Mar 18, 2020

A Vote Against Bernie Sanders Is a Vote for the End of Human Civilization

By Ariän El-Taher /
A Vote Against Bernie Sanders Is a Vote for the End of Human Civilization

Frightening commentary has emerged among liberals committing to a protest-vote against both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Proponents argue that, in some undescribed way, their protest-vote will send to these front-runners the “signal” that they are not entitled to our votes.

We must first dispel this destructive myth on protest-voting during this Democratic primary-season, and then proceed to the catastrophic differences between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, the latter whose political record and plans hardly distinguish him from Donald Trump.

I. Protest Voting in The Primary

What is a protest-vote? In our current context, it is essentially a vote that willfully refuses to select one of the Democratic front-runners, but instead commits itself to a candidate whose route to the Democratic nomination is non-viable.

Magical-thinking is the logical-system in this conception. It is divorced entirely from the numerous variables involved in how campaigns interpret votes; divorced from who advises campaigns in their messaging; divorced from the infinite intervening factors between the “intent” in one’s protest-vote and how a campaign will somehow make an inference from your individual vote (in an aggregate-data set of thousands upon thousands) that accurately reflects your intent. It effectively amounts to a belief in telepathy.

Unless you are organizing within a large-scale movement or grassroots-lobbying campaign to communicate your message directly to these candidates, you are effectively expecting a campaign to read your mind, which makes your ‘strategy’ verifiably detached from reality and contradictory to your progressive principles.

Doing so squanders the opportunity to support the progressive — and, by definition, ‘democratic’ — candidate in this election, Bernie Sanders, who has only the public on his side.

In any democracy—where the central institutions of society are controlled by and reflective of the public’s will and interests—that would be enough. But, in our current political-economy, a plutocracy in all but name, it is the will of billionaires — packaged and perpetuated through the propaganda of mainstream media — whose influence prevails over the major elections and policies.

This was evidenced in a groundbreaking 2014 study that revealed how “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Such is precisely why candidates like Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and their ilk—who repackage reformism as “big, structural change”—effectively fortify our current system of plutocracy and its inherent assault on democracy, while promoting shallow tweaks as “bold” innovations, while leaving the corrosive structure in tact.

Bernie Sanders stands in electoral solitude by putting forth a multifactorial platform that enhances the role, represents the interests, and rectifies inequities among ordinary Americans. Thus, enhancing democracy.

It is thus no mystery why the Democratic establishment—including Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, and Beto O’Rourke, among others—banded together to form a hostile mercenary unit in opposition to Bernie Sanders.

For, “democracy is a threat to any power system”.

Meanwhile, “progressive” Elizabeth Warren refuses to endorse any candidate, idly watching it all unfold in splendid silence, and thus refusing to allocate her resources, messaging, base, and clout to support her long-time friend, Bernie Sanders.

The masks are off.

Her silence is complicity, not merely against Sanders, but chiefly against the millions of ordinary Americans who she professes to care and fight for, as they toil in Hurculean hope for the light of democracy.

Let us consider another aspect of protest-voting: who above advises campaigns of conventional candidates.

Presidential victories have typically been marketing victories. Voting patterns are interpreted by major ad-agencies, who package conventional candidates as name-brands to be driven into the heads of voters, no different than when selling any consumer product. Candidates are typically advertised to voters through the strategy of persuasion upon appealing to the electorate’s ‘gut instincts’, rather than with the intent of producing an informed electorate to submit informed votes.

This was demonstrated in 2008, when, after his historic win, Barack Obama was awarded the Advertising Age’s 2008 marketer of the year, earning “the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and marketing-services vendors”, who largely service major corporations.

As such, a “protest vote” sends its “signal” to marketing-agencies in how to better deceive the public in the next election cycle.

Political advertising, predominantly through national television networks, for the 2020 election is projected to cost USD $10 billion, a 59% increase from 2016, breaking yet another record. These are also the networks who in 2016 devoted a whopping 506 minutes to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, versus only 115 minutes for Bernie Sanders’ campaign, effectively meddling in the election by “icing out” Bernie Sanders.

As such, those who wish to elect the progressive candidate have Herculean opposition. To win, we must be sophisticated, aggressive, and collective.

II. Theory Versus Practice

Being a progressive requires fighting for the results you desire. But that ‘fight’ demands two critical factors.

The first is proposing a type of progress that addresses and rectifies the needs of everyday and oppressed populations. The second is advocating for that progress through a method that takes into account obstacles that stand before one’s goal and the measurable effects of one’s actions.

Proposing is theoretical, and it is often the easiest factor between the two. Advocacy, however, requires transforming that proposal into a practicable strategy. This is the difficult work, because it requires stepping outside of your head, outside of yourself in order to conduct the staggering amount of calculations, assessments, and more required to bring your goal to fruition. This, therefore, demands working with others and aligning with the grassroots to effectively turn your goal into reality. Theory and actions must never be incongruent or considered in isolation, just like drawing a map from point-A to point-B.

However, considering this primary election, both a protest-vote and a vote for Biden by anyone with progressive economic, social, and political values reflects a fixation on theory without practical-knowledge on how to achieve our common goals, those being opposition to forces that will annihilate human civilization as we know it.

What exactly are those forces? And are we voting for the candidate who will stop them? Which systems stand in our way?

The sections below are devoted to these questions.

III. Two-Party Tyranny

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) and the Republican National Convention (RNC) together effectively hold a two-party tyranny over US electoral-politics, meaning that, unlike other nations, our “Winner Takes All” electoral system is inhospitable to alternative parties, as opposed to nations with a proportional-representation system. The result is that many Americans are forced to choose between these two parties, not voting at all, or voting for a “third-party” candidate that has no representation in Congress. This leaves the two-parties with consolidated power and thus without competition, which, across time, has resulted in both becoming increasingly like one another. This has severe consequences on voter turn-out, suppression, and the policies that emerge from electoral policies.

Recent research shows that 61 percent of Americans do not feel represented by either of the two political parties. This is explains the phenomenon of Bernie Sanders’ meteoric rise as a Presidential candidate, as he represents the will of millions of Americans who have felt unrepresented and thus passive towards the establishment candidates put forth by the DNC and RNC in our recent era.

The Democratic and Republican parties are fundamentally unified as “one party” in the domain of neoliberal-capitalist doctrine. As Noam Chomsky explained, the two parties are unified through “ad hoc coalitions, which blur any possible class lines…leaving the two parties as basically factions of the ruling business party”.

The need for a new party has been of paramount significance for many years, so much so that America’s most esteemed philosopher, the late John Dewey, devoted this entire essay to that need, elsewhere explaining that “politics is the shadow cast on society by big business, the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance. The only remedy is new political action based on social interests and realities”.

Bernie Sanders is the closest fulfillment of Dewey’s vision.

Although the two parties differ in some social views, neoliberalism comprises their shared and supreme priority, as is evident in their domestic and foreign political-economic policies. This is captured in Joe Biden’s recent announcement that he would veto Medicare For All if it were passed by Congress and arrived on his desk as POTUS to be signed into law, despite a whopping 51 percent of Americans being in favor of single-payer.

However, the Novel Coronavirus has compelled increasing segments of the American public to realize the necessity of Medicare for All, rather than the archipelago of disjointed patchwork proposed by Biden, his backers, and by Elizabeth Warren, Biden’s likely pick for Vice President, who infamously stated “I am a capitalist to my bones” and subsequently backpedaled on Medicare For All to join centrist candidates in favoring a healthcare system more friendly to the for-profit industry.

IV. Three Wrecking Balls Careening At Humanity

Upon the end of World War II, humanity had established two wrecking-balls — nuclear weapons and climate change­ — each capable of fully terminating human civilization, with the end of WWII marking humanity’s entrance into the Anthropocene epoch.

“In a couple of generations, organized human society may not survive”, explains Noam Chomsky, while the enforcers of neoliberal capitalism charge forward with actions that exacerbate the climate crisis and nuclear war, and while corporate media dutifully suppresses the urgent need for large-scale, structural change, the kind put forth strictly by Bernie Sanders.

The second wrecking ball, nuclear weapons, merits closer attention. In its 2020 Doomsday statement, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the clock 100-nanoseconds to midnight’ (apocalypse), the closest it has ever been to our terminal end.

The chilling statement urges us to understand the wrecking balls careening towards our very existence, “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers — nuclear war and climate change — that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond”.

Meanwhile, the United States Military leads the world in its stockpile of nuclear weapons, at 3800 warheads. Adding to unprecedented risk of terminal war, within the US’s nuclear “defense” strategy is the umbrella of nuclear plans, known as “Operations Plan (OPLAN) 8010–12”, which allocates nuclear warheads on permanent standby for strike against Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. This would inevitably result in nuclear holocaust even if it unrealistically occurred in relative small-scale. This also does not account for the growing likelihood that international terrorist organizations may soon acquire nuclear weapons. Nor does it account for the non-signatories to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Israel, India, and Pakistan, whose position on nuclear weapons were enabled and are protected by the United States.

It requires no advanced training to understand why the famous 2013 Win/Gallup International survey of 65 nations concluded that the United States is “the country that represents the greatest threat to peace in the world today”.

One need not look far to observe the aggression and war-crimes of US imperialism has since intensified across the Global South, only one particle of which was the January 3rd US assassination of Iran’s Major-General Qassem Soleimani, a textbook aggression of supreme international terrorism, even defined as illegal in Section 2.11of the 1981 US Executive Order 12333.

Naturally, however, as FAIR documented, corporate media refused to issue moral opposition to this assassination, even refusing to call it terrorism.

Joe Biden’s hawkish record of militarism provides ample evidence to direct us in understanding that he will further march us towards endless military interventions, invasions, coups, and wars, which will directly or indirectly, but eventually, lead to nuclear war. We need a president with a record and explicit stance of diplomacy.

Drawing humankind, however, towards nuclear termination is not the only cataclysm of US militarism.

The US military is also the largest consumer of oil, using more than “any other institution in the world”. A 2019 study by the Royal Geographic Society “revealed that the US military is one of the largest climate polluters in history, producing more greenhouse gas emissions than most medium-sized countries” and purchasing over 269,000 barrels of oil per day.

A 2014 Brown University study determined that “The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the world and a key contributor to climate change”.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s CNN-Univision Democratic Debate between Sanders and Biden elucidated clear differences between the two candidates in their response to the climate crisis. CNN’s Jake Tapper, a debate panelist, casted doubt on whether Biden’s plans for the climate crisis were “ambitious” enough, stating that he allots $14 trillion USD lessthan Bernie Sanders. This adds to organizations like Green Matters who more-thoroughly conducted a comparative analysis of the two candidates’ climate plans, grading Bernie Sanders a “10/10” and Joe Biden a “2/10”.

Joe Biden’s record, and the devastations that would emerge from his current plans, are further evidenced in the trove of his lies here catalogued, his ties to Wall Street, history of catastrophic trade policies, foreign policy, record on Palestine-Israel, and more — each of which have cross-effects that exacerbate renegade-capitalism, climate catastrophe, socio-econo-political inequities, mass-incarceration, ongoing US imperialism, the ethnic-cleansing of Palestine, and the catastrophic effects of US sanctions on Iran and elsewhere.

This interconnected matrix of Joe Biden’s politics moves the world closer to war, to pandemics, to crimes of poverty, to lower human indices of life satisfaction, and to terminal end.

V. Enter, Neoliberalism

The neoliberal-capitalist era took effect in the early 1970s through the work of early economist, Friedrich von Hayek, and his later student, notorious ultra-right economist, Milton Friedman, ultimately beginning by President Richard Nixon’s 1971 decision to abolish the Bretton Woods system, which ended the worldwide standard of backing currency with gold. The ground for neoliberalism was established.

What followed were predatory deregulations of corporate practices, trade deals that facilitated the outsourcing domestic-labor to nations with dehumanizing labor rights, economics policies that exploited laborers with unprecedented hostility, incentivizing government policies that favor capital over labor, unseen levels of mass inequality and inequity, and more. The era of corporatocracy began, and our reach for democracy was blunted.

The tolls of neoliberalism are worth understanding in further depth.

In Capitalism, Macroeconomics, and Reality, famed economist James Crotty reviewed “empirical evidence relevant to an evaluation of global economic performance in the two-plus decades since the onset of the neoliberal revolution”.

Crotty explains,

“the evidence to date supports neoliberalism’s critics. The promised benefits of neoliberalism have yet to materialize, at least for the majority of the world’s people”.

With stunning clarity, Crotty then lists out the overall outcomes wreaked upon world economies by the advent of neoliberalism,

“Global income growth has slowed, as has the rate of growth of capital accumulation. Productivity growth has deteriorated, real wage growth has declined, inequality has risen in most countries, real interest rates are higher, financial crises erupt with increasing regularity, the less developed nations outside East Asia have fallen even further behind the more advanced, and average unemployment has risen.”

The Novel Coronavirus has been the latest disaster to expose the weaknesses in the US’s neoliberal status-quo, across every system within our social structure, including our healthcare system.

Aside from Donald Trump, none have been and remain a more faithful servant to this doctrine than Joe Biden, whose neoliberal record has been unpacked here.

A vote for neoliberalism not only exacerbates the nightmares wreaked upon the US and the world by way of healthcare, the military industrial complex, and other institutions, but also by way of our permanent-war economy, which — by its very nature — ushers us all towards climate catastrophe and nuclear holocaust in defiance of the constant warning by the world’s leading nuclear experts and of the famous 1955 Manifesto of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, which pleaded world leaders to put an end to war and nuclear weapons so as to prevent an “end to the human race”.

“There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”

VI. The Final Wrecking Ball: Erosion of Solidarity

This third and final wrecking ball arrived nearly two-decades after humanity created the first two wrecking balls. The third is a powerful force that “undercuts society’s ability to respond” to the first two wrecking balls: neoliberalism.

The first two are forces of violent annihilation. The final is a force that operates to render us apathetic and powerless against our own annihilation.

But how? To answer this, we must examine a fundamental principle of neoliberalism.

Its primary principle is infinite privatization. Privatization is the governmental act of transferring an entity that is under public control and ownership (e.g., public land, public utilities, social programs, public works, etc.) into the ownership of private corporations. Thus, rather than an entity or space belonging to everyone, via public taxes, it instead becomes owned, operated, and offered to the public now at a cost, entirely determined by a corporation.

In other words, neoliberalism removes something out from the lone domain in which the public has a ‘say’, and transfers it into a domain in which the public has no ‘say’.

This concept of individuation — fracturing a unit from its group — is a paramount feature of neoliberalism.

It directly transforms things that are collectively-owned into things that are privately-owned. Neoliberalism embodies the aphorism, “together we stand, divided we fall”, though not as criticism, but as an ideal to uphold.

The true cruelty of the individuation in neoliberalism is its fundamental attack upon how humans conceptualize each other and their relationship to broader society.

Namely, it removes from our worldview the concepts of solidarity, shared-struggle, collective-identity, and mutual-aid, thereby dissolving the very concept of “society” into a mass of “siloes”. In other words, neoliberalism relies heavily on anti-social behavior, in which the prevailing social “unit” is one-individual to one-marketing agency, who then proceeds to funnel unbridled consumer advertising towards the isolated individual.

Karl Marx warned of this.

In the seventh chapter of his Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Marx explained how the elite-class “subordinates society to itself” by sowing physical and mental division among ordinary people. He writes of fractured solidarity, stemming from an abolished will to identify with one another, the

“small-holding peasants form an enormous mass whose members live in similar conditions, but without entering into manifold relations with each other”.

Continuing, Marx explains,

“Insofar as millions of families live under conditions of existence that separate their mode of life, their interests, and their culture from those of the other classes, and put them in hostile opposition to the latter, they form a class”.

However, due to rugged individualism and anti-social lifestyles that both voluntarily and involuntarily restrict ordinary people to social silos, and to

“no community, no national bond, and no political organization among them, they do not constitute a class. They are therefore incapable of asserting their class interest in their own name, whether through a parliament or a convention”.

The more isolated and solitary a human being is, the more impressionable they become under the influence of the marketing (formerly known as “propaganda”) industry, whose primary function is not to appeal to the rationality, reason, and higher-thought of human cognition, but, on the contrary, to persuade human beings into irrational, unnecessary purchases and voting decisions, as explored in earlier sections.

Such erosion of solidarity under neoliberal capitalism is further visible in today’s architecture of metropolitan infrastructure, which increasingly transfers publicly-owned gathering-spaces into the private ownership of corporations, known as “depublicizing public spaces”, for corporate profit, at the expense of community and democracy. The outcome is to atomize society, dissolve and dislocate communities, amplify gentrification, and ultimately disable the ability of ordinary people to gather and organize towards a political order that supports their survival and prosperity.

Again, the more isolated and individuated people are — both in their conception of each other and in how they practically live their lives — the more vulnerable and impressionable they become towards consumerism, political uninvolvement, and political action.

All of the above captures the neoliberal reality long upheld, endorsed, and now again offered to the American public by the likes of Joe Biden, his political backers, his billionaire overlords, and the corporate media, who together rebrand this archaic and inhumane system in shiny new packaging, offering mere fragments in the shape of reforms and incremental, short-term changes.

Biden kowtows in service to monied-interests at the expense of increasing the terminal-velocity of all three wrecking balls barreling towards our very existence.

VII. Beyond Electoral Politics

Let us return to a higher vista from which to view this or any election.

Electoral politics is not our great hope. As outlined above, the two-party tyranny will not permit true justice to flow from the will of the people into our policies and thus into our everyday life. Until a more humanizing form of planned-administration exists, the people are each other’s only hope.

Esteemed activist Hoda Katebi recently explained,

“I do not believe electoral politics are the arena where much-needed systemic change can happen. But there is too much at stake right now to ignore. While every other Democratic candidate either supports policies — such as sanctions, war, or even the Muslim Ban — that devastate our communities and propels us further into military escalation, Bernie Sanders has consistently been the near-lone voice” of justice, both in the form of diplomacy in foreign policy and socio-structural policies here at home to rectify the despair, desolation, and desperation from our criminal inequities.

No solitary human, nor any individual politician, can perfectly capture the will and needs of the people. No candidate will be our savior. Saviorism belies the history of the people’s struggle against their rulers, up to the present moment. Humankind’s progress has been forged through millennia of collective sacrifices, both bloody and nonviolent, though always in large-scale coordination of the demos, for the demos.

Thus, we are no longer ruled by the bludgeon.

We are ruled by thought.

And so long as we continue to liberate our minds, while simultaneously aggregating together towards mutual-aid and in solidarity, our progress will continue.

We must instead select our POTUS, or any politician, through a mentality of choosing our enemy, choosing who we want to fight, choosing who will be most sympathetic to our pleas and our organizing.

In this endeavor, we are to recall President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Prior to WWII, FDR met with legendary black activist, A. Philip Randolph, who demanded of FDR an end to federal employment discrimination against black Americans. Randolph threatened the (first) “March on Washington” and began to organize as such. In response to the organizing alone, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 on June 25, 1941, winning black Americans the right to work in the federal government.

That quality of FDR’s malleability, and his sliver of openness, is the quality we must priotize in choosing our next President.

We must constantly recall the might in our collective-action and the impotence in our atomization. We must radically renormalize the concept of solidarity and its spatial, ideological, and cultural presence in our lives.

For, the dissolution of solidarity begins within our opinion towards our shared responsibility to strangers and society at-large, precisely as Enlightenment philosopher David Hume examined, in order to understand:

“the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission with which [the public] resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded”.

Such is the essence of #NotMeUs. It is the paradigmatic shift of ethos that is rapidly normalizing the pro-social principle-of-solidarity and its tenets of mutual-aid and active-concern for strangers, near and far, domestic and abroad, vulnerable and ordinary, similar and dissimilar, incarcerated and free, undocumented and citizen, each woven together not despite, but because of, our variety of differences, oppressions, and privileges.

We have but few years and one planet to rescue ourselves from this brink of total collapse. Only a major shift among us will facilitate that rescue. And only one candidate for President has long engendered that shift.

His name is Bernie Sanders.



Written by Ariän El-Taher

Through a multidisciplinary background, Ariän El-Taher has emerged as a writer, community organizer, public lecturer, and medical student. Twitter: @areltah

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