by Keaton Weiss
Of course, now that the Democratic presidential primary has all but officially come to a close, we’re in that familiar phase of the campaign cycle when the discussion turns to how everyone is going to vote in November, if at all. The Bernie supporters argue amongst themselves about whether or not to fall in line behind the nominee, the blue-no-matter-who people start ranting about Orange/45/Cheeto/tRump/Chump, etc., the more good faith Democratic loyalists start reminding everyone that there’s a Supreme Court, and the more bad faith Democrats start laying the groundwork to blame the Bernie supporters anyway when their establishment candidate crashes and burns. We know how this goes.
I’m certainly not above having such conversations about voting, especially at this specific time when they’re most relevant. The primaries are over, the general election is upon us, and it makes sense that under these circumstances, there would be widespread discussions as to how everyone is going to vote in the general election. I do, however, have one request this time: let’s keep it brief, because there are more important matters at hand.
There’s really no need to go back and forth for the next six months about who’s voting Green, who’s voting Biden, who’s writing in Bernie, or Vermin Supreme, or their dog, or who’s boycotting the election and not voting at all. Let the #resistance live in suspense over what you’re going to do on November 3rd, if anything. Just tell em you’ll think about it, and let them lose their shit over it if they must.
Remember, the very act of voting itself makes up a remarkably small percentage of what it actually means to be politically engaged. Voting takes a few minutes if the lines are short, a few hours if the lines are long, or maybe a trip to the post office if you’re voting by mail. Being an active citizen requires much more effort than that, as most of you already know. Therefore, it should be obvious that the task ahead of us is much bigger than simply deciding whether or not to vote, or who to vote for, in the fall.
We now must turn our focus toward building independent populist left power, regardless of how you or anyone else decides to vote this cycle. We’re seeing huge momentum behind a #DemExit movement and third party fundraising. We’re seeing a sizable organizing effort behind a new political party altogether. We’re seeing calls for a general strike amid the coronavirus pandemic. We’re seeing underpaid workers suddenly deemed “essential” beginning to recognize and assert their power in a way they had never before thought possible. All of this is positive, and the challenge of the moment is to coordinate these efforts in a way that creates an institutional structure that can wield power and influence, ideally as an electoral force, but at the very least, in the short term, as a giant pressure group to be exerted on existing organizations.
Of course, as these options are being explored, our favorite politicians like AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Bernie himself, are going to spend the lion’s share of their time trying to sheepdog the progressive movement into the Democratic Party in order to defeat Donald Trump in November. This was to be expected from the outset in the event of a Sanders defeat, and so it should come as neither a shock to our system nor a distraction from our overall goal. If you feel a need, or even a desire, to follow their lead and vote for Joe Biden in the general election, go right ahead. If you don’t, then don’t. It’s ultimately not that big a decision, because either electoral outcome will pose its own set of challenges and opportunities for the progressive movement.
In the first outcome, Trump wins. We have a good idea of what this looks like, because it’s happened before. The establishment cooks up a series of narratives absolving themselves of any responsibility for their own defeat, and next time around, they convince the weak, brainwashed Democratic primary electorate to double down on the same strategy by nominating yet another old-time party hack. So you see, there’s no real checkmate move to be made by deliberatlely ushering in another Trump term, because the first Trump term yielded a Joe Biden nomination in 2020. If Trump wins again, do the Democrats finally “learn their lesson” and go in a different direction next time around? Where’s the evidence for that? If anything, I’d bet on a #DraftHarryReid movement for 2024 in that scenario. So even setting aside the harm Trump will do in a second term, there’s no strategic upside to willing such a thing into existence.
In the second outcome, Biden wins. In that case, the neoliberal cabal is back in business. Michael Bloomberg at the World Bank, Jamie Dimon at Treasury, and John Kerry taking an encore at State (according to Axios reporting sourced from within the Biden camp). Man, does that suck. The only possible, and I stress, possible, benefit to such an outcome will be that the #resistance will completely disengage from the political process, and therefore be out of our way for the time being. They’ll all be back at brunch, assuming their favorite “spots” survive the coronavirus shutdown, and we’ll have some room to operate and build our coalition without brainwashed lunatics in pussy hats screeching at us that we’re doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin and “Cheeto Mussolini.” One of the obvious takeaways from this primary cycle is that too many liberals, among them even some who consider themselves progressives, were too paralyzed with fear by the presence of Donald Trump in the White House to stray too far from established party orthodoxy. Perhaps a Biden administration will give some of them the kind of breathing room they need to give us on the left more of a fair hearing, just as Bernie Sanders’ coalition formed not under Republican rule, but two years into Barack Obama’s second term, when the threat of the GOP wasn’t as fresh in liberals’ minds.
As far as my decision goes, as a New Yorker, the case against voting for Joe Biden is open and shut. In a safe blue state, a vote for Biden is a symbolic vote of confidence in an illegitimate party and its puppet candidate, and an expression of solidarity with its helpless, gutless, feckless base of voters. I’m not doing it, and I advise my fellow blue-staters not to do it either. If you’re in a swing state, well, that’s your call. But the important thing to remember is that no matter your personal choice, and no matter the outcome of the 2020 election, our work remains the same, and there’s no persuasive evidence to suggest that our task becomes any easier or more difficult in either possible universe.
And so yes, for the next week or so, it only makes sense to formulate and assert your position on what your plans are for November 3rd of this year. But beyond that, is it even an interesting question? I’d argue it really isn’t. The 2020 election, for our purposes, is essentially over already. To harp on who’s voting for who and why for the next six months is pointless at best, and destructive at worst, because in a zero sum sense, any time spent bickering with a blue-no-matter-who bot over who’s to blame if Trump wins is time you could just as easily, and much more pleasurably, spend expanding your mind about how to build new left power, and expanding your network of people who feel that same imperative. They’re out there in huge numbers. I promise you’ll find them with a little effort. So put your efforts there, and let the #resistance weaklings fret over your voting habits for you. We’ve got much bigger fish to fry.