A Reply to Chomsky & Friends’ Open Letter
By Jack Rasmus
January 28, 2020
This past weekend a group best identified as ‘left liberal’ intellectuals posted an ‘Open Letter‘ to the Green Party charging that party with being responsible for Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016. They then declared that the Green Party’s 2020 (potential) presidential candidate, Howie Hawkins, should not run in 2020, lest the Greens become responsible for getting Trump re-elected again. Everything should be done to ensure that a Democrat Party candidate, whomever that might be, should win in 2020. That includes even Joe Biden, they say. Left liberals like themselves should simply ‘hold their noses’ and vote for Biden, if necessary, if he gets the nomination.
For someone like yours truly who has been around and seen the same strategy of ‘lesser evilism’ repeated for a half century now–with devastating consequences even when the lesser evil (aka Democrats) won the presidency–it is not surprising to read and hear the ‘left liberals’ lament once again!
The coterie signatories of the ‘open letter’ include: Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher, Leslie Cagan, Ron Daniels, Kathy Kelly, Norman Solomon, Cynthia Peters and Michael Albert.
Their main argument, calling for Hawkins and the Greens to retreat from the 2020 electoral field (and for the record I am not a Green party member or a member of any other party), is that Hillary lost the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, etc. to Trump in 2016 but would have won them–and thus the electoral college vote–if only those who voted for the Greens presidential candidate, Jill Stein, in the swing states had not done so but voted instead for Hillary.
It’s really a logically weak argument that one would think such ‘power intellectuals on the left’ would be hesitant to pen their name to it out of concern they would have insulted themselves to their audience. But they have.
The argument fails not only on the facts but on the amateur assumptions on which it also rests.
First, logically it is juvenile in that it assumes that those who voted for the Greens in 2016 in these swing states would have voted for Hillary, had there not been a Green candidate on the ballot. Its hidden assumption is that all of those Green votes would have voted Hillary had Jill Stein not run. That these assumptions are nonsense is self evident.
Clearly those who voted Green did so because they couldn’t stand Hillary, or knew of her record, or understood that a vote for Hillary would have meant a vote for war as well as more of the same failed economic policies of the Bill Clinton-Obama era that created the real conditions that gave rise to Trump.
The Green vote in the swing states would not have gone to Hillary. Those who voted Green would have instead stayed home and not voted or would have written in some other candidate. Most Greens are Green because they’ve come to understand what the Democrats in the era of Neoliberalism really stand for, both in domestic and foreign policy: escalating income inequality, precarious jobs, stagnant wages, unaffordable healthcare, poverty in retirement, rising rents, continuous wars, incessant tax cuts for the rich and their corporations, indenture to student debt, etc. That’s the legacy of both Republican and Democrat regimes since the 1970s–i.e. the past 50 years now.
Apart from weak logic and absurd (not so hidden) assumptions of the Open Letter, there’s the voting evidence as well as Hillary’s own self-destructive arrogance that explain the Democrats loss of the swing states in 2016 and thus the rise of Trump.
First, the Left Liberal authors of the Open Letter in question fail to explain that in the swing states Libertarian and other independent voters cast three and four times the votes for Trump than the Green party cast for its candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, in 2016. SO was it the Greens’ fault? The Libertarians? Other third parties?
No, none of the above. Hillary herself lost the swing states and handed Trump the presidency when she refused to even bother to campaign in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and barely showed up until the very end when it was already too late. Hillary thought she had the ‘blue collar’ vote in those states wrapped up and arrogantly ignored campaigning there. She ignored them. Took them for granted. And no one votes for someone who arrogantly ignores them and takes them for granted. Even if no Greens voted at all, Hillary would have lost the swing states. But the Open Letter would have us believe it was someone else’s fault, not Hillary’s.
If the Democrat leadership wants to win back swing state votes, it needs someone ‘not Hillary’. But Joe Biden is just another corporate moneybag wing Hillary clone. Not for nothing is he known as ‘bankers friend Joe’ from Delaware (where many big banks have their headquarters and politically own the state). Ditto for the corporate Dems backup candidate, Mike Bloomberg, a lifelong Republican billionaire only recently joined the corporate wing of the Dems.
The fundamental argument of the Left Liberals’ in their Open Letter is not just stop Trump by any means but, their argument behind the argument that there’s a fundamental difference in voting for a Democrat. (Or at least the corollary argument that the Democrat won’t screw us as badly as will the Republican).
But what does the historical evidence show? Have the Corporate Democrats been really any better over the past half century?
American voters, especially today’s Millenials, and now the GenZers, in polls are saying ‘a plague on both houses’ of Democrats and Republicans. They have lost hope of either party making a difference in their lives. They see both as contributing to their deteriorating conditions and near hopeless future, consisting of a lifetime of precarious, part time/temp jobs, with no benefits, working two and sometimes even three jobs to make ends meet, without affordable rents, and no chance of owning a home, living a life of indentured labor paying $1.6 trillion in student loans to the US government (at 6.8% interest, by the way, while bankers pay 1.6%), without affordable health insurance (including the soaring deductibles under Obamacare), unable to afford to even start a family. It’s a bleak prospect, created by both parties over recent decades.
It’s not coincidental that polls show, by well more than 50%, even as high as 70%, that the more than 50 million Millenials and GenZers prefer something called ‘socialism’ (although they’re probably not sure what that means except ‘none of the present’).
If the DLC-Corporate-moneybag wing of the Democrat leadership puts up a Biden or a Bloomberg–(i.e. latter their fallback at the Democrat party convention after no one gets the nomination on the first vote)–even more youth will not vote Democrat. And not just in the swing states. And if the Democrat leaders continue to scuttle the Sanders nomination–which they did in 2016 and show signs now of doing again in 2020–the Dems themselves, not a Green party candidacy, will once again have put Trump in office. It won’t be the Greens.
Of course Republican ‘red state’ control of electoral college votes is being ensured by voter suppression and gerrymandering. That will play a role as well. But here the Democrats’ loss of state legislatures and governorships under Obama, due to his ineffective economic policies in 2010 and after, have enabled that suppression and gerrymandering largely to happen as well. It made possible the Republican capture of two thirds of state legislatures, many of which have been pushing the voter suppression and gerrymandering.
It’s not for nothing that Obama is sometimes referred to by youth as ‘president Jello’–meaning he appears to move left and right but really is stuck in one place.
The Left Liberals’ Open Letter buys the Democrat moneybag wing’s argument that a Joe Biden (or Mike Bloomberg) argument that Corporate Democrat programs and policies are fundamentally better for average voters than would be Trump’s.
They think that the typical working class voter in the swing states, that abandoned Hillary in 2016 (or actually vice-versa), can’t figure out the game. Or that youth voters today can’t either. But they’re wrong.
Voters remember it was Bill Clinton had enabled NAFTA and sent millions of heartland American jobs offshore. It was Clinton that allowed hundreds of thousands of skilled tech workers into the US every year under H1-B/L-1 visas. It was Clinton that gave China preferred trading rights and allowed the shift of US manufacturing supply chains (and millions more good paying jobs) to China. It was Clinton that allowed corporations to ‘check the box’ on their tax forms and thereby not pay taxes on foreign profits. It was Clinton that permitted companies to divert funds from pension plans to pay for their corporations’ share of escalating health care costs. It was Clinton that allowed the deregulation of financial institutions that paved the way for subprime mortgages and the crash of 2008-09. The list is longer still.
And what about the corporate Democrats’ last minute hand picked candidate in 2008, Barack Obama? It was Obama that gave corporations $6 trillion in tax cuts from 2009-16, almost twice that even George W. Bush gave them. It was Obama who agreed to $1.5 trillion in social program spending cuts in 2011-13, thus taking back more than twice his 2009 recovery package of $878 billion. It was Obama who extended Bush’s tax cuts two years, 2010-12, and then made them permanent after 2013, amounting to another $5 trillion tax cuts for business and investors. It was Obama who continued Free Trade deals despite their obvious effects on jobs and wages, and then tried to push through the TPP trade deal. It was Obama who had the Federal Reserve bail out the banks and investors with the tune of at least $4.5 trillion, while he gave a mere $25 billion to bail out just a few of the 14 million who lost their homes. It was Obama who let Hillary start wars in Honduras to save the big landowners there, and then gave Hillary the green light in Libya to start another, creating that failed state there (as her hubby Bill did in Somalia). It was Obama that authorized and set the precedent for assassinations by drones (over 500 times on his watch). It was Obama who supported the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, to continue loaning banks free money, at an interest rate of 0.15% for seven years, long after the banks were bailed out, while charging millions of US students interest of 6.8% on their student loans to the government.
This is the decades long record that the Left Liberals want the US working class, students, and others to vote for again. Their argument is ‘anything but Trump’ will be better. But was it? Will it? Trump might give us war with Iran. But Democrats might with Russia. Both would give us invading Venezuela and continuing to rape South America.
I’m not talking here about Sanders, who the corporate wing will never allow as the Democrat party candidate in 2020. In fact, now that Sanders is rising in the polls and primaries, the corporate wing of the Democrats attack on him has intensified. Not just from Hillary, but from Warren, from the New York Times, and, as we’ll soon see, from all quarters of the Liberal Elite and their media and their grass roots operatives. Observing how Trump captured the Republican party, two years ago the Democrats’ leaders changed the rules of the game on how the party will run its convention this summer. They are prepared to scuttle Sanders by any means necessary.
But our Left Liberal intellectuals say we should vote for their candidate, Joe, if it comes down to that, just to beat Trump. But Trump will eat ‘ole Joe’ alive in a one on one competition, sad to say. They keep saying they want a candidate that can beat Trump. Then push one who cannot. And the Left Liberals want us to vote for Joe and not for a Green or anyone else. That’s the only way to win! It may be the sure way to lose!
Vote for Joe and hold your nose, they say. The Left Liberal intellectuals, who are mostly well ensconced in secure and decent paying academic jobs, won’t be impacted much by Joe’s or Mike’s or Pelosi’s or Shumer’s policies. But the rest who need a change will be.
The Open Letter represents just another form of ‘Liberal’ telling us to vote for another Liberal. Where has that gotten us?
It’s the old ‘shell game’: Republicans make their capitalists filthy rich and ruin the economy in the process. Corporate Democrats come in and make the same even richer while failing to solve the crisis. Their failure allows the Republicans to point to their failed recovery, again to lie to us, and get back in. The process starts all over. It’s been that way for at least 50 years.
And the Left Liberal intellectuals want us to buy into it for another 50?
I’d support Sanders, but he’ll never get the Democrat nomination. Even if he wins the primaries. For this isn’t the Democrat party of FDR any more, as much as Bernie would like it to be. It’s a corporate wing run party since Bill Clinton. And the Left Liberal intellectuals have bought into the corporate wing’s lie yet again, as they always have in a crisis.
One wonders if they’ll vote for Sanders, should he run as an independent after the Democrat leadership denies him the nomination at their convention this summer. But I bet they’d still vote for Joe. (Correct that: Mike).