Sunday, December 4, 2016

Noam Chomsky Claims That Third Party Voters Will be Sorry

Noam Chomsky is one of the most illuminating voices of our era, although that face makes what he says here all the more disappointing.

Basically, he regurgitated the same, tired argument that the lesser evil is the right way to go in these elections. Those who were reluctant to vote for Hillary Clinton, according to him, made a "bad mistake."

I have heard others say very much the same thing. George Lakoff was on NPR earlier tonight, and he said that Democrats and progressives lost the debate, at least in part, to their failure to frame the arguments in their favor. As an example, he cited the Republicans tendency to cast shadows of doubt on Hillary Clinton, to pound the message home that she was untrustworthy. He countered that the Democrats should have reinforced just how trustworthy Hillary Clinton was.

And this, apparently, is what passes for a winning strategy.

What Lakoff and other supposed progressives seem to forget is that Republicans were not the only ones who found it difficult to trust Hillary Clinton. After all, she asked for, and recieved, help from the Democratic Party establishment, even though everyone knew that they were supposed to remain neutral. The primary race was tainted in her favor, and she clearly received help, although the Democrats reluctance to talk about it, their clear discomfort with that particular discussion, compromises any level of trust that Bernie Sanders supporters could have had in them. Then, with Hillary's record and her words, as well as her tendency to wet her finger and hold it up to the wind to see which way the political winds of the moment were blowing, were really what did her in.

Yes, Lakoff suggests that framing the argument to favor Hillary Clinton, and to reinforce some positive notion that she was trustworthy, would have added more fuel to the fire, in my opinion. I mean, seriously, the Clintons are simply not trustworthy, period. How many times did Bill Clinton lie while he served as president? And how many times has Hillary Clinton lied during her long career? She was dismissed from the Nixon Impeachment proceedings during the Watergate scandal. She was involved in Whitewater, she advocated universal, affordable healthcare in the 1990's, and has since come around in favor of the healthcare industry, which just happened to coincide with her taking millions of dollare from them. She claimed that she would get tough on Wall Street, while also taking millions from these "too big too fail" firms. Depending on when it is politically profitabaly for her to do so, she has described her political stance as "rooted in conservatism," as moderate, and also claimed to be the "real progressive." She positioned herself as the opposition to George W. Bush, yet voted in favor of his Iraq invasion, voted in favor of the PATRIOT Act, and voted in favor of the bank bailout. Right now, Donald Trump is being criticized for suggesting that flag-burners should get jail time or even have their citizenship rights revoked, although Hillary Clinton proposed a bill suggesting almost the same thing back in 2005. Those are not things that she and her campaign advertised and, moreover, they made every effort to hide away from the public these less than savory aspects of her record. Given that everything that she said and did seemed to have some political considerations to them, these overly convenient positions at the time illustrate a lack of conviction, and reveal a candidate who was addicted to acting decidedly in her own interests, and not in what was the best interests for the country. 

That was what was at issue with Hillary Clinton, and that was why a vast majority of Americans not only held unfavorable views of her, but took particular exception with her untrustworthiness. It was not going to be Lakoff's strategy of putting a smiley face and claiming that she was indeed trustworthy that would have changed much of anything. In fact, I believe it would have exacerbated her situation, in light of the fact that she was, indeed, not worthy of our trust. After all, she cheated in the primaries, and she lied several times during this past campaign. Lief about what her politicasl beliefs are, lied about sniper fire in Bosnia, lied about Bernie Sanders numerous times, and was disingenuous about her own positions with things like fracking. She mishandled her emails, and was not straightforward about it. Then, Bill Clinton illegally met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who headed the investigation, and all charges were dropped against Hillary Clinton just days later. Also, she refused to release her transcripts to those "too big to fail" banks, where she had delivered speeches for enormous speaking fees, and told them that she had both a public position and a private one on certain issues.

Does all that seriously suggest someone that the American people could really trust?

No, of course it does not. And it does not matter what Lakoff, or anyone else, really has to say about it, or however much they might deny any aspersions cast Clinton's way.

However, when someone as respected and intelligent as Chomsky suggests that people who refused to vote for Clinton made a big mistake, that is a much bigger disappointment, especially in the light of just how limited, flawed, and uninspiring she was as a candidate.

Yet, the Democrats made sure that she would be the one, even though the polls suggested that she would struggle, and the same polls suggested that Bernie Sanders had a better shot at beating Trump and other Republicans than Hillary did. The Democrats heard that same news, yet they imposed "their" candidate on everyone else, using closed primaries for many states, despite the fact that these are publicly funded, and made sure that she would win over Sanders. Thus, the Democrats opted to get the candidate who, in many ways, is a lot more like a Republican than what Democrats traditionally have been, and she still lost! Despite all of Trump's shortcomings, and despite how clearly flawed a candidate he was, too many voters viewed her as very flawed to give her the presidency. How ridiculous do you have to be to lose to a candidate so unworthy as Trump?

This is about much more than simply not having the ideal candidate, here. It is not even about the lesser of two evils.

The fact of the matter is that this was staged on many levels. Not staged by some secret bankers or others, who made sure that Trump and Clinton would be the final nominees for the two major parties. But this is all about "too big to fail" political parties who seem to only work together to consolidate their exclusivity, their collective powers, and to keep all other parties, and everyone outside of the two parties (including voters) out. This two party system, thus, becomes a de facto one party system, when the same big banks and corporations effectively buy the allegiances of certain prominent politicians, supposed "leaders" in Washington. This has been going on now for decades, and the rate of this being ever more entrenched is being accelerated, not slowed. The seeming media blackout to what Bernie Sanders said and did, and constantly, relentlessly labeling him as a not viable candidate, despite his winning state after state, clearly shows that the Democrats felt threatened by this "outsider." Frankly,, if there ever was an election when the Democrats in particular deserved to lose, it was this one. At least the Republicans did not intervene when their enfant terrible was clearly winning.

Also, we are told this same message with each election. This is not the time for a protest vote. We need your vote this time, but we'll grant that you have a point about needing a third option (at least a third option!). Just vote for our guy right now, and we'll get right on that. We'll make sure we have that for you in the future.

It never happens, though, does it?

No, because when there is a third party candidate, anyone flirting with the idea of voting for that option is automatically wasting their vote, right? Or worse, you are costing "us" the election. Jill Stein voters hurt Hillary Clinton and it was their fault (not Clinton's, apparently) that she lost to Trump. It was the fault of reluctant Bernie Sanders supporters. Democrats used the same arguments in 2000, when Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election, and some of them used that same argument in 2004, when John F. Kerry lost. People blamed those reluctant to vote for the Democrat for giving us George W. Bush. We were warned not to ruin Barack Obama's chances in 2008 and 2012, although he turned out to be disappointing on many levels. And they followed that up, in an unconventional election year when voters were clearly dissatisfied with the same old same old kind of politician, with the most conventional politician imaginable. The only thing that made Hillary Clinton stand out at all was the fact that she was a woman, and she had made it that far. However, her policies were very much same old same old, and not did they fail to inspire (and she failed to inspire on a personal level, as well), but she could not even be trusted to carry out her campaign promises, based on past history.

Still, the message was regurgitated. Come on, help us out! Yes, we stole the election from your candidate, but that's water under the bridge. Do you really want to see a President Trump? Just vote for Hillary this one time, and then we'll see about getting that third option that you want to badly. Promise.

Right. Just like that third option magically opened after the 2000 election. And the 2004 election. And the 2008 election. And the 2012 election.


Maybe we needed a shock to the system. After all, the political system so clearly is broken in so many places, that one hardly knows were to even begin to diagnose it. The elections themselves are broken, with closed off primaries that are publicly funded, with two major parties monopolizing choices and power, and with an electoral system that has far too often given the victory to the candidate that has far and away less votes than the other major party candidate. And let's not even get into the big money that pours into the election. Disgusting!

Then, of course, we have to examine what happens when these politicians come into office. Again, plenty of evidence of numerous prominent politicians receiving extensive funding to back certain legislation or projects, and there seems to rarely be anyone ever accused of conflict of interest. Campaign promises are routinely not kept, by candidate of both parties, to the point that it has become a bad joke. Let's take recent presidents as an example. Does anyone really feel that Bill Clinton kept all of his campaign promises, or even worked hard to try and achieve them? What about George W. Bush? Did he bring integrity back into the Oval Office? Did he keep his promises? And Barack Obama, who seemed to be a truly progressive, visionary voice in 2008. Was he what everyone expected him to be back then? Once he became president, did he fight for the same progressive values he championed as a candidate? And let us not even get started on all of the promises that Donald Trump assured Americans that he would achieve. He promised the impossible, and soon enough, his voters are going to realize it. In fact, there is a good chance that they are the ones most likely to get hurt by having him in there.

Trump certainly had his detractors throughout the presidential race, and deservedly so. Yet, he did change the rules of the game a bit, not worrying so much if things were factually true or not. He took a page out of the George W. Bush  book in that regard, as what mattered was his opinion. Even if the facts do not back up those opinions, don't let it bother you too much. Bush certainly did not during his presidency. Repeat anything enough times, and it becomes the truth. It allowed Bush to get away with a lot, including the presidency itself, perhaps. Trump just took that to another level, saying whatever he wanted, and simply focusing on casting the clouds of doubt about any and all of his opponents.

Hillary Clinton was, in some respects, much the same way. The main talking points with her included explaining away her de facto support of fracking, explaining her support of Bush's Iraq invasion, of the PATRIOT Act, of the bailout, of her taking huge sums of money from "too big to fail" Wall Street firms, of acting in an irresponsible manner with her emails while Secretary of State, of her conveniently changing her political positions depending on what audience she was speaking to, or what happened to be politically profitable at the time. She came across as having a false sense of entitlement, of assuming that she of right ought to be president.

What's more is that she was just the most glaring example of the worst traits that people had come to associate with modern politicians. Maybe she was not an electrifying speaker, but she argued positions that appealed to the most amount of voters, and you never got the sense that she was truly speaking her mind about anything, but rather, telling you what you wanted to hear. About the only time that we caught her momentarily off guard and perhaps speaking her view was when she dismissed tens of millions of her fellow Americans as being a "basket of deplorables."

So, clearly, neither of these two major party candidates were incredibly exciting candidates for a vast majority of Americans. Perhaps that helps to explain how almost half of registered voters stayed home and did not bother even voting. When the impression that many of them have is that you vote for either Trump or Clinton, how excited can you possibly get, anyway?

Now, if you give them another choice, someone with different ideas, as well as integrity, people respond with much more enthusiasm. The Democrats had the privilege of having that, albeit briefly, when Bernie Sanders generated that kind of a response, and had tens of thousands of people coming to see him. For a little while, his campaign seemed more than just another candidate in the Democratic field, but felt more like an outright movement that was building momentum. Something that transcended "politics as usual."

And let's give Trump credit here, too. Although his claims to be incorruptible are not quite as believable as Bernie Sanders, he nonetheless convinced enough people that by being super rich, he could not be bought off, either. That, in part, was what drew some people to him, as well. Had Hillary made the same claim, she would have been laughed off by a hell of a lot of people for lacking any credibility. Given his past, Trump should have been laughed off, as well. Clearly, he likes making money, and enjoys being complimented and revered. Already, he has been accused of conflicts of interest, as he has yet to really separate from his business interests, even while preparing to be the next president. As for being an honest broker, that, too, seems dubious.

So, I cannot agree with Chomsky here. Trump is horrendous, yes. But Hillary Clinton was a war hawk with financial and political ties to the military industrial complex. She likes power, and most people sensed that she liked it a little too much. She was a very typical, modern day Democrat, in the sense that like her husband, and like President Obama, she would simply have put on a politically correct face, and given politically correct speeches, while continuing to undermine the values that this country is supposed to stand for, to represent. And the clear and undeniable discontent of voters on both sides of the political aisle, made this the most urgent election of my lifetime. We had a chance to see radically different candidates on both sides, as people had more than their fill of more traditional politicians who tried to please everyone at all times. There was a real chance to see some meaningful change, and it is not by forgetting and forgiving the cheating candidate and her cheating party that the message is going to be learned. Far from it.

At some point, real change needs to occur, or there will be a violent revolution in this country. We seem to be nearing that point, inching ever closer every day, and it seems to really become obvious during every election cycle.

To me, that means that the time is now. We cannot afford to wait any longer, as the nation continues to make every wrong decision, and a once proud status that was the envy of the world has, in a remarkably short time, historically speaking, switched to becoming the world's laughing stock in several key areas. We now are the only industrialized nation that fails to provide it's citizens with affordable, universal healthcare, and the price of drugs are higher here than anywhere else in the world. Despite proclaiming ourselves to be the "land of the free," there are more prisoners behind bars here than anywhere else in the world, and it is not even close. We spend far more on the military industrial complex than the next ten leading nations combined, yet we argue incessantly over programs that actually help people, and in what amounts to fractions of our budgets. The national debt keeps growing and growing, and cuts to the military budget never seem to be part of the discussion, yet we keep giving excessive tax cuts to the rich and to corporations, when we clearly cannot afford it. We sell off the excess military surplus to other countries, which are then destablized, and which we almost inevitably get involved with (almost always for profits, for that matter). The other surplus goes to domestic police forces, which seem to be heading in the direction of not simply being your friendly local police force, but more like an occupying force keeping the local population in line. We pollute more per person than any other country in the world, and we still deny climate change and, increasingly, other fields of science, as well (just look at the "debate" on evolution as further evidence of this). Finally, we continually claim to be the "greatest country in the world" and proclaim ourselves as the leaders, even though our own conduct, both in terms of the government and our collective behavior as citizens, does not merit such a prestigious status.

All of these failures, and more, are being brought to us by the two major parties, who seem to resemble each other way too much in recent decades. Democrats seem to always lose elections to Republicans, and then they trip over themselves to become much more like Republicans themselves, prompting Republicans to then outdo themselves as they move ever further to the right. That moved the center quite far to the right, which explains why science is constantly attacked by religious fundamentalists. It explains why environmental standards are far weaker here in the United States than they are in any other industrialized nation, and why people are not entitled to affordable healthcare. It explains why there are such glaring economic inequalities that continue to grow, and why our schools are failing and our opportunities diminishing, both through technology and through the excess greed of corporations and wealthy individuals who keep receiving the message to grab more wealth and more wealth and still more wealth, even though they have far more than not only they need but, in some cases, far more than they could possibly know what to do with. It explains why the private, for profit prison system has grown to be such a monster. It explains why the police are enforcing all of this through increasingly violent, bullying means. And through it all, we have no shortage of proud citizens watching freedom and opportunity for all crumble, and waving the flag proudly and echoing empty slogans ad nausea. That is how we get a man supported by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups into the White House.

Indeed, these are sorry times for the United States of America, a country that used to be so great, that it was the envy of the world. But no longer, because greed has done us in. And the two-party system reflects that greed as much as anywhere else in the country, with the possible exception of the elites in the corporate world who, of course, control prominent politicians and have them in their pockets. More and more people are realizing it, too, as the sick feeling that a lot of people expressed during this past election suggests. If anything, this is the time to do something, to stand up in outrage and condemn this ridiculous, destructive cycle, and demand an end to it by actually getting other options on the table. If everyone agrees that this was not a "normal" election, then what better time, and better example, of the need to do something about it?

Seems to me that the need for some other alternative has never been clearer. There were millions within both of the two major parties who were expressing their disaffection with how politically corrupt their parties have gotten this year, and there were tens of millions more Americans not associated with either major party who felt at least as sickened by our country's broken political system. Should we tell them, as so many others have done in the past, and as Chomsky and many others suggest now, that this simply was not the time for a "protest" vote? Just wait another four years, as we did last election when we were promised the same thing, and the four years before that, and the four years before that, and so on and so forth? If anything, this anything but typical election season demands to all who are paying attention and truly want what's best for the country that the time is now! That is true regardless of whether you are liberal or conservative in outlook. There has never been a time when so many Americans refuse to identify with either major party, and this trend seems to be growing. For that matter, the divisions are growing more heated, and increasingly, more violent. It has never been clearer that neither of the two major parties has any real answers, so we need to try something different.

Frankly, not only can we do better, but we could hardly do worse! The time is now!

Here is the article that got me on the subject, and special thanks to my mom for pointing out how Chomsky felt about third party voters following a recent blog entry that I did on him:

Those Who Failed to Recognize Trump as 'Greater Evil' Made a 'Bad Mistake': Chomsky "I didn't like Clinton at all, but her positions are much better than Trump's on every issue I can think of" byDeirdre Fulton, staff writer November 25, 2016:

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