While he was supposedly only advocating that progressives do this in slam dunk states, it’s interesting that Zinn flip-flopped and sent an email to the campaign saying he made a mistake and will now vote for Nader.
Why in this historic election is Zinn, the people’s historian, not going to vote for Barack Obama, who just might become the first black president in American history?
Why is Zinn voting for a “distractor whose campaigns put the planet at risk of further right wing control”?
What if voters vote their conscience in a state that isn’t all that slam dunk?
In a debate that featured Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin, which aired on CSPAN2 on October 23, 2008, Chris Hedges, the moderator, asked the two candidates to address Zinn’s argument which many progressives and liberals regard as second class politicians:
“Both Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, two people who have been traditionally very weary of the two-party system, have each announced that they will vote for Barack Obama.”- Advertisement -
“Howard Zinn said we have gone through an insufferable eight years with the Bush Administration, probably the worst administration in history. In this situation, we are desperate for a change. So, even though Obama doesn’t represent any fundamental change, he creates an opening for a possibility of change. That is why I am voting for Obama. That is why I suggest to people that they vote for him. But, I also suggest that Obama will not fulfill that potential for change unless he is enveloped by a social movement, which is angry enough, powerful enough, and insistent enough that he fills his abstract phrases about change with some real content.” (*Hedges also addressed Chomsky’s endorsement but for the purposes of this article, I did not transcribe the quote from Chomsky that Hedges read to the candidates.)
“We know that Mr. Chomsky and Mr. Zinn agree far more with the Nader/Gonzalez campaign, but they are demonstrating a tactical vote. The tactical vote for the least worst (namely Obama) should involve a moral imperative to make demands of Obama so if he wins, he wins with specific mandates. The problem with the liberal and progressive intelligentsia is they don’t make their vote hard to get. And they allow the least worst to ignore them and go more to the corporate side and try to get a little slice of the right wing vote, which is exactly what Dukakis, Mondale, Gore, Clinton, and Kerry did. And it wasn’t exactly a winning strategy expect with Clinton on the Perot situation. So, I think one, there needs to be demands made on Obama. People living in slam-dunk states that are slam-dunk McCain and Obama can cast a vote for their conscience because that doesn’t affect the least worst outcome. And finally, it’s not who wins---it’s how they win. Are they going to win without worrying about progressive forces because progressive forces have told them they can be taken for granted because the McCain alternative is too horrible to contemplate?”
Chuck Baldwin offered an almost equally refreshing answer:
“I think this whole mantra of a wasted vote or the lesser of two evils is what has brought us to this place. I tell you what a wasted vote is. A wasted vote is to vote for someone that you know in your heart will not be faithful to the principles and the values that you believe in; that you know will betray the things that are core to that which is central to our nation’s success and yet to ignore those central core issues and to vote for someone because they may happen to fit into that lesser of two evils category. A wasted vote in 2008, for my conservative friends who are out there tonight---I would say a wasted vote in 2008 is for John McCain. I don’t believe that John McCain can anymore win this election than Bob Dole could win the election that he fought with Bill Clinton. I really believe that if Christians and evangelicals and conservatives in 2008 if they want to waste a vote they will vote for John McCain. I believe that they want to cast a principled vote---a vote for someone that they know in their heart will be faithful to the principles and the values that they profess to believe. I believe they must cast a vote for Chuck Baldwin in the Constitution Party in 2008. I just believe that this wasted vote mentality is something that is not consistent with our Founding Fathers and our American republic.”
Perhaps, it’s worthwhile to examine all the writing Zinn put out for progressive and liberal minds to consume over the past year.
In November 2007, Zinn renewed his call to end the “war on terror” and called it a “sham.”
In February 2008, Zinn decried the “Election Madness” engulfing the nation and wrote:
Today, we can be sure that the Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. The two leading Presidential candidates have made it clear that if elected, they will not bring an immediate end to the Iraq War, or institute a system of free health care for all.
They offer no radical change from the status quo.