Yesterday I posted this status on Facebook:
Things I can say with confidence:
Even before I clicked the button to publish that brief statement, I had a feeling that it would generate some controversy. It did, but my friends of various political outlooks who commented on it are a thoughtful bunch, and it did not degenerate into a flame war—at least, it hasn't yet.
There were comments in defense of cast a strategic vote for president, especially in swing states, but even here in deep-red Texas. There were comments suggesting/insisting that voting itself is a waste of time and effort, that it lends legitimacy to our anti-democratic system; and, of course, there were some refutations of that anti-voting philosophy.
My words were intended to convey my own beliefs, based on current political tides, events that I have witnessed in the last 40+ years, and whatever wisdom I have been able to absorb from those events. There was no direct intent to influence anyone's mind that was already made up. Naturally, intelligent as my friends are, they caught more than a whiff of subtext, interpreting my post as, "This is how I'm voting, and why I'm voting that way, and you should too, because both major parties suck." Well, both major parties do suck, in the most lethal of ways, but I try to respect people's well-considered opinions and decisions even when I disagree with them.
The motivation behind the words was a discussion with another friend, who posted a link to yet another in the series of "Jill Stein Is an Airhead" articles, which Julian Assange has noted are an orchestrated attempt to smear Stein. This article's author concluded, based on quotes with insufficient context and twisting of Stein's words, that Stein truly believes a Donald Trump presidency is less of a danger than a Hillary Clinton presidency. Never mind that the article quotes Stein as saying something like, "Trump is the biggest threat imaginable." When I pointed out what I considered the flaws of the article, the friend politely replied that we are unlikely to change each other's minds or votes, and that I should take my Green evangelism elsewhere.
So I did. I took it to my own page.
Sometimes honesty hurts. I honestly want to see the Green Party become a competitive political force in the United States, even though I can foresee some compromising of the principles that attracted me to the Green Movement in the first place. I also honestly believe that the capitalist establishment has its thumb on the scale, that it wants Hillary Clinton in the White House, and that it will resort to all necessary nastiness to put her there.
When I was about the age of this young friend, I was living in New Haven CT. In the fall of 1988, as a registered Democrat, I spent a lot of time, gas money, and shoe leather campaigning for Michael Dukakis (for president), Joseph Lieberman (for US Senate, and Bruce Morrison (incumbent for US House, District 3). I knocked on doors in the projects. I knocked on doors in parts of Guilford where the houses were on acre lots and front doors were pretty far apart.
I believed in Dukakis, although I hadn't supported him in the primary race, and to this day I believe he would have been a much better president than candidate. As it was, he lost Connecticut, and of course lost nationally, to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Bush, like Dukakis was born in Greater Boston, but he grew up in Greenwich CT, so Connecticut was one of Bush's several home states.
I did not believe so strongly in Lieberman. As the state's attorney general, he had proven himself more pro-corporate and conservative than the Republican incumbent Lowell Weicker. I remember sitting in Archie Moore's one night, talking with a Democratic organizer who felt the same way: A yellow-dog Democrat who was planning to vote for Weicker, the guy who had stuck to Dick Nixon in the '70s. When campaigning, I found that I could still promote Lieberman to prospective voters, but not with great enthusiasm. Lieberman won the first of his four Senatorial terms, and in 1990 he enthusiastically voted in favor of the war powers resolution that gave Bush a blank check for Operation Desert Storm. (That one vote is not his entire legislative legacy, but at the time it left a very bitter taste.)
I truly believed in Morrison, a powerful presence, a fighter for justice and liberal causes. He won a fourth term, then took third place in the 1990 race for governor, the year Weicker won as an independent. Weicker's term gave the state a progressive income tax and reduced the sales tax from 8.5% to 6%.
The take-away from 1988, in general, was that the Democratic Party still wanted to be the Party of the People. But even in New England, the Democrats were willing to nominate conservative candidates like Lieberman, and were still recovering from 1972 and George McGovern to nominate a true progressive for president. In fact, the party insiders did what they could to derail Jesse Jackson's insurgent campaign.
By 1992, I was back in Houston. Pacifica was airing a daily syndicated talk show hosted Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, Jr. Brown may have been a center-left California governor, known mostly for dating Linda Ronstadt and inspiring "California Über Alles," but he spat progressive fire on the airwaves. Then he quit the show to run for president.
I was a Brown delegate to the Texas Senate District 15 convention, and I helped run the Brown table at the state convention. It was at that Senate District convention that I saw up close how, as David Cobb has put it, the Democratic Party is where progressive ideas go to die. Platform proposals ranging from gay rights to ending the embargo against Cuba were quickly and unceremoniously shot down. The leadership scarcely even acknowledged that any candidate other than Arkansas Governor Billy Jeff Clinton was contesting the primaries Clinton was their guy, even though the leadership was pro-union and Clinton was pro-NAFTA.
The Bill Clinton Years
Clinton briefly offered hope that he would promote a liberal or even progressive agenda. But it was all bait & switch. When the 1994 midterm election put both houses of Congress in Republican hands (and a lot of Democrats in shock), President Clinton immediately surrendered to reality and announced that he would be working with Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, et al.
After Clinton signed a whole series of Republican wet dreams like the Defense of Marriage Act, the welfare reform legislation was the last straw for me. There was no question that the welfare system needed some holes plugged, but this package wound up punishing millions of children for having unemployed parents while enriching a few well-connected corporations.
By 1996, I was ready to write in Ralph Nader for president. Nader and his running mate Winona LaDuke were on the ballot in California, but they weren't actively campaigning that year. Nearly 5,000 other voters in Texas did the same. The cliché is true in my case: I didn't leave the Democratic Party; it left me. Since then, I have voted for quite a few Democrats for other offices where there was no Green alternative, or where the Green alternative had mysteriously disappeared (Brandon Parmer, 2014). But this will be my sixth time voting Green for president.
One of my friends responded to my post with a link to this article. Its author, Clay Shirky, may be quite correct that our current system gives us only three choices: (A) Trump rather than Clinton, (B) Clinton rather than Trump, and (C) "whatever y'all want is fine with me," and that third-party votes are essentially choice (C). Bollocks to that system, sez I. I'd rather cast a quixotic vote for candidates who share my values, in long-term hopes of building a new system, than vote for either corporate party.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.