As a life-long socialist, I have never been a member of the Democratic Party or any other bourgeois party. I never donated any money to any Democratic candidate at any level. However I have voted for Democrats in the past. John Kerry was the last Democrat who got my vote for president. I voted for Ralph Nader in 2008 (and regret not voting for him in 2000 and 2004). I voted for Jill Stein in 2012. In casting votes for Democrats I had to tell myself things to negotiate action that compromised principle and truth. Things like: A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush. And: A presidential election is just one vote every four years; it’s what you do in the meantime that changes things.
What lay beneath these rationalizations was fear of Republicans. Democrats were the lesser of two evils. This irrational way of thinking was rooted in early socialization, functioning a lot like deep religious sentiment. Indeed, the two-party system functions like a theological system, a cosmology with good and evil, goods guys and bad guys, ready saints and persistent devils. Thankfully, although not immune from the tactics, my socialism – and atheism – kept me from being a member of the congregation.
There was a time before 2008 that I couldn’t bring myself to compromise my values in this way. My double consciousness gave way to principle. In 1996, after the Clintons – and make no mistake, they are a team – pushed through a draconian crime bill, ended the major public support program for children living in poverty, and secured NAFTA, I boycotted the election. Maybe I didn’t think Bob Dole was scary enough. But then I returned to my pattern and voted for Gore and Kerry. George W. Bush was plenty scary.
What became clear to me in 2007-2008, as the United States was sinking into the deepest recession since the Great Depression era, is that it was the neoliberal direction of the Democrats that was a principle cause of the economic crisis and that, moreover, these policies were creating the context for the rise of neofascism in the United States. The policies of both parties had also created a radical backlash, and anti war and anti corporate movements proliferated. So there was promise. But not with Democrats. Obama was an elite project to repackage corporate rule and American empire, a handsome multicultural face to absorb radical energy on the left and neutralize it with identity politics.
Rather than taking the crisis created by his predecessors as an opportunity to launch a new New Deal and to ratchet down the global war on Third World populations, Obama did what I predicted he would do: he used the situation to further entrench corporate power and expand imperialism. His actions advanced the circumstances that constituted part of the proximate cause of the rise of the Tea Party that led to the candidacy of Donald Trump. And Trump is not the worst of the worst. He’s no Ted Cruz.
Much like Obama, Sanders channeled the returning and growing discontents on the left. This is why I said from the beginning that I was not supporting him for president. I always suspected he would function as a Judas goat. And, in any case, the Democratic Party is a deadend. I pushed his candidacy in the primaries hoping to take away some votes from Clinton, to use the conversation as means of exposing the truly vile character of the Clintons. Those of us who were suspicious have been vindicated.
I have (hopefully finally) purged my consciousness of the irrational and self-defeating habit of voting out of fear of Republicans. This will be the third presidential election cycle that I won’t be lending my consent to corporate rule and imperialism. I won’t be voting for a warmonger. I won’t be voting for a racist. I won’t be voting for a lying and corrupt politician. I won’t be voting for an agent of Wall Street.
I will be casting my vote alongside millions of principled and forward looking Americans for Jill Stein. I’m with her. It’s a step in a new direction, the path out of the neoliberal state and towards democratic socialism. She may not win, but no struggle is advanced by supporting the status quo. Change is made by acting on principle and an adequate theory of the world. It is made when peoples abandon their self-defeating habits. It must begin somewhere. I urge you, do not give into fear manufactured by the corporate war party. Do be tricked by illusions. Withdraw consent from the corporate two-party system for a better future.