Sellout or Sense?

It is about five weeks until the U.S. presidential election. The day after we will wake up to either President Trump or President Clinton and Jill Stein will have gotten between 3% (or a bit less) and 7% (or a bit more) of the vote.

We can imagine someone named Joe saying, I support Jill Stein, she is excellent, vote for her everywhere. He argues that Clinton is horrible and voting for evil doesn’t attain good. We can also imagine someone named Sarah saying, I support Hillary Clinton, she is vastly better than Trump, vote for her everywhere. She argues that Trump winning is unacceptable.

A third position, voiced by myself, Stephen Shalom, Noam Chomsky, Ted Glick, Arun Gupta, and quite a few others, urges that people vote strategically for Stein in safe states, but for Clinton in contested states. This view agrees with the Clinton camp on the need to beat Trump but also agrees with the Stein camp that while Clinton needs to beat Trump, beyond that, more votes aimed at post-election organizing are better than more votes for Clinton.

Proponents of the third view typically like the Green program best and for that reason will vote for Stein in safe states, which is likely to be at least forty and hopefully well over that. For example, I know that Stein is not going to win the election and I think Stein campaigning in contested states and telling people no one should vote for Clinton everywhere is seriously irresponsible, but I will vote for Stein in Massachusetts because I think a higher vote tally for the Greens might help Green momentum for future growth. However, though I do not support Clinton in any way, shape, or form, I would vote for her in contested states to stop Trump from becoming President, and I hope other progressives will do likewise. I acknowledge that by voting for Clinton in contested states, I would take one potential vote away from the Green tally, but I would willingly do that because I believe that lost vote for Stein is more than outweighed by the fact that not voting for Clinton in contested states could lead to a Trump victory which would be incredibly destructive for the well being of huge numbers of people, for positive left organizing prospects, and even for the Green Party itself.

There are people who say that anyone who has this strategic voting position is, by virtue of that, somehow a supporter of Clinton, or of the Democratic Party, or of duoply, or of the status quo. To me, that claim is confused, manipulative, or, most likely, simply careless. I think the reasoning is that since voting for a lesser evil, in this case Clinton, can’t itself transcend the duopoly or status quo, those recommending it must not want to.

But strategic voting is not a strategy for winning a new society. It is only a technique for warding off horrible reaction. To say strategic voting for decades hasn’t led to a new society is true. It has, however, often warded off lesser evils. On the other hand, the Green Party, which is certainly trying to win a whole new society, also hasn’t done so in decades, and is barely more effective now than it was four decades ago. On that basis, should we dismiss the Green Party and any anything like it as useless? I think that would be quite wrong, but at least it would be criticizing an approach for not achieving what it was meant to achieve.

A real argument against voting for Clinton in contested states would be for an advocate of voting Stein everywhere to tell the strategic lesser evil voter, “I get that you believe Trump would be disastrous for human well being and for prospects for social change and that while you reject capitalism, racism, sexism, etc., you think the best way to further that positive agenda is by building radical movements and organizations, but also by beating Trump. But why don’t you see: 1. that the harm to the Greens of getting less votes, even just in contested states, outweighs the fear of Trump; 2. Trump isn’t going to win anyhow; 3. Trump just isn’t that much worse than Clinton; and 4. Trump in office would engender more resistance than Clinton in office, and in that respect perhaps even produce more desirable change.”

Okay, if we accept those claims, then despite progressives voting for Stein, Trump wouldn’t win, or his winning wouldn’t be much worse, or his winning would be offset by stronger positive movements. But are claims 1-4 true?

First, if Stein didn’t even run in contested states, even if she did no more campaigning in safe states with her freed up time, her overall total vote might drop a point or two, though her total tally could also rise if she campaigned more in safe states. In either case, a month after the election, no one would remember the difference. But, yes, it could be a real cost. Just like Trump winning would be a real cost, and if it happened with the margin being less than Stein’s vote total in one or more contested states, also a probable end for the Green Party.

Next comes the claim Trump isn’t going to win. This is irrelevant to strategic lesser evil voting. If Trump is clearly losing overall, there will be few or no contested states to worry about. No one need vote for Clinton to stop Trump in contested states unless Trump has a chance of winning the election and the state, and then the strategy only applies in the contested states.

What about the claim that Trump isn’t that much worse than Clinton? Even if we confine ourselves to just considering global warming, the difference over that is so huge and important that it alone should make all aware voters commit to stopping Trump. And if we then add race and gender differences and what Trump would do to the economy and what he would ratify and promote in the popular culture, I just find it hard to fathom saying he is barely worse. Yes, Clinton, like other presidents, has nearly no redeeming features. But Trump is simply off the charts of extreme negative qualities. And it doesn’t stop with the candidates. Clinton exists with Sanders and Warren and a bunch of new young upstarts pushing her from inside her party, and has as a constituency beyond her party supporting her, not only of corporate sharks, but also women, blacks, and so on. Trump has behind him religious fundamentalists, ideological lunatics, overt racists and sexists, and working people with totally warranted grievances who, however, Trump utterly disdains and will ignore other than to try to rally them into scapegoating others.

It is true that if you honestly believe Trump and Clinton are not dramatically different, if you can really say that the day after the election, if you woke up to President Trump you would not be far more horrified and far more upset than waking up to President Clinton, then, okay, I guess your decision to vote Stein everywhere makes sense. But, really, Trump literally talks about fascistic repression and using nuclear weapons and the most mysoginistic and racist violations as if they were all the common currency of a worthy daily life. He means by law and order – repression. He denies that arguably the most urgent problem humanity has ever faced, global warming, even exists. He galvanizes support from and for virtually every neo-nazi and otherwise maniacally racist and sexist constituency in the country. Any notion that Trump will not promote all that, or that he will morph his almost incomprehensible economic notions into some poor people’s campaign because his Republican Party soulmates will restrain him from worse is hard to fathom. Now add to all that his thousands of governmental appointments, made at the top by him, and made further down by neanderthal components of the Republican party – judges, yes, but all the rest too – and surely the difference between President Trump and President Clinton is evident and huge.

It is hard to see how denying the difference between a likely Trump administration and a likely Clinton administration could be anything other than a rationalization for voting for Stein everywhere which choice was determined, however, on other grounds entirely. In other words, I suspect in more cases than not, one decides to vote for Stein everywhere for other reasons but then, to justify it, says something one would otherwise dismiss as utterly ridiculous, that is, that Trump is at most marginally worse than Clinton. What might those other reasons for deciding to vote Stein everywhere be?

I think it is most often a totally warranted fury at the Democratic Party and a realization, for many for the first time, of the horror that is the American electoral system, as well as general outrage at injustice and oppression, plus a feeling that to acknowledge the desirability of voting for Clinton – even while holding one’s nose, and even only in contested states, and even while devoting oneself to battling against her administration and building new alternatives including the Green Party – is somehow a slippery slope to becoming an apologist for injustice and giving up on change. I think many fear loss of radical commitment and identity more than they fear Trump. But I wonder why anyone would believe, even if some left pundits inexplicably write as though it is inevitable, that a ten minute strategic vote for Clinton in a contested state would cause one to lose one’s values, one’s understanding, and one’s commitment. What would it say about activists that our grasp on our long held, or even newly developed, beliefs would be so subject to dissolution?

Next comes the claim that Trump would engender more opposition than would Clinton, and I think that that could well be true, though I don’t think it is as self evident as many assert. For one thing, it ignores the different level of repression Trump would employ and the defeatism and depression his victory might arouse. But let’s say Trump in office would generate more opposition than Clinton in office. What would that opposition be doing? Under Obama, we got Occupy and Black Lives Matter, each seeking positive change way beyond Democratic Party aims. Under Republicans, and certainly under Trump, opposition would focus overwhelmingly on preventing horrible reaction. It would have for its leadership and rhetoric, content largely and perhaps even fully compatible with Democratic Party agendas. The upshot of protest under Trump, in other words, if successful, would likely be, after four or eight years of tremendous human losses, getting back to where we would be now if Clinton becomes President. Even if we callously ignore that the cost of those eight years would very likely include world swamping climate change, it would still be enormous for minorities, women, gays, working people, and people around the world.

So I have to wonder, why not vote for Clinton in whatever states are still contested five weeks from now, and vote however you think your actions will best aid social change activism in safe states? And if you are considering not voting for Clinton in contested states, I wonder how you would answer these questions:

On the day after the election, when you pick up the paper, will you be hoping Clinton won, and if Trump won, will you be horrified and even more fearful for humanity than at virtually any other moment in your life?

If you were to vote Clinton in a contested state, to stop Trump, or if any other progressive or radical you know were to do so, do you think you or they would then jettison your values and beliefs and become a status quo supporter passive about change? If you are Green the day before the election and you were to vote strategically, would you become a Democratic Party aficionado the day after?

If you vote Stein in a contested state, and Trump wins that state, and wins the election, do you think the Green Party would even survive that? Would you survive that?

Do you really think that Albert, Shalom, Chomsky, Glick, Gupta, and all the others who are advocating strategic voting have suddenly lost their values and commitments? If not, can you explain why you think their logic is wrong and why their assessments are wrong, without simply dismissing them as sellouts so as to avoid addressing substance? And if you are inclined to summarily dismiss, or to just repeat that Clinton is bad and Stein is good, which no one is contesting, can you explain to yourself why that is your inclination?


  1. H H November 5, 2016 4:55 pm 

    It’s anyone but Clinton. There are millions of “deplorables” with legitimate grievances ready to vote for someone promising them a better deal. Unfortunately, voting for the “lesser evil” is exactly what got us in this hole. It’s time to stop digging! By voting for “anyone but Clinton” is the only way to send a clear message to the “elites” who run this country (and control the politicians including the President) that the status quo is not working.

  2. avatar
    James October 5, 2016 12:47 pm 

    Just fot the benefit of the rest us who don’t live in the US, please could you pretty please absolutely make sure, we don’t have to endure seeing Trumps ugly mug constantly, all over the joint. Shit, show a littoe mercy for thecrest of us outside your borders woud ya. Even if the polls suggest he ain’t getting in, if you live in a contested state, just make sure he doesn’t. Shut the fucking door on it! For lucks sake.

    And Paul, if you are going to use the phrase, it’s 2016 for God’s sake, use it so it makes sense, contextually. Like, it’s 2016 for God’s sake and if Trump does sneek in, zero net emissions by 2025? Forget that shit!

  3. avatar
    Paul D October 5, 2016 4:53 am 


    I am also amazed at the way all these angry commenters seemingly flood this otherwise little-used comment utility whenever the infrequent topic of strategic voting has come up here over the past few months.

    Do any of them have any previous history of unsage of Znet – or of being sustainers?

    I for one have been “saying so”, over and over again in some other internet fora such as “Commindreams.org” – all it has gotten me is a lot of verbal attacks.

    The amazing thing is that I for one have been casting protest votes in every election since 1996 – but being as I live in Pennsylvania, it is not going to be safe for me to do so this time considering the unique and extraordinary threat that Trump and his government and followers would present. Yet, so many on what is supposed to be the radical left seem incapable of seeing that Trump is a unique and extraordinary threat which cannot be compared to other Republicans running in the “tweedledum-tweedledee” races of the past.

    An more troubling yet, is the seeming complete detachment from objective rational objective reality that discussion of this election on ALL sides is taking.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 5, 2016 1:16 pm 

      Hello Paul D

      Only Sustainers can comment…you have to log in.

      The nastiness of the attacks are of interest, I think. If someone says to you, two plus two is five – you don’t get angry, you just say, well, no…it is four, and here is why… Getting angry can arise a number of ways. One may feel what the person said reflects values or views that deserve anger…for example, or one may be deflecting without addressing, for example…

      I hope I am not part of the all sides you have in mind…

      • avatar
        Paul D October 6, 2016 12:23 am 

        “I hope I am not part of the all sides you have in mind…”

        Sorry.. By all sides I meant Trump supporters and the “never Hillary no matter what” contingent. That not really all sides of course.

  4. avatar
    Paul Street October 4, 2016 5:02 pm 

    Three cheers for the quadrennial intra-leftist debate (I was going to say “bloodletting” but this seems far more civilized and decent than the norm on this topic) on how best to respond to the horrific, arch-plutocratic U.S. party and elections system. Nate Silver now has the horrible brute and proto-fascistic buffoon Donald Trump at a 27 percent chance of winning and the somewhat less unpopular HRC 73 percent. That seems about right. though I might put Trump’s odds lower (.the Cubs’ chances of going to the World Series for the first time in 71 years are likely much higher than Trump’s shot.) The ruling class wants and will have its Clinton45 presidency. One thing has really stood out to me in being part of the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa: it’s amazing how minor intra-left differences over electoral preference and strategy can become among people united around a political social movement with clear goals. The battle here is to protect water, soil, ancestral grounds, and climate from a particularly giant pipeline being built to carry fracked oil from North Dakota and possibly also for tar sands oil from Canada…and more broadly to keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop capitalogenic climate change (the single biggest issue or our or any time) . There’s a range of electoral-politics perspectives among the anti-Bakken folks: all or nothing Stein voters, some Bernie or Buster types, Lesser Evil Hillary voters, non-voter anarchists, some who absurdly think that Hillary is a \progressive, and even a Tea Party sort or two (they come in through concerns over eminent domain abuse of farmers’ property), The election is at most a side discussion among people killing some time while surrounding eco-cidal production sites and preparing to interfere with pipeline construction. While I am not unaware of the specific climate threat posed by Trump and suspect that a president Donald would move against pipeline fighters in ugly ways, I am inspired and encouraged by the willingness of folks in this struggle to not let electoral differences divide them as they engage in the vital and urgent politics of grassroots movement-building beneath and beyond election cycles (whose outcomes are not terribly impacted by what leftists of the sort who read ZNet do or don’t do in voting booths once every 4 years.). I (who always vote third party) can totally work with folks who vote for HRC as the lesser evil. I think there are some very smart and respectable folks who take that position (e.g. Noam Chomsky, Mike Albert, Adolph Reed Jr, this election at least, etc.) … they have reasons they can defend. (I might be with them if I thought Trump had a serious shot .I’ve tried LEV on and it just doesn’t fit) When people tell me at this late date (2016 for God’s sake) that either of the Clintons or Obama is really some kind of progressive I do tend to write them off as hopelessly bamboozled buffoons with a serious deficit of critical thinking. At the same time, I think a Hillary presidency, which will be a disaster on numerous levels, could be educational even for some of the bamboozled. That happened with Obama to some degree. One thing I look forward to in the coming HRC presidency is that she promises to have considerably less capacity to bamboozle progressives than Obama — considerably less ability to diminish the politics of who’s sitting in the streets over and against the politics of who’s sitting in the White House. Meanwhile, I would encourage leftists of all stripes to think seriously about how to effectively fight for an elections and party system that actually merited passionate citizen engagement….one that embodied and advanced actual popular sovereignty, something rather different than the reigning plutocratic farce that is sold to us as a great exercise in popular self-rule. I have long been struck by how little attention we give to this very basic and, yes, Constitutional question,

    • Tyler Healey October 4, 2016 7:06 pm 

      “Meanwhile, I would encourage leftists of all stripes to think seriously about how to effectively fight for an elections and party system that actually merited passionate citizen engagement.”

      Hear, hear. I like what’s being planned at poorpeoplescampaign.org. Perhaps we can convince them to expand their mission to include election reform and other solutions to humanity’s most major crises, especially global warming.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 4, 2016 9:27 pm 

      Why are you replying to a piece I wrote, saying nothing about what it says? And reacting to lots of things it doesn’t say?

    • avatar
      Paul D October 5, 2016 5:01 am 


      I think you are greatly underestimating the likelihood of a Trump victory. Come here to Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, all of the state of New York except NYC, and where I am typing this now, Nevada, and see if your confidence of a Trump defeat persists.

      A review of the recent completely unanticipated upsets in the UK, Philippines, and now Colombia also suggest that we cannot trust any polls anymore.

    • avatar
      James October 9, 2016 2:34 pm 

      “Meanwhile, I would encourage leftists of all stripes to think seriously about how to effectively fight for an elections and party system that actually merited passionate citizen engagement….one that embodied and advanced actual popular sovereignty, something rather different than the reigning plutocratic farce that is sold to us as a great exercise in popular self-rule. I have long been struck by how little attention we give to this very basic and, yes, Constitutional question,”

      In some ways isn’t that what OR is about? Isn’t that an org that Michael was pushing to see more “lefties” get involved in to shift it in a better direction? And as you said once Paul,

      “As I have sought to show over and over again on ZNet and in other venues, a decent human future within and beyond the United States depends on “we the people” making a democratic and participatory revolution from the bottom up. The desire for such a future compels us to become revolutionaries. And, as Mike Albert says (quoting a friend of his), “there is no such thing as a revolutionary who is not in a revolutionary organization.“ One can advance revolutionary ideas and embody revolutionary principles to some degree as an organizationally unaffiliated individual. One can also protest and march and sit in and occupy with others in response to the endless outrages inflicted by the rich and powerful. But to bring about genuinely radical change one has to do the hard work of forming and joining together in an organization that embodies and expands common struggle, experience, strategizing, vision, and more. …

      The International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS ) has the very real potential to be all this and more. It is the “future” left-egalitarian organization we’ve been waiting for. It’s time to stop waiting and, as a start, to join.”

  5. avatar
    Michael Albert October 4, 2016 12:38 pm 

    It is fascinating, and most upsetting of all to me, that while those who oppose strategic voting say so, regularly, those who favor it, with few exceptions, are largely quiet. I wonder at the reason for this.

    On the vote Stein side not one person thinks doing so will or even could have a very large impact. It is felt, at most, to be a small step in a good direction, of relatively minor value but better than not voting, etc. and I agree, for safe states.

    On the strategic voting side, pretty much all adherents think that this choice could have…and need not even occur unless it might have, monumental importance. Thus, if that choice stops Trump, adherents of strategic voting think it will have been crucial.

    What strikes me as, in that light, truly strange, is that the vote Stein everywhere group has no hesitation about voicing its inclination…or so it seems. On the other side, the vote strategic group is with few exceptions very quiet. Based on each groups estimate of the importance of their choice, you would predict the reverse. I am not talking about people commenting on this’ll piece, by the way, I am talking about public essays.

  6. Ana Rcisi October 4, 2016 5:01 am 

    The chance that a single vote will change the outcome of the election in _any_ state is vanishingly small. So you might as well vote for someone you like and believe in, even if that person is bound to lose, like one of the minor-party candidates. You will at least have left a valid, honest mark on history.

    As to whether Clinton is better or worse than Trump, it’s hard to say, not because of ideology, but because Trump is a complete mystery. He does not seem capable of uttering two coherent sentences in a row — but this does not mean he can’t think and act. Clinton, on the other hand, has a record — among other things, one of incessant warmongering, rising perhaps to the level of war criminality. Some people will not be able to vote for a war criminal even if they think Clinton will be merely disastrous while Trump will be catastrophic. Others will. Many liberals make light of the four million dead that are the result of America’s efforts at world empire, or whatever out great leaders think they’re doing. We’re now down to the brass tacks of our intuitions and feelings, and further discussion probably isn’t going to change anyone’s mind.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 4, 2016 12:26 pm 


      You aren’t responding to a liberal…and you haven’t responded to anything in the article. Not sure why.

      Actually I think further discussion could certainly change minds…my guess is the number of young radicals who reject our current system but decide to vote for Stein in contested states, and probably regreetabky in safe states too, will keep,declining right up to Election Day. The question is, will the election be so close that the decline is insufficient.

  7. Glenn Fritz October 4, 2016 2:40 am 

    I’m going to vote for Stein.

    I voted for Sanders when he spoke truthfully on the issues, before he succumbed to the Democratic Party’s corruption that destroyed his candidacy. The issues he raised were there before he raised them and they are still there now that he has gone silent and compliant to the corrupt.

    I think we and the world are screwed if either Trump or Hillary wins, and I will bet what’s left of my life that the next president will come from this Tyrannic Duo.

    There is no upside. That’s why I think this election is the least important of any other before in my life.

    So, too bad for us who are not them.

    But I really had hopes of Trump and Clinton getting each other so dirty in a mud wrestling match, so that they could both destroy each other’s credibility and both be delegitimized before the electorate. What is it going to take for people to walk away from these corrupt bozos?

    There is nothing I’d like more than to see the Duopoly drag each other down into a pit that neither can climb out of.

    So, Go Trump. Destroy Hillary. Go Hillary. Destroy Trump. I’m cheering for both of you.

    Needless to say, I want Trump to bring what he’s got to Hillary more effectively in the next debates. I am truly neutral in respect to both of them.

    The bell is about to ring for the next round

    So get up off the mat, Trump, and let’s see you give Hillary a lickin’.

  8. Philip Mayall October 3, 2016 11:52 pm 

    Voting Democrat tactically has really worked well in the past, hasn’t it? We know it doesn’t really matter if there’s a Republican or a Democrat in the White House. Vote for who you want there or they’ll never get there.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 4, 2016 12:29 pm 


      Y9u repeat the logic I offered as guiding your side of th9s discussion, but ignore what was said about it. This seems to be a recurring,feature of the replies.

  9. Philip Mayall October 3, 2016 11:36 pm 

    The candidate you want to win will never win if you don’t vote for them.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 4, 2016 12:31 pm 

      So, if sanders was running against trump and it was close, and Stein was running, you would vote for,Stein? Or let’s say Noam was running, or whoever you would like a lot better than even sanders? Like others here, you ar e offering a reason for your choice, but ignoring what the article says…

  10. Bruno Maier October 3, 2016 10:48 pm 

    There are two comments I had to think about in your piece, especially since I’m in swing state.

    Comment: Trump just isn’t that much worse than Clinton;

    Trump is worse, but not enough to vote for Clinton. The big issues IMO are, in order, climate change, nuclear weapons , and wealth inequality.

    1)Trump is way out there on climate change, but in reality, under Clinton the results will be similar. She will push an Obama type of all the above energy policy and back fracking and more drilling, as she did as secretary of state. End result not much different.

    2) I see Clinton as more of a danger here as she seems to want to take it to both Russia and China and move Nato east and pivot toward the Pacific. Trump at least talks about getting a dialog going. Although Trump’s mercurial personality does make one a bit nervous with nuclear weapons.

    3) Wealth inequality. Trump is talking tax breaks for wealthy but also redoing trade agreements. Clinton will approve more trade deals in spite of her walk back on this when pushed by Sanders. Her insiders have recently said TPP will be passed under her. Probably have to give edge to Clinton here.

    Bottom line he’s worse but not enough to change my vote for person who does represent my values – Stein.

    Comment: Trump in office would engender more resistance than Clinton in office, and in that respect perhaps even produce more desirable change.”

    I agree with this in that a Trump presidency will basically pull all the clothes off the emperor. There will be push back and people will stay engaged.

    Further if Trump wins the Democrats will be forced to make a change to the left along the lines of the Bernie “revolution”, to tap into younger voters/white working class if they want to win in future. Someone like Elizabeth Warren would then beat Trump like a drum. A Clinton win would likely be eight years of triangulation and neoliberalism.

    In my years as a voter I have always voted for the lesser evil. But I’ve decided no more. As Oliver North’s secretary , Fawn Hall, said during the Contra hearings” It’s time to put principles aside and do what’s right”

    There were three elections where a third party made a difference in my voter lifetime.

    1)Reagan won in a landslide in 1980 with Anderson running as a third party. He probably still would have won but it would have been close. Did that make a difference? Reagan created more wealth inequality because of tax cuts and set unions back , but he also increased federal work and military spending so middle class was helped with jobs.

    2) 1992 election – Ross Perot likely gave election to Bill Clinton. We ended up federal tax hikes on wealthy, a good thing. But also repeal of Glass Stegall, welfare overhaul, NAFTA, three strikes sentencing, and Monica Lewinsky (which helped lead to George W Bush). IMO I think a win for George Bush senior might have left country in better shape. I now wish I have voted third party

    3) The infamous Nader gave us George W Bush election of 2000. No question Bush was a bad result. IMO it was not because of Nader, it was the Democrats strategy, Gore was a poor candidate, and just after the Clinton scandals. Gore won Florida and should not have conceded. He lost Tennessee, his home state.
    If the Democrats appealed to the white working class both in Tennessee and nationally, Gore would have won. It wasn’t Nader, but the Democrats. This is a large part of why I don’t buy lesser evil strategy.

    Bottom line if I wake up on Wednesday and Trump is president I’m pretty sure it’s a bad idea, neoliberalism packaged in a cruder form. But still I don’t really know. If Clinton is president I know it will be more of the same, neoliberal slow bleeding of middle class. So I will just vote for the person who best represents me and my principles.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 3, 2016 11:12 pm 

      I appreciate your taking the time …I can’t say I agree with you about, well, Any of it…but I do hear you. Well, actually, I knew the positions when writing the piece, and replied there. And in others as well. I would suggest taking a look at the q/a Shalom and I did, and Shalom’s separate piece as well. I fervently hope we do not get to see who is right about just how bad a Trump victory would be. And I wish I thought the extra votes for Stein from folks who agree with you, or who have whatever other reasons for voting for her in contested states would be really helpful for change, but I don’t.

  11. Tyler Healey October 3, 2016 6:38 pm 

    Michael, I’m saying that we shouldn’t worry so much about voting. If people vote for Clinton or Stein, that’s fine with me. If Stein gets 5 percent of the vote, the Green Party will get some federal funding in 2020.

    The more rigorous discussion should be about how we are going to force Congress to carry out the people’s will instead of the oligarchy’s will.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 3, 2016 11:19 pm 

      Having given endless time to such matters as developing means to win better relations, not least very recently trying to improve the Our Revolution prospects, and wouldn’t it have been nice if Greens weighed in on that rather than seeing only Green votes as importent, I agree. However, following a path that could make things horribly worse for many and for organizing as well, for almost zero benefit, is not a good way to pursue means for forcing desirable outcomes.

      I wish the Greens would get 5% and more via safe states, but honestly, my guess would be they will get considerably less, and I even think that if Stein had taken a safe states approach, talking responsibly about prospects, there would have been a better chance at that 5%.

  12. Kread October 3, 2016 4:50 pm 

    Actually, Stein has a good chance of winning contested states if Clinton dropped out of those states. Let’s ask her to do that and see where we get.
    This notion of Clinton being somehow better simply because she is ‘democrat’ is a memory issue for older progressives. Younger voters (I have 2) wouldn’t dream of voting either one of these 2 corrupt fascists. Young people are pretty smart and they see that they have to start something new as their parent’s way of lesser evil has not worked. Never worked. The Democrats of their parents’ youth no longer exists.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 3, 2016 6:16 pm 

      Ask away, you would get nowhere, rightly so, since it would guarantee a trump victory. But mainly, Clinton is a self and elite seeking politician…Stein claims to be an activist seeking optimal forward looking outcomes, not simply for herself, or her party, but much more broadly.

      The older people who favor strategic voting were and remain without exception that I know of steadfast opponents of the Democratic Party.

      That we need vehicles for real, fundamental change, is true. With all due respect I would be surprised if your kids can make that case better than most, perhaps any, of the strategic voting advocates. Having agreed on that, the issue becomes, what current choice best enhances the prospects? Is it Stein getting more votes in a contested state, or is it Trump losing that state?

      Your comments literally ignore the arguments offered in the article you are replying to. I would be curious your, and your kids reactions to the actual substances, or even answers to the questions raised.

  13. John Goodrich October 3, 2016 3:57 pm 

    The take-the-lesser-of-two evils advice was taken when the CPUSA urged voters to pick Johnson, the peace candidate over Goldwater, the mad bomber .

    That changed what ?
    Lessened the horrible effects of US-imposed neo-liberal (trickle-down) economics on the world how ?

    Voting to maintain the status quo is voting to maintain the status quo because the alternative would be worse . Really ??

    I may vote for Stein .
    I will not vote for either of the two candidates put up by the twin parties of imperialism .

    Change is messy .
    Let’s let a real psychopath bring down the empire and get it over with . So far the sociopaths have had it all their way and from the left perspective, how much worse can things get for the poor and working classes worldwide ?

    About half the electorate wants Trump and about half want Clinton to be president.

    If the country is THAT disinformed, that ignorant of WTF is going on in this country and the world, I’d say that we have little hope for changing direction and heading toward a democratic society rather than going down the road to fascism .

    Let the pendulum swing and bring on the proto-fascist Trump.

    Let’s live in interesting times, as the Chinese curse goes.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 3, 2016 6:07 pm 

      To answer your first question, it changed nothing because that election was an overwhelming victory and so lesser evil voting didn’t even apply.

      If you can’t see that things can be worse, much worse, I don’t know what to say to change that…but my guess is you have in mind the difference may be sort of interesting, viewing it, perhaps, from the perspective of how you think it might impact you. Others view it from a larger perspective of how it would likely impact huge sectors of people, in the U.S. and abroad, as well as prospects for successful organizing.

      I doubt it how you see your stance, but can you understand why others, most recently Angela Davis, see it as a kind of self centered narcissism playing out at the expense of everyone?

      • John Goodrich October 4, 2016 3:00 pm 

        You can assign any reason you’d like for my saying that it makes little to no difference in the course of U.S. imperialism and the neo-liberal capitalism that drives it .
        Both globalization: the race to the bottom of the wage market and increasingly, automation are dooming the working class and the poor and unemployed .
        There is no fix to that overriding problem that voting for the lesser if two evils will bring about nor will chances for organizing against the oligarchy and their imperial policies be improved because of the much better propaganda organization on the imperial side.

        IMO, ZComm/ZNet is the best voice for working people , the best source for truthful information and there are a multitude of good sources for anti-imperial news and information on the internet but these are not accessed by the general public who believe they are getting both sides of the issue from MSNBC and Fox and who reject the Z and other factual information sites as not acceptable to beliefs drummed into their heads from birth .

        So even were we to get lesser-evil Hillary, after the election the mind-controlling propaganda served up by the corporate media that inundates the general public in a most hypnotic way, will maintain the mind-control and, utilizing the most up-to-date research into how best to effect this , will gain an even more solid control of what the electorate thinks.

        IMO there will be no change, can be no change before the self-induced collapse of capitalism in the near future .

        Their destruction must come from their own acts , from the inherent need to cut human labor costs which they cannot stop, will never want to stop .

        IMO all that can be done in the interim is to alleviate the increased suffering that is sure to come before the collapse; .feed the poor, help the sick, house the homeless .

        Educating and turning around the electorate in their positive thinking on capitalism ( there is no alternative ) and imperialism (God bless our hero soldiers ) is not a possibility now and even less possible as the science of propagandizing becomes more sophisticated .

        I am sustained in my belief that capitalism will die within 20 years and after the development of super-human AI ( around 2024) and the near-total automation of all workplaces .
        Absent that thinking, I’d likely be as depressed as the rest of the left at the way things are .


        • avatar
          Michael Albert October 4, 2016 9:35 pm 

          I won’t reply to the bulk of your comments, but I wonder something, given your views, why comment at all? Do you want people to be equally committed to failure? Would that somehow be beneficial? And, since we just had the largest outpouring of,progressive sentiment in about fifty years, and polls show the young are still further left, the defeatism seems quite odd.

  14. Mike Fahar October 3, 2016 3:13 pm 

    The concept of the “lesser of two evils”, in the United States, possibly made sense when the “Democratic Party” was dominated by the “New Deal Wing.” But ever since the corporate democrats have taken over the lead in the new undemocratic Democratic Party, the “Democratic Party” has become the most effective tool of the ruling elites, to take the entire world to apocalypse. These “lesser evils”, are neoliberals and neocons, and they know better than Trump how to sell the snake oil to the public, and that is the only difference between them. We have not learned that the half white Uncle Tom presidency has not been better than George Bush’s disaster.
    Because never two “candidates” will be exactly the same, the “logic” of the bankrupt “lesser of two evils”, will be “valid” until the end of times, which is utterly ridiculous. From the progressive and the left perspectives, there has to be a meaningful difference between the two, to consider the tactic of the lesser of two evils. This idea has failed us for almost four decades, and it is unfortunate that still survives and continues hunting us.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 3, 2016 3:38 pm 

      Note Mike, you did not respond to a single argument offered…all of which are about this election, this choice…

      I wonder what your answers would be to the questions raised at the end.

      • Mike Fahar October 3, 2016 4:15 pm 

        You call this an “Election” and a “Choice”, but I do not. This is a charade, and a mockery of democracy.
        I do not see a “meaningful” difference between the two “choices”, and I will not vote for either.
        Strategic, contesting vote for a third progressive party, and starting to break the duopoly is my “choice”, on this election; and it should have been the “choice” since the DLC and the corporate democrats have dominated the “Democratic Party.”
        I have nothing but respect for Noam Chomsky, but with all due respect, I disagree with him on the infinite concept of the lesser of two evils.

        • avatar
          Michael Albert October 3, 2016 6:00 pm 

          So, putting it in context of the article, you see no meaningful difference between Trump and Clinton in office. If so, then as the article says, you are consistent in choosing to vote Stein everywhere.

          I wonder if the reason you say this is simply because they are both, of course, intent upon preserving the overall system we endure, or because you think regarding the specifics, having one or the other would have no significant difference…

          • Mike Fahar October 3, 2016 8:25 pm 

            The “difference” between Trump and Clinton is in style not in substance. The two “candidates” shout what their political base wants to hear, and they will try to create such a big contrast between themselves, that in reality does not exist. After they get to the office, the real rulers and “the think tanks” of the “deep state” will tell them what to do, and then the “difference” between them will be unfathomable. We are supposed to analyze the political status by deeds and not by words.
            Clinton IS a more effective foot soldier for the elites, and that is why they have enthusiastically joined her camp. The Democratic Party, with the help of their “ship dog in chief”, and some “progressives”, has tried to create a false huge gap between Trump and Clinton, and the “progressives”, and part of the “left” is falling for this trap. Fear mongering is the Democratic Party’s political gambit and the “progressives” have fallen for it. It is about time to stop this wrong tactical approach.

            • avatar
              Michael Albert October 3, 2016 11:24 pm 

              Well, okay, you think chomsky and I and all the others who are proposing strategic voting, are simply falling into a trap. It could be so…but I would ask you whether you really think that that is likely. You aren’t saying we are false leftists, for wh9ch thank you, but you are saying that suddenly our brains have atrophied. Maybe, and as I said above, I hope we don’t get to find out. Because I think you are horribly wrong, as indicated in the article.

            • avatar
              Paul D October 4, 2016 4:21 am 

              I will not mince words here – those that make this claim that Trump and Clinton are the same, of differ only in style are engaging in a very disturbing form of self-delusion or perhaps, some kind of social network-self-choir-preaching form of extreme groupthink.

              Let’s take just one example – global warming. One acknowledged that it is a major issue and and proposed measures that will proves to be insufficient for what is needed beyond the short term – but at least is acknowledging the problem, can at least be pressured to do more.

              The other simply denies that global warming exists, will dismantle the regulatory agencies to address it, and promote massive fossil fuels production. He will be incapable of effecting any change since he opposes even the most basic premises of the need for change.

              With one, we can engage in vigorous protest and peaceful civil disobedience and have a good shot at effecting some results. With the other, such methods will be useless. We will literally be left with nothing except for armed struggle to address global warming – raiding and sabotaging drill rigs and coal mines. I don’t want to go there.

              • avatar
                Michael Albert October 4, 2016 12:49 pm 

                Paul, agree on climate change difference…and think there are many more of consequence, as well. See the q/a with Shalom, or his solo piece.

  15. Tyler Healey October 3, 2016 1:35 pm 

    “Forget the politicians. They’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They’ve got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.

    “But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting f*cked by a system that threw them overboard 30 f*cking years ago.

    “You know what they want? Obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly sh*ttier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they’re coming for your Social Security. They want your f*cking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street… It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the big club.”

    – George Carlin

    • avatar
      Michael Albert October 3, 2016 3:39 pm 

      Tyler – I am curious – do you think this supports, or refutes, anything I wrote, or was it just that you like Carlin’s quote?

      • Tyler Healey October 3, 2016 5:37 pm 


        The elections are nothing but the promotion of the idea that we, the working class and oppressed, live in a democracy. The truth is we live in a society ruled, top to bottom, by capital–and this will not change until we overthrow the ruling class.

        • avatar
          Michael Albert October 3, 2016 5:56 pm 

          Tyler, I don’t see how your c0mments are even a little relevant to the essay. If you think they are, perhaps you can explain why.

          • Tyler Healey October 3, 2016 8:35 pm 

            Michael, we need to spend much less time talking about the ballot and much more time talking about how we’re going to turn great policy ideas into law.

            Congress is totally captured by the oligarchy and will only be forced into passing intelligent legislation. So, how do we force them? Occupy Capitol Hill is my solution. What’s yours?

            • avatar
              Paul D October 4, 2016 4:34 am 

              The topic of Michael’s article was what we do regarding this election – not the other very important things we need to be doing outside of electoral politics. So the question becomes under which regime will organizing of all sorts be the easiest? Remember that a presidential administration is a lot more than just a single individual – it is hundreds or political appointees many of whom will make Trump look pretty harmless – plus a congressional majority brought in on the coattails.

            • avatar
              Michael Albert October 4, 2016 12:46 pm 

              As you probably know, I am always focused on what to seek, and how to seek it…but, riight now part of what to seek, to facilitate seeking more, is stopping trump.

              Saying we should do things people are not going to do is not really proposing a solution to what to do. My own ideas ab0ut solutions, vision for what could replace what we have, and strategies for how to attain it, are all in print in numerous places…you might consider the three occupy books…occupy theory, vision, and strategy…

              • Tyler Healey October 4, 2016 6:59 pm 

                “Saying we should do things people are not going to do is not really proposing a solution to what to do.”

                What are you referring to? If you’re saying my idea is unrealistic, please visit poorpeoplescampaign.org. Also, please consider that the Occupy movement has occupied a city before, thus can do so again.

          • avatar
            Paul D October 4, 2016 4:24 am 

            Michael, you have more patience and ability to stay calm in your responses than than I have.

            • avatar
              Michael Albert October 4, 2016 12:43 pm 


              Thanks, a lot may be at stake, if the race is close. It behooves us to do what we can. What really tries my patience, though, I suppose one might say, is less folks with relatively little experience and history who are so outraged at Clinton, democrats, and the system that they lash out against strategic voting, I get that. It is, instead, the people who agree with myself and some others, but who are not saying so, over and over, more effectively than I can. That I do not get.

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