Biden v. Trump: Lesser of Evils or Evil of Lessers?


May 24, 2020

Joe Biden continues to pick up endorsements, the latest of note to me coming from the Communication Workers of America’s executive board two days ago.

In a way, it’s no surprise.  Donald Trump, at once the most incompetent and most venal president in U.S. history, has in little more than three years done incalculable damage to the nation on virtually every front – politically, economically, and environmentally.  The Covil-19 crisis (for which he famously takes “no responsibility”), to date claiming close to 100,000 American lives, may well turn out to be his piece de resistance of failed administration.

So, sure, it stands to reason that “presumptive Democratic Party nominee” Biden continues to gain support among those Americans – a strong numerical majority, by most unbiased accounts – who consider a second Trump term the nation’s (indeed the world’s) worst nightmare.  Even Michael Moore, a Sanders supporter and fierce critic of centrist (“corporate”) Democrats who dominate the party, says he will hold his nose in November and pull the proverbial level for Biden.  So will the venerable Noam Chomsky and an army of other vocal progressives – even as a growing number of them believe, along with Green Party presidential nomination contender Howie Hawkins, that it’s high time for an independent third party to enter the scence – who consider the “lesser of evils” calculation an easy one to make in 2020.

As a social worker, and current and former union member (including the Communication Workers of America in Mississippi, the Teamsters in Louisiana, and a Graduate Student Employees union in Massachusetts), I confess that I’m disappointed at the CWA’s endorsement of Biden.  The Democratic party was indeed once the “party of labor,” but Democrats have been steadily selling out working class interests since George McGovern’s loss to Richard Nixon in 1972, in close step with the virtual takeover of Washington politics by corporate lobbyists, super-PACs, and a seemingly endless flood of “dark money.”

To be sure, Joe Biden has made solemn promises to support labor’s priorities, including stronger workplace regulations, making it easier for unions to form and to recruit members, and newly energized federal enforcement of collective bargaining agreements.   But guess what?  Obama made similar promises, and over the course of two terms (with Biden as his Vice-President) reneged on every one of them.

America does desperately need a true working people’s party, one that won’t take the working class for granted, which has been the Democratic Party game plan since (“where else can they go?”) Bill Clinton.  Sanders and his legions of enthusiastic “Our Revolution” supporters thought that the Democratic Party could be reformed from within to recover its commitment to the vast majority of working people.  But twice now – in 2016 and 2020 – they have been proved wrong.

In the final analysis, then, what should self-respecting pro-union social workers do in November (assuming Biden indeed moves from presumptive to actual nominee, and doesn’t get dumped over either his evident cognitive decline or credible allegations of sexual assault)?  Let me try to split the difference between those who embrace the “lesser of evils” calculus and those who can’t stomach bowing before an “evil of the lessers” logic.

Recall, first, that we remain stuck with picking a president not by nationwide popular vote, but via the archaic, anti-democratic electoral college.  So, if you live in a so-called “swing” state, a state in which a handful of votes could conceivably swing the state’s electoral college votes to either Biden or Trump, by all means turn out to vote for Biden.  But if you don’t – if you live in Mississippi, for example, where the state’s six electoral votes are most certainly guaranteed to Trump – make a statement on behalf of the working class (and the planet, and peace, and popular democracy…), and vote Green.

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