Vote for What You Believe In, Not for Crumbs

W.J. Astore

As a progressive-leaning person, I’m deeply disappointed by Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.  I’m an independent and have no allegiance to either party.  The Republican Party, dominated by Trump, is a non-starter for me.  The Democratic Party is corporate dominated, a party of the moneyed interests, so I have little interest in it at the national level.

The Progressive Caucus keeps praising Biden instead of pushing him, so they’re part of the problem.  The so-called Squad (AOC and company) never seem to use their combined power for anything meaningful.  A concerted minority can make a difference: look at the Tea Partiers.  But the Squad basically does as they’re told by Nancy Pelosi.

People tell me the Squad is small and their influence is limited by the mathematics of Congress.  But what Congressional hills have they chosen to hold fast and fight on, if any, to effect true change?  United, a squad of progressives could drive policy because Pelosi often needs their votes.  Yet they refuse to come together to drive change that might upset Pelosi/Biden, so how progressive are they, truly?

When you look at the specifics of Democratic actions, they (the actions) disappoint.  A climate change bill saluted and applauded by the oil and gas industry.  Changes in drug pricing that don’t take place until 2025, and only to a short list of drugs.  The complete abandonment of a government-option for health care.  Basically, the Democrats have kowtowed to lobbyists for fossil fuel, big pharma, and private health insurance companies.

In short: nothing has fundamentally changed, exactly what Biden promised to his big donors. He is what he’s always been: a conservative-leaning Democrat who serves the moneyed interests, who supports expanding police forces and prisons, and who believes the best way to promote peace is by supporting massive military budgets and overseas wars.

Even if there’s truth to my critique, my Democratic friends say, you must still vote blue no matter who, because the Republicans are so much worse.  Yet if we continue to vote for Democrats because they give us a few more crumbs than the alternative, all we’ll ever get is crumbs.

A colleague of mine, Matthew Hoh, is running for the Senate as a Green in North Carolina.  The Democratic Party there did everything it could, legal and less-than-legal, to block his access to the ballot.  It took a lawsuit and a federal judge to get his name added to the ballot.

Matthew Hoh, candidate for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina

Matt Hoh is a former Marine and State Department guy who resigned publicly to protest the Afghan War.  He has strong progressive principles and unassailable integrity and supports policies most Americans would loudly applaud.  Again, the Democrats did everything they could to block him from the ballot.

Some people say that a vote for Matt Hoh and third-party candidates like him is a vote for Trump and the Republicans.  For me, that’s total BS.  Candidates like Matt Hoh help us.  They drive an agenda that’s truly for workers, that’s truly for change.  If nothing else, they force corporate-tool Democrats to turn slightly leftward rather than always toward the right.

Perhaps you know the saying about Democrats: fake left, run right.  They fake left in the primary, exciting the “liberal” base, then they run right in the main election and, if they win, they then rule and legislate from the right as well.  The mainstream corporate press terms this “sensible” and “moderate.”

We need more principled leaders like Matt Hoh to drive real change.  If they “help” Trump and the Republicans by “stealing” votes, that’s not their fault: it’s the fault of the Democrats who are reluctant to be seen as truly liberal or progressive and who are basically tools of the moneyed interests.  

If Matt Hoh wins lots of votes in North Carolina (and I hope he does), all credit to the voters for seeing him as he is and for voting for what they believe in.  Indeed, instead of people insisting that Matt Hoh should drop out to help the mainstream Democrat, it’s the mainstream Democrat who should drop out to help Matt Hoh.

I do my best to vote for what I believe in.  Which is why I won’t be voting for Trump, or DeSantis, or Biden (or Harris or Mayor Pete or whomever) in 2024.  I’ll be voting for candidates who in their words and deeds promise us something more than crumbs. Leaders like Matt Hoh.

Democrats, Republicans, and the Need for Alternatives

W.J. Astore

The last real Democratic President was Jimmy Carter. The last U.S. election offering a real alternative vision was George McGovern versus Richard Nixon in 1972.

Since then, Democratic Presidents like Clinton, Obama, and Biden have been DINOs, or Democrats in name only. In a rare moment of honesty, Obama admitted his administration had echoed the policies of “moderate” Republicans. Friendly to Wall Street, banking interests, corporations, the military-industrial complex, and the usual assortment of oligarchs. Obama’s health care plan was a corporate-friendly sellout that echoed the plan put together by Republicans like Mitt Romney. The DINOs fully support forever war and huge military budgets; Obama was quite happy to admit America had “tortured some folks” and that he’d gotten very good at ordering people to be killed, mainly via assassination by drone. It’s a far cry from Jimmy Carter trying to put human rights at the center of his foreign policy in the late 1970s.

Democrats began to move rightwards after McGovern’s resounding defeat in 1972. They haven’t stopped this rightward drift; indeed, it’s accelerated. The Republicans responded by embracing men like Trump as they found plenty of room even further to the right of the DINOs. America, Gore Vidal once said, basically has one property party with two right wings, and that’s only become truer and more obvious over the last fifty years.

What is to be done? We need viable alternatives, but of course the game is rigged, as Matthew Hoh, principled candidate for the Senate in North Carolina, discovered as Democrats conspired to keep him off the ballot, even though his efforts with the Green Party were more than sufficient to earn him a place on that ballot. Both parties, Democrat and Republican, will do anything to keep their duopoly while also endlessly punching each other. Neither party serves the interests of the people.

Perhaps Caitlin Johnstone can offer some hope, or at least a diagnosis for the right path ahead. Here’s what she had to say in her latest post about how the political system in America is structured and manipulated for the benefits of the powerful:

1. Use narrative manipulation to divide the population into a roughly 50/50 ideological split.

2. Ensure you control both of those factions.

3. Convince everyone that the only reason nothing changes is because their half of the population doesn’t win enough elections.

Everyone’s pulling on a rope that doesn’t lead anywhere and doesn’t do anything, convinced by powerful manipulators that they’re engaged in a life-or-death tug o’ war match of existential importance. Meanwhile the powerful just do as they like, completely indifferent to that spectacle and its back-and-forth exchanges.

A group is artificially split into two sides and told to pull a rope in opposite directions while someone else stands back and shoots them all with a BB gun. When they complain about the welts, they’re told it’s happening because their side isn’t pulling hard enough. But really they’d be getting shot no matter what they did.

This doesn’t mean give up, it just means give up on the fake tug o’ war game. If you’re playing tug o’ war while someone rummages through your handbag looking for cash, the first step to stopping them is putting down the rope and going after them. It’s like if everyone was pushing on a fake fire escape in a burning building: the first step to getting them out of there is showing them that the door is just painted on the wall and doesn’t lead anywhere. That’s not telling them to give up hope, it’s just telling them to give up on an ineffective strategy.

Perhaps Johnstone didn’t go far enough here. Americans go in for assault rifles, not BB guns. But she’s surely right that you’re not going to reform this system from within, i.e. from pulling harder on the Democrat or Republican rope. You need to stop playing an unwinnable game.

Organize. Vote third party when a sane candidate is available. Stop donating to DINOs and their even more dubious Republican cousins. Protest. Tell others. You never know what will be the spark that ignites true and meaningful change.

The Death of Democracy in America

Matt Hoh, speaking truth, and we can’t have that in America. Or can we?

W.J. Astore

If the Republican and Democratic Parties are virtually identical on most issues involving big money, like the military, banking, corporations, and so on, you don’t have a democracy. Democracy implies choice among many alternatives. We have virtually no alternatives. Hence this video by Briahna Joy Gray, which spells out a “Dem-Exit” in progress, as many Democrats wake up to the fact that the party almost never keeps its promises and is mainly engaged in raising money for itself and maintaining its increasingly tenuous grip on power.

Even worse, when other parties try to offer true choice, like the Green Party, the Democrats scheme to block legitimate candidates. Consider the case of Matthew Hoh, who’s running for the Senate in North Carolina as a candidate for the Green Party. I know Matt. He’s a former Marine who resigned in 2009 from the State Department in protest against U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Matt knew that Obama’s so-called surge wasn’t working and he spoke out against it. Matt had (and has) integrity. If only more people in the U.S. military and the foreign policy establishment had Matt’s combination of integrity, intelligence, and guts.

Matt gathered more than 22,000 signatures to get on the ballot in North Carolina (he needed 13,685), so surely he was easily approved because we Americans love democracy and principled politicians like Matt Hoh, right? Wrong.

The Democratic establishment did everything possible, legal and illegal, to block him from getting on the ballot in North Carolina. And it appears they’ve blocked him.

What are they afraid of? Well, they’re afraid to lose a bit of their money and power, and they’re especially afraid of a principled person like Matt Hoh, who actually believes what he says, and says what he believes.

Matt Hoh is a disabled combat veteran who ably served his country, who is indeed still serving it to the best of his ability, with a mixture of candor and courage that has won me over and plenty of people in North Carolina and elsewhere. And we can’t allow that! so sayeth establishment Democrats.

Blocking Matt Hoh from running is yet another clear sign of the death of democracy in America.

A short statement from Matt Hoh:

“We represent single-payer health care. We represent affordable housing. We represent living wages, action on the climate, etc, etc. And those things aren’t represented by the [Cheri] Beasley campaign [the Democratic candidate for Senate] at all. They claim to be for working-class people, but you and I know, the Democratic Party, it’s been decades since they’ve addressed the needs of working class people.”

The Matthew Hoh Campaign is appealing the decision by the State Board of Elections, which voted 3-2 against, with all three Democrats voting against Hoh getting on the ballot.

There is a mid-August deadline for Matt Hoh’s name getting on the ballot. It’s a safe bet that establishment Democratic leaders in North Carolina will do everything in their power, legal or illegal, to block him. Why? Because Matt Hoh represents the people; the Democratic Party represents the owners and donors.

Godspeed, Matthew Hoh. Thank you for fighting for North Carolina and for America.

If you’d like to donate to Matt’s campaign, go to https://www.matthewhohforsenate.org/

Heck, even I chipped in $100, and I rarely donate to political campaigns. As Matt said today on “The Jimmy Dore Show,” people are being brutalized by America’s political system. If we keep simply voting Democrat or Republican, all we’re doing is “perpetuating a deadly status quo.”

Time to try real democracy. Time to vote for candidates like Matthew Hoh.

Twelve Questions for this Fall’s Presidential Election

johnson
Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party

W.J. Astore

Here are twelve questions for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, followed by quick answers about where they stand, based on what they’ve done as well as what I’ve heard them say in various speeches and debates.  To avoid any confusion with her husband, I refer to Hillary Clinton as “Hillary.”

Which candidate is going to:

  1. End America’s wars?

Hillary will continue them.  Trump has questioned whether they’re worth it.  Advantage Trump.

  1. Tackle global warming?

Hillary believes in science.  Trump apparently doesn’t, though he’s taken steps to safeguard his properties against climate change.  Advantage Hillary.

  1. Reverse Citizen’s United and get corporate money out of politics?

Hillary has said she’ll do something; Trump hasn’t.  But Hillary is dependent on corporate financing.  A wash.

  1. Work to reduce the growing gap between the richest 1% and everyone else?

Hillary talks about fairness, raising the minimum wage, and equal pay for women.  Trump wants to restore American jobs through tariffs and trade wars.  Whether either candidate really cares about the working classes is debatable.  A wash.

  1. Rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure, ensuring safe roads, bridges, and water supplies?

Both candidates talk a good game.  The problem is: Where is the money coming from?  Trump’s tax breaks that favor the rich may literally bankrupt America; Hillary’s war and social spending will absorb most federal funding.  A wash.

  1. Reject trade deals that hurt American workers?

Hillary was for the TPP before she was against it.  She and Bill were also for NAFTA.  Trump talks about helping workers even as his companies shift jobs overseas to save money.  A wash.

  1. Pursue a domestic political agenda that doesn’t vilify minorities and the vulnerable?

Hillary is far better than Trump at promoting a message of inclusion.  Advantage Hillary.

  1. Respect the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers, i.e. reject the “Unitary Executive” model?

Neither candidate promises to rein in executive authority.  Both are power-hungry and secretive.  A wash.

  1. Rein in the burgeoning national security state and its lockdown mentality?

Trump is seemingly more skeptical about military spending and is less encumbered by neocon conventions.  Yet he stokes fear of the outsider, which feeds the lockdown mentality that plagues America.  Hillary boasts of strengthening national security and cultivates hawkish elements while rejecting any cuts to war spending.  A wash.

  1. Work for quality public education?

Neither candidate has spoken a lot about public education.  But Trump has joked that he likes the under-educated since they’re many of his most ardent supporters.  Stupid is as stupid does.  Advantage Hillary.

  1. Reduce the prison-industrial complex?

Hillary’s husband’s policies are partly responsible for the complex, though now she says she wants to reduce America’s reliance on prisons, which target minorities disproportionately.  I haven’t heard Trump articulate a clear vision on this, except to vow “on day one” that he’d restore law and order to America.  Slim advantage to Hillary.

  1. Respect the environment, e.g. end fracking?

Hillary promoted fracking while she led the State Department.  Trump simply promotes business and making money.  I don’t see either as having any deep-rooted respect for nature.  A wash.

Score Card: Score 1 for Trump, 4 for Hillary.  And 7 for candidate “Wash.”

Stein
Jill Stein in Philly

What if Green Party candidate Jill Stein were included?  She might edge Trump and Hillary on all of these questions.  I think Bernie Sanders would score 11 out of 12.  His one failing during the primary was his reluctance to say he’d rein in the national security state.  What a shame Bernie is out, especially since he was beaten neither fairly nor squarely.

What about the Libertarians?  I have limited exposure to Gary Johnson, William Weld, and their party, but here’s a quick cut and paste job from CNN:

“First, libertarianism is more than just an economic ideology. It’s a social one. And many Libertarian social positions — an openness to immigration, an embrace of equal rights for gay, lesbian, and transgender persons, a hostility toward the war on drugs and American militarism abroad, and support for women’s reproductive rights — are arguably more progressive than the average Democrat. Libertarians were supporting marriage equality and marijuana legalization, for instance, long before any mainstream politician — Clinton included — would touch those issues.”

“Second, even on strictly economic issues, Libertarians have a lot to say that should appeal to those on the left. Libertarians have long been sharply critical, for instance, of the ways regulations such as occupational licensing requirements are used to protect the economically powerful at the expense of the poor and marginalized. They’ve fought against subsidies, bailouts, and other forms of “crony capitalism” that benefit the few at the expense of the masses. And — contrary to popular perception — Libertarians have often argued in favor of a well-designed social safety net to protect those who fail to benefit from the economic dynamism of a free economy.”

A quick look at my 12 questions coupled with interviews I’ve seen with Gary Johnson suggest that he’d easily score higher than Hillary and Trump but lower than Stein and Sanders.

Here’s the deep irony for America: The most interesting candidates, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, are the ones marginalized by the system.  They are not allowed to debate.  They are judged “not ready for prime time.”  And the weakest candidates, the most deeply compromised, Hillary and The Donald, are the ones who are given the lion’s share of attention and respectability.  They are celebrated.  They are prime time.

Only in America.