Why I’m Voting for Jill Stein…

…and why you should consider it too.

I’m not voting for  Jill Stein – the Green Party candidate for president – so much to send “a message to the Democrats” – who aren’t listening –  or because of some irrational distaste for Hilary – who’s really quite a traditional politician – but because I’m sick of the “lesser of two evils logic” that ensures that the same old, decrepit system and cycle of American politics rolls over and over. It’s a game I am refusing to play because if Hilary loses to Trump this November, the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves.

Yes, third party candidates can draw off supporters for a more mainstream candidate, but that’s a small factor compared to larger issues, like voter suppression and general cynicism. I suggest that third party candidates like Ralph Nader and Ross Perot simply illustrate the root problem: huge numbers of Americans are disaffected with the process and understand on some level that their vote doesn’t matter. It’s the rigged nature of the system (through corporate monies and backroom ‘understandings), not Bernie or Bust people that are the problem. Simply put, the Democrats have trouble getting progressives to come out and vote for them. The recent behaviour of the Democrats and Hilary simply illuminate this.

I’m voting for Jill Stein because as much as Trump’s a facist buffoon and a catastrophe for all that’s at least semi-decent in the world, America’s centrist-corporate policies – perfectly encapsulated by Hilary – are really leading in the same direction in the long run. Trump’s a train wreck. But the ideology and policies represented by Hilary will lead to just as much as a terrifying apocalyptic dystopian world in a generation or two anyway. It’s these supposedly left-leaning, but in actuality neoliberal (and therefore suspiciously right-of-center and fundamentally Reagan-ish), policies that have generated and nurtured these right-wing gargoyles in the first place.

I’m voting for Jill Stein because every election cycle all the cynics – and I suspect the majority of Americans – start going about talking about “it’s time for a change” and how the “system is broken”. And then nothing happens. Funny how that works. This is both voter psychology and the effective raison d’être of both political parties entirely beholden to powerful corporate interests and a smattering of ultra-wealthy individuals.

And yet when the majority of Americans stand in the voting booth, they vote their fears. And then wonder why “The Establishment” always seems to win. Meanwhile, conservatives vote for the guy who “hates big government” and wonder why the country is in chaos. Divide and conqueror – it’s happening here, and it’s corporate greed that is the motor behind the politics that is conquering us.

Yet when a true candidate of change appears – Bernie Sanders – he’s branded by the established parties and media as unelectable; a communist; if not, some sort of adorable, yet idealistic hopeless grandpa. As if wanting to do something about global warming, or thinking that rich people should pay there fair share of taxes makes you into a unicorn that wants to leap over a rainbow.

And so most people will vote for Hilary – a baby-boomer’s candidate with baby-boomer polices. She has come to represent to the  restive American voter everything that’s wrong with business-as-usual in Washington DC. She could easily loose because once again – this Herbert Humphrey of our time – seems to misjudge the mood of the American voter.

The only problem really, is that people are of three minds as to “business-as-usual”. There is the rightist-populist response (Trump), centrist (Hilary) and the left-progressive response (Sanders). America has never had a progressive president in the contemporary sense. And while I despair of getting one in this election – Bernie Sanders will always be the president we should have had – both the factual reality of our society and sheer historical record screams for a much more progressive country.

Look at the track record of Democratic presidents. It’s really not all that left-leaning. Carter is considered the furthest left and he massively increased military spending. Raising the minimum wage by a few nickels and dimes every decade just doesn’t really make one “progressive”. Without going into the whole “socialism” vs “capitalism” rigamarole (the very use of these words indicate that someone is trying to change the subject), the simple truth is that this country has been slipping badly toward the right. As things get worse and worse there is no backlash against neoliberal (trickle-down) policies that have clearly failed, and failed badly. By this I mean that while Progressives are consciously against neoliberalism, conservatives – populist conservatives are un-consciously against it as well. However, there is no consensus of what is happening in our society and therefore no unified resistance to that indefinable series of events and feelings that make up why people are so alienated, angry, afraid, disenfranchised and disgusted. With any serious, reflective thought that delves into the roots of our various “issues” it is easy to see that systemic corporate greed is the underlying source of the problems that besiege us today.

I used to give Democrats the benefit of the doubt; the most progressive elements of our society don’t vote regularly, and so there is no reason to rely on them in an election. If Hilary won – by a landslide – perhaps the Democrats would feel empowered to actually carry out progressive policies. But the way that the Democrats have behaved in this election simply prove that no progressive policies will ever happen. A Hilary administration will be very busy on the social front but it seems that little true reform will ever happen.

TPP must be stopped. The Glass-Steagall Bill must be reinstated, Citizens United must be overturned, and real progress must take place on protecting the environment. Hilary will do none of these things. The neoliberal economics that have been the de facto ideology of Washington DC since Reagan are being carried on by the Democrats and Hilary. These policies have been a disaster and are the root of the populist rage that drives the Trump campaign. Neoliberalism will stagger on for another decade – probably – with a Hilary administration. And we can’t afford it. Our democracy – what’s left of it – can’t take it. Our environment can’t take it. Our society can’t take it.

This is what the Democrats don’t understand, and why the “Bernie or Bust” crowd is so angry. The entire attitude of the Democrats towards progressives – remarkable summed up by Sarah Silverman’s “You’re being ridiculous” – only confirms that the DNC just doesn’t get what’s happening in this country. Despite the surprising strength – at least a third of Americans want Bernie and no body dislikes him – of Bernie’s campaign, and despite all the warming signs, the Democrats have opted to stay loyal to their corporate sponsors – and then wonder why so few people turn out to vote for them.

Here’s some good articles that echo my point:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-dan-savage-is-dead-wrong-about-jill-stein-and-the_us_5790e5ace4b0a86259d0dc25

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/27/hillary-clinton-general-election-bernie-sanders-campaign

How to Argue with a Right-Winger

It’s a sad and ominous fact that America has separated itself into two political worlds, Right World and Left World. It’s no longer akin to a slide-rule, where everyone basically had the same general idea but then differed on how to get there. No. We live in two separate bubbles – and the area of overlap shrinks more everyday. A big part of actually being successful when arguing with a Right Winger is sticking as much as possible to that shared space in the Venn Diagram of social reality (like we both enjoy microbreweries or some such thing). I know from my own personal political journey that Left Wing arguments fall flat – they just don’t mesh – with Right Wingers, and Right Wing arguments seem either ignorant or oddly disjointed to those of us on the Left.

The striking thing is that the underlying anxiety of the Right Wing is basically the same as on the Left; the difference is that the Left blames a rapacious economic system, while the Right Wing blames the Left Wing, confusing a whole host of issues and ideas in a terrible morass. And that’s really what you should seek to do when “arguing with a Right Winger”.

How have we gotten here? Well the notion that the Left is the problem dates back to Truman and the GOP’s endless struggle to remain relevant. It really dates back to economic arguments German academics where having in the 1930’s, but I don’t think we need to go there right now. Frankly the driving engine behind this divisive political landscape is GOP politicians seeking office and the tendencies of corporations to pursue profit quite literally at any cost, as long as it’s not too painful financially. Corporate friendly policies have attracted very little actual voter support; it has to be stocked by pandering to Right Wingers.

There are many different types of right-wingers, ranging from the Libertarian Gunsexual to the Mormon Housewife to the rare and exotic Kissinger-esque Neoconservative. There are so many more: the Conspiracy Theorist, the Christian Moral, and the Busy Busy Businessman. It’s important to keep in mind that Right Wingers, as a rule, are really responding to what’s going on in their own heads. The argument pathway you would take with a Mormon Housewife is very different from the what you might say to the Kissinger Conservative. Remember, conservatism is about fear and anger and suspicion, in a word, emotion. That’s its appeal, and if its not that it’s greed and selfishness. Your job is to get your opponent thinking.

Right-wingers are not “dumb”. In fact, I would say that in a certain sense, they are more clever then the rest of us. They are very sensitive and, practically speaking, well trained by the Fox News/Conservative Internet Bubble. They will have punchy facts that you will not have heard. They will have folksy arguments and metaphors which might even be charming. And they will have, in their heads, a script with which to argue with you.

Here’s the weakness. Abstract argument is weak; so weak in fact that you will have a job talking them through it (I almost feel that this is the root of the problem in itself; how to get a conservative to listen to your entire rationale). Point out logical inconsistencies, like if you are worried about Big Government, why do you support the same people who support the Patriot Act?

Don’t categorise them, nor allow them to categorise yourself. Avoid labels and proper nouns at all costs. Wiggle away from labels – violently if you have to; once you are labeled you are destroyed. Treat them as Reasonable People, and demand the same. Don’t let it get to a situation like “you guys are American Flag Burners” and “You guys are all Westboro Baptist Church”.

History is your friend. Facts are your friend. Point out the overwhelming statistical evidence; the global warming facts, the number of black people in jail, the staggering amount we spend on Defence every year. You need to point out how crazy conservative this country has become objectively – even while they have become more scared and angry as ever.

Remember, people have neither the time, inclination or even the capacity to evaluate in a rational way, for example, whether “they are safer because of the War on Terror”. All they want is to feel safer. Torture makes them feel safer. You have to explode that feeling; you have to explain why the CIA’s torture program makes us less safe, not to mention the disgrace to our civic heritage and morality.

The Right Wing mindset is very black and white. It’s a tendency, almost a need to the world in terms of Good Guys and Bad Guys. Force them to acknowledge that the world is a complicated, messy place and the idea of Good Guys is a fantasy created (in its modern form) by Disney. Force them to acknowledge there is a problem; then squeeze a real answer out of them. Point out how many of the things the Left is doing is actually more moral than what the Right is doing.

Aside from the regular, push button issues, the basic confusion is over underlying issues; what exactly is going wrong with the country? Systemic, legally mandated Profit Maximisation policies in the hands of the biggest corporations and handful of individuals is the issue. This might be hard to make them see this. Avoid broad and hopelessly outdated terms like “capitalism”, “socialism”, and the like. If they can push you into an argument in such terms, you’ve already lost. Point out how we have never had a pure capitalist system; Adam Smith would have been horrified of the world we have today. Point out how the system is enriching corporations and only a very few individuals; the overwhelming amount of other people are getting poorer. If they try to push back with complaints about stifling economic regulation and Big Government, point out where regulation is necessary. Point out how they support Big Government via the military and implicit support of the Police State. Point out how are government implicitly subsidises the auto industry, the airline industry and the oil industry. It’s socialism for Big Business.

From my own personal experience, I remember how I would have an objection to the Leftist argument, and that would allow me to get hung up and disengage from what the Leftist was saying; I vividly remember this from watching Jon Stewart in college. There was always something that he would leave out; of something that I felt was subtly unfair. I and would be able to continue with my beliefs as before. This is a tricky one because what we have stumbled into here is the problem of cognitive dissonance. Another way of saying this is: Right Wingers have little capacity to evaluate the relative strength of opposing arguments. They will struggle to understand why their little objection based on a personal anecdote is meaningless in the face of well established, nation-wide statistics. This is point where you will have to be patient and really explain your entire thought process. It’s the only way.

Sometimes I think that the core difference between a Left Winger and a Right Winger is some confusion over Means and Ends. And End is like that far and lofty goal that we find ourselves thinking about. It’s your Utopia, whatever that maybe. Do you believe in a a Star Trek style future fuelled by technological progress? A steady-state economic world of farming communes and artisanal towns featured in Ecotopia? Or do you fantasise about about a retrograde 1950’s-esque America where everyone knows their place? This is your “end”. I think its fair to say that conservatives and Right Wingers are dominated by their End; they implicitly believe that the Ends Justify the Means. Let’s examine the flip side: the Means. This is what you are actually doing now. Means can ‘mean’ both method and tactics, but really refer to current reality. Focusing on an End allows us to ignore the Means, forgetting that, really all that matters is the Means (in the vast majority of cases; especially in big picture situations).

So that’s another good tactic to take. Talk Means. Let the Ends take care of themselves.

I’m reading an interesting article in the New York Times, called Who Blames the Victim? http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/opinion/sunday/who-blames-the-victim.html?action=click&contentCollection=opinion&module=NextInCollection&region=Footer&pgtype=article&version=column&rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fgray-matter. Its suggests that people who value traditional moral planks like “purity” essentially have little sympathy for victims. What does work is shifting the focus from the “victim” to the perpetrator. And I think there is a lot in this. Shift the focus from, say, immigrants as victims to why are the immigrants here? Who’s behind it? Who’s behind solution? Who’s behind Big Government expenses? Talk about the perpetrators.

I have used a very big brush here, and I am sure there are many more things to add; I might do a “list of punchy, un-ignorable statistics”  for arguments sake in the future.

 

 

 

 

Those Who Are Bound…

There’s a pattern here – a historical cycle if you will – that is in the course of repeating itself. It’s both very ancient and unsettlingly modern. We have seen it most recently in the “Brexit” debacle. You can see it in the Rise of Trump, and the resurgence of right-wing populism around the globe.

I’m not even sure what to call it, or if it even has a name. I’m reminded of Max Weber’s term of disenchantment, referring to how the rise of the modern world of rules eleminates our sense of wonder with the world. It’s more then just that and what I am referring to is economic, social, and political. It’s both an unconscious process and a conscious series of choices. The closest familiar term would be “globalisation”, but I feel that this word simple refers a specific time period and certain economic policies and corporate decisions.

So here it is. Corporations – vehicles of profit maximisation and essentially unaccountable – are literally and figuratively eating our planet and our societies. In modern, industrial and post-industrial societies, this is leading to a viscous political cycle one which is only getting worse. Here’s the basic cycle. Corporate elites gain serious power and money because they are able to escape some of the burdens of living in a society (like the lack of direct personal responsibility, for example). Their profit is dependant on cheap labor and cheap natural resources. Their success tends to impoverish the rest of society, or at least large swaths of it.

Because modern societies are so complex and because of our rich civic and democratic heritage, these wealthy few must seek popular support against people pointing out the dangers of their activities. They essentially choose to pander too and manipulate what is usually called right wing populism.

Eventually there is a breaking point because the Corporate impulse is impoverishes the people in the society; these corporate leaders can choose to moderate their excesses and submit to more of the rules of living in a society, or – and this is what has historically happened- they burn down the house. The populism they have fed explodes in frustration, fear, and anger. The Corporate elites, far from throwing their weight behind urban, moderate social forces tend to prefer to ride the tiger of right-wing populism, always too terrible results.

These powerful elites believe their own propaganda to a certain extent; in a very different sense then the “base” does, but none-the-less, they do believe it. The greed, selfishness, and vicious ignorance which makes the profit possible is excused by lies they themselves have chosen to believe. They lie to themselves as well as all of us.

Really it’s just the modern, capitalist version of divide and conquer. Two conceptions of society tend to emerge; an urban, social one and a backward-looking, often rural conservative one.

And really, the results, historically speaking, have been fascism. Because the story I’ve just told is what happened to Germany. And it is what is happening here in the US, right now. Fascism is what happens when the right-wing populists come to power, and the Corporate elite thrown their money and influence behind them (usually thinking they can control the situation).

The Right Wingers have their own thing going on, however and have little actual interest in Corporate power dynamics – it’s not something they understand. Right Wingers are living in a fantasy world; they seek to turn back the clock to reassure themselves in their anger and insecurity.  When they come to power, the set out to make their fantasy a reality. And this is fascism.

In some ways this pattern is an old continuation of the emotionally complex relationship between the Ruler and the Ruled which has bourn many different names over the ages. Weather its a the King and the peasants, or Nixon and the White Lower Middle Classes, it’s  a pattern that has long been established. The Ruler needs tangible support; allegiance. This requires a reason; a ruling ideology. “Obey me because I am the True King anointed by God,” says the King to the Peasants. “Vote for me because I will restore this country to its (totally imaginary) former greatness,” says the contemporary politician (Trump is not the only one making this basic play).

The Ruled need to be entertained -they need to live vicariously through celebrity (what the ancients would have called a hero) – while they labor and slave. Their sacrifices emotional, physical and mental for work or war must be acknowledged and made to feel like there is a point to the whole thing. I can’t help but picture a the relationship between Celebrity and the Fans; they need each other and do things for each other even though they seem to live totally in their own, separate, worlds. They need “the word of God” to make their brutalisation worth it; they need a True King almost as much as the King wants you to think he is.

What has changed is the rise of the urban office worker and the corporate enterprise. Where once there was King and Peasant, there is now, call it the “artisans” who have escaped from the celebrity-audience cycle. This is a problem not just for the King, but really for the Peasants as well. I admit this is a cruel metaphor, and the whole thing is far more complicated, but I think it’s an okay way to introduce what I am getting at.

What happened to Germany nearly a hundred years ago now could easily happen here (my nod here to It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis). The powerful military and corporate interests in Germany, unable to convince the greater public to vote for them as is, threw in with the Rightists. The result was the horror of WWII; its the greed and power of the corporate profit motive which is killing our democracy, our society and our planet.