Democrats and the myth of the lesser evil

Left: Former Vice President Joe Biden at a fundraiser in Clear Lake, Iowa, in August 2019, days after a racist mass shooting targeting Latinx at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. PHOTO: Gage Skidmore. Right: U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, still competing with Joe Biden for the presidential nomination, spoke at the Forum on Wages and Working People in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 2019. PHOTO: Gage Skidmore.
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Racist. Sexist. Xenophobic. Greedy, narcissistic, incompetent, lying, corrupt. These words describe Donald Trump and his administration.

So, it is natural to want Trump’s vileness gone from the White House. His administration has done so much damage, unleashing the right wing, ignoring the Covid-19 pandemic, abusing immigrants, putting millions out of work, laying waste to the already imperiled environment, all while enriching the highest echelon of the capitalist class to even more criminal levels.

Certainly, conditions for working people in the U.S. are dire. But despite the loud drumbeat it does not follow that the Democrats are the answer. Many say, sure, Biden/Harris are “flawed,” but we must put aside our principles and higher aspirations and vote for the “lesser evil.” But are the Democrats the solution to the deep problems we face? Are they truly a lesser evil?

Nothing but false advertising. The August national convention that officially nominated the ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was full of feel-good messaging and imagery. From moderators and speakers to the “roll call,” people of all ages, colors and walks of life were represented. This was a full-court press that “we are all in this together.”

The Democrats have long promoted the tale that they bring together rich and poor, progressives and moderates, and now even Republicans into one “big tent.” The job of this party is to sell working people on the myth that, under capitalism, democracy is authentic. It has always been intended to lure and neutralize progressives and radicals, so they do not cause any real trouble by taking an independent path. Witness the fact that conservative Republican John Kasich supports Biden because he is “decent and won’t turn sharp left,” while Bernie Sanders promises that Biden will “build a nation that is more equitable, more compassionate and more inclusive … [from] day one.” Both can not be true.

Democratic and Republican platforms are always vague, with no commitments for action. In some major areas, you can see how shallow Democrats’ words are. The platform committee voted against Sanders’ “Medicare for All” single-payer proposal. Though an incomplete reform, it would guarantee healthcare to everyone at lower cost. With 25 million people out of work, and 12 million who have lost their employer-sponsored plans, why in the middle of a global pandemic would Democrats oppose this? Because the “public option” of Obamacare preserves the exploitative private insurance industry.

The Democratic Party pontificates about the environment and climate change. Yet at the eleventh hour before the platform was passed, they removed language calling for elimination of subsidies to domestic oil and gas companies. This should come as no surprise, since key advisors to Biden’s campaign are consultants or employees of oil and gas companies, or at think tanks funded by them!

The selection of Kamala Harris for vice president is a “quick fix” for the Democrats to make it look as though they are doing something meaningful about race. It is a shrewd move to use her identity as a Black and Asian American woman to pacify some in the Black Lives Matter movement and get out the Black vote without offering any concrete reforms. But Harris has shown her allegiance to the capitalist class. In her role as attorney general of California, she went to extreme lengths to keep innocent people imprisoned, and looked the other way on corruption up and down the criminal “justice” system.

The actions behind Democrats’ words. The history of the party is littered with betrayals of the needs of the very people it purports to serve. In the last 60 years, the Democrats have controlled one or both houses of Congress most of the time, and the presidency seven terms to the Republicans’ eight. Yet the living conditions of working people have gone steadily downhill over that same period.

A few examples of Biden’s work show him vacillating on school desegregation in the 1970s and voting for most anti-busing legislation, choosing to cater to racist whites. He joined forces with the virulently racist Senator Jesse Helms to undermine school integration measures across the country.

He was the chief architect of the 1994 crime bill. While it included the Violence Against Women Act, it also resulted in 60 new death penalty crimes and 70 enhanced sentences while funding more prison construction. It contributed to the U.S. having the highest incarceration rate in the world. Biden even criticized George H. Bush’s ramp-up of the phony “war on drugs” from the right, saying that it did not go far enough!

In the international arena, the Democrats have presided over, or supported, almost every war in the last 50 years. Biden championed the Iraq war in 2002, when the Democrats controlled the Senate. Both Biden and Harris are vocal supporters of Israel, and Harris went so far as cosponsoring legislation that challenged the right of the United Nations to condemn Israeli settlements annexing Palestinian land.

In short, neither the Biden/Harris ticket nor the Democratic Party are friends of working people.

Together, Democrats and Republicans have done a masterful job creating a labyrinth of laws and regulations that keep grass-roots and independent parties off the ballot. There is a desperate need for electoral reform to break the monopoly of the two parties of Wall Street.

Changing the game. Meanwhile, it is clear that Trump or Biden will be the next U.S. president. If Biden wins, any improvements that come will be clearing an exceptionally low bar. History and the present both show that the Democrats are sly at sounding progressive to get elected, but act totally differently in office. It will not be long before a Biden administration inevitably starts to stall, sidestep, and equivocate on even the vague promises they made to Sanders supporters at the convention.

Under capitalism, elections are the supposed height and proof of democracy, ensuring equal representation and an equal voice. Working people need to stop buying into this crippling myth and break with the Democratic Party once and for all. We will not see serious change until we do. We need an independent, anti-capitalist party with a thoroughly working-class program. In the meantime, we can protest this rigged game by voting socialist! (See The case for voting socialist.)


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