Left-Wing Paralysis and the Decay of Lesser Evil Politics

by Danny Haiphong

Lesser-evilism has rendered the U.S. Left incapable of resisting the forces of imperial war and bankster rule when they come in the form of Democrats. “What is most important is not where the Democratic Party and Republican Party differ, but how both parties work in harmonious service to the ruling class.” A vote for the Greens is a break with the parties of white supremacy, war and the rule of the rich.

Left-Wing Paralysis and the Decay of Lesser Evil Politics 

by Danny Haiphong

“The difference between the Democratic Party and Republican Party is that the Democrats are the more effective oppressors.”

A recent debate on the Real News Network between Black Agenda Report Executive Editor Glen Ford and Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting's (FAIR) Jeff Cohen is a perfect study into the depth of the left's current paralysis. Both agreed on the central problems concerning Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Disagreement between Ford and Cohen surfaced on the question of what action the left should take in the 2016 elections. Ford advocated that viewers dump both corporate parties regardless of the state one lives. Cohen, on the other hand, warned of what a Trump Administration would bring to the US political landscape. Cohen urged that swing state voters place their bets on Clinton. Such callous support for Hillary Clinton stems from a deep-seeded fear that has rendered the left unable to take any action in the interests of the oppressed.

Fear of Trump has been justified by the legitimately vile rhetoric and reputation of the Republican nominee. Trump's racism should indeed be taken seriously, as should his choices of who would help him direct domestic and foreign policy. Geopolitical analyst Eric Draitser has done much work in this regard. However, Draitser's criticism of Trump does not automatically lead to support for Hillary Clinton. Those who lend support for Clinton out of fear of Trump commit a political crime that cannot go unaddressed.

“The Obama Administration in particular represents the highest expression of lesser-evil politics.”

The crime is best described as the politics of "lesser-evilism." Ever since the formation of the US imperial state, there have existed two parties that compete for the right to govern the US system of exploitation, white supremacy, and global imperialism. Lesser-evil politics have intensified in the post-Civil Rights era in particular. Both corporate parties have found it difficult to differentiate themselves in the midst of economic and political decline. The Obama Administration in particular represents the highest expression of lesser-evil politics. The Obama legacy should be a lesson to all who plan to vote for Clinton in order to stop Trump in 2016. 

In 2008 and 2012, the left was convinced that John McCain and Mitt Romney represented greater evils than Barack Obama. Obama was elected into office to ostensibly roll back George W. Bush era policies of endless war, surveillance, and privatization. In many cases, however, the Obama Administration gave the left everything it was supposedly trying to avoid. Obama waged war in seven countries and extended the occupation of Afghanistan indefinitely. Predatory banks were given a get out of jail free card while public schools were privatized en mass. Obama also found time to expand Presidential powers beyond those his predecessor, drone US citizens from a Kill List, and deport more immigrants than any President in history. Yet the left in the United States continued to argue that the Republican Party choice was a greater danger to humanity. 

Cohen supports the lesser evil fallacy by arguing that Trump's foreign policy team would end the Iran nuclear agreement and wage a full-scale military invasion instead. He explains that sanctions against Iran are by far a better outcome than a military confrontation. The Iraqi families who lost over half a million children to an early death due to US sanctions may beg to differ. Furthermore, the nuclear deal was negotiated in the context of Obama’s intensification of the war in Syria. Hillary Clinton herself has admitted in leaked emails that the effort to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad, a staunch Iranian ally, is ultimately geared toward laying the necessary conditions for war with Iran.

“In many cases, however, the Obama Administration gave the left everything it was supposedly trying to avoid.”

What is most important is not where the Democratic Party and Republican Party differ, but how both parties work in harmonious service to the ruling class. Whatever differences remain between the two-parties is largely based on historical context. The Democratic Party has spent the last forty years as the graveyard of social movements. It has formulated a progressive identity off of the corpses of the Black freedom, labor, and feminist movements. This mythical identity has allowed the Democratic Party to maintain support from these constituencies despite moving steadily rightward in the direction of neo-liberal austerity and imperial decline.

In 2016, the justification for voting Democrat to avoid a Republican administration has never been weaker. Cohen's attempt to paint Trump as a bigger war-monger than Hillary Clinton is laughable in the face of her policy record. It reveals the deep left-wing paralysis that currently plagues the political situation in the United States. Hillary Clinton has gathered nearly the entire ruling class under her tent. She has not minced her works when it comes to provoking war with Russia or calling for a no-fly zone over Syria.

“Hillary Clinton has gathered nearly the entire ruling class under her tent.”

What should deeply concern the left is how the Democratic Party condemns the planet to imperialist destruction with little to no protest. The last forty years have offered no historical record of the Democratic Party offering a "lesser" form of exploitation. In fact, its policies have paved the way for even more war, austerity, and racist oppression. The difference between the Democratic Party and Republican Party is that the Democrats are the more effective oppressors. Many who plan to vote for Clinton out of fear struggle to articulate exactly how a Clinton Administration would benefit the poor, the working class, or anyone outside of the channels of imperial power generally.

The only remedy for the left-wing paralysis that afflicts individuals such as Cohen is a movement organized on the basis of a complete break with both corporate parties. This movement must exhibit no fear in placing politics in command. Workers and oppressed people need to be won over to the position that a strong showing for the Green Party will give strength to genuine grassroots movements and make the next administration that replaces Obama think twice before furthering the attack on the oppressed. However, a strong showing for the Green Party alone will not bring immediate relief to the masses. Material victories are won in the streets. Those of us who do not suffer from left-wing paralysis must be in the streets to assist in the development of people's political power, independent of the two-party corporate duopoly.

Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected]