[Marxism] Lesser-evilism and the Democrats

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 18 07:37:56 MST 2004

Derek Seidman:
>The only way to break out of lesser-evilism is to vote
>in Democrats. The left flourished under under JFK and
>LBJ; it withered under Nixon; it became virtually
>extinct under Reagan.

This is an argument that Doug Henwood has been making, even before becoming 
a Yellow Dog Democrat (somebody who would vote for a yellow dog rather than 
a Republican; originated in the 19th century--Mark Lause probably has more 
information). Even before his conversion, he was making the "empirical" 
observation that the left grew under Democrats and receded under 
Republicans. Anybody could see the logic of his argument and conclude--as I 
did--that the next step was to endorse the Democratic candidate. After I 
did, he subbed here to flail away at me (and us) rather ineffectively as a 
bunch of dinosaurs. Bully for Brontosaurus, as Stephen Jay Gould once said.

>  It took a long time under
>Clinton, but the left did start to come to life in the
>late 1990s. The anti-globalization movement would not
>have taken off without the protective umbrella of
>Democratic Party power. One of the reasons this
>happens is because Democrats have a better history of
>delivering economic growth. When people feel more
>secure about their jobs and their economic prospects,
>they are more likely to support things like single
>payer, etc. and to tell their boss to stuff it. A
>strong labor market acts as a kind of de facto labor
>union, allowing workers to make an end run around the
>repressive labor laws. It also makes people less
>fearful, and encourages non-conformist behavior. When
>times are bad, people lash out at the poor and
>immigrants and cling to their jobs in terror. Hard
>times make people right wing; good times make people
>left wing. Much of what I just said is
>counter-intuitive, but before blasting away at me,
>think it over.

The Clinton economic expansion, such as it was, paled in comparison to the 
expansion after WWII. Back then a factory worker earning union wages could 
put kids through college, allow his wife to stay at home, own two cars and 
take yearly vacations. But the left was utterly a non-factor throughout the 
1950s during the witch-hunt. Students began to move only after black people 
began to move. If black people were "enjoying" anything in the late 1950s, 
it was Jim Crow rather than rising wages.

>Every intervention by a left party in a Presidential
>election has resulted in either of two scenarios: 1)
>the party's vote total, and its institutional residue,
>are insignificant, or 2) the party's vote total throws
>the election to the most conservative mainstream
>candidate, resulting in left wing decline for the
>subsequent four years (at least).
>There has never once been an exception to this in the
>history of the United States of America.
>This is why "minorities" don't vote en masse for third
>party candidates. It's political suicide.

I wouldn't put much stock in how "minorities" vote. Black people voted for 
Republicans right through the Great Depression because Lincoln was forced 
to abolish slavery during the civil war. I am much more interested in how 
revolutionary blacks think about things, who are pretty much in the same 
boat as us.

Malcolm X:
"Oh, I say you've been misled, you've been had, you've been took. I was in 
Washington a couple of weeks ago while [democratic] senators were 
filibustering, and I noticed in the back of the Senate a huge map. On this 
map it showed the distribution of Negroes in America, and surprisingly the 
same senators that were involved in the filibuster were from the states 
where there were the most Negroes. Why were they filibustering the 
civil-rights legislation? Because the civil-rights legislation is supposed 
to guarantee voting rights to Negro's in those states, and those senators 
from those states know that if Negro's in those states can vote, those 
senators are down the drain. The representatives of those states go down 
the drain. In the Constitution of this country, it has a stipulation 
wherein whenever the rights, the voting rights of people, in a certain 
district are violated, then the representative who is from that particular 
district, according to the Constitution, is supposed to be expelled from 
the Congress. Now if this particular aspect of the Constitution was 
enforced, why you wouldn't have a cracker in Washington D.C. But what would 
happen? When you expel the Dixicrat, you're expelling the Democrat. When 
you destroy the power of the Dixicrat, you're destroying the power of the 
Democratic Party. So how in the world can the Democratic Party of the South 
actually side with you, in sincerity, when all it's power is based in the 

full: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/malcolm-x/

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

More information about the Marxism mailing list