Responding to Jack Rasmus 2

Jack Rasmus says that I “engaged in quote by quote commentary,” but he won’t “bother readers with a detailed ‘he said she said’ response.” Instead he ignored almost everything I said, whereas I addressed everything he said.

Rasmus adds “what bothered [him] most about the Open Letter is that despite all its clever intellectual nuancing, the Letter said it’s ok to vote for Biden and the corporate Democratic alternative in order to defeat Trump. Even when a vote for Biden will be a vote to elect Trump.”

By “verbal nuancing” I think Rasmus had in mind that the Open Letter was about policy for swing states only. Why that is “nuance” I don’t understand. As to what Rasmus means by “even when a vote for Biden will be a vote to elect Trump,” I have no idea. The best guess I can make is that Rasmus may mean that support for Biden as candidate during primary season would aid Trump, but of course, I seek to aid Sanders, not Biden, toward the nomination.

Rasmus then includes his only quote, except what he quoted from the Open letter not from my reply to him: “real solutions require Trump out of office…Real solutions will be somewhat more probable even with the likes of Biden in office”.

And yes, I think Biden is despicable, but I also think Biden in the Oval Office would be vastly better than Trump there.

I think Rasmus believes Biden as President would work to preserve basic institutions and serve corporate donors and elites. And I agree. And I think Rasmus believes Trump would be the same in that regard. And I agree with that too. But Rasmus seems to not realize that Trump has an agenda which threatens to destroy the planet among many other extreme outcomes, and which is therefore vastly worse, not the same, as Biden. Okay, this could just be an honest disagreement about prospects, but instead Rasmus believes the Open Letter signers can’t believe what we in fact do believe. He thinks we must instead be merely “left liberals “ aiding establishment Democrats and masking our true views with “nuance.”

Rasmus says we support Biden, “presumably” “per the Letter, only in the ‘contested states’.” I wonder why what we repeatedly stated, that our concern and our suggested approach is only about swing states, is for Rasmus only “presumably” the case.

I would have to guess it’s because Rasmus continues to think that the nine signers, with nine lifetimes of opposing establishment politics and institutions, nine lifetimes of seeking fundamental change, in fact suddenly support establishment politics and institutions simply because we differ from him on this matter. It seems that for Rasmus our having a view different than his itself demonstrates we are “liberals.” Or, in nastier language that we are shills for the Democratic Party. What we say is our motivation for Rasmus simply cannot be our motivation. For Rasmus, unwavering critics of existing relations cannot favor voting for Joe Biden a defender of existing relations in a swing state, even if only Joe remains to potentially beat Trump. We cannot be who we have been. We must really be liberals, as ridiculous as such a claim obviously is.

But Rasmus also now has a new criticism: “You can’t know beforehand what states for independent third parties to run in, so you can’t demand they don’t run in any.“

First, to my knowledge, only Rasmus thinks identifying swing states is impossible, or even particularly difficult. But in any event, yet again, the Open Letter and also my reply to Rasmus proposed only that Greens not run for votes in Swing States, but instead run for other down ballot offices, run to advocate the Green program, run to build resources for the post election activism we will all need, and, yes, run to stop Trump, even including advocating voting for his opponent in those specific situations, and discussing all that as an option. To Rasmus that proposal sounds like a demand made by liberal intellectuals, so it must be that. Everything that points to a different conclusion is mere “nuance.” Not just our words, but I guess our lives also.

Rasmus continues, “The whole thrust of the Letter is that Greens should defer to the Democrats no matter who they run, including Biden! Sorry, that’s my reading of it despite all the nuancing about contested states, etc.”

Okay, I believe Rasmus. He hears us urging to get Sanders nominated and then elected, to pursue a radical program, and to campaign to build a lasting capacity for post election activism, and if the Democratic candidate left to beat Trump turns out to be Biden, in swing states even holding your nose and voting for Biden, and for Rasmus that translates into us saying “defer to the Democrats.” I apologize for repeating, I am not sure what else to do when someone you are discussing or debating with repeatedly mishears or ignores what you offer.

Rasmus asks, “Would the authors of the Letter demand that as well, not just of the Greens, but of the ‘Our Revolution’ crowd.” But of course, we actually didn’t demand it of anyone. We proposed it for serious discussion, but apparently for Rasmus even that is a violation. To have a contrary view to his means we are left liberal Mike, left liberal Noam, left liberal Leslie, left liberal Bill, left liberal Cynthia, left liberal Norman, left liberal Kathy, left liberal Ron, and left liberal Barbara. Of course, the allegiances of the advocates of a view should not be an issues in any event. Rather the merits of the view should be the issue.

Rasmus tells us that Sanders has no chance to get the nomination. I am not sure what Rasmus thinks saying that promotes, or even more, why he thinks activist support has literally no chance to overcome establishment opposition to Sanders.

More, and a tiny bit more subtly, I wouldn’t say about Rasmus that because the mainstream media say what Rasmus says, and because Sanders’ mainstream opponents for the nomination say what Rasmus says, and because the media and other candidates each say what Rasmus says, all precisely to undercut Sanders candidacy, that means Rasmus too seeks to undercut the most important electoral project not just now, but quite possibly ever. Instead, knowing Rasmus’ other work, I realize that the mainstream reasons and Rasmus’ reasons and motives for saying Sanders can’t win the nomination may differ, even though they say the same thing, with no stated difference on the matter, not even nuance.

In contrast, liberals say support wonderful Joe Biden everywhere, or in any event support anyone but Sanders, and I say support Sanders everywhere and hold one’s nose and vote for Biden only if he alone is left standing, and even then vote for him only in swing states and simultaneously prepare to battle his administration as effectively as possible. And for that Rasmus somehow deduces that I must be a liberal, and likewise the other signers. Worse still there are many people on the left who think similarly, or at least employ similar slurs. Strange days. That kind of arguing against views by attacker their advocates however of a stretch it requires to do so is often a nasty method with an ugly reason – to deflect discussion from substance to personal squabbling. I do hope Rasmus doesn’t have that as his reason.

Rasmus asks what the signers would do if Sanders is denied the nomination and then runs as an independent. Not sure why, but in any event I can only answer for me. First, I think there is zero chance Sanders would run as a third candidate against Trump and also Biden, unless Sanders was certain it was the only chance for beating Trump. If Sanders thought that and if I felt he was correct, I would support him. If I thought he was wrong, and that his running meant Trump was going to inevitably win, it would be a horrible situation and I am not sure what I would do.

Rasmus says, “Trump has you guys all panicking. Willing to abandon important principles.” It isn’t clear to me what important principle Rasmus has in mind. I guess it must be something like that one should not offer a proposal in hopes of eliciting a wide assessment of the substantive issues it raises, if the proposal contradicts the current views of a third party. If so, that is certainly a very strange principle.

Rasmus says, “So, in short, I was shocked to read long time Z writers would stoop to support Biden and corporate Democrats if it came down to that.”

Ignoring that there would be no actual support for Biden, only votes, but regardless, Jack, perhaps you should consider if it is possible that people can disagree with you and even with the current policy of a third party without, on that account, being other than who they have always been and who you even thought they were. To attack the messenger to remove from discussion the message has become a normalized procedure nowadays. I am nonetheless surprised you would adopt it.

Rasmus says, “Stop letting this guy Trump terrify you. After all, he is creating the next generation of socialists among millennials and GenZers.” I am sorry but I believe it is Sanders, some other prominent young Democrats, and a huge number of activist organizers all over the country who are inspiring a new generation of socialists. Beyond that, the idea that inducing more horror is the best road to attaining real gain is too callous to credit.

Rasmus says, “The only real candidate is Sanders. But he’ll never get the nomination, and he will fall in line even after being deprived of it a second time, and say vote for Biden, like you guys of the Open Letter.” Yes, if Sanders loses the nomination, in part due to Democratic Party malevolence, in part due to media manipulations, and in part because of so many people trying to convince their readers, friends, and mates that he cannot win it, then I think Rasmus is likely right that despite the fury Sanders will no doubt feel, he will back any Democrat against Trump. The principle he will in that case be abiding is to do all he can to prevent catastrophe even while also working to build power to struggle against catastrophe or against business as usual, whichever is in the Oval Office, post election. In that scenario, what I would like to see Sanders do and what I would suggest for Sanders would be to proclaim a shadow government, staff it, and have it operate in opposition to either Trump or Biden, promoting grass roots activism and also making clear exactly what he would have done, in contrast to what they would be doing, and to develop mass grass roots activist support for that alternative.

Rasmus concludes, “In summary, I’m not for telling any independent party to stand down in any state, contested or not. That’s a matter of principle with me, I guess, which the authors of the Letter clearly don’t share.”

Speaking for myself, Rasmus is correct. I think instead the principle that ought to operate here is to examine our situation and try to do, and to also urge that others consider doing that which seems likely to best advance the interests of those suffering here and around the world by reducing the disastrous pains of the present, but also to reduce those pains in ways that as best we can discern will contribute to continuing on to win new institutions that would deliver justice, sustainability, equity, self management, peace, intercommunalism, and feminism. I happen to think what would accomplish that is something I call participatory socialism – which vision I guess Rasmus would weirdly call “left liberal,” or perhaps not.


  1. avatar
    E February 2, 2020 10:53 pm 

    “I am sorry but I believe it is Sanders, some other prominent young Democrats, and a huge number of activist organizers all over the country who are inspiring a new generation of socialists.” [not Trump]

    That strikes me as correct. Unfortunately, I think much of the DSA also thinks it was Trump who is responsible for their surge in numbers, apparently because most new members signed up after the 2016 election was over. However, that would be confusing correlation and causation.

    • Seamonkey February 3, 2020 9:12 pm 

      I tend towards a little of column A, and a little of column B. You don’t get socialist activists without someone visibly and persuasively advocating for socialism, for sure, but if the political process in 2016 had more persuasive, popular candidates (or in the case of the dems just more candidates), I remain unconvinced that Sanders would have seen the same level of success.

  2. Harish Reddy February 2, 2020 6:24 pm 

    Thanks for further clarifying the intent of the open letter (that it needs so much clarification is worrisome). The last paragraph here really brings it all together in terms of the principle that should be applied here.

    I certainly hope that many will actually read what is being said in the Open Letter instead of responding unconvincingly and irrationally while digging in their heels even further on their “principled” stance against the sensible and straightforward strategy in open letter.

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