The politics of Lesser Evilism


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This is the most convincing analysis of the US elections I have read so far. Importantly, it is pointed out that Bush managed to gain support from the Democrats' working class base:
According to CNN exit polls, Bush obtained 44 percent of the Latino vote--up from 33 percent in 2000. Some 42 percent of people with incomes of $15,000 to $30,000 backed Bush--as did 49 percent of those earning $30,000 to $50,000. Bush even managed to increase his African American vote by a couple of percentage points to 11 percent--and the union-busting president got the votes of 36 percent of union members. (..)
Many liberal commentators have asked why so many workers voted against their interests on economic issues to back Bush. But the question really should be turned around: Why do the Democrats, the supposed party of the people, give working people so little to vote for?

The truth is that Kerry echoed Bush on issue after issue--and nowhere more than Iraq. Kerry repeatedly claimed that he’d run the Iraq occupation “better” than Bush--and endlessly vowed to “kill the terrorists.” As journalist Doug Ireland put it, “Bush won by making the link between Iraq and the war on terrorism--the Big Lie which Kerry could not effectively counter, because he’d bought into it at the beginning.” Kerry even tried to outflank Bush on the right, accusing the White House of going soft on Iran and North Korea. (..)
If conservative ideas made inroads in the electorate, it’s because the Kerry Democrats echoed and legitimized those ideas at every turn--from support for the occupation of Iraq and the “war on terror,” to the homophobic attacks on gay marriage. If these assumptions form the unquestioned basis of acceptable mainstream politics, it shouldn’t be surprising that many people accept them--and stick with the conservative original, Bush, instead of the copy, Kerry.
An aggressive, mobilized left could have challenged these views and raised crucial issues ignored during the campaign. Instead, prominent leftists and progressives made apologies for Kerry’s terrible positions--or kept silent--in the name of Anybody But Bush. (..)
That an aggressive, mobilized left could have challenged Bush is underpinned by the polls Lenin refers to:

On tax , most Americans think higher income taxpayers contribute too little (figures range from 63% to 77%), while lower income taxpayers either pay their fair share (35%) or too much (49%). A basic question of distributive justice places most Americans clearly on the social-democratic left. On foreign policy, overwhelming numbers of Americans support the US subscribing to bans on nuclear testing, the use of landmines and the development of biological and chemical weapons. The Bush administration's willingness to use a nuclear first strike is opposed by 60% of Americans and supported by only 18%. 62% oppose outright the draft.

Sadly, some now argue that the US population is to blame:
The greatest divide in the world today is not between the U.S. elite and its people, or the U.S. elite and the people of the world. It is between the U.S. people and the rest of the world.
However, Bush remains deeply unpopular: 70 percent of US voters did not back him - more than 45 percent of US voters stayed home. The real problem is the politics of lesser evilism:
This dynamic shows how--as the socialist Hal Draper pointed out during the 1968 election campaign--supporting the “lesser evil” only legitimizes the “evil” politics themselves. “You can’t fight the victory of the rightmost forces by sacrificing your own independent strength to support elements just the next step away from them,” he wrote.
Sharon Smith comments:

The entire supposition of lesser evilism, of course, is that the best we in the U.S. can hope for is the election of a slightly better version of the Republican candidate. The logic of lesser evilism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when no left wing party ever gets built to challenge the two-party system.

Of course, the trap of lesser evilism is not a privilege of the US left. With general elections approaching in Britain and Germany, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder will increasingly try to pose as the lesser evil. It seems as if there is a lesson to learn for us.


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