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Synthesis/Regeneration 33   (Winter 2004)

Should We Be Embracing in the Dark?

by Marc Estrin, Vermont Green Party

Anybody but Bush? Lesser-evilism involves complex strategy and political sophistication. I do however have one question: How do I know who the lesser evil is? I am not convinced that Bush would necessarily be worse than any Dem except Kucinich (the only vaguely electable candidate not in the “top tier”). Why might it be Bush who is the lesser evil?

If Bush is elected, it will be by a narrow margin, as he was(n’t) before. This time, however, he comes with lots of baggage. Bush is, even now, remarkably weakened, and will be held responsible for the failing economy and the ongoing situation in Iraq. Bush unknown, untested, was strong after 9/11. Bush now is far, far weaker and his situation getting more precarious by the day. By 2005, should he win, he will be in ghostly, ghastly shape, asserting himself (and the puppeteers behind him) voraciously, but with far less support among Americans, and no support whatsoever in the rest of the world.

Given the likely choice of candidates, it is unclear to me which is the greater evil and which the lesser.

On the other hand, Dean, say, or Clark, will come in as a fresh face, unknown, untested, strong with recent victory. Not just a fresh face, but a not-Bush face. The world will give him a great welcome and an extended honeymoon. The American left will heave a sigh of relief, and either get behind him, or put up with his lesser-evil reality, as they did with Clinton. This might be acceptable, provided that a strong lesser evil would really be lesser than a weak Bush. Would he be?

All is speculation from here on out, but some general historical patterns are worth considering. Democrats, unlike Republicans, always have to prove they are not soft on defense or crime, and they invariably do. Under pressure of another 9/11 attack, do you really think that a Dean or Clark administration would act significantly differently from a Bush administration? They would certainly have more to prove.

It is clear that the Democrats are as indebted to corporate and upper-class controllers as the Republicans, though they have to work harder for their handouts. The class interests calling the shots will call them as brutally, if not more so, for a Democrat who has to prove himself, as for one of the good-old-boys they can count on and for whom they can cut a little protective slack.

I know it is poor practice to simply extrapolate from Clinton/Gore to Dean or Clark. Clinton/Gore was a disaster for the working class, from NAFTA to welfare reform to the effective death penalty act. Gore’s proposed defense budget was higher than Bush’s. In fact, Gore criticized Bush for being soft on defense. Who did he pick for a running mate? Lieberman! The whole scenario is eerily similar to Dean’s, who semi-endorsed Clark, and was discussing him as a VP ticket mate. Dean is, and has been, DLC all the way, and his anti-progressive, environmentally destructive behavior as governor of Vermont is becoming better known.[1] If he or Clark were only as bad as Clinton/Gore, would they be the lesser evil compared to a much-weakened Bush whose administration is beginning to unravel?

What this all adds up to is this: Given the likely choice of candidates, it is unclear to me which is the greater evil and which the lesser. People whose political opinions and work I respect say the small differences between the parties can make life and death differences for many of the most vulnerable people over the planet, and that it is elitist to think otherwise. A Dean-financed targeted assassination or Palestinian home demolition, however, is equally as destructive as a Bush-financed one. Dean’s objections to national health care will be as persuasive and destructive as Bush’s more so, as he’s a doctor. Clark has little record other than that of a crazed and distrusted general

Consequently, I feel I have no rational choice but to abandon this unpredictable, crazed dichotomy, and work for a longer-range vision of a system with real and predictable choice. Weak Bush may be worse than strong Dean/Clark or vice versa. Most everyone, even Greens, seems to think they know which. I don’t. So rather than embrace a lesser evil (or perhaps a greater evil) I will be trying to help the Green Party unfold in this country.

I think we are passing through a time of great historical consequence and end-stage capitalism. We will just have to get through to the other side, if we can. It will not be Dean, Clark or Bush that leads us there.

It is crucial to put the values and ideas of the Green Party into public circulation.


1. See our rap sheet on Dean at our website: http://counterpunch.org/jacobs08292003.html.

[14 dec 03]

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