Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Last week Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford , posted Why Barack Obama is the More Effective Evil, originally a March 17 presentation he made at the Left Forum, Pace University, NYC, as a part of a discussion entitled, “The 2012 Elections: Lesser Evil or Left Alternative?”
A few days later, Rob Kall, at OpEdNews, wrote Smoke and mirrors, Sausage Factory, Lesser Evils and YOU Making a Difference, “phrases used to describe politics.”
The arguments made by Ford and Kall aren’t popular with many who identify as progressive and/or Democratic. But this is one of those “make no mistake” kind of things, too: what Kall and Ford write accurately expresses the thoughts and positions of large numbers. Occupy and related movements are but one indication that people are not only questioning, but challenging, the “lesser of two evils” rationalizations. The challenges, of course, are far bigger than any one WH resident.
Let me say from the very beginning that we at Black Agenda Report do not think that Barack Obama is the Lesser Evil.
He is the more Effective Evil.
… He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks … .
(Wall Street) … vetted Obama … before he even set foot in the U.S. Senate in 2004.
He protected their interests … , helping shield corporations from class action suits, and voting against caps on credit card Interest. …
… (In the WH) There was no Evil Devil forcing him to put Entitlements on the chopping block. It was HIM. He was the Evil One – and it was not a Lesser Evil. It was a very Effective Evil, because the current Age of Austerity began on that day, in January, 2009. …
Ford has a list of “Obama’s Most Effective Evils,” but adds that making such lists
… doesn’t seem to do any good if the prevailing conversation isn’t really about facts – but about intentions.
The prevailing assumption on the Left is that Obama has good intentions. He intends to (do) the Right Thing – or, at least, he intends to do better than the Republicans intend to do. … There is absolutely no factual basis to believe he intends to do anything other than the same thing he has already done … .
I have no doubt that … Republicans in general have worse intentions for the future of my people – of Black people – than Michelle Obama’s husband does. But, that doesn’t matter. Black people are not going to roll over for whatever nightmarish Apocalypse the sick mind of Newt Gingrich would like to bring about. But, they have already rolled over for Obama’s economic Apocalypse in Black America. …
Whatever you think of Ford’s arguments about Obama, when “lesser evil” is the standard of accountability, the system has little incentive to change, and citizens have little leverage in challenging it. Accountability demands are also made by BAR’s Bruce Dixon in Barack Obama, Democratic Expectations, and the Magic Wand, in which he writes:
We hear it all the time…. ‘Give the man a chance!’ ‘He’s only been president 38 months!….’ Or ‘He can’t do nothin’ cuz Republicans are blockin’ everything…,’ and most tellingly ‘He’s the president – he doesn’t have a magic wand…’
Making demands that don’t fit within the approved method will get you labeled as “politically naive,” and if you don’t stop then, as something worse, including that ultimate of badness, “un-American.” You’ll hear things like: “Silly woman; silly union organizer, hippie, civil rights protester, queer, occupier – you don’t get it. The president doesn’t have a magic wand! You only have two choices, and smart people like me don’t waste our votes because we know the lesser of two evils when we see it.” Or as Dixon puts it, related specifically to Obama:
Democrats are simply better than Republicans. … After all, they’re not ignorant white supremacists, are they?
… Whenever anybody … repeats that ‘magic wand’ line, what they mean is that people have no right to demand peace or jobs or justice. They mean that people expecting, demanding or fighting for these things are fools, losers, and if their demands make the president and his party look bad, race traitors when they’re black or white racists if they’re anything else. … Only the immature and politically unsophisticated expect any sort of political involvement to change things. …
Rob Kall’s post I mentioned at the top is about accountability, too, also with a focus on those who are suppose to be providing the “holding feet to the fire” actions.
I’m finally coming to face the reality that voting only feeds into the illusion the system creates that different candidates really make a difference. The truth is, voting for the lesser of two evils only moves us towards the next election with two worse evils.
I don’t have any concrete answers, except that I’m certain that depending on election day to set things right is far from enough. We must become activists, fighting for a just, fair future where human rights are put before corporate rights.
He doesn’t necessarily say “don’t vote” – though that’s an option. He says voting within the existing system isn’t enough.
The eighty twenty law teaches us that if we wake up just a small percentage to become activists, that will be enough. Even one or two percent, if they get out in the streets, can make a big difference.
Kall provides further thoughts and ideas:
It takes more than signing petitions or forwarding emails.
Go to one of the emerging spring Occupy meetings or actions.
Give to activist organizations and the media that support them.
Make it a regular practice, like exercise or meditation.
There is hope, but it will not come from the usual and customary political sources.