The following was posted to the member listserv of a socialist organization on October 5, 2020:
Until last year I was highly active in the Green Party, at the state, local, and national levels. In electoral work, I had always strongly rejected the “lesser of evils” outlook, realizing that the Democratic Party just as much as the Republican Party is an agency of the bourgeoisie and that pursuing the lesser of evils is a dead end for progressive organizations. I viewed the 2016 presidential election through such a lens: Donald Trump, although politically worse than the nauseating Hillary Clinton, had not yet assumed his monstrous character, so I aided Jill Stein’s Green Party campaign by serving, along with another experienced treasurer, on a special committee to ensure that her campaign complied with FEC regulations.
By now, in 2020, Trump has fully revealed his poisonous character, and he is challenged for the presidency by Democrat Joe Biden, who is almost as repugnant as Clinton. I am distressed that some comrades – and I am not here trying to respond to any particular listserv posting – don’t realize that there are important qualitative differences between the two candidates which significantly affect our ability to promote progressive social change. We must necessarily build upon the current political discourse, making demands to supersede superficial “progress” with genuine transformation of our society in a progressive direction. Does it not make a difference, concerning systematic oppression of people of color, that Trump says that such oppression simply doesn’t exist and vigorously fights any attempts to rectify it, while Biden says that we have to take responsibility for our original sin of Black slavery and genocide of Native Americans and take definite steps to right these wrongs? How about Trump’s successful attacks on labor union rights, on public education, on environmental protections, on voting rights, on the rule of law? Some comrades seem to think that it will suffice to basically ignore who is holding political office and instead to inspire the masses with their P.C. politics to force societal change. I think such comrades are living in a dream world, consistent with their miniscule influence on “the masses”.
So far we have made a “lesser-of-evils” argument, although it is considerably more compelling than such an argument for Bush II vs. whatever hack the Democrats threw at him in 2000 and 2004. Nonetheless, it should be rejected for the usual reasons: there will be no end to such a course of action, every four years, and we’ll just be falling into the two-party trap for the umpteenth time. Difficult as it may be, we have got to concentrate upon promulgating our socialist politics in the electoral sphere. Unfortunately, the present situation is rather more complicated (and far more dangerous!) than this.
The problem is not just Donald Trump, but rather it is the genie from the bottle which he has released: “Trumpism”, ideologically that which is worst in America. We must realize that Trumpism is not simply a highly conservative reaction to our society’s current problems. It is not simply that Trump has based his political appeal explicitly on white supremacy, which the Republican Party has long championed in a veiled way (the “Southern strategy” of Richard Nixon). He has actively promoted misogyny; blatant, outright lying by the Leader; flouting of the rule of law, particularly of the Constitution; dismissal as “fake news” any established facts which contradict what one wants to be true; blanket antagonism towards the mass media, as “the enemy of the people”; total distrust of science and the scientific method; public demonstrations of armed, far-right-wing “patriots” in support of his policies; encouragement of white supremacist paramilitary organizations such as the Proud Boys to ready themselves for the coming civil war (“Stand Back and Stand By”); verbal and legal attacks on “The Other”, in this case immigrants of color and Moslems; expression of utter contempt for persons who oppose or disagree with him. This is the stuff of fascism, which Trump has been laying the groundwork for (although as yet we are nowhere near the institution of real fascism here). Evidently at least 30% of Americans are hardcore, wholeheartedly supporting all these manifestations of “Trumpism”: many tens of millions of people who will readily support fascism if and when the bourgeoisie figure that they have run out of options for maintaining their rule through neoliberalism.
It does make a difference if the political leadership of the country supports Trumpism and further develops it organizationally, and this is why it so important to prevent Trump from continuing in office. We must realize that we are in a long-term, life-and-death struggle with the cancer of Trumpism, and must not remain complacent about its continued existence. This struggle against Trumpism must involve, first and foremost, taking part in progressive mass struggles to improve people’s lives, for that is how we build the movement for progressive social change. The electoral arena, which usually plays a secondary role in this process (except right now when getting rid of Trump himself is of critical concern), can also be of great use in effecting (limited) progressive reforms such as Medicare for All, and in fostering an overall progressive outlook on goals for the future.
It is important to build a socialist party which can effectively work to neutralize Trumpism and advance the transformation of our society to socialism, although such an organization can arise only organically through the initiative of those vitally involved in progressive mass struggles rather than being promulgated by a handful of socialist intellectuals. I have previously advocated not trying to build an independent progressive party to take on the Democrats (https://bcmsocialism.org/a-new-progessive-party/), but instead to use the two-party system by running unabashedly progressive candidates in Democratic Party primary elections. (After presumably losing the primary, our candidate should no longer be criticizing the successful Democrat, and may even support her/his campaign if she/he isn’t clearly reactionary.) The key is that we must always put forward, in mass struggles and in electoral work, unreservedly progressive politics rather than watering down our politics for the sake of an illusory unity. Especially, we must expose the Biden administration as having nothing to do with the creation of a humane society, and forthrightly call for the replacement of capitalism with socialism.
Besides the struggle against Trumpism, there is another overriding reason for ousting Trump: the impending climate catastrophe. Trump has systematically undone what weak environmental protections we had, whereas Biden would restore them and at least pay lip service to mitigating climate change. It would then be up to us to enormously strengthen these environmental protections, and we would be far more effective starting from pro-environment political discourse than from Trump’s wreck. If we don’t start getting serious, as a society, about the environment, we simply won’t have a world left in which to erect socialism.
So where does this all leave the Green Party? Until a year ago, I was serving as treasurer of the Green Party presidential campaign of Dario Hunter, who was the only substantial opponent of Howie Hawkins for the party’s nomination. I quit the campaign (with three-months notice, since experienced volunteer treasurers are as scarce as hens’ teeth) when it became clear that neither Dario nor any other Green Party presidential candidate would endorse voting for the Democrat in swing states. As explained in my article “Defeating Trump” (https://solidarity-us.org/atc/203/defeat-trump/), I advocated that the Green Party nominee give her/his full political program in swing states, but also call for voting for the Democrat there in order to defeat Trump. This could actually have constituted a boon for the Green Party, demonstrating its political maturity (and publicizing its own progressive politics), that it is not just a bunch a P.C. Revolutionaries off doing their own thing without regard for what’s going on in the real world. But I’m afraid that Hawkins is steadfastly campaigning for votes in swing states. Hopefully he won’t thereby help throw the election to Trump. Also hopefully this election cycle will spell the effective demise of the Green Party, as being irrelevant to the struggle for socialism in our country.