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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Column: Abandon the Democrats

The Anarchist

As I have argued over the last few weeks, and as common sense would dictate, groups naturally do what is in their interests. Since a small elite class owns most of the mechanisms which distribute information, they have the most selective pressure over information. They shape the way we talk, and they do it in such a way as to uphold and increase their power.

Once again, this is no conspiracy. It is a natural institutional phenomenon.

The case of the two-party-ideology is the best evidence. I want to do two things here. One — I want to use the prevalence of the two-party ideology to illustrate how the elite class manipulates public opinion via discourse imposition. Two — I want to show that the two-party ideology should be abandoned, along with the two corporate/statist parties.

The “two-party ideology” refers to either the “Republican versus Democrat” or the “liberal versus conservative” framework of discussion. The framework includes, as a major assumption, that a person is either one or the other, necessarily. It also assumes that if you are not either, you are somewhere in between them. It is a linear spectrum. There is nothing outside of it.

This leaves no possibility for any other view. How very convenient for powerful groups. All they have to do is exclude a view from this framework, and it becomes impossible to address. What about the things that the two parties overlap on? They simply must be correct, according to the two-party ideology. It could not be that both are wrong.

On foreign policy, they overlap nearly perfectly. They may differ in rhetoric. That is, the Democratic Party may speak a slightly less hawkish line, but if we look at the history of the Democratic Party, we will see that they impose U.S. corporate interests just the same.

What about banks? Democrats, like Republicans, can’t even mention bank regulation. The main puppet-masters of the two parties would never tolerate such defiance. The banks would pull funding immediately from that candidate and give it to their opponent, and the opponent would win.

After the second bailout, Obama made a passing comment about banks acting irresponsibly. What happened? A few banks made statements about how this concerned them, and Obama made a public apology the very next day, including an explanation of what heroes these “job creators” were.

We could go on — issue after issue — the core political conceptions that keep the powerful, powerful being the most protected. Even when a large segment of the population holds one view, it can be successfully ignored.

For example, extensive polling was done after the U.S. War Against Vietnam (a more accurate name for that war). Most Americans felt that involvement was the wrong choice. More importantly, many of that group felt that it was not only a strategic mistake; they felt that it was morally wrong to ever send forces there.

The idea that American military intervention could be morally wrong and based on upholding economic interests of some powerful groups is far too dangerous. The Democrats had to keep their “opposition” in safe bounds, calling the war a “strategic blunder,” failing to follow their constituency.

These show something crucial. The parties do not get their speech or ideology from their voters. Their voters get their speech and ideology from their party.

The corporate candidates of the corporate parties are simply mouths made to speak the speech that we are supposed to adopt.

The two-party ideology is the trap that keeps us from challenging power. Many liberals make the major mistake of voting for the Democratic Party, thinking that it is the more pragmatic option. Many liberals realize that the Democrats represent elite interests, but think they are a better choice than the Republicans.

They’re not. Both parties represent, for the most part, the same corporate interests. They are really two factions of one party. Voting Democrat is just a slightly slower descent down the same hole, the abyss of a despotic state, controlled only by the elite class.

Of course, voting third party has drawbacks. A Republican might get elected. This is not as bad as many liberals think. Of course, Republicans say bizarre and frightening things about women and science, but if we look at the actions of both parties, they are nearly equal in frightening-ness.

We have to start voting third party now, just to increase public confidence. If third-party candidates were to get even 10 percent of the vote, this would force the mainstream discourse to address it. It would send a clear signal to everyone that they are not the only ones who have no confidence in the corporate parties. People don’t want these parties. They feel stuck.

We have to create parties that are not slaves to campaign contributors. We have to abandon the Democratic Party immediately.

Voting third party is not a wasted vote. Voting for the DemRep Party is a wasted vote.

Brian Moen has voted third party in every election since he was 18. He can be reached at bkmoen@ucdavis.edu.


  1. SaltySocialist, thanks for reading, and thanks for the thoughtful feedback. I wholeheartedly agree with some of your points and your overall disposition, but I think a much more careful reading of my column would cause one (maybe two) of your three criticisms to vanish. The other is of primary interest.

    I’ll address your points in turn. I’m doing so because I think that there were some moments where my message was unclear and because you’ve highlighted an interpretation of my column that some readers might also ascribe to it. I want to distance myself as far as possible from that interpretation. Plus, you raised a counterargument in your second point that is at the heart of what I want to object.

    1. I agree; we can’t vote away the two party system. However, you projected this onto my article. I never once said that or anything like it. Of course, it is an important point to add, that we can’t vote away this system. Certainly, I think that voting is one PART of a successful strategy for undermining centralized power, so I do think that voting is quite important. Direct action is also crucial.

    I disagree with your assertion that the Constitution guarantees a two party political monopoly. The simplest response is that there are countries with similar constitutions that DO have successful third, fourth, and fifth parties. So, no, I think that is clearly false. PLUS, even if it were true that the constitution guaranteed a two party political monopoly, then I would advocate changing the constitution in a way to amend that. My whole point is that we should get rid of WHATEVER facilitates such political monopolization.

    You said “dependence on large financial contributions to win a campaign makes third-party candidates … a waste of activist time and money.” First, yes, and this is why I am suggesting that we take action to eliminate candidates’ dependence on campaign contributions. Second, this ignores a point that I made in my column; at the very least, voting third party would shift the discourse, which is crucial. Seeing that third party candidates won even a marginal percent of the vote would help embolden people to do things like take direct action. Of course, if you assume that third parties can never win, then yes, one of the major benefits of voting third party immediately would not arise—the fact that it could build momentum towards making actually viable third party candidates. I do not make such an assumption, for the reasons I’ve given. I think that the reasons you’ve provided to show that third parties can’t win fail, and so I maintain that these benefits do make third party efforts useful. But I want to stress– I agree that we should broaden our efforts, relying far less on voting as a means.

    2. While I agree with you on the track record of the Democratic Party compared to the Republican Party, I want to be clear on what I mean by “just as bad.” Yes, the Republican Party wants to eliminate many of the crucial social safety measures (which were put in place primarily by Democrats). So, in the short run, the Democrats are clearly a better option, and they would slow down our descent into complete despotism compared to Republicans.

    The fact that fewer poor Americans and fewer third world peasants would die under Democratic policy does not make them less bad, but I have a strong reason to take such a seemingly anti-human stance (I think my position is most humane). A perpetual continuation of DemRep legislation would lead to power becoming so centralized that the elites would become a total dictatorship, and those peasants would die anyway, along with most of the rest of the world.

    A continuation of Democratic policy would lead to the very same thing as continued Republican policy– complete corporate/bank control of the US, the undermining of the constitution, and then all of the very worst, most horrific stuff. It would lead to some sort of completely fascist state in which the people have zero power. It would be the biggest, most catastrophic failure in human history. So yes, the Democrats might facilitate an extra 50 years of descent before we fall into an abyss of absolute despotism, but their policy puts us on is the very same trajectory as the Republicans. It is merely slower and less blatant. The fact that it slows down when the poor will be killed does not make them better.

    3. “Only (by) building power from the bottom of society up can we hope to make real change.” Yes, absolutely. And if I had space in my column, I would have probably tried to stress this. Direct action and grassroots movements are the absolutely essential parts of a liberation movement. I never implied otherwise. What I do disagree with your post on, is that voting is non-essential (if you do mean to imply that). If we don’t have some push on policy, then the elite classes, who have most of the push on policy, will simply use policy to undermine whatever grassroots movement we create. We have to have a multi-strategy, including all parts of political action. And through direct action, we can make voting work more for us, as a tool against the mechanisms which allow the elite class to own the electoral system.

    I don’t think my column gave the “Want change? Vote!” message, but I’ll certainly take more precautions against that interpretation, because that IS obnoxious and is the exact ideology that elite institutions instill into us. That IS the two-party-ideology.

    Like you said, we should “focus on the economic structures that determine who gets on the ballot.” Definitely, absolutely, yes. Once again, I never did or would imply otherwise. The part that I actually did imply, that voting is a useful and necessary political tool, I still hold. You never said voting is not useful at all, so I won’t assume you believe that. What you seem to disagree with is the very two-party-ideology (which includes the belief that voting is the ONLY means for change) that I want to oppose as well.

    • Okay, let’s do this.

      1) Does voting third-party honestly shift the discourse? The insidious rise of Ron Paul’s stardom rode on the vehicle of the Republican Party, and I would have to use google to remember the name of the Libertarian Party’s candidate name last November. Having Dennis Kucinich debate Obama in 2008 the presidential primaries affected public discourse far more than the entire Socialist Party presidential campaign the same year.

      I want to be clear that I am not endorsing the two party system for Constitutional reasons. I would do away with the whole thing (save for its amendments) if I could. It’s not, however, uncontroversial that a bicamaral legislator and a separate executive branch favors two-parties.

      2. The less of two evils is always better. I don’t think taking a moral high-ground is particularly useful in trying to alleviate the horrors of capitalist imperialism. And that is all voting can do at this moment.

      My point, which should have been more explicit, is that the left will only have an impact on the electoral arena if we build power on the ground. A third-party, which I am eventually in favor of, must be a bus for strong social movements to change policy. Right now they are empty but for the drivers, who place more value on having people hear their horns than getting more people in the bus. A list of solutions is meaningless if not built on the daily struggles of poor and working people. This holds true for left parties in other countries, many of which lost much of their vision as neoliberal capitalism empowered the middle classes at the expense of the working classes.

      This is why the Dems are important to acknowledge, as the demographics that—if empowered—can change society, vote for them. Their party, which is run by horrible people, is susceptible.

      There are other reasons to be wary of third-parties. The Working Families Party in NY, for instance, spends more time trying to get votes than it does fighting evictions, and suffers in terms of numbers because of this. Power struggles are weird, and must be thought about with nuance. I like this discussion though, and will add you on facebook.

  2. Solutions:
    -Proportional Representation
    -A national popular vote
    -publicly financed campaigns
    -IRV for executive positions
    -State-owned banks
    -Cooperatives and WSDEs
    -Creating a minimum top marginal income tax rate for all states
    -Socialized healthcare, paid maternity leave, paid paternity leave, indexing the minimum wage to productivity, more generous pensions, paid vacation time, much stronger and nationally-based unemployment insurance compensation system.
    -nationalization of all natural resources/major industries
    -municipal fiber networks.
    -high-speed rail

  3. I like the overall message, but I think this piece makes three problematic assumptions:

    1) That we can vote away the-two party system.

    Our Constitution makes a two-party system inevitable. “Winner takes all” voting marginalizes minority parties, making it nearly impossible for them to grow. While there have been some successful third parties during periods of massive social disruption (like the industrial revolution and the Socialist Party) these parties have either had to become one of the two parties, or dissolve into an established party. Moreover, the dependence on large financial contributions to win a campaign makes third-party candidates, even if more in tune with the American public, a waste of activist time and money.

    2) Because the Democratic Party is beholden to elite interests, it is just as bad the Republican Party.

    I am not going to apologize for the horrors of Obama and Clinton style neoliberalism. However, I would like to point out that a Democrat reducing food stamps and killing tens of thousands overseas is objectively better than a Republican eliminating food stamps and killing hundreds of thousands overseas. The “lesser of two evil” argument is legitimate when thinking about human lives, regardless of any ethical unease. We should remember that women, people of color, LGBTQ, poor, and working people overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party. We can choose to think that these demographics are horribly deluded, or we can acknowledge that, despite being evil, the Democrats at least marginally represent the material interests of the disempowered. This isn’t to say that the Democrats are not run by power hungry business elites, but that there are historical ties between the Party and social movements that we cannot ignore.

    3) That voting is a viable means for social change.

    I once saw a sign at an Occupy protest that read “Want Change? Vote!” This sentiment is obnoxious whether coming from Democratic hacks or leftists with Jill Stein bumper stickers. An individual voting for a third-party, no matter how righteous, will never change these institutional constraints on a more plural democracy. Only building power from the bottom of society up can we hope to make real change. Instead of focusing on elections, third-parties should work to build campaigns in their communities that take ground from those who fund the two-party system.

    Ultimately, “protest voting” represents a politics of individual expression, instead of a politics focused on the strategic empowerment of the poor and working classes. Never mind the ballots, let’s focus on the economic structures that determine who gets on the ballot in the first place.


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