By Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
The “lesser of two evils” description of how one chooses to vote comes in other versions, like “there is a more guilty party,” “one of these lies more than others,” and “a party that sucks the least.” To the extent we’re willing to accept degrees of evil, lies, guilt and sucki-ness as the unchangeable norm, We the Electorate will remain stuck in a system-consistently-sliding-to-the-Right.
The “more guilty” and “lies more” language is from a few posters which, rather ironically and in contrast to most everything else there, are found at Occupy Posters. The “sucks the least” language is from a recent post by Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report. Dixon’s analysis – set within our degrees of guilt and evil political choices – is of what happened in Wisconsin, or as he puts it, “What Happens When Movements Turn Into Campaigns.”
Sixteen months ago the eyes of the nation and the world were on Madison, Wisconsin. Crowds in the tens of thousands surrounded, occupied and refused to leave the state capitol building. Local cops ignored orders to disperse them, and when authorities finally evicted protesters from hallways, offices and legislative chambers, their numbers grew, reaching the hundreds of thousands multiple times before the crisis was over. …
Thousands in those crowds, and countless others watching … began to realize this was a unique political moment. They were at a place well outside the prescribed steps of America’s political dance. It was a moment in which the elite politicians, the media pundits, the bosses and the billionaires were not the only or even the decisive shot callers. …
What we saw coming together on Wisconsin street corners and in the wave of state and nationwide public support behind them was an authentic mass movement being born.
How did things go from that, Dixon asks, “to a desultory set of Democratic campaigns for the candidates who … sucked the least”?
Fox News and right wing pundits spread panicky lies. Republicans denounced Democrats and defamed protesters. Some Democrats hesitated before tepidly endorsing the protests. Some smarter Democrats tried to pretend they were among its leaders. … It fell to labor union leaders, whose political strategy for more than a generation has been to uncritically funnel their members volunteer energies and union dues into uncritical support for Democratic politicians whether they come through or not, to bring those hundreds of thousands in uncontrolled, unpredictable political motion back … within the two-party elite consensus, back into the well-worn dance steps of the election cycle. …
… mostly they went from hundreds of thousands of people … standing outside the people-proof, democracy-proof cages of elite consensus and two-party politics and beginning to feel their own power to decide what to do next to folks campaigning for the candidate and the slate that sucked less.
It “sucks less,” but still sucks. In part, that’s because the U.S. political continuum has consistently moved Rightward for a long time now. Does that accurately reflect the U.S. electorate’s political / social philosophy, or does it reflect a willingness to accept the degrees of evil / sucki-ness framing?
Andy Kroll, at Truth Out provides another analysis in “How the Wisconsin Uprising Got Hijacked.”
The energy of the Wisconsin uprising was never electoral. The movement’s mistake: letting itself be channeled solely into traditional politics … . The uprising was too broad and diverse to fit electoral politics comfortably. …
A “comfortable fit” in our electoral politics is a one size fits all. We get to choose the color: red or blue.
For another perspective, see John Nichols at The Nation, “Framed: How Redefining Direct Democracy as Anti-Democratic Won Wisconsin.” At the beginning of the recall process, a Marquette University Law School Poll showed
… 53 percent of those surveyed said the recall provision should be ‘kept as it is currently with no such restrictions,’ while just 43 percent said recalls should be allowed ‘only in cases of criminal wrongdoing.’
By the time of the election, exit polls revealed that “only 27 percent of voters” maintained the “no restrictions” view, with 60 percent stating recall should “only be held in cases of official misconduct.” So, another “what changed” question. According to Nichols:
The Walker campaign and its political allies spent millions of dollars on an aggressive television and direct mail advertising campaign that said ‘End the Recall Madness.’
In other words, they pushed the familiar and comfortable framing, and it worked. Or as Taylor concluded in The Wisconsin Auction, “Wisconsin was lost before it began.”
In this case, politics as usual included telling We the Electorate that we really should know better than to think we could challenge the process designed to perpetuate the System. Wisconsin is one, powerful example of that System at work.
You don’t have to be in the activist / advocate / movement crowd to see that the lies more / sucks less political and governing framing won’t tolerate serious challenges. A part of that challenge is a focus on the absurdity of those “more guilty” / “less sucky” choices which consistently shifts Rightward, but also on We the Electorate’s willingness to accept them.