"Lesser of Two Enemies"--the New and Improved LOTE
Joe Biden, the 'lesser of two enemies
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This article was inspired by a new RootsAction campaign that finally gave me hope. Or rather, somewhat gave me hope.
The campaign concept, voting Trump out while pressuring Biden from day one, strikes me as splendid. It reflects the basic political sanity that should now guide all progressive and Green New Deal organizing. But I fear for the execution. Above all, the execution of the "pressuring Biden from day one" part.
What's worse, any perceived feebleness in that execution could cripple the campaign's essential first part: ridding our nation of Trump. In particular, the Never Biden left will never vote for Biden on any other premise than making every day of his administration a living hell. Now, polls suggest we may be able to defeat Trump with out any votes from the Never Biden left. But will we be able to defeat him in the kind of landslide where he can't plausibly claim a rigged election and refuse to leave office on that basis? And, assuming Biden wins, can we really relentlessly pressure him without having recruited the passionate progressives who detest him most?
I co-founded Bernie or Bust, from a conviction that groups like RootsAction and Progressive Democrats of America, while being admirably principled progressives, weren't sufficiently radical in treating establishment Democrats as open enemies. For me, being an effective progressive involves consciously fighting a (peaceful) political war on two fronts: against deeply corrupt, insanely extreme Republican enemies and against deeply corrupt but saner Democrat ones.
I resigned from the 2016 Bernie or Bust due to the movement's failure to recognize just how insane Republicans could become under Trump (who only became a viable candidate months after we'd launched our movement). That failure to recognize "Trumpublicans'" intolerable insanity has rendered Bernie or Bust's current incarnation disreputable, weak, and politically irrelevant.
But our movement's spirit--treating establishment Democrats as open enemies--has become more relevant than ever. This above all because Sanders' two presidential runs have flushed establishment Democrats out of their "wooded cover," revealing their long-tacit hatred and contempt for progressives above all, progressives insisting on a Green New Deal (GND). When Trump recently called the GND "childish," he was simply expressing what establishment Dems like Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi clearly believe but lack the guts to openly say.
Seeing how rightly disgusted progressives are at the grim necessity of voting for Biden, the shopworn slogan "lesser or two evils" (LOTE) is in the news as much as ever. With my Bernie or Bust sensibility, I've identified a new and improved version of that slogan, updated for 2020. Why not stigmatize Biden as "the lesser of two ENEMIES"? Adopting that catchy slogan would give RootsAction's campaign maximum credibility with the Never Biden left (to the extent voting for Biden can be credible with them at all). But more importantly, it would breathe exciting new life into the stale but inescapable LOTE cliche', handing progressives a formidable weapon of pressure on Biden we presently lack.
Why "Lesser of Two Enemies" Is Vastly Better LOTE Rhetoric
Due to Democrats' longstanding repression of progressives in their ranks, and to Republicans' ever-increasing extremism, the issue of lesser-evil voting (LOTE) has been a central leftist controversy in every recent presidential election. Seeing what's at stake in 2020--both the climate and democracy itself --the LOTE controversy is now more prominent and heated than ever.
As noted, I feel RootsAction (and their illustrious campaign spokesperson Noam Chomsky) offer the far saner and more responsible position in that debate. Since it's easy to do so, why not package this position in forceful, memorable wrapping by wordplay that updates the expression "lesser of two evils" itself? "Lesser of two enemies" has the kind of catchy, publicity-savvy ring we associate with successful movements and campaigns. Indeed, the kind of media-savvy ring that brought "Bernie or Bust" to national prominence.
But catchy wordplay on LOTE is only the first--and perhaps the smallest-- advantage "lesser of two enemies" brings to our political battle. Since it reflects hard-core, unrelenting opposition to Biden, it makes the distasteful duty of voting for him more palatable. For unlike "lesser of two evils," it doesn't sound a passive, resigned note, as if Biden is a fated feature of the world, like death, taxes, and Musak, we must accept without hope of remedy. On the contrary, "lesser of two enemies" is an active battle cry one offering hope to its impassioned partisans and a stern warning to Biden and establishment Dems.
Or, even better than a stern warning, it offers outright exposure: an in-your-face rejection of the Dem establishment's unspoken claim that simply electing Biden will put the world right. Adopting "lesser of two enemies" rhetoric cries "Bullshit!" on that preposterous claim, acknowledging the bitter truth that by replacing Trump with Biden, progressives have only put in power a less dangerous enemy, one fully intending to piss on our dearest aspirations. Citing the crucial issue of climate alone, Biden, despite appointing a window-dressing task force, has telegraphed his real "drill, baby, drill" intentions, choosing as his energy policy "brain trust" fossil fuel mavens, some who've held executive positions in the industry. Bank on it: Biden will frack us royally!
Effective Pressure Means Finding Biden Guilty Till Proven Innocent
In branding Biden the "lesser of two enemies," I've forged a potent rhetorical weapon for savvy progressives--those who realize we must both vote for Biden and pressure him relentlessly. To sum up, I've cited three advantages for the "lesser of two enemies" meme. Namely, its catchiness (based on closely mimicking an omnipresent slogan), its active fighting spirit (LOTE voting without demoralizing resignation), and its calling establishment Dems on their bullshit (that just electing Biden will make things hunky-dory).
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