Shalom Replies on Left Unity…

I think Michael Albert makes a compelling case for what he calls option 4.

I’d like to discuss another way in which I think what Albert calls option 3 is problematic for the left. There are some who in their enthusiasm to denounce the two-party duopoly say they can’t discern which of Trump and Clinton is the lesser evil. They say things like this, from Jill Stein:

“Trump says very scary things—deporting immigrants, massive militarism and ignoring the climate. Hillary, unfortunately, has a track record for doing all of those things…. We see these draconian things that Donald Trump is talking about, we actually see Hillary Clinton doing.”

Let’s take immigration. Clinton actually has no current role in immigration policy, but let’s assume that the comment actually means Clinton or Obama. Obama has presided over an unconscionable number of deportations. But was there any immigration rights activist who did not want the Dream Act, which was supported by Obama, to be enacted? Was there any immigration rights activist who did not want Obama’s DACA policy to be upheld by the Supreme Court? Trump hasn’t just said “Let’s be tough on immigrants” — in which case, it would certainly be true that what Trump is talking about, Obama/Clinton are doing. He said let’s deport every undocumented person, and that Obama/Clinton are not doing and oppose doing. Those are different policies. With different human consequences.

Let’s take climate. Jeff Meckler (a presidential candidate for Socialist Action) writes “Obama’s administration holds the modern-day record for increasing the use of fossil fuels” and Andrew Smolski writes: “Further, CO2 has continued its exponential increase, with a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in temperature already a foregone conclusion. This fact is written off as frivolous in comparison to imagined, nightmarish Republican attacks. Back in reality, it doesn’t matter who rhetorically accepts climate change when there is no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in either case (i.e. the effects of policy, despite the rhetoric, is the same).” But in fact, CO2 emissions in the U.S. in 2014 were down 9% compared to 2005. (Given that population and GDP have increased, with zero change in policy we might have expected a growth in emissions.) But even if emissions were not down, does it not matter — not just in terms of rhetoric, but in reality — that Obama put forward a Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plan that Trump wants to repeal (and that various Republican governors tried to block, but failed, in the Supreme Court)? Does it not matter that Trump calls for abolishing the EPA? Does it not matter that Trump calls for scrapping the Paris Climate Agreement, that, for all its limitations, is far better than no agreement at all? If Trump won the election and tried to enact any of the policies he has called for, is there any doubt that environmentalists would oppose him? Would any say, well who cares about abolishing EPA or abrogating the Clean Power Plan or scuttling the Paris Climate Agreement?

Of course the left should denounce the weaknesses and limitations and even grotesquenesses of Obama/Clinton/Democratic Party policies. But if they do that by saying they are no different from Trump and Republican positions, they discredit themselves among those activists who are working on these issues, not to mention among those who would be the victims of Trump’s policies.

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