have invaded Iraq
- but as
a twist on this, I doubt that, if Stevenson had been elected in 1952, he could have ended
the Korean War - and remember that it was Eisenhower who
vetoed Nixon's eagerness
to use nuclear weapons in
Indochina and it was Johnson who plunged us so deeply
into that war).

By the end of the campaign we are
swept up as if the fate of the world depended on
which candidate wins. The old radical position is still true - there isn't that much difference.
I remember the Communist Party (and much of the Left) being convinced that if Eisenhower
won in 1952 we would have a military dicta
torship - and if memory serves (which it often
doesn't) it was I.F. Stone who supported Eisenhower in that year.

I like Obama. And I refuse to hate Romney. One doesn't know enough about him to e
know whether or not to like him. He is all things to all people, depending on the sit
I worry most about the neo
cons in his foreign policy camp, but he might ignore them.

What is certain is that neither c
andidate is willing to make a real break with the military/
industrial complex which dominates this country
. Neither candidate dares suggest the need
to abolish the CIA. Neither candidate is willing to support the rights of the Palestinians
it risks a clash with the Israeli lobby.

I can list several other areas which both candidates have dodged
, areas that are truly urgent.
Let's take the developing prison industrial complex -
we call ourselves a free nation but we
have more men and women in prison than any
other nation on the planet. Let's look at the
drug wars, which have failed dismally, yet neither candidate was prepared to
legalizing marijuana and treating heroin addiction as a medical problem.

On the issue of military spending, which is more complex than the peace movement seems
to realize, Romney is surely out of his mind to urge an increase in such spending. But
Obama did not propose closing down the military bases the US has in
Europe, Japan,
South Korea, Okinawa, etc. etc. And have we realized that if we simply call for a 50%
cut in military spending (or even a 5% cut) we will immediately increase unemployment
- unless there is a government program to provide alternative employment? How
ironic that the conserva
tives, so opposed to any and all government spending for any
useful purpose, are not only happy with military spending but want to increase it

There is one solid reason for voting for Obama in you
are in a swing state - the Supreme
Court nominations.

If you live in a state that is considered "safe" for either candidate, then voting for that
candidate is an utterly wasted
vote. Any conservative in Texas who votes for Romney
when they could vote for the Libertarian does not increase the chance of Romney to
win, but only endorse
s the sad failure of the GOP to adapt to modern times. And any
of my friends who vote for Obama in California, or Washington, or Oregon, Illinois, New
York, etc., are losing a chance to vote for candidates - socialist or green - who would
without any risk of losing the election of Obama, show that there is a body of citizens
who w
ant serious change.

What is happening, that I find most disturbing, is not Romney, but the gradual
growth of the Tea Party apparatus at local levels around the nat
ion. They made a
concerted effort to limit voting by minority groups. And, when one looks at some of
the Tea Party members of Congress, led by Michele Bachman, along wit
h Todd
Aiken, Joe Walsh, Allen West, etc., we are looking, not at conservatives, but at
While, taken as a whole, the Tea Party is racist, that is too simple, since one of
their heroes is Allen West, an African American from Florida, who insists there are
nearly a hundred membe
rs of the Communist Party in Congress.

Liberals should remember that it was not so long ago that the nuts who didn't
believe in evolution, or racial equality, were in the Democratic Party - until
the Civil Rights Revolution in the 60's and the shift  in the Demo
cratic Party drove
these folks into the GOP. But what is disturbing is how comfortable Romney seems
to be with these people, with the support of someone such as Donald Trump
. It
may sound elitist of me, but I'm bothered as much by the sheer vulgarity of Trump
as I am by his politics.

What I know, at 83, is that it was foolish of me, in 1964, to
support LBJ when it
was clear he would win. I had thought my vote - and the rallying of liberals and
radicals in his support - would be a referendum in favor of civl
l rights and peace.
Sadly he plunged a half million men and women into Vie
tnam. How much better
if we had given our support to any candidates on the left in the election.

I know my position is alien to the three socialist groups of which I'm a member.
The Social
ist Party will be upset that I support voting for the Greens in a swing
state where our party is not on the ballot. Democratic Socialists
of America and
the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socia
lism will (not all
of them - I am not the only member in dissent on this issue) be distr
essed that
so not see the historic imperative of full support for Obama.

What I think those of us on the Left need to do is to realize, first, how
our forces are. Obama will win or lose even if all the members of the groups
I've named above simply sat this race out. Other, mu
ch more powerful forces
will determine the outcome. The Black Churches, the Hispani
c community, the
trade unions, the  independent liberal
s who do not belong to any radical
group. (And, of course, on Romney's side are other powerful forc
es, some
quite dangerous and essentially anti-democratic).

The second thing we must do is realize that major changes in our culture
never originate within the major parties.
The Civil Rights movement, the
women's movement, the Vietnam Peace movement, the Gay and Lesbian
, the environmental movement - all of these began outside either
major party, and only by their growth did they force their issues on
political agenda.

So our work is local. It is slow. It is educational as well as political. And our
goal is not to achieve the victory of liberalism, but of a radical change in
the economic and social culture of our times. Yes, for me that means
democratic socialism - clea
rly a discussion for another time, even though
the failures of capitalism are by now clear to many.

One final thought, which is on the late entrance of the abortion issue into the
campaign. In some ways this is a secondary issue, as I do not think e
ven a
Romney victory would result in banning abortion. But there is something
about the Tea Party support of "right to life" (and remember that
positions on this are
very much the same as those of Romney's running
mate) whic
h is deeply dangerous. I do understand the profound moral issue
this poses for Mormons, Cat
holics, Orthodox Jews, and evangelicals. I do not
mock their co
ncern. I do not take abortion lightly (and by and large neither
do women). I will leave to one side the obvious -- that men, from the leaders 
of the Mormon Church to the Pope in Rome, do not face this problem in
any immediate way. What is important is that to make one's moral position
a matter of law - to decide that not only will good
Catholics not have
abortions, but that laws should be passed makin
g it impossible for secular
women to make that decision - is to pass from being a
secular and democratic
society to one which takes on the tinge of the Tal
iban. That is why we keep
Church and State separate - something the current Republican Party
no longer

Part Two will come later. Meanwhile, I do hope you vote - that right was
won at great cost. Just make your vote as meaningful as possible.

(David McReynolds was the Socialist Party's candidate for President
in 1
980 and 2000, and was for many years on the staff of the
War Resisters League. He is retired, lives on the
Lower East Side
with his two cats, and is happy power has been r
estored. He can
be reached at:

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