What the hell happened in Wisconsin? Rick Perlstein (@rickperlstein), Rolling Stone columnist and author of Nixonland, says Republicans cheat. He joins Sam to discuss. Click thru for links and updates. Use this post as today’s thread.
6/19 Email from a listener: To Vote or Not to Vote
Just listened to the Monday 6/11 show yesterday, and I can’t tell if none of your listeners and correspondents have the ability to construct a cogent argument for voting third party or if you’re just reading the letters of the rhetorically challenged. So I felt compelled to give the defense a shot. Whether you respond or not, I does not care (as Herman Cain’s father would say). I just have to know that someone has presented you with these points.
First, I think that what we’re having is an honest disagreement. I don’t think that one’s position on this is an indication of stupidity or naivete. Rather, each side has tangible reasons for believing as we do, which is why we’re reaching different conclusions. Having said, I do think that voting to re-elect President Obama is a mistake. It’s short-sighted and tactically wrong-headed. There is no question that Democrats are more competent governors than Republicans. But we are living in a time when we cannot afford continuity of the status-quo. Transformational leadership is required. So, as a tactical matter, it behooves me to examine what course is most likely to force change and to cast my vote accordingly. With the prospect of catastrophic climate change looming, and the window to avert the long-term disastrous effects on our kids closing, I cannot wait for the Democratic tanker to conduct a U-turn. In such desperate times, it would be better for it to hit the iceberg.
To me, both major parties are absolutely horrible, just in distinctly different ways. The Republicans are off the rails batshit insane. The Democratic malevolence is more subtle, cementing in place the establishment-protecting precedents that work to strengthen the inequality suffocating the country. Also, they act as a bulwark against genuine progressive candidates and policies. This fact is undeniable, and it’s partly why the Republicans have not been completely marginalized already. Establishment Democrats run interference for their rhetorical foes. The two parties need each other as foils so they can both maintain their positions of power.
So, my calculus is how can both be either destroyed or completely transformed by real-world events. Hence, I’ve concluded that in the short-term it would be better if the Republicans regained the reigns of power, as much as it sucks to contemplate how bad things will get. If they do, they’ll almost certainly crash the economy, further shred our legal framework, and descend us into a draconian nightmare.
However, in such a scenario, I have great faith that the backlash will be tremendous. Following the election of Obama, we saw the rise of the Tea Party, then witnessed almost 3 years of progressive malaise as we watched the President work to thwart the change he promised on the campaign trail. Finally, the Occupy movement could take it no longer and began to fight back. But the momentum has clearly petered out. If Republicans win in the fall, I’m confident that the movement will rekindle with a vengeance, and as the incompetent governing commences, the backlash will grow and be joined by a large number of normally inactive Americans who are feeling the effects of austerity. I know this scenario isn’t guaranteed. But I think it’s far more hopeful than a continuation of beltway normalcy.
Second, you keep saying that Presidential electoral politics isn’t where the real leverage lies. This baffles me every time because that’s MY argument. It doesn’t matter who one votes for, the energy in the streets and at the grass-roots is far more important. So why get so emotional about supporting or failing to support a candidate, even if it’s for President? What matters is the pressure that builds among the populace. It’s the only power we have to push back against the plutocracy and their bought duopoly. Hence, my strategy is to refuse to support either D’s or R’s. I’m not sure why anyone would think it’s a good idea to not vote. I ALWAYS vote, about half the time I’ve supported Dems. But this year, I plan to vote for a third party, which one I’ve yet to decide. I don’t regard this as a “half vote” for Romney, since my Democratic support is never guaranteed. Rather, it’s an affirmative vote against the two-party monopoly. If you don’t take my vote for granted and call it partial support for Romney, I won’t consider your vote a tacit approval of the two party system. Deal?
Finally, you stated that no one will notice my failure to again vote for Obama if he loses re-election. That the Democratic Party will not learn the lesson that they cannot take their base for granted. You may be right, but I certainly hope not. I’m sure that the corporate media would frame the analysis as simply a matter of voters deciding that Republicans can better manage the economy and ignore the disillusionment among the President’s supporters in ’08. And if they do notice, they’ll refuse to blame the President’s policies for being too conservative or grossly misaligned with his earlier campaign promises. But I sincerely hope that you won’t accept this line of thinking. I can’t imagine you’ll absolve Messina, Axelrod, Geithner, Emanuel, and ultimately Obama from blame for failing to adhere to principled leadership and thereby disenfranchising many Americans. You won’t simply call us uninformed, petulant babies who shoulder most of the blame will you? I hope not, but I guess I’ll have to wait to find out.
Frankly, I’m ambivalent about who wins the Presidency in the fall. If Romney wins, I’m looking forward to re-engaging the fight with the Democratic establishment pushed to the sidelines. But if Obama wins again, I’ll at least be comforted that the first African-American President is not judged by posterity to have been a single-termer. In different, less dire times, this might be enough for me to support him again. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury in 2012.
I should also mention, your argument about the Supreme Court appointments is clearly a strong counter. My only response is that the the Court is not only a judicial body, it’s political. We’ve seen this again and again since 2000, at least. So if we get the change in society we desperately need, the court will likely shift too. Well, maybe not Thomas, but the rest of those assholes actually care about their popularity. Besides, if the court stoops to the extremism the Republican Party is destined to plummet into, it might further strengthen the backlash. Look how pissed off so many people are about Citizens United. Many more radical opinions like this one may finally force the Congress to fight back against the Court.
In conclusion, I wanted to say, if you take nothing else from this letter, know that I consider you an ally, despite our disagreement on this matter. I’ll remain a faithful listener. You won me over to becoming a member to get the full show every day. And I’m happy to support you with my modest monthly contribution. Keep up the great work. You’re providing an invaluable service.
Yours in the struggle,