The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Electoral Politics Page 1 of 27

Lightning Strikes And Third Parties

Here’s the thing about third parties: sometimes they get elected. In first-past-the-post duopolies it’s uncommon, but it happens.

Recently I wrote that voting for the lesser evil doesn’t work.

Most of the time, neither does voting for third parties. But sometimes it does. The NDP (Canada’s most left wing party) had never formed a government in Alberta, then suddenly in 2015 they defied all the polling and won. For most of the 19th century Britain alternated between Liberals and Conservatives, then suddenly in 1924, Labour won—and this is back when Labour actually was fairly radical. The Liberal still exist (as the Liberal-Democrats), but they haven’t formed a government since.

There come times when people are upset with the status quo and truly want to change it. FDR is one, Reagan is another. In both those cases, the change was channeled thru an existing party.

If you can get control of an existing party, that’s what you should do. FDR, once elected, sidelines his Democratic enemies and remade the party in his image.

But, often you can’t, and in such times controlling a third party allows you a chance for the lightning strike; the moment everything changes. If the mainstream parties won’t accommodate it, you can.

The key here is to keep the part aligned with your ideology. A third party which changes its ideology too much to “win’ is not a good third part. A third party’s job is to catch the wave of discontent, ride it to power and displace one of the previous major parties. It is up to them to make the case that they are the “real change” and that the big two aren’t (or big however in proportional states.)

The problem with this, for individuals, is that it’s a long game. Your entire life could pass before the lightning strike. But if you manage it, you can change everything, as indeed Labour did, when Atlee came to power at the end of World War II.

The other option is to create and sustain a faction in one of the main parties. If you can do that, great. But right now, every attempt to do so in the Democratic party has failed. On the other hand, it has been done repeatedly in the Republican party, so if you’re right wing, forget third parties: take over the Republicans or form a faction and wait your chance to do so.

If, on the other hand, you’re left wing, do the third party thing. Keep it on the ballots in every state and wait and work and pray for the lightning strike.


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Why Voting For The Lesser Evil Is Strategic Imbecility

If a party can get your vote by being slightly less evil than the other party (and this applies to both the Republicans and Democrats to many voters), then they have no incentive to be good.

If you live in a society where parties are tending more and more evil, voting for less evil simply ensures that the trend will continue. Since “evil” in this case means “bad for ordinary people but great for me and people who bribe me”, there’s no reason for politicians enmeshed in the system, who rose under the system to do anything for the majority unless it benefits the rich and powerful more.

However politicians do sometimes change their votes or actions when in power based on needing to be elected.

The key thing here is that you should always vote. Someone who votes is taken more seriously by politicians than non-voters, because it’s easier to get a vote to switch than to convince someone to start voting. Go in, and vote for a third party, or a few down ballot candidates or even spoil your ballot.

Of course, as a single voter, your power is limited. So we’ll talk about political leverage next time. The basic principle under all government types is this: you may sometimes luck into good times, but most of the time you only get what you have the power to enforce, and you never keep anything without power and a willingness to use it.


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Is Lesser Evilism Failing In America

So, this tweet from Stancil, a particularly deranged Democratic partisan:

Hard to express my contempt for people who engage in the “I’m not voting for president” routine, a rejection of the basic civic reality that sometimes all the options aren’t going to be custom-built for you but democracy doesn’t work if you throw a sulk and refuse to participate

Refusal to choose between two genocidal maniacs is “anti-democratic”, rather than an acknowledgment that the Democratic system in the US is broken if it only offers Cheeto-Hitler and GenocideJoe.

Look, Trump has been very clear that he’d support the genocide too. He says he’ll federalize Red State militias and cops and send them into blue states to hunt down immigrants, presumably door to door, which makes the fugitive slave act that was one of the main causes of the civil war look reasonable and sane.. He’s a fool, deeply stupid, a rapist multiple times over, a man who cheats people who work for him and so on. He’s lower than pond scum. Any decent person wouldn’t spit on him to put out a fire.

Biden is actively assisting Israel in an active genocide. He deliberately caused a famine in Afghanistan after withdrawal, showing his one unique genius: the ability to kill more people without troops than with them.

Both of these men are profoundly evil. They’re also old and incompetent, though if you’re going to have evil as President, I suppose incompetent evil is better.

The American electoral system is broken in multiple ways, but one is that it doesn’t offer up even remotely acceptable Presidential candidates (or much in the way of acceptable candidates for lower offices.) This has been true for a long time, but it is getting worse and worse.

“I won’t vote for either genocidal maniac and refuse the system the legitimacy of my vote” isn’t an insane or stupid thing to do in this situation. If you can’t find anyone actually good on your ballot does voting make sense? There are arguments that it does, but it’s not obviously wrong.

Fundamentally the problem is that there is no significant resevoir of sanity among the American elites, and ballot access is very difficult for anyone else. In a country where most  people think of themselves as consumers rather than producers of politics, surmounting that barrier and offering up candidates that enough Americans will vote for seems essentially impossible.

Anyway, Stancil’s just a deranged democratic partisan “even genocide should not be a bar to electing Democrats.”

Lovely country. And not the only one.

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The Weird Pro-Biden Messaging

Democrats, Democrats never change.

It’s all, “well yes, Biden is bad, especially that *cough* Gaza thing, but, ummm, Trump will be worse. So hold that nose, crawl up to the cesspit and vote Biden.”

I mean, I’ve always been anti-lesser evil, but is there any line?

We’re talking a full blown genocide, with deliberate starvation of the population. Only one working hospital remains in Gaza and it is under attack as I write this. If you want to, and you have a strong stomach, you can find such fun videos as a father who is a doctor amputating his own daughter’s leg, on his kitchen table, without anaesthetic. (There is no anaesthetic left in Gaza, all surgery is without anaesthic. Welcome to Hell.) Babies died abandoned in incubators and Palestinians running to get food from aid trucks are gunned down by quad-copter drones.

Israel couldn’t do this without the US, which has been in constant bomb and missile airlift mode since it started. Further, the only person who could stop the genocide with a single phone call is Joe Biden.

But sure, vote for him because Trump would be worse. Vote for a genocider.

There will be some commenters, I bet, who say, “but Trump would be worse: he’d support the genocide and do other bad things.”

Possibly true.

“Vote Beelzebub, he is 3% less bad than Satan.”

Let’s explain basic politics in a democracy (the same rules apply in non-democracies, with slight adjustments.)

You have power if you can deliver voters, volunteers or money in sufficient quantities to make a difference, and no one can get those voters, volunteers or dollars without going thru you.

That is it, that is all. If you want to have influence on policy, you must have enough voters/money/volunteers who will only make that difference if they get what they want and who will absolutely work against you if they don’t. Doesn’t matter if it’s single payer or “don’t genocide”. If enough people won’t say “you don’t get what you want from me if I don’t get what I want from you” then you have no power. None.

The right has power because they will absolutely vote against and work against people who cross them and are loyal to those who do what they want. Say what you want about Trump and the right: he gave them the abortion ban they’ve been wanting for generations. He did that. They got what they wanted from him, the single most important thing they wanted.

“Progressives”? No principles. They believe in nothing. There is no red line they will not cross, no slight or betrayal they will not forgive if it is wrapped in a smarmy right wing Democrat’s lying lips.

Fortunately, in this case, there are lot of Muslims in Michigan, a battleground state. And apparently there is a red line for them, “you killed my relatives!!!!!” So there’s a good chance Biden will lose, even if the usual suspects whine that he’s better than Trump, even if he did everything he could to make a genocide happen.

But until there is a voting/giving/volunteering bloc with actual principles which aren’t garbage and which they can’t be cajoled out of with empty promises and lies and “but he’s even worse!”, no one’s getting a better country or world, for that matter.


Political v.s Physical Tipping Points

Back in the 2000’s I belonged to the Netroots movement. Our mantra was “more, better democrats.” We ran primaries, fundraised and put pressure on politicians, on top of all the normal blogging stuff, much of which we were the first mass practitioners of.

We failed. Obama was our loss moment, as he bypassed us and was able to get our readers without having to appease us.

But Obama was something more important. The financial crisis of 2007-9 was a moment which would have allowed for radical change. An FDR figure could have changed the nature of America in their response to it, breaking up banks and other monopolies and letting a vast swathe of the rich go bankrupt and charging them with crimes, thus breaking their power for generations to come.

Obama didn’t do that. He didn’t even seriously consider it, instead he supported the Federal Reserve and Treasury in saving them and enriching them.

I considered it then, and now, a political tipping point. The financial crisis was the last real political chance to change the direction of society, globally (since an American response would have cascaded throughout the world, as it did), enough to perhaps stave off climate change and ecological collapse, since politically dealing with those required breaking the power of the wealthy.

The most important political tipping point was actually the neoliberal empowerment moment: 79’s election of Thatcher and 80’s election of Reagan. Clinton and Blair ascending to the top of the Democrats and Labor were the second political points, since each of them institutionalized the changes made by their Republican/Conservative predecessors. Thatcher understood well, noting that her victory was sealed by Blair.

For both climate change and ecological collapse to be stopped, for the physical tipping points to be avoided, we had to make a radical change in how we ran our societies. Continuing on more or less as we had before meant disaster. To be sure, the changes necessary were truly radical (though less so the sooner they were begun), but nonetheless they required political victory and destruction of the power of vested interests.

So while others were saying “we still have time”, I was looking at the politics and the realities of power and saying the opposite, “it’s too late, we missed the window”, because there was no political possibility.

The physical tipping point for climate change was reached this year or last year, I’m reasonably sure. The ecological collapse tipping point may have been somewhat earlier. The civilization collapse point has also probably passed, and I put that around 2020.

All along the road off-turns were offered. People laugh at Dennis Kucinich, but he wanted to do the right things and ran in the Democratic primaries multiple times. The fact that he was considered laughable even though his policy prescriptions were correct is exactly the problem.

While Corbyn came too late to turn the tide, his election and success, if it had been the precursor of serious political realignment, as was Thatcher, could have saved hundreds of millions of lives and made the process much less painful. Indeed his defeat is one reason (though only one) that I consider 2020 the turning point for civilization collapse. It was definitely the turning point for UK collapse.

Modern propaganda is mighty indeed, and Corbyn lacked the necessary ruthlessness to defeat entrenched interests, if it was even possible. Unlike Obama, however, he at least wished to do the right things.

And that’s the main point: whoever runs society must want to do the right thing. Physically we had plenty of time, if you look at it from back in the 70s, which is when I first became concerned as a child.

Politically, though, we did not have lots of time. Changes in ruling sub-ideologies and opportunities to break the power of elites are not that common, and we failed to do so at each possible political tipping point.

And so, here we are.

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Trump Has Been A Fraudster All His Career, So What’s Changed?

Trump was found guilty in a very interesting suit.

Judge Arthur Engoron, ruling in a civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, found that Trump and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing loans.

Engoron ordered that some of Trump’s business licenses be rescinded as punishment, making it difficult or impossible for them to do business in New York, and said he would continue to have an independent monitor oversee Trump Organization operations.

There are a few interesting things about this case.

  1. It’s was brought by the New York Attorney General, not any of the people Trump defrauded.
  2. It was a civil and not criminal case. The Attorney General first considered criminal charges, but then decided on a civil case. Guilt is found in civil cases on the “preponderance of evidence”, where criminal cases are decides on “reasonable doubt.” Guilt is a lot easier to find in civil cases.
  3. Everyone has known, for decades, that Trump was a fraudster and pulling various shenanigans. He wasn’t charged. Why? Because the sort of fraud he committed is endemic in the real estate industry: it is normal. So while it’s against the law, it isn’t usually enforced.
  4. This means Trump is being charged for something most real-estate developers are being allowed to slide on.
  5. The end effect here is to remove Trump’s control of a big chunk of his own empire, thus reducing his power and ability to fund his own campaign. (That isn’t likely to matter, he will be able to fund it with donations, unlike the first time.)

Obviously what has changed is that Democrats, and the cases are being brought by Democrats, don’t want him to be president again. This isn’t necessarily unreasonable: he did try and launch a coup, after all.

But as I’ve written before, it’s a change in elite consensus. This sort of thing used to be done rarely, and not at the Presidential level. It’s going to lead to a situation where both parties go after the other party’s leaders in jurisdictions they control.

In a sense, this is bipartisan. Republicans are using this mostly to challenge laws they hate, like those allowing abortion or trans-therapy. They do it in a jurisdiction they control, then count on the Supreme Court (under Republican control) backing them up in the end. Most, but not all of the time, the Supreme Court does.

Which leads to the question, what happens when all of these cases against Trump make it to the Supremes? All the Republicans aren’t Trumpists, some aren’t fans.

But a judicial hit policy is dangerous when you don’t control the supreme court.

Something to think about.

And, overall, this indicates a new era in American politics: the gloves are coming off, even more, on both sides and previous elite norms are changing.

This makes some sense when you consider that the US, in certain terms, is in decline. In the old days, there was plenty for everyone. But with the US is relative decline (and arguably absolute decline), and with elites having taken so much from the poor and middle class that there’s little more to loot, any further gains must come from each other.

Welcome to decline.

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Feinstein And the Ginsburg Betrayal

So then:

Feinstein, who was hospitalized in early March for shingles and has remained in her San Francisco home since March 7, has missed 60 votes of the 82 taken in the Senate in 2023…

…Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Monday that Feinstein’s absence from the Senate—and the Judiciary Committee specifically—will impede Democrats’ ability to confirm judicial nominees.

“I can’t consider nominees in these circumstances, because a tie vote is a losing vote in committee,”…

…Feinstein announced she won’t seek reelection in 2024 as a handful of Democratic House members vie for her seat. But she intends to serve out the rest of her term, which is set to end in January 2025.

Ginsburg had cancer. It was a type of cancer which was almost always fatal. She refused to step down from the Supreme Court when a Democratic president could easily appoint her successor, and as a result the Democrats lost a court seat. Ginsburg was looked up to by liberal women, but she betrayed them, though most can’t see past their hero worship to recognize that.

Feinstein is in a similar position: shingles isn’t the real issue, she has dementia and everyone know it. If she cared about the interests of her constituents she would step down immediately so that judges could be appointed and laws passed which need her support. It’s not that she’s a good Senator, she’s voted for a lot of crap, but Democratic appointed judges tend to be better than Republican appointed judges and the difference is important.

Given how bad her dementia appears to be it may be that this isn’t mostly on her: it could be her circle who are keeping her in. If so, they’re the one’s betraying, though she did pick them before age took its toll.

A leader who puts themselves first is not a leader, just someone looking out for themselves.

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Why The American Radical Right Is Powerful And The American Left Is Meaningless

Watching “left wing” reactions to the Speaker’s election in the US House was instructive. Too many people were appalled when I pointed out that the left, the “Squad” specifically, could have done the same thing to get concessions in 2024.

If you were appalled at the idea then you are not a member of the left in any useful way.

(That statement and this post will occasion another torrent of abuse in the comments for me to throw into spam, and laugh about. If you think that after 30 years online, most of it moderating comments, you can insult me in a way I haven’t heard before, you are a fool as well as a piece of human garbage.)

You have power in electoral politics when you can deliver or deny votes and money and get people elected or un-elected. That’s the bottom line.

Usually when a House member tries to vote in a way that the party leadership doesn’t like, they are threatened with the cut off of money or votes.

Right wing Republicans have power because they can deliver votes and money. Right wing Republicans who chose to get concessions in exchange for the votes in the House Speaker election (which is an entirely democratic thing to do an in line with what the founders intended) have their own, largely small money, donor networks. They don’t need the Republican money machine. Furthermore their voters expect them to act on their stated beliefs.

The difference with the Squad is instructive. They claim to have left wing beliefs, but won’t vote them when it matter. Either they are scared of the threats made by leadership, or they don’t really believe their beliefs, or they know their supporters don’t really believe and won’t hold them to account. If you won’t do something when you have the power to do it, you don’t really believe in it.

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This, by the way, is why the Netroots movement failed. For a while we had influence and were a rising power in the Democratic power.

Why? Because we could raise money from sources Democrats couldn’t; we could deliver votes and we threatened incumbents with primaries.

The Netroots lost because Obama figured out how to bypass us to get the money and votes without us and our primary threat proved weak.

The radical right has succeeded to a large extent because the institutional Republican party has not been able to bypass them and their primary threat is real. They stand a good chance of winning many primary challenges and they will make an incumbent’s life miserable if crossed.

The voters are loyal to their beliefs and, while not perfect, do have an expectation that their representatives will represent those beliefs. You may laugh at them for supporting even Trump, say, but if so you’ve missed the point: Trump gave them what they wanted most, control of the Supreme Court and an end to Roe vs. Wade. Those of you old enough will remember when Bush Jr. was forced to back down on his preferred Supreme Court nominee because she was too moderate and nominate someone acceptable to the pro-life movement.

No political movement has power if its “supporters”” do not actually vote their beliefs; donate based on their beliefs; volunteer based on their beliefs and hold their elected and un-elected representatives responsible when they violate those beliefs. (This doesn’t mean you expect reps to be perfect, but on whatever matters most — say abortion for right wingers — you hold them accountable.)

If you can be peeled off because of appeals to lesser evildom or some-such, you make your movement weak and your beliefs are worthless. Without solidarity and accountability there can be no movement which matters.

I don’t agree with radical Republicans about almost anything (except that the world and America would better off if the US interfered a lot less in other counties business). They are, essentially, my ideological enemies, though so are mainstream Democrats and Republicans.

But they have power because they have solidarity and they expect and get results from their representatives. The American left refuses to use power when it has it, and its members just want performative leftism from the likes of AOC. They don’t want or expect results and they display little solidarity, and that why for over 50 years the left in the US (and the UK) has staggered from defeat to defeat.

(There’s some conflation in this article between Republican groups, that’s unavoidable. But basically the bleeding edge, wherever it is, has been winning internal Republican party battles for about 50 years. The left edge has been losing those battles and that’s why America has become an authoritarian dumpster fire with soaring inequality which is in possible terminal collapse.)

We’ll talk a little more about real belief and the use of power soon.


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