You are probably sick of hearing this by now, but it is true— we are on the eve of what may be the most important election of our lifetimes.
It is no surprise that leftists have rebelled at the notion of supporting the establishment candidate Joe Biden.
Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. For so many reasons, Joe Biden is a terrible candidate. He was an opponent of desegregation and the architect of the disastrous ’94 Crime Bill. He supported the war in Iraq. Every time he opens his mouth there is another unintelligible gaffe.
On the surface, it certainly seems self-defeating to argue for one old, racist incoherent white guy over the other old, racist incoherent white guy.
Progressives and leftists have witnessed first hand the corruption of the Democratic Party. How could we possibly support a candidate and a political party that has done everything in its power to subvert progressive candidates and policies?
So why should anyone listen to me? How do you know I’m not some party loyalist that gets my political opinions from CNN or MSNBC like all of the other armchair liberals?
Well for starters I am not a democrat and I haven’t owned a television since 2002.
I was an organizer during Occupy Wall Street and Standing Rock.
I railed against Obama’s drone wars and illegal NSA surveillance programs during his presidency. Because of this, I voted for Jill Stein in 2012 and I wrote in Bernie Sanders's name in 2016.
Actually, the money throw action took place in Los Angeles and we never said that about Hillary.
I have disrupted other events of establishment Democrats like Andrew Cuomo and John Hickenlooper. I even was part of the organizing efforts for the #BernieOrBust strategy in 2016. Fun fact, it was only supposed to be used as leverage against the super delegates at the convention but was co-opted by the Green Party to siphon off disillusioned Bernie voters.
Like so many, I gave countless hours over the past five years organizing for the Sanders movement only to see everything we fought for come to halt on Super Tuesday when the establishment whipped their candidates to fall in line behind a candidate that could barely put together a coherent sentence and hadn’t finished higher than third place before the South Carolina primary.
I understand how painful the thought of enabling Joe Biden and the establishment Democrats is.
I have no illusions about who Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are or whose interests they serve.
You’re Not as Radical As Angela Davis
Angela Davis's revolutionary activism in the 1970’s lead her to being incarcerated as a political prisoner and on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, list. She was the vice-presidential candidate of the Communist Party USA in 1980 and 1984.
She had this to say about the candidates:
“I don’t see this election as being about choosing a candidate who will be able to lead us in the right direction,” said Ms. Davis in the video clip. “It will be about choosing a candidate who can be most effectively pressured into allowing more space for the evolving anti-racist movement.”
She and other radical leftists like Cornell West, Noam Chomsky, Medea Benjamin, and Frances Fox Piven have all thrown their support behind Joe Biden. This is what Noam Chomsky had to say:
“Another four years of Trump may literally lead us to the stage where the survival of organized human society is deeply imperiled,” Chomsky warns. “The most important issue that humans have faced in their history is the impending catastrophic climate disaster. Trump is the worst person in the world on this issue.”
“We have to get rid of Trump, keep pressure on Biden, just as Sanders and associates have been doing,” says Chomsky. “And the crucial part of this decision is to get RID of the major barrier to survival which happens to be in the White House.”
Even Slovenian radical leftist Slavoj Zizek has said that Biden is ‘far from ideal’ but ‘better than Trump.’
You’re Not Antifascist if you Stand By and Let Fascists Control One Third of the Government
According to Cornel West “all the elements are in place for American-style fascism.”
The case to not support the Democratic nominee was perhaps more defensible in 2016. It was clear to those of us that were there at the Democratic Platform Committee then, that Hillary Clinton had no inclination whatsoever to compromise with progressive reforms. The message was clear—’we are in charge. Bend the knee. Kiss the ring.’
Hillary had a long record of devastation. She helped create a failed state in Libya. She helped sell fracking around the world. Her fealty to her network of corporate lobbyists who contributed to her wealth and power was absolute.
Many feared that democrats would simply go back to sleep if Hillary was elected.
We don’t live in the same world that we did in 2016. The world changed when Bernie Sanders ran for the Democratic nomination igniting an unprecedented grassroots movement and a xenophobic reality t.v. show hack was elected president. Groups like Black Lives Matter, Justice Democrats, The People for Bernie Sanders, Brand New Congress, the Sunrise Movement and other groups have formed coalitions to fight for people-centered candidates who stand for racial justice, climate justice, and health justice. Activists and candidates have shifted the Overton Window on critical issues that were considered fringe in 2016.
Both candidates are terrible but we are going to have to organize against one of them. Given the choice between organizing against Trump or Biden, I would pick the latter any day of the week and I would argue that it is crucial to build the power to determine which regime to face in the coming four years.
Ceding power is not a viable theory of change. It is in part how the ruling class controls us. The NRA and Christians right are very effective at getting their legislative needs met by organizing constituencies. The Christian coalition got Carter elected in 1976 and then withdrew their support to elect Reagan in 1980.
The establishment will only take the grassroots seriously when it has the solidarity and strategy to continue to challenge every sitting politician that does not uphold the will of the people.
Trump has branded Black Lives Matter a hate group, and antifascists, socialists and radical leftist terrorists all in the wake of the George Floyd demonstrations where many instances of destruction were incited by white supremacist groups who Donald has refused to denounce.
Forty five is rolling out full-throated fascism.
Federal police wearing unmarked generic uniforms used unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters.
Mark Pettibone, one of the victims, called the experience terrifying. He compared it to a dark sci-fi novel by dystopian author Philip K. Dick of “Blade Runner” and “Man in the High Castle” fame.
Unfortunately, this was not fiction, but a scheme dreamt up by President Trump’s Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolfe.
Trump invited military deployments to suppress Black Lives Matter demonstrations. He threatened to send troops to every state in the union before retired generals publicly rejected the suggestion.
There simply is no ground to gain under another Trump regime. In fact, we can expect a further escalation in the mobilization of his well-armed, cult-like racist brown shirt militias against BIPoC led grassroots direct actions for justice.
Kyle Rittenhouse shooting demonstrators and Homeland Security goons in unmarked vans taking activists off of the street in Portland are the canaries in the coal mine for leftists. We cannot allow these armed white nationalist counter-protesters to have the support of the Oval Office and federal government by extension.
To anyone who has tried to organize leftists against the corporate state and has a modicum of self-awareness, it is painfully obvious that the left is nowhere near prepared to organize against a full descent into fascism.
There is nothing we can do about ICE on a local level, it must be done at the federal level. Whoever is elected will most likely face economic upheaval and increasing climate catastrophes.
You may share #AbolishICE and decry the kids in cages, but do you actually have anyone in your life that is undocumented that you care about?
If you did you most likely would have a different perspective on this election.
It’s true that Obama built the cages and was once called the “deporter-in-chief”. Trump however has made demonizing our undocumented citizens one of the cornerstones of his facho rhetoric, leading to a significant escalation in persecution. This doctrine, led by his cabal of bond villains like Stephen Miller, has even included forced hysterectomies in detention centers.
This is no time to keep your powder dry. It is time to send Trump packing.
How can one possibly claim to be anti-fascist and allow the Trump regime to retain control of one-third of the U.S. government?
Trump has appointed almost 300 lobbyists to be part of his cabinet. Trump hotel has become the center of lobbying in Washington. Countless pay to play instances selling appointments for campaign dollars. Lobbyist overseeing the agencies they are supposed to be regulated by. Under the guise of the pandemic $6 Trillion was funneled to the top.
As of October 13, 2020, the combined fortunes of the nation’s 644 billionaires totaled a jaw-dropping $3.88 trillion — up 40.7% since 2017, the year before Trump’s tax scam went into effect.
Republicans finally killed the estate tax, which they rebranded as the “death tax”.
This is no time to let the worst vulture capitalist have unfettered access to the nation's wealth, allowing even more to be shifted to the top. There is a class war being fought that most Americans don’t even know exists.
The U.S. is most likely on the brink of another economic collapse. These conditions are rife for the rise of authoritarian strongmen, which Trump clearly views himself as.
The large scale disruptions necessary to fight for climate, health and racial justice will only feed into his narratives about the “radical socialist” left and serve as justification for draconian countermeasures. Do we allow his armed brown shirts who will continue to mobilize in response to their furor’s rhetoric, the backing of the federal government? Militia groups have already been plotting to kidnap governor’s at Trump’s behest and stage coups.
This is some proper Handmaid’s Tale shit.
Dear leftists, get your minds right.
If it comes down to organizing against neoliberalism or neofascism, it is an easy choice.
Most Americans identify as voters or citizens the truth is that we have conditioned to be consumers. This consciousness pervades our psyche and influences every aspect of our lives.
The argument against supporting Biden to ensure Trump is deposed is rooted in pure consumerism. It has nothing to do with actual organizing.
This is not about pushing anyone to the left. The reality that the centrists understand, is that it is not about ideology, it is about power.
Change only happens when we fight.
Some so-called leftists assert that “they will never learn”, “Joe Biden will not be pushed to the left or “the party is beyond reform”. This is the wrong frame entirely.
Consumerist voters look through the lens of which politician is going to govern for them. We have been so conditioned from the time we are small children to expect that some imaginary market forces will provide us with our choices. Organizers understand that no one is coming to save you. Whatever change we want to see we must make happen.
Bernie Sanders did not appear out of nowhere; he was a strategy devised by Occupy activists and PDA to challenge Hillary Clinton. He was drafted to run.
As Angela Davis said, it is about keeping the pressure on and occupying the structures of power.
What will your sitting out prove or teach them?
The Democratic Paty bosses are just fine with Trump winning. The wealthy donors are doing great under his tax plan and the DCCC has raised a ton of money without having to make a single policy promise. Trump has been a godsend to corporate media, who have made a killing off of his political circus.
The question I pose for you is, what meaningful organizing are you participating in?
Do you have any undocumented person in your life that you care about? What actual strategic organizing have you participated in? If you are an organizer what meaningful gains have you made in the last four years against this administration?
It burns me to no end that this is the political reality but do the math.
For the people on the frontlines and those doing the hard work for the policies, you cheer for, it is going to matter.
There can be no meaningful gains made through grassroots outside organizing under a Trump presidency on issues of climate, undocumented justice, etc. Trump and his base believe that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese. Acts of disruption only serve to bolster his narrative and justify further fascist draconian police-state measures that include the criminalization of direct action.
Progressives fail to build power and organizing voter blocs to leverage for policies and appointments is still a valid strategy if you can build the numbers.
The harsh realities of what the climate science, and the pervasive wildfires have made painfully clear, is that there is zero room whatsoever to fuck around.
Even if Sanders had been the nominee, subsequently became president and did everything right, we would still be in serious trouble with respect to the human race facing civilization-ending scenarios. We have long since missed the mark to stop CO2 emissions at 350 parts per million and are basically past the point of no return. The earth is at approximately 415 part per million and scientists project that human beings won’t survive when we reach 600 parts per million.
Trump will push us further in the wrong direction toward oblivion.
Trump is fast-tracking dozens of fossil fuel projects during a pandemic.
This world doesn’t have ten years if you have any connection to the realities of climate science. Let’s not pretend that Biden will be any climate hero, as was made clear by the refusal to consider banning fracking.
The major difference is that Trump’s base doesn’t acknowledge the climate crisis is even real, and 45 only cares about his glassy-eyed cheering fans. Democrats claims of being pro-climate science may be inauthentic, but their positions can be weaponized against them.
Their fake outrage of the kids in cages can be outraged.
Progressives are gaining ground. Not fast enough, but under Trump it all becomes white noise.
Maybe if you were in the trenches and not just posting memes from the safety of your living room you would have a different perspective. If you have been in trenches, why on earth would you not do everything in your power to end Trump’s fascist regime?
Anything we do against a Trump regime will just feed into his narratives and justify authoritarian measures. We can not allow executive power to remain in the hands of these neofascists.
Influencing the election to make sure that it is Biden we face instead of Trump is strategically critical. There is no dissent amongst the productive left and those who are doing the serious work of strategic movement building as to this painful political reality. No one also has any illusions as to who Biden and Kamala are and who they serve.
I’m not gonna lie. I absolutely hate this, but the math checks out.
You have the ability to choose your enemy. As an organizer who has put his body on the line and mostly organized against corporate Dems, I would any day of the week choose to organize against Biden rather than Trump.
Progressives like Cori Bush are unseating establishment hacks. Not at all fast enough in my opinion, but it is happening. Consumers view candidates as aligning with their values and assume they will do the work for you. Organizers build coalitions, fight for candidates and policies, power map the opposition, and make as much ground as possible.
If you are going to think like a passive consumer that treats candidates like your favorite brand of organic kombucha, instead of tactics to be wielded or bent to your political will because you have the influence or numbers as part of a movement or organizing effort then it does not matter much. Some of us remember that the Bush presidency was decided by only a couple hundred votes and we would live in a very different world had Gore been president.
If you are going to think and operate as a leader you will look for the highest strategic point of leverage to forward your policy agenda. Unless you are good friends with Kanye or Kid Rock there’s nothing to be done under Trump. There is much to be gained under Biden even if he is still a corporate shill for the ruling class.
For non-organizers, though I would invite you to consider that your choice will have ramifications for those who will be in the trenches actually fighting and not just commenting on social media.
Play the tape forward. Progressives tend to be right on all the issues but are very bad at strategy and building power.
Otpor Ousting Milosevic
There is a strong precedent for leftists casting aside their differences and uniting to depose an authoritarian regime.
Otpor! the movement to remove Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević leading up to the 2000 election faced similar dilemmas as activists organizing against Trump. Most of the leftist groups and opposition parties could not agree on which strategies to align around. There was deep division, but unified theory of change emerged around the slogan “gotov je!” or ”he’s finished!” This meant that regardless of the path forward, all eventually came to the consensus, everyone could agree that Milosevic had to be voted out.
By targeting disillusioned voters, Otpor helped to bring about one of the biggest turnouts ever with 72% of the total electorate showing up to the polls that lead to Milosevic’s defeat.
The coalition was also necessary to mobilize to see Milosevic removed from power when he refused to step down after losing the election. Hopefully, history will not repeat itself in this wretched year of 2020.
What possible argument is there for allowing Trump to remain in office?
Look, I’m not here to vote shame anyone. I understand that for anyone who isn’t actively organizing against the establishment, and is rooted in consumerist politics, that it makes sense to support a party that aligns with your values and supports the issues that we believe in. At the end of the day, people are going to vote how they feel anyways, which will more often be grounded in emotion than logic, strategy, or solidarity.
In this respect, progressives could learn from conservatives. Operation Chaos was a movement taking place in the open primary of South Carolina to elevate the Democratic candidate that Republicans view as weaker against President Donald Trump in the general election. Corporate media reported that conservatives were elevating Bernie over Biden. This was initially true until Sanders went on a 3 state-run and it was clear he was a force to be reckoned with. Then conservatives switched to voting for Biden.
In terms of leftist planning on voting third party for the presidential ticket, I’d like to share some experience and perspective to consider. It is purely anecdotal so take it with a grain of salt.
I’ve been organizing with greens since 2002 and have done fundraisers for Green congressional candidates going back that far. Jill Stein has flown in to take my leadership trainings. I voted for her in 2012 and Nader before that.
In my experience, they have no interest in being part of any meaningful organizing. We only hear from them once every 4 years. I agree with their entire platform, every single issue—but ultimately supporting the Green Party, in my opinion, is a waste of time.
This is not to cast aspersions, denigrate or condescend to the many lovely, well-intentioned people who support the Green Party, but by and large, those that do simply aren’t directly participating in the organizing efforts that taking power from the corporate democrats and shifting to the grassroots. In their defense, it really shouldn’t have to be this way, but here we are. It is really more of an observation based on the Green Party’s organizing culture.
I gave up years ago because the organizing culture is as frustrating as neoliberals. The party leaders are not interested in serious grassroots gains on policy or coalition building, they are only interested in building their own power, only they are so bad at it. We could achieve great things to build a progressive coalition party with their ballot access, but like all parties they are in it for themselves, they just do it under the brand of “we are the real progressives”.
To me being progressive in name is meaningless if nothing changes.
The Green Party for two decades has failed to reach 5%. The pirate party took over the country in Iceland in less than a few years. Why did the GP fail to do so? Like RCP and every other fringe party, they are very bad at organizing, messaging, branding, campaigning, strategy and politics in general.
They claim to be the vehicles of revolutionary change while enabling republicans to take power, start the Gulf War. Ceding power to the worst corporate fascists thereby acting as agents of not only the status quo but a negative status quo. They do not work to build coalitions. They claim they have no power because of the duopoly and yet somehow also use this as the justification for people to join them, even though their no path to victory.
What is that if not the worst form of incrementalism.
In closing, I urge my fellow leftists and activists, especially in battleground states to stand together to #VoteHimOut, and spend the next four years giving Joe Biden hell. I dream that our intersectional movements continue to organize and mobilize to primary Joe in 2024 and that, like LBJ in 1968 he does not seek re-election due to public pressure, especially if his administration does not meet the urgent crises with the leadership and policies necessary to address them.
We shall not give him rest, but first things first—let’s send Orange Hitler back to his Trump Tower.
Thanks for reading!
From Occupy to Standing Rock, Jay Ponti has been a grassroots political organizer. He was the co-creator of #BankExit, the campaign which ignited billions in fossil fuel divestments. He has masterminded direct actions with Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, and other luminaries, which received international media attention.
Jay was a strategist for the 2017 California Poor People’s campaign that coordinated simultaneous actions occupying capitol buildings in 35 states where over 2500 people were arrested to stand for climate justice, criminal justice, health care as a human right, undocumented rights, homeless rights and many other critical issues facing our nation.
Download a free chapter on direct action tactics from his soon be released book The Political Revolutionary’s Handbook at jayponti.com
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