A few days ago, Alternet posted a piece that i wrote on elections, electoral strategy and right-wing populism. If you have a chance, please take a look.
This morning, on my radio show on WPFW [“Arise!” at 89.3FM at 9am EST] i had the opportunity to interview Ralph Nader regarding the 2016 elections. Despite differences that he and i have had over the years, i have a great deal of respect for him and always look forward to a dialogue with him. I was not disappointed this morning.
In the course of the discussion he made an interesting statement, one that i told him that i hope to revisit with him in a future interview. He was arguing why he will not vote for Clinton if she receives the nomination. In the course of that he stated that he was not a strategic voter but rather voted with his conscience. In those few words, the differences he and i have had around electoral politics came together.
I cannot argue with Nader’s conscience. I cannot argue with his criticisms of Clinton or, for that matter, most establishment politicians. But what i did not get from Nader is any sense of strategy, and within that, the role for tactical decisions at particular moments. In that sense his argument was precisely what i was critiquing when i asserted–in my piece for Alternet–that elections are not popularity contents. They are about power and social movements. At any one point, we progressives have to assess our relative strengths and weaknesses and determine whether we are in a position to supersede a particular candidate (or reform, for that matter) because our movement contains sufficient strength to win a greater victory. Not just that we WANT to win a greater victory nor that there is a greater victory that would really be nice to win. Electoral politics, or politics in general is not, then, about staking out a position and waving a flag representing our overall views. Instead we are challenged to determine the nature of the battleground and how to go beyond the possible without falling into the delusional.
Ralph Nader is a person of great integrity. He and i just happen to disagree on what it means to fight for power. Honest people can disagree. Nevertheless, we have to keep in mind that the stakes are quite high.
Take a look at my essay when you have a chance. I will be interested in your own thoughts.
2 thoughts on “Let’s advance the discussion about a progressive electoral strategy”
Voting in ‘fixed system’ is problematic. If our approach is simply voting (tactical or by conscience) and not advancing the need for a working class-based party whose umbrella would encompass those victimized by sexism, racism, homophobia, etc., we are simply treading water. That said, treading water is better than drowning!!! If Clinton is the candidate, I’ll vote for her…if for no other reason than the make-up of the Supreme Court. Looking back to recent past elections… I think it’s altogether possible that we would have had a nuclear war if Nixon were overseeing the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I believe had Bush II not been elected, we wouldn’t have had the Gulf War. These are not minor issues!!! Sometimes, voting means a lot….even in a fixed system!!! Now, the question is how do we consolidate the disparate elements who are now feeling ‘the bern’? We watched the Rainbow Coalition dissolve…as did the Occupy Movement. What are the lessons? Can we take a qualitative step forward no matter who is nominated or who is elected?
Great points and questions. In order to take a step forward progressives who are prepared to work inside AND outside of the Democratic Party must engage strategy. Too many of us simply don’t want to do that. We are so used to being on the defensive that the thought of an offensive strategy seems incomprehensible. Thus, we fall into politics-as-statement rather than politics-as-the-fight-for-power.
Let’s continue this discussion!