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Recovery From Another Trump Term

Vote Shaming Doesn’t Work, but If Reasoning Doesn’t Either, What’s Left?

Several months ago, while Bernie Sanders was still in the lead during the primaries, a sarcastic friend of mine on FB lambasted everyone still voting for him. Smart, ethical folks, he insisted, would only vote for someone with a legitimate chance of winning the nomination.

This friend sneered at stupid purity voters who weren’t being realistic. They were the fools, he whined, responsible for putting Trump in office in the first place. I decided that such a dismissive attitude wasn’t helpful. Clicking "unfriend" eliminated at least that one bit of daily negativity from my life.

As it turned out, the DNC and prominent Democratic leaders did make sure that Biden became the nominee, despite being the worst or possibly second worst candidate in the primary. Perhaps no one else ever had a chance in the first place, corporate media equally as guilty in pushing the worst of the corporate candidates. Just as Hillary Clinton was appointed, so was Joe Biden.

What makes supporting the resultant nominee more distressing is his refusal to shift to the left on even one of the most vital issues.

What makes supporting the resultant nominee more distressing is his refusal to shift to the left on even one of the most vital issues. Biden is more interested in persuading Republican voters than progressive voters, feeling we have no choice but to cast our ballot for him.

But we do have a choice. Several of my friends flat out refuse to vote for Biden. And they’re not alone.

Mind you, none of them would have voted for Sanders, either, considering him too far to the right as well.

But even now, with the West Coast ablaze, Biden continues to support fracking. He thinks his decision to push for mass incarceration years ago was the right one. His running mate, Kamala Harris, refuses to admit any errors from her own harsh history in criminal justice.

I don’t want any leader who can never learn from their mistakes, who cannot hold him or herself accountable for their decisions, who can never process additional evidence, who is announcing publicly and proudly upfront they will never adapt to evolving conditions. They know all the answers now, and nothing anyone can say or do will ever change their mind.

Really, that attitude is supposed to be an asset?

I asked one of my Never Democrat friends if there was anything at all Trump could do that would lead her to vote for the Democratic nominee. She said no. Democrats support corporations. They oppress workers.

She correctly pointed out that in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis that leaves the unemployed without healthcare, Democrats still won’t support single-payer healthcare. She doesn’t believe Democrats will ever solve any of our problems. No matter what Trump says or does, she and her friends will NEVER vote for a Democrat, under any condition. Ever.

A great many articles online rail about the evil of “voting for the lesser evil,” but how can it be better to guarantee that the greater evil stays in office? If Trump announced that once elected for a second term, he would round up all LGBTQ folks, sterilize all Blacks and Latinx, execute Native Americans, would it still be better never to vote for a Democrat? If there is a line that could be crossed that would spark a change in voting strategy for Never Democrats, where do they draw that line?

And for God’s sake, why don’t they think it’s been crossed yet?

Never Democrats claim that the DNC and their media accomplices are tricking us into believing we have no choice, but even independent, alternative media clearly document the atrocities Trump and his appointees have committed and their plans to commit even more.

Emmanuel Macron pushes some oppressive policies. But isn’t he ANY better than Viktor Orbàn?

Angela Merkel is sorely lacking as a leader. But isn’t she ANY better than Kim Jong-un?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democrat. But isn’t she ANY better than Bolsonaro?

If our choice is between having one broken leg and having two broken legs plus two broken arms, is it really “just as bad” to vote for the one broken leg?

My Never Democrat friends have decided to cast their votes this year for a write-in candidate. They can’t even get a third-party candidate they approve of officially on the ballot in one state, much less nationwide.

If their “people power” only amounts to a handful of votes, maybe their candidate isn’t the spoiler I fear. It seems hard, though, to justify a belief in democracy when you’re admitting your vote matters so little it’s “strategic” to throw it away.

Who, after all, is even going to report it on the news? What GOP or DNC leader is going to feel intimidated by such a weak showing?

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“If Democrats lose two presidential elections in a row, they’ll learn we mean business!”

I’m confused why they have such faith in a party they consider unredeemable.

If it’s the two-party system that has already determined the ineffectiveness of voting, is a protest vote really even a protest? If the goal is to slowly, over time, educate voters, what are we persuading them to vote for if voting doesn’t matter? And what happens to the hundreds of millions of oppressed people who have to wait decades for any relief?

I appreciate the demand for justice, not abandoning one segment of society to save another. I know that power never shares power unless forced to do so. But circumstances have changed since the election four years ago, and we must adapt or lose what little power we have to push for any change at all.

 We must eliminate the Electoral College. We need ranked choice voting. We need to expand the number of viable political parties.

 We need universal healthcare, tuition-free college and vocational training, government funded childcare, a Green New Deal, and much more.

We may not get any of that under Biden, but there is a possibility we could prevent outright fascist dictatorship if we elect him.

 Is that not worth voting for?

 If it isn’t, what good is a Never Democrat’s “commitment” to justice?

I’m not being snarky. It’s a sincere question. If folks have ideals that simply can’t be met at the current moment, what’s Plan B?

I want a Democratic Socialist government. But that’s not an option right now. And there is absolutely nothing about a second Trump term that advances that goal.

If our options are to eat raw chicken livers covered in horse snot OR starve to death, is one of those not a healthier choice? What if the choice is to eat raw chicken livers covered in horse snot or allow millions of others to starve to death?

Biden is a terrible nominee. I don’t want him as president. I can think of a dozen other corporate Democrats I’d want ahead of him, and I don’t want them, either. But we’re no longer in a primary. I have exactly two choices in this election. One of them IS going to be president.

If we scratch our heads in confusion over why so many conservatives vote against their own self-interest, why is it OK for us to do the same ourselves?

It’s possible that voting for an extremely flawed Democrat is too little too late. But can anyone honestly believe there will even be another election four years from now if we keep Trump in office? We’ll have Ivanka or Don, Jr., or William Barr. Can we witness the deliberate, open dismantling of our checks and balances every day and doubt that? Trump’s already encouraging chants of “Twelve more years!”

If we must cast a protest vote, can’t we protest Trump instead of the DNC? Can’t we triage our protest votes?

To be clear, I’m not going to “Unfriend” anyone who won’t cast a vote for the only candidate that can remove Trump from office in this election. I understand this is a painful decision. Yet I’m still not going to “Re-Friend” the FB acquaintance who invests so much energy into vote shaming. Vote shaming remains negative behavior that’s ineffective, even detrimental.

Yet reasoning seems ineffective, too.

So what’s left? Armed insurrection? We’re not white supremacists, are we?

Even if Never Democrats want a socialist revolution, when exactly are they planning to revolt? If they can’t even muster enough signatures to get a candidate on the ballot, I’m not confident in their chances of succeeding at a task far more difficult.

Whether we like it or not, Biden is currently the least awful of our options. Once he and Harris are in office, once we get past whatever backlash the radical right inflicts, then we work harder than ever for the essential policies and parties we need.

Johnny Townsend

 In the face of the very real danger of despotism, it’s ethically appropriate to do what’s “pragmatic.” Because anything else will allow Trump to raise our death toll even higher, with no end date in sight.

Johnny Townsend