A Rare Opportunity for Progressives-Let’s Not Make It Our Last

I have never quite liked the framing of “lesser evilism,” because having that category suggests there might be “no evilism.” The expectation that any candidate or party would ever be perfect to a substantial body of people is unrealistic, and compromise is a necessary part of politics, even for those, like myself, on the left. I understand why it is necessary to vote for the least-bad candidate in many cases, but that approach is largely defensive. It seems like you eventually lose on issues of central importance to the plutocrats who own the country.

Olivia Wise (oliviawisestudio.com)

This leads to the strategic issue that is my primary concern in electoral politics: can we find candidates and movements and, perhaps, parties whose purpose is to change the contours and tenor of American electoral politics, to expand the range of debate, and to draw tens of millions of alienated people into politics? I was active in Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential bid for that reason, as well as Ralph Nader’s 2000 campaign. I had no interest in making a “protest vote”; their campaigns were purportedly about building a sustained, long-term political movement to fundamentally change American politics. They were to be political-education campaigns that reached tens of millions of people who would otherwise not pay as much attention to politics. Regrettably, neither campaign generated the long-term institutions I hoped for.

This year I am supporting the Bernie Sanders campaign for the same reasons. He is not flawless, but on core economic, social, and environmental issues he is well to the left of the mainstream. His campaign is already far more successful than anything like it in many generations. It reflects how much political conditions in the United States have changed in the past few decades, unbeknownst to the self-congratulating punditocracy, which is clueless once one moves outside the conventional wisdom of elite cocktail parties. Sanders is a rare combination of a principled “movement” activist and an accomplished politician who gets stuff done. His campaign exists to advance democratic-socialist politics, and that is a project to which I have devoted my life. The Sanders campaign has tapped into a fervor that barely existed two or three decades ago, and is almost certain to grow in the coming years of stagnation, inequality, and corruption.


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Robert W. McChesney is professor of communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign. He is the author, most recently, of Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy.

Source Citation

McChesney, Robert. 2016. A Rare Opportunity for Progressives-Let's Not Make It Our Last . Tikkun 31(1): 15.

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