If you are one of the six people currently not on Facebook, then perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the latest online campaign, “Commit to Vote.” A red, white and blue button with a ribbon—can progressives please jettison the empire’s color scheme?—carries that slogan with the iconic Obama “O” image that once indicated change in some distant future. Now we all know that over the “O” horizon there are hordes of desperate people seeking jobs alongside a toxic swamp in the Gulf.
The online campaign includes a message asking the receiver to commit to vote for the Democrats in the midterm elections. I respect the sentiment behind this appeal, but I am not going to vote for the Democrats on November 2, 2010.
Like tens of millions of progressives in this country, I am horrified and anxiety-ridden about the rise of the right and the unbelievable rebound of the Republicans, a political party so discredited two years ago that major news outlets across the board wrote them off for decades to come. So please, don’t send me notes detailing the racism, homophobia and solipsistic idiocy of this Flat Earth Society of knuckle draggers. I get it.
The reason I won’t vote for the Dems is because I do not believe for one second that the rise of the right here has anything do with some stealth genius strategy of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Co. They are the same nincompoops as before and they have no policy or program for millions of ordinary people to rally around, with one exception. They simply need to point to the miserable outcome of two years of the Democrats’ lying, cravenly pro-corporate, anti-people policies that have betrayed every section of their base, except for the handful of Wall Streeters who received little fanfare for shoveling cash their way in 2008.
I have to agree with Frank Rich of the New York Times when he concludes his Op-Ed piece,
But the Obama White House is hardly innocent. Its failure to hold the [economic] bust’s malefactors accountable has helped turn what should have been a clear-cut choice on Nov. 2 into a blurry contest between the party of big corporations and the party of business as usual.
Liberals and the broad left will not be able to stanch the stunning rightward shift in politics by voting for the very political party that helped create the conditions for the rise of the right, the Democrats. In control of Congress for four years and the White House as well for the last two, the Democrats not only have not delivered the goods, once again they have earned the moniker given them by former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips: they are “the world’s second-most enthusiastic capitalist party.”
But I am not a cynic nor do I promote passivity in the face of an onslaught of crappy policies and electoral options. More than ever in my lifetime it is urgent that we build an activist left independent of the Democrats.
Look at the mass strikes and protests in France involving millions of workers and youth who are defying policies that will gut their welfare state. They are showing an alternative route to social and economic change that is more likely to have a profound impact on their future than anything that happens at the ballot box.
For those who believe the French upheaval is something that can never happen here, please consider some historical facts. Slavery ended through civil war, not the vote. Civil rights were won through mass protest, not the vote. Women’s right to abortion is inconceivable without the dynamism of the women’s movement. Social Security, the weekend, workplace safety standards and on and on are the legacy of masses of working-class people acting in defiance of their bosses and politicians.
Forests have been felled detailing the colossal failures of the Dems these past two years, and Tariq Ali’s latest quickie read, The Obama Syndrome, is a great place to start your self-education. By far the best analysis of why and how the Democrats operate as they do, which debunks the myths of the FDR and JFK administrations, can be found in the pages of Lance Selfa’s The Democrats: A Critical History. I encourage the discouraged to read them both.
Whether you decide to vote or not on November 2, this is no time for inaction. Our future is at stake and we can’t afford to leave it in the hands of a party that’s shown its fealty to the system of profit over human need. The time to organize and protest is now.
P.S. The current post was 30 minutes old when I started receiving notes about how we just need to elect better Dems. I’ll be blunt, as usual. You cannot end prostitution by bringing virgins into brothels.
I’ll be speaking Friday, Nov. 5 at University of North Carolina-Greensboro, on Fighting the Right. Details to come.