Progressive hero Daniel Ellsberg wrote a statement, published on numerous sites, urging Obama-disaffected left/liberal/progressives who live in swing states to vote for Obama's reelection.
He declares it "urgently important" for Romney to be defeated.
Despite this plea, Ellsberg takes offense at being seen as "supporting Obama.”
“I lose no opportunity publicly,” I told him angrily, to identify Obama as a tool of Wall Street, a man who’s decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together. “Would you call that support?”
That said, he avows...
A Romney/Ryan administration would be no better -- no different -- on any of the serious offenses I just mentioned or anything else, and it would be much worse, even catastrophically worse, on a number of other important issues....
[For my take on Obama's assumed advantages on some of the issues Ellsberg cites, notably reproductive rights and the environment, see sections #5-6 here.]
He adds that...
As Noam Chomsky said recently, “The Republican organization today is extremely dangerous, not just to this country, but to the world. It’s worth expending some effort to prevent their rise to power, without sowing illusions about the Democratic alternatives.”
Ellsberg's arguments embrace refrains that are nauseatingly familiar to third-party lefties and election boycotters, such as "there is no other choice.”
He sees this election as a rare moment of power for progressives, which he terms "a small minority of the electorate," to decide an election's outcome.
Ellsberg invokes a rather narrow definition of "progressives," a broadly embraced term, especially among Democrats, the party that won the last presidential election with 2/3 of the electoral votes. This makes left-leaning America—however self-diminished by prevalent devotion to the Democrats—appear much smaller than it is.
Plainly, he's not talking about garden-variety "progressives," but those who, like him, are...
not just disappointed but disgusted and enraged by much of what Obama has done in the last four years and will probably keep doing.
He calls for Democrats to evangelize to the 2L4O among us, to convince us to compartmentalize our objections and reelect a man whose policies shock our consciences and will likely continue to do so. A fuller-court press from the Obama faithful, can't wait!
We "have to be persuaded to vote" for Obama. Suggestion: pitch it as "enlightened conformity."
Ellsberg calls out third-party lefties for seeing the big parties as having "no significant difference," calling that view...
shameless apologetics for the Republicans, however unintended. It’s crazily divorced from present reality.
So, you're nuts if the presumed delta between evil and eviler isn't compelling to you.
You're nuts if you take into account that whatever extra evil is in the GOP agenda might be equalled or exceeded by the only-Nixon-can-go-to-China ability the Dems have to neuter left-side dissent.
Even The Nation—in its deeply deceptive reelect-Obama editorial—admits, "he has largely been spared the vigorous denunciations liberals heaped on Bush." The superpower of silencing and co-opting the left quite arguably makes Obama and his party "the more effective evil."
In a particularly low blow, Ellsberg says...
rage is not generally conducive to clear thinking.
Those who don't concur with Ellsberg's handwringing adoption of less-evilism, already having been called "crazy," are now dismissed as acting out of "rage," not principle.
To punish Obama in this particular way, on Election Day -- by depriving him of votes in swing states....
"Punish[ing] Obama... by depriving him of votes" accepts the democracy-crushing frame that Democrats are entitled to the votes of left/liberal/progressives.
It could well lead to war with Iran (which Obama has been creditably resisting, against pressure from within his own party). And it would spell, via Supreme Court appointments, the end of Roe v. Wade and of the occasional five to four decisions in favor of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Obama's been saber-rattling at Iran for months, threatening "last chances" and "all options on the table," tricking the public into thinking a "nuclear program" is a "nuclear weapons program," and promoting the exceptionalist view that the U.S. can kill Iranians over prospective weapons that we and regional ally Israel already possess. He's implemented, against 75 million innocent people, what Biden calls "the most crippling of sanctions in the history of sanctions" and committing acts of cyberterrorism against Iran. In today's left, this is creditworthy.
As I've noted elsewhere, regarding the evergreen Supreme Court topic:
[Obama's] appointments thus far, replacing GOP-appointed left-leaning justices, have not moved the court to the left. He nearly voted for John Roberts's confirmation, until an aide convinced him it would look bad on his résumé.
How would Obama fill a currently conservative seat on the Supreme Court? Would he pick a reliably left-leaning vote? Would he seek a court make-up that slaps him down on matters like indefinite detention, strip-searches, and assassinating American citizens?
We simply don't know. But that's not important now, it's time to cowboy community-organizer up, fear the uniquely evil GOP, and vote for four years much like the last four. And like the eight years before them. Etc.
Back to Ellsberg:
The reelection of Barack Obama, in itself, is not going to bring serious progressive change, end militarism and empire, or restore the Constitution and the rule of law. That’s for us and the rest of the people to bring about after this election and in the rest of our lives -- through organizing, building movements and agitating.
If public agitation is the key to progressive change, reelecting acrypto-conservative president who tranquilizes the left wouldn't seem to qualify as "clear thinking."
for any progressive to encourage fellow progressives and others in [swing] states to vote for a third-party candidate is, I would say, to be complicit in facilitating the election of Romney and Ryan, with all its consequences.
What of the Democratic voters who snubbed any suggestion of primarying Obama with an actual lefty, someone who represented progressive values and interests? What are they complicit in?
As Ian Welsh put it, when calling for such a primary challenge:
the majority of Americans think that the policies Obama pursued were socialistic, progressive or liberal. They think this is what left-wing governance looks like.... Obama has managed to discredit the left, possibly for a generation.
After shaming advocates of “vote their conscience” behavior—terming this "dangerously misleading advice"—Ellsberg paradoxically cites Thoreau's call for deeply felt citizenship:
I often quote a line by Thoreau that had great impact for me: “Cast your whole vote: not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.” He was referring, in that essay, to civil disobedience, or as he titled it himself, “Resistance to Civil Authority.”
It still means that to me. But this is a year when for people who think like me -- and who, unlike me, live in battleground states -- casting a strip of paper is also important. Using your whole influence this month to get others to do that, to best effect, is even more important.
Bringing up committed idealism to then plead for what amounts to an exception to it reminds one of the Peace-Laureate-in-Chiefexhuming Gandhi, only to chide him for being unpragmatic.
That means for progressives in the next couple of weeks -- in addition to the rallies, demonstrations, petitions, lobbying (largely against policies or prospective policies of President Obama, including austerity budgeting next month), movement-building and civil disobedience that are needed all year round and every year -- using one’s voice and one’s e-mails and op-eds and social media to encourage citizens in swing states to vote against a Romney victory by voting for the only real alternative, Barack Obama.
The simple fact is, there aren't pretty choices on Election Day 2012.
Nothing you do that day will lead to a good outcome, nor a reliably less-awful outcome than the alternatives.
Pick the less-ominous sociopath if you will. Boycott if you will. Or vote for a 3rd-party candidate, as I will. Regardless of those who say "you have no choice," the choice is yours.
My view: if your eyes are open, and your heart is empathetic, do what you think is right.
Alas, that is not what progressive eminence Daniel Ellsberg is telling us.
He discourages voting one's conscience, or at least advocacy to that effect. He deems his peers' principled choice—among the multiple futile ones on offer—to be the stuff of madness.
Nothing we do on election day will change America from its present, disastrous course.
I'm just putting my chit in for a little more honesty and thoughtfulness about where we're heading and why. To express a wish that we can somehow do something positive before calamity forces radical change—of a nature unknown—upon us.
Your mileage may vary. Because, however symbolic and futile it may be, you have a choice.