Why A Radical Might Vote Mainstream This Time ‘Round

(Nicely written. – promoted by JulieWaters)

Long-time readers know me.  My original signature line was something like “proud to be GMD’s token libertarian-socialist” (as a play on long-time commentator Charity’s line “proud to be GMD’s token conservative”).  For those who don’t know me: the first diary I ever wrote was one taking Odum to task for a piece he penned critical of our overtly conservative mainstream press yet dismissive of the anti-capitalist left.  In short: I am an anarchist lurking and participating amongst you all- but I make no secret of it and am glad to have received a modicum of respect from some of you along the way.

I won’t bother with an explanation of my self-described “libertarian-socialist” politics (as that can be a lengthy conversation in its own right) except to basically clarify for those of you totally shocked by the term (because I’ve learnt that that happens frequently): “libertarian-socialism” is often used interchangeably with “anarchism” but hoping to avoid all the BS associated with that word.  It connotes a belief in the Absolute freedom of the individual, but places the individual in the context of (and there for responsible to) the community around him/her.  I hope for the complete deconstruction of the State, but not for the rampant whim of corporations (ie, “libertarianism” as presented by the political right) but instead to be replaced by the directly democratic notions of “the people”.  The vast majority of those who share similar political and social beliefs as I are strictly anti-electoral; why I personally deviate from that stance is probably a matter for another time and place.  Anyway…

I’m writing now to present an argument why other anti-capitalists in Vermont (be you Marxist, green “anarchists”, or like me, quasi-living nineteenth or even twentieth-century Russian or French or Spanish-style communists) should consider the Democrats for at least a few of the state-wide tickets this coming election day.

We’ll start with the governor’s race.  I have never voted more to the right of the Progressive Party in the Vermont governor’s race.  Mostly, I’ve cast my ballot for the Liberty Union candidate, though the Progressive Party candidate has a few times gained my vote.  This particular election, however, is noteworthy.  I will be voting for Peter Shumlin.  

Not only is it true that our strong tradition of not removing incumbents is finally irrelevant because Jim “Doesless” Douglas is stepping aside, but we are certainly at a very important juncture in our history.  The Douglas Administration’s modern-Republican styled decimation of state-services is at a critical juncture, the next century of our electrical consumption is at an unprecedented crossroads because of VT Yankee, and in the face of a national “jobless economic recovery” we’re faced with the crucial task of deciding whether to forge ahead as a state which follows the national model of supply-side tax cuts to those who are more than capable of paying or the internationally-accepted demand-side tax cuts for those who are in need of putting cash in their pockets in order to survive and (hopefully) prosper.

The opportunities for increased self-sufficiancy (as in the purchase of the dams on the CT River) as well as economic equality (as in a progressive tax system) or environmental protection (like a sincere commitment to renewable energy or an earnest protection of our environmental regulations) or a blind eye to inequality (as in marriage rights for our LGBT community) have all been lost or compromised under the Douglas Administration; and will not only continue to be so under Dubie, but in fact continue to get much, much worse.

I am no apologist for Mr Shumlin.  I personally find him to be a slimy, smarmy politician who sees what’s politically expedient and pounces on it.  And let me be frank here: he is well-known amongst the insiders to be, shall we say, less then subtle in his approach towards any even mildly attractive woman.  In my own sole personal interaction with the man, he completely made-up a personal history with me in order to forge a personal connection and camaraderie; In any other moment I would certainly not be voting for him, and would at the least not be suggesting that others do either.

Yet the stakes are so high, at this moment, that Vermont can not risk the potential ramifications of a Dubie Administration.  It is truly a moment in time when the “lesser of two evils” is by far a step towards the greater good (more on this at the end).

Jim Douglas has been a horrible and dangerous Governor for Vermont because he’s extremely politically savvy (a 30+ year career politician who year after year wins by painting himself as an “outsider” against the evil “politicians” and “bureaucrats”?), politically wrong (supply-side economics is barely a legitimate theory anymore anywhere except in the US), and an asshole (just ask any of the thousands of Vermonters who’ve lost their jobs on his watch).  Yet Dubie is demonstrably worse: he (or his handlers) is just as savvy (hard working good ol’ boys across the state love him and accept him as “one of them” despite the fact that he couldn’t fall a tree with a sharp ax if you paid him twice as much as any logger makes to do so), he is even more politically wrong than Douglas (when is that last time abortion was a questioned right in this state? does our newspaper record even go back that far?), and he’s an even bigger asshole than Douglas ever was- I mean, one of Vermonter’s biggest points of pride has been the way we do politics and political campaigns way different than the lower 47- yet Dubie started and has continued to push a political campaign that looks frighteningly like what the rest of American has- lies, smears, distorted facts, outright lies, a short-term vision in the name of profit and at the expense of our children’s future, and un-accomplishable promises.

Personally, I’ve lived-out the Douglas Administration thinking “well, we’ll get through this, and then we’ll have something better and move on”…. yet Dubie somehow threatens to bring us even further into the abyss of supply-side (read: take care of the rich first and foremost) economics and make-sure-government-intrudes-on-your-right-to-decide-what’s-best-for-you-and-your-family” (abortion, privacy, free speech, etc) small government.  There is nothing reasonable about watching Brian Dubie become governor, except for the nihilists among us.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Race.  Ugh.  Let’s be frank: Phil Scott is a shoe-in to win this race.  His Dem opponent (Steve Howard? I’m not even sure if that’s him name) has done a terrible job putting himself out there, and anyone who knows me would certainly describe me as a political junky.  Yet Scott is a moderate Republican who will sit tight as Lt Gov (an almost totally meaningless and perfunctory position) until the Gov seat opens back up and he can run for that.  The only reason I’d urge you to vote for the Dem (whoever he is) in this race is because Scott is really bad news: make no mistake, a “moderate Republican” like Scott is about as good as a pimple in the space between your ass and your nut sack.  He’s a big business/industry insider who thinks corporate “good” is the best way forward on all fronts.  If I were the state Dems, I’d hire a full-time person to start working now to dig up dirt on this guy in hopes of finding a way of derailing his eventual gubernatorial campaign, because he’s nothing more than a Douglas (mainstream national Republican)-style politician who will destroy our social safety net for the benefit of his corporate pals.

Secretary of State.  Jason Gibbs, the GOP candidate, is a Douglas Administration lackey with the morals of a turd and the stink of a turd’s fart.  He embodies the very worst that human-kind can throw into the political arena.  Kick-backs for insiders and friends, direct lies to the press spun as “true enough”, opportunism… people like Gibbs infiltrating the VT political landscape is a direct assault on everything it means to be a “Vermonter”, almost regardless of what you want to define that as.

State Auditor.  This is the biggest no-brainer.  Even if I didn’t have incumbant Tom Salmon’s track record of using state equipment (illegally) for campaign purposes, even if there weren’t a long history of his using his office for inappropriate projects, even if major state employee fraud didn’t happen on his watch (and even if he didn’t try to pass the the buck on responsibility for such crimes); even if he didn’t get a DUI and then try to use his title to worm out of the charge, even if he wasn’t a complete and total fucking lunatic most likely suffering from some form of PTSD and in need of major psychiatric counciling, I’d still be urging everyone I could find to vote for Doug Hoffer.  Mr Hoffer is by far the most qualified candidate for political office that I’ve ever seen run in my entire life.  Regular readers of GMD are well-versed in Doug’s thoughtful, fact-based comments here.  Even as a non-office holder, what he has contributed to the good of Vermont, working Vermonters, and most importantly, the accountability of the State is incalculable.  Doug Hoffer is so amazingly qualified and is so inscrupuably dignified that I regret not having taken the time to personally volunteer for his campaign- and I vow in the future (I’ll pray for a future Hoffer campaign though I’ve never prayed for anything- once- in my entire life) to take time to volunteer to ensure he’s elected to whatever office he decides he wants to run for, whenever he wants to run for it.

The anti-capitalist arguments against me.  These arguements boil down to two different approaches: “I’m voting for this Third Party person because they most represent my beliefs” or “voting only helps legitimize/recognize that which is illegitimate; namely, electoral politics in general (The State).”  Hey, I have strong sympathies towards both these opinions and have argued for them both in the past.  But at the end of the day (on Tuesday, November 2, or there about) the simple fact of the matter is that Peter Shumlin or Brian Dubie will be governor of Vermont, and either a Democrat or a Republican will be elected to each of the down-ticket positions as well.  Absolutely nothing– including the most dramatic scenarios imaginable (nuclear bombs, 100-year storms, alien invasions, zombie attacks) will change that fact.  Which means as anti-capitalists (or, for that matter, radicals of either side) we have three choices: abstain, vote third party, or hold your nose and vote for one of the two possible winners.

Folks, believe me, if there were a possibility of another option, I’d almost certainly be all about it.  And in general, I’d prefer not to live my life holding my nose.

But at this moment in time Vermonters have a unique opportunity to forge ahead of the rest of the country, and we should seize it.

As far as voting for third parties:  we may walk out of the voting booth feeling good to have voted for someone who best represents our own opinions, but when we lay down to sleep at night, the fact that can’t escape our hearts is that we voted against the better (not best) in favor of giving a chance for the worst.  There is plenty of evidence (in Vermont) that a well-run campaign by a strong candidate can buck the two-party system; yet that is not the case in any of the state-wide races in Vermont this year.  There is a statistically 0 (zero) chance of a third party candidate winning.  Does your self-satisfaction really trump the disastrous realities of the GOP ticket?

A vote for a third party candidate this time around is the same as abstentionism.  The libertarian left (anarchism, anti-state communism, et al) has a long and proud history of abstentionism.  I do not need to thoroughly take-up the matter here.  I will say, however, that any electoral tactic (including abstentionism) is only and always effective as part of a mass movement; we anarchists lack such popularity at this time (and hey, to all you cynics: such was not always the case and I’ll guarantee it won’t continue to be such!).  Abstaining in order to go home and feel good about your own personal choice is the same as voting third party: it accomplishes absolutely nothing at the end of the day except make you feel good about yourself.

As a parent, I can see that my own personal ideals are easily trumped by the need to ensure the best possible outcome.  On this matter, there are generally two schools of thought: incremental (and very relative) gains, or “it’s gotta get real bad before people take action to make it better”.  

While once I was patient enough for the latter, with a child in my care, I cannot risk the possibilities of what may come from it.  My beliefs and ideals have not changed an iota- but my tolerance for rightward shifts of the State has.  I hope to raise my child to always be true to her beliefs and that which is important and meaningful to her- yet I hope also to teach her the difference between ideology and pragmatism.

It’s a fine line that, perhaps, before any of us pass on we may finally understand.  Nonetheless, for now, in Vermont, in 2010, it means no Republicans should be given a chance to take state-wide office.  Regardless of who wins, it is our moral job to push, fight, and demand more for ourselves than we have.  The battle neither begins nor ends with the elections- yet the outcome of the election is painfully important.

21 thoughts on “Why A Radical Might Vote Mainstream This Time ‘Round

  1. I could quibble about how many loggers still use an axe to fell a tree (mostly it’s mechanical timber harvesters that snap a tree off near the ground in big hydraulic pincers, riding on huge tires or continuous treads).

    But the gist of your argument is thoughtful (if colorful). I might even say “mature,” if you wouldn’t take it as an insult.

    The closest current parlance for acknowledging when someone is being a “mensch” or a “stand-up guy” is probably a particular intonation of “Dude!” If we were in earshot, you’d be hearing it now.


    In a Time of Universal Deceit, TELLING the TRUTH Is a Revolutionary Act. ~ George Orwell  

  2. I’m new to this forum, and so I’m not familiar with your previous postings. Unfortunately, the brief explanation of your political beliefs above did not do them full justice, and so I’m left scratching my head wondering exactly where you stand and how I can quickly read up more on 19th-Century Russia to orient myself.  As a result, to this naive reader, you come across as bright and weird.  

    More concerning, however, is that you then cross a line that not even our Lt. Governor and his Southern Media SS Panzer Division have crossed — gossiping about Peter’s relationship with women.  While I share with you a desire to see Dubie’s train derail, you bring to light some negatives that do little to inspire someone to get out and vote for Peter … which, I believe, was the ultimate intention for your posting.

    President Clinton was, and still is, an enormously effective Democratic political leader, even though he may be less than an ideal role model when it comes to his relationships with women.  Several days before the election, do we really need to depress everyone with those tawdry issues which may or may not be true.  (I’ve been following the election closely for the last few months and was unaware this was an area of concern until you mentioned it.)

    Finally, your decision to call our Lt. Governor an a–hole, true as it may be, thrusts your rallying cry into the schoolyard and diminishes the overall impact of your argument.  

    In short, I agree with most of what you say, but not how you say it.

  3. You know that the popular kids at Montpelier’s Golden Dome High will resent you calling them out, right? Hope you can live with the shame that accompanies your kind brutal honesty. Wear it like a badge of honor.  

  4. As someone who’s known you probably longer than anyone else on here (and on a very personal level), a tip of five-thousand hats to you, for the conciseness, pragmatism, clarity, honesty, profanity and rudeness. Best post I’ve read all election season.

  5. “The battle neither begins nor ends with the elections- yet the outcome of the election is painfully important.”

    right on bro!

  6. For me, voting third party/independent has to be part of a larger project to be effective.  A bunch of disorganized people all voting for Cris Ericsson because they like weed will have no effect; an organized, self-conscious group publicly refusing to provide their consent to the system as a result of well defined grievances is something else entirely.  It is both the potential seed of a movement to obtain redress for those grievances as well as a shot across the bow of the political elites for whom the party in power is irrelevant (in Vermont, see the recent 7D article).  I know the narrative that is firmly entrenched in your consciousness concerning the separatist movement, but this is why I’m going to be voting Dennis Steele on Tuesday with a clear conscience.  I believe this vote is but one act in the long and continuing struggle to end the war machine and the Empire, and I think that, in the long, strategic view, furthering that struggle is more important than which corporate candidate wins the horse race on November 2nd.

  7. I wonder why you put green anarchist in quotes as if to imply that its not “real” anarchism… to me, green anarchism is just taking the anarchist tradition and fusing it with an ecological analysis. Just as anarcha-feminism does with an analysis of patriarchy.

    I understand wanting to distance yourself from primitivism and other silly conclusions but green anarchism is a rich tradition from Bookchin to Zerzan that treads on territory previously untouched by classical marxists and anarchists.  

  8. That makes you (along with me) another ‘liberal fuck’–take that, Michael!!!

    Yeah, I’m gonna hold my nose–Champ told me to vote for Shumlin.  Otherwise, it’s Boots and Rosmarie Jackowski, etc. down the line.  Oh yes, and good ole Bill Doyle.  And Gaelan Brown along with Ann Cummings.  I’ll write Michael in for Sheriff.  He has horses, after all.

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