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Forum Post: Ellsberg: Let's Not Have Illusions About Which of the Two Major Candidates Would be Better

Posted 5 years ago on Oct. 20, 2012, 7:08 p.m. EST by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR
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By Daniel Ellsberg: the original RW corruption Whistleblower

Ellsberg: Let's Not Have Illusions About Which of the Two Major Candidates Would be Better

Advice to progressives in swing states, vote for reelection.

October 20, 2012 |

An activist colleague recently said to me: “I hear you’re supporting Obama.”

I was startled, and took offense. “Supporting Obama? Me?!”

“I lose no opportunity publicly,” I told him angrily, to identify Obama as a tool of Wall Street, a man who’s decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together. “Would you call that support?”

It is urgently important to prevent a Republican administration under Romney/Ryan from taking office in January 2013.

The election is now just weeks away, and I want to urge those whose values are generally in line with mine -- progressives, especially activists -- to make this goal one of your priorities during this period.

My friend said, “But on Democracy Now you urged people in swing states to vote for him! How could you say that? I don’t live in a swing state, but I will not and could not vote for Obama under any circumstances.”

My answer was: a Romney/Ryan administration would be no better -- no different -- on any of the serious offenses I just mentioned or anything else, and it would be much worse, even catastrophically worse, on a number of other important issues: attacking Iran, Supreme Court appointments, the economy, women’s reproductive rights, health coverage, safety net, climate change, green energy, the environment.

I told him: “I don’t ‘support Obama.’ I oppose the current Republican Party. This is not a contest between Barack Obama and a progressive candidate. The voters in a handful or a dozen close-fought swing states are going to determine whether Mitt Romney and Paul Ryanare going to wield great political power for four, maybe eight years, or not.”

As Noam Chomsky said recently, “The Republican organization today is extremely dangerous, not just to this country, but to the world. It’s worth expending some effort to prevent their rise to power, without sowing illusions about the Democratic alternatives.”

Following that logic, he’s said to an interviewer what my friend heard me say to Amy Goodman: “If I were a person in a swing state, I’d vote against Romney/Ryan, which means voting for Obama because there is no other choice.”

The election is at this moment a toss-up. That means this is one of the uncommon occasions when we progressives -- a small minority of the electorate -- could actually have a significant influence on the outcome of a national election, swinging it one way or the other.

The only way for progressives and Democrats to block Romney from office, at this date, is to persuade enough people in swing states to vote for Obama: not stay home, or vote for someone else. And that has to include, in those states, progressives and disillusioned liberals who are at this moment inclined not to vote at all or to vote for a third-party candidate (because like me they’ve been not just disappointed but disgusted and enraged by much of what Obama has done in the last four years and will probably keep doing).

They have to be persuaded to vote, and to vote in a battleground state for Obama not anyone else, despite the terrible flaws of the less-bad candidate, the incumbent. That’s not easy. As I see it, that’s precisely the “effort” Noam is referring to as worth expending right now to prevent the Republicans’ rise to power. And it will take progressives -- some of you reading this, I hope -- to make that effort of persuasion effectively.

It will take someone these disheartened progressives and liberals will listen to. Someone manifestly without illusions about the Democrats, someone who sees what they see when they look at the president these days: but who can also see through candidates Romney or Ryan on the split-screen, and keep their real, disastrous policies in focus.

It’s true that the differences between the major parties are not nearly as large as they and their candidates claim, let alone what we would want. It’s even fair to use Gore Vidal’s metaphor that they form two wings (“two right wings” as some have put it) of a single party, the Property or Plutocracy Party, or as Justin Raimondo says, the War Party.

Still, the political reality is that there are two distinguishable wings, and one is reliably even worse than the other, currently much worse overall. To be in denial or to act in neglect of that reality serves only the possibly imminent, yet presently avoidable, victory of the worse.

The traditional third-party mantra, “There’s no significant difference between the major parties” amounts to saying: “The Republicans are no worse, overall.” And that’s absurd. It constitutes shameless apologetics for the Republicans, however unintended. It’s crazily divorced from present reality.

And it’s not at all harmless to be propagating that absurd falsehood. It has the effect of encouraging progressives even in battleground states to refrain from voting or to vote in a close election for someone other than Obama, and more importantly, to influence others to act likewise. That’s an effect that serves no one but the Republicans, and ultimately the 1%.

It’s not merely understandable, it’s entirely appropriate to be enraged at Barack Obama. As I am. He has often acted outrageously, not merely timidly or “disappointingly.” If impeachment were politically imaginable on constitutional grounds, he’s earned it (like George W. Bush, and many of his predecessors!) It is entirely human to want to punish him, not to “reward” him with another term or a vote that might be taken to express trust, hope or approval.

But rage is not generally conducive to clear thinking. And it often gets worked out against innocent victims, as would be the case here domestically, if refusals to vote for him resulted in Romney’s taking key battleground states that decide the outcome of this election.

To punish Obama in this particular way, on Election Day -- by depriving him of votes in swing states and hence of office in favor of Romney and Ryan -- would punish most of all the poor and marginal in society, and workers and middle class as well: not only in the U.S. but worldwide in terms of the economy (I believe the Republicans could still convert this recession to a Great Depression), the environment and climate change. It could well lead to war with Iran (which Obama has been creditably resisting, against pressure from within his own party). And it would spell, via Supreme Court appointments, the end of Roe v. Wade and of the occasional five to four decisions in favor of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The reelection of Barack Obama, in itself, is not going to bring serious progressive change, end militarism and empire, or restore the Constitution and the rule of law. That’s for us and the rest of the people to bring about after this election and in the rest of our lives -- through organizing, building movements and agitating.

In the eight to twelve close-fought states -- especially Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, but also Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin -- for any progressive to encourage fellow progressives and others in those states to vote for a third-party candidate is, I would say, to be complicit in facilitating the election of Romney and Ryan, with all its consequences.

To think of that as urging people in swing states to “vote their conscience” is, I believe, dangerously misleading advice. I would say to a progressive that if your conscience tells you on Election Day to vote for someone other than Obama in a battleground state, you need a second opinion. Your conscience is giving you bad counsel.

I often quote a line by Thoreau that had great impact for me: “Cast your whole vote: not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.” He was referring, in that essay, to civil disobedience, or as he titled it himself, “Resistance to Civil Authority.”

It still means that to me. But this is a year when for people who think like me -- and who, unlike me, live in battleground states -- casting a strip of paper is also important. Using your whole influence this month to get others to do that, to best effect, is even more important.



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[-] 2 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

If we are determined to go back to regressive, corporate, autocratic RepubliCon rule, can we clean up the carnage from the last RepubliCon rule first!

Better yet, let's just block that treacherous road off for good!


[-] 2 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

There are new ones. Issa is blossoming into a modern day Joe McCarthy ~ "ISSAISM"! (C)


[-] 3 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

Guess we REALLY dropped the impeachment ball with RayGun and Beirut, and with Bush and 9-11.

Can we all say "Witch Hunt"!


[-] 2 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

Like in the great and prophetic movie Day Of The Dead, we should keep them in captivity to see what the fucking hell went wrong with them, so it won't happen again.


[-] 1 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

Forget "duty"! Duty schmuty! These monsters want to eat the brains of all fellow mankind!
They are seriously and dangerously fucked up!

Democracy and collective societies are anathema to them. They want Kings, serfs and a feudal system. Of course they'll call it "leadership, patriotism and freedom!"

[-] 1 points by bensdad (8977) 5 years ago

have fun - look into issa's past criminal activities

[-] 2 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

A pillar of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

I heard Issa and Rick Scott go on "Bangcock Sex Safaris" together and send the videos to Rush and friends. These "Safaris" include Dr. Cheney's Marianna Island spare parts/Dude ranch.

[-] 1 points by ShowRealHist (60) 5 years ago

Hey Daniel Ellsberg, WHO is telling us this basic truth? http://www.showrealhist.com/yTRIAL.html

[-] -1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

I am still not convinced that settling for the lesser of two evils is in any way good.

I am 100% sure that my life will not be noticeably different regardless of which of those 2 win. I am also sure I would feel slimy voting for either of them.

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

There's five others.

Make your vote a message to them to stay strong.

[-] 3 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

I plan to.

A vote for Obama or Romney is giving a seal of a approval to the current state of affairs.

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 5 years ago

I would really like to say that the current electoral counting system is bullet-proof, but I can't. It would just be so good for these candidates to know that people are actually interested in why they are standing, and what they are standing for. Supporting the independents in any way is a great thing for telling the crap-kings that you don't like them at all.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 5 years ago

it is acceptance of the idea that humans will always go to war

[-] 0 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

Some people are still not convinced that earth is round or that cigarettes are bad for you.

"You are 100% sure that my life will not be noticeably different regardless of which of those 2 win." Good for you! BUT untold MILLIONS are dead, maimed, homeless, unemployed, and bankrupt as a result of the last Republicon regime.

WE don't want to go down that road again!

[-] 0 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

And is their life any better today? Do they have jobs today? Do we no longer kill people on the other side of the world? Hell, Obama uses robots to blow up third world villages.

And the most obvious question: Will the top 0.01% have any less power over our government regardless of whether Romney or Obama wins? Of course not.

My life will not be noticeably different, your life will not be noticeably different, and most importantly, the way our government is run will not be noticeably different regardless of who wins in a few weeks.

One thing is for sure though, if you vote for either Obama or Romney you are endorsing our current system of government.

[-] 1 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

You can't be that stupid, innocent or selfish, so I will assume you are completely dishonest.

[-] -1 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

That's fine. I already had assumed that you are just a paid member of Obama's campaign team. The fact that you didn't actually address any of the points I made above simply confirms it. You likely have a bright future in politics haha.

[-] 1 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

You must be like some grand wizard or something.

[-] 0 points by Mooks (1985) 5 years ago

What's that?

[-] 1 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

Special powers and shit

[-] -2 points by yobstreet (-575) 5 years ago

I'm starting to genuinely feel sorry for you guys; this kaleidoscope of emotion has converged on "Obama"?

[-] 3 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

A shit load of lies are drowning Republicons.

[-] -3 points by yobstreet (-575) 5 years ago

This forum has rapidly deteriorated into two factions of lying bastards. And they're both thieves.


[-] -1 points by yobstreet (-575) 5 years ago

I'd be willing to bet this is recent endeavor.


[-] 2 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

Yeah well, we let cretins like you in to share your simpleminded twaddle, and thinly veiled R bias.

[-] -2 points by yobstreet (-575) 5 years ago

You'd get very bored very quickly in a world where everyone agrees; there'd be nothing to talk about - in fact no reason to even speak.

[-] 1 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

I agree