Howard Zinn’s recent article from the Progressive got me thinking, because it held at least a little hint of a possible contradiction. He wrote about the election, and the quantity of coverage the candidates are recieving in even left periodicals, and he wrote eloquently about how we need to make a movement right now that can truly influence whoever wins the Whitehouse when the time comes. But he included this line that got me thinking the most:
Yes, there are candidates who are somewhat better than others, and at certain times of national crisis (the Thirties, for instance, or right now) where even a slight difference between the two parties may be a matter of life and death.
Noam Chomsky has also talked of the small differences between candidates potentially leading to large outcome differences on the ground. Not radical differences on the ground, but small differences for large amounts of people. This makes sense to me. We have a mostly top down oriented government in the U.S., and the President is the top of the top, with huge power in matters of life and death for the whole world, from how many bullets are fired to how much pollution is created to how many schools are built.
A large movement to change the world can also make huge differences. But in this country a movement can be rapidly deflated by a determined president, and George Bush showed that when he ignored the largest global protests in history and invaded Iraq. My guess is that such a movement would have swayed a less hard-right president to not invade Iraq (maybe he’d have satisfied his blood-lust and fear of being labeled a coward with a short and brutal bombing campaign, something like that).
So if this election might be a matter of life and death, and if a movement could be vastly more effective with a slightly more sympathetic president in office, then wouldn’t it make sense for at least some people on the left, even the far left, to fully engage with the campaign? Even if they do nothing to build a movement in the process, if it’s really a matter of life and death, if all they do is knock on doors and help with voter registration and distribute yard signs, isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t we applaud them for it, and maybe even join them?