Sunday, June 1, 2014

Democrats: "We Suck Less Than That Other Guy"

Every election and primary cycle brings the same question back around-- do we support the lesser of two evils, or throw support to a non-viable third party candidate?

This used to qualify as not-really-a-question. In 2012, lots of Democrats were super-unhappy with Obama's first term. Teachers were already being pretty open about feeling that Obama had implemented education policies that George Bush would have been proud to call his own ( I was one of those vocalizers). But the Democratic party responded with a fairly clear policy of, "Screw 'em. They're never going to vote for Mitt Romney, so we'll do exactly what we have to do to keep their votes, which is jack squat." And they weren't wrong; I, too, held my nose and voted for Obama.

I'm pretty sure that I'd like to have that vote back.

Democrats have gotten lazy and abusive. Every election we trot out scary pictures of reactionary right-wingers (and a handful of GOP candidates always oblige by acting like cartoons). "You know you're going to vote for us," they barely bother to say. "We're not as bad as those other guys."

If we make noises about voting for an RC Cola candidate (someone not from the two major marketeers), we get a guilt trip about how that will spoil the election for somebody, and we won't end up with our preferred lesser of two evils. Don't throw your vote away on a non-viable candidate.

And then they go back to sucking up to Hoi Polloi Posteriors.

But every cycle, the challenge to the status quo gets a bit more real.

For a while this week, it looked like Working Families Party might actually back somebody other than Andy Cuomo. It looked enough like it that the establishment Dems were required to go cut a deal, and even then the vote came in at 58.66% to 41.34%, which is not exactly a nailbiter, but it's not nothing, either. Meanwhile, de Blasio fished the Cuomo knife out of his own back, cleaned it, and knelt before Cuomo to present it hilt first while saying, "My liege." The result of all this is not good news-- Cuomo is no more a liberal Democrat than a Twinkie is a great source of protein-- but it is certainly one more clear sign of how completely the Democratic establishment has abandoned anything remotely its principles.

Up in Connecticut, Jonathan Pelto is mounting a third-party challenge to pretend-Democrat governor Dannel Malloy, which will inevitably be dismissed in language suggesting a vote for Pelto is just a wasted vote. And hey-- third party challenges work out almost never

And so Democratic voters in those states and in other locations around the country face the same question again-- do we vote for someone who is arguably the lesser of two evils? If you're facing the question, here's a couple of questions to ask yourself.

1) If you are always going to vote Democratic no matter what, what reason does the party have to ever listen to you ever? If you cannot imagine circumstances under which you would deny the Democratic party your vote, then you also cannot imagine circumstances under which the party would listen to you. (Unless you're really rich, in which case they will totally listen to you.)

2) How much worse would the other guy be, really? Yes, he's probably some GOP tool that you don't like, but really honestly truly, how much worse would he be?

Because this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. The Democratic party will not turn on a dime, and it will not turn at all until it perceives that Democrats in general and teachers in particular have really had enough, enough to actually change election results. A third party candidate who loses, but who steals a sizeable chunk of the vote, sends a message. It may well take a bit for the message to sink in, but no message will even be sent if teachers keep going back to the Democratic party, nursing our black eyes and saying, "Well, it was my fault he got upset and punched me, and besides, he's so much better than anyone else who would have me."

Important political pro tip: It does not matter how upset people are with you. As long as it doesn't interfere with your ability to win elections, you don't have to pay it the slightest bit of attention.

The lesser of two evils is still an evil. For Democrat teachers (particularly the ones in NY) it might be time to stop voting for an evil and to start using the vote to make a statement about what is good.


  1. If you want to see how much worse the other guy can be, then come on down to North Carolina for a visit. The Republicans here are doing everything in their power to get rid of public education. Even the latest proposal for raises will not help much because it does not increase the overall budget. The plan is to fund the raises with cuts elsewhere in the education budget, including the firing of 7,000 teaching assistants in the lower grades. And the legislature isn't even talking about repealing huge tax cuts that benefit the wealthy. The choices in North Carolina, when it comes to public education, are very clear.

  2. I agree almost 100% but...

    I voted for Nader for all of those reasons. Bush won. Then came 9/11 and those WMDs that never materialized and then a war.

    That's a vote I wish I had back, and it shows what the greater evil can actually do.

  3. Ok, let's stop the misinformation right jow. 13% of the Democratic vote in Florida that year went to Bush. That would have been enough to beat Bush in Florida and win, but the Democrats left those votes on the table. Why? Because who else were they going to vote for? Why bother engaging with your base and locking down your turnout? Also, let's recall that Gore couldn't even win his home state of Tennessee. And when it came to the Supreme Court challenge, he wouldn't fight. And Bush's evil? Drone bombing innocent children and deporting more people than the last 10 presidents combined, giving the private prisons industry more business than they know what to do with, isn't just as evil? Respectfully, give me a break.

  4. Sorry, but I don't understand the point of Andrea Merida's comment - please clarify.
    On another note, I personally agree with Peter Greene's post and have been thinking along much the same lines since I held my nose and voted for Obama in 2012. I have never thought of myself as a one-issue voter but since everyone from Arne Duncan down to PTA moms is collaborating, sometimes unwittingly, on the destruction of public education I have become someone who votes according to the stated beliefs and voting record of candidates as related to public education. I have no idea what was done to convince the Working Families Party to endorse Cuomo and I'm beginning to think I don't even want to know...I simply WOULD NOT vote for Cuomo under any circumstances (I'm not a NY resident so it's hypothetical) and I WILL NOT vote for Corey Booker or Sheila Oliver (I'm a NJ resident) going forward, based on what they have done, both openly and covertly to weaken teachers' unions and dismantle public education. Maybe my one vote will or won't make an eventual difference but I have held my nose in too many elections to feel like I can face myself for doing so again in the future. BTW, Obama has used drones and killed more people than Bush did, his Race to the Top is worse than NCLB since it effectively blackmailed states into blindly accepting Common Core Standards, he has deported more immigrants than Bush ever did and he has vindictively pursued whistle-blowers more doggedly and punitively than Bush ever did as well. Now who needs to give someone a break? I agree with Peter, though we never can really know obviously, that a Romney Presidency might not have looked very much different from what we've gotten and continue to get from Obama. I say vote your conscience and hope that enough people do so as well so that the Democratic Party gets the message (please do NOT forget that the group 'Democrats for Education Reform' has done just as much to weaken public school districts as any elected Republican, at least in the Northeast...I know things are different down there in NC).

  5. The point of my comment was to address that of Proudteacher, which seems to insinuate that Nader having gotten some votes was the cause of evil.

  6. I usually love your posts, but I've got to agree to with proudteacher and Spirit Walker. I proudly voted for Barry Commoner back in 1980 and got Ronald Reagan and thirty plus years of growing anti-government, anti-union and anti -teacher know-nothingism as a result. Once you've voted for a non-viable option under the "how much worse can s/he be" theory, then found out just how much worse they are, you tend not to go back down that road again.

  7. I think some evils are lesser by considerably wider margins than others. That's why I recommend question #2-- how much worse would it be? Because if it would clearly be way worse, you have an answer. There are times when you hold your nose and vote because one candidate would clearly be far worse than the other. On the other hand, in Pennsylvania we rarely have a governor's race that would make any substantial difference one way or the other.

  8. In Ohio, we had Strickland - a true advocate for students and teachers. Now? We have Kasich who has blessed up (gag, gag) with the Third Grade Guarantee and more emphasis on high stakes testing. Our third graders are running scared. Guess I am, too.

  9. As long as the two parties are controlled by corporate interests, they are the same. I held my nose and voted for Obama in 2012, but now I know better. He has more in common with Mitt Romney than he does with me. Great post, Peter--inspiring me to "Vote Different."

  10. I am also going to vote Green. When a party does not listen to its base constituents, which is what is happening with the dems, then they no longer have my vote. I'm done voting for the lesser of 2 evils, and will become independent, although it will be a cold day in hell before I ever vote republican. Great post, thanks!

  11. I love you Peter. ^0^ Truth to Power Man. Smart as a WHIP.

  12. Vote Green. Shock the system. The Dems take their base for granted and have sold labor for right-wing votes. Send them a scare. If we have to pay for it with four years of Astorino, so be it. Besides, the difference will be exactly what? :-/

  13. The most disappointing thing about Obama is he is supposed to be for the working man and he is as much a corporatist as any Republican. The difference, for me at least, is Bush may have done "evil" things, but nothing that was unexpected.

    Obama sells people on "Hope and Change" and institutes policies that make the wealthiest even wealthier while destroying the middle class. If Romney did that, I would shrug and say "Well, what do you expect?" but Obama was supposed to be better then that. And, that is exactly what makes him worse.