Debate on Obama re-election: Don't support the lesser evil

Kasama has been sharing substantive commentary on a key question: should those who want to overthrow this system support the president who runs this system. The following piece appeared on Marxist Update.

Don't elect the lesser evil: Workers World Party & the 2012 elections

by Jay Rothermel


August 19, 2012 -- Today an older comrade and I were discussing ways in which Marxist-Leninist parties lay out their approach to bourgeois elections. He and I are both former members of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party, which runs candidates in every national election, so our understanding of that approach was, we felt, pretty sound.

On Facebook over the last few days there has been some shocked discussion of this statement by the latter-day Popular Front group called Freedom Road Socialist Organization: Fight back!. The most startling formulation seems to be this one:


"At times, people's movements are more active when there is a sense that achieving reform is possible. It is a fact that Romney and the Republicans are aggressively reactionary as compared to Obama and the Democrats. Governor Walkers' Wisconsin or Governor Scott's Florida are proof of that.

"The Republicans are the greater of two evils. They represent the most reactionary and racist section of the capitalist class - the millionaires and billionaires who rule this country. Romney panders to the anti-women, anti-gay and racist base of the Republican Party on social issues. Mitt Romney wants more military spending, more war, and more U.S. occupations, especially in the Middle East. Romney wants to privatize government services or just cut them altogether, to downsize and put more people out of work like he did at Bain Capital...

"We do think it is still important for progressives to go to the polls to oppose concrete attacks on democratic rights, such as Voter ID and anti-gay amendments. In terms of voting in the presidential election, it is better to vote against Romney, especially in swing states. In other states like California, the Republicans are unlikely to win. In these cases, it would be positive to have a strong third party vote total..

"During this particular election cycle progressives should emphasize and talk about the problems inherent in the system, while placing demands on politicians from both parties. Our faith and our future are in the people's struggle, not the ballot box.".[emphasis added]

The most shocking formulation seems to smack of the kind of double-dealing endemic to Popular Front politics: To wit: "it is better to vote against Romney, especially in swing states. In other states like California, the Republicans are unlikely to win. In these cases, it would be positive to have a strong third party vote total."


As with the journalism of many Marxist-Leninist political organizations that received their education in Popular Front politics, the imperialist Democratic Party is, for the most part, given a free ride. For instance, this Freedom Road group spearheaded the anti-NATO demo in Chicago this spring. It was notable for making no demands against the US government and the Obama administration, NATO's puppet masters. Freedom Road leader Joe Iosbaker was pictured in the run-up to the anti-NATO events with perennial imperialist Democratic Party politician Jesse Jackson, who endorsed the anti-NATO event. Iosbaker and Freedom Road might have thought they got one over by getting Jackson to endorse and lead the demo, but I think an honest balance-sheet would show Jackson and the US ruling class put these activists right where they wanted them: opposing an abstraction and offering no education to fellow workers about the class nature of U.S. government.

Freedom Road, like Workers World Party, also promotes two demos this month. One is against the RNC, the other against something called "Wall Street South." One cannot be blamed for wondering why there are two names for one demo. Would that that were so! The "March on Wall Street South" is actually a series of protest events coinciding with the DNC, but making no demands on Obama, much less telling him that at least the protestors present will not be duped and stampeded into voting for him again.

To speak sarcastically: they want to have their cake and eat it, too. When it came time to discuss a perennial topic, Workers World Party, the comrade asked me what the party's approach to 2012 was. I had to admit I didn't know, that the question had not been made clear to me in articles published in Workers World newspaper.

With not a little surprise I returned home tonight to find that Workers Worldnewspaper has posted today the article we awaited. I will reproduce it here in full, only offering a few "liner notes" along the way. Wall Street has a plan, which is to push all the ill effects of their crisis on the backs of the working class. The relatively liberal capitalists and their politicians, on the other hand, have no plan of their own. The Democratic Party leadership has carried out the wishes of Wall Street ever since the crisis began in 2008-2009. The difference is that they have turned over trillions of dollars to the bankers and begun to cut social programs with a moan instead of a shout of triumph. [Emphasis added].

In this period, everything has moved to the right. Conservative pundits like Newt Gingrich, who had earlier criticized Ryan's plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system as "right-wing social engineering," are now praising him. Mouthpieces for the ultra-right Tea Party forces, like Glenn Beck, are cheering, of course.

But let's not forget that the Tea Party was created by right-wing billionaires to give political cover to neofascists, inducing them to crawl out of the woodwork. They created a weapon to push the entire political establishment to the right.


This formulation, which I agreed with in 2009, no longer seems correct today. In 2009 demoralization and despondency with President Obama's continuation and deepening of Bush administration policies set in among left-liberal movementarians who had believed the millennial hype concerning the "meaning of Obama." At this time, Republicans saw an opportunity to re-energize their own forces, demoralized by the McCain-Palin electoral debacle. Financed by plutocrats and their foundations, various tea parties around the United States spent a year organizing not for a beer hall putsch, not for a Reichstag fire, but for elections.

Did the 2010 elections push capitalist ruling class politics further to the right. I tend to doubt this, given the fact that, for example, Obama was still able to present a more extreme series of austerity proposals during the summer 2011 debt ceiling debate than Republicans, including Paul Ryan, had confidence to accept. This was, lest we forget, the period when Obama offered-up Medicare and Social Security to the headsman's axe; the herdsmen balked, and Obama carried the day with a clear warning to U.S. workers of how deadly an enemy he was to them.

Griswold is correct in stating, as she begins her final paragraph: et's not pussy-foot around with the lesser evil shell game any more, comrades: let's elect the "greater evil" and let the war commence.

This seems unusually provocative. Workers World Party's previous electoral interventions in bourgeois politics have been to support Black Democrats; to my knowledge they have never decided to upset the apple-cart of electoral niceties on the U.S. left so completely as the final lines of this article suggest.

It concerns me that Griswold's article seems to suggest it is better to start the showdown now, when previously in her article she has gone to great lengths to spell out at what a retarded level the mass struggle operates here in the U.S. when compared with a country like Greece. But the die has now been cast.

People in this conversation

  • Guest - Jay Rothermel

    When I posted these notes on my blog late last week, I got the following comment:

    "This is just nonsense. Are you really suggesting that the Anti-NATO protest didn't make any demands? And the RNC/DNC rallies aren't making demands either?

    "I think this is a classic case of "I don't organize so I shit on those who do".</blockquote>

    My response at the time:

    Thank you for your comment.

    Freedom Road-Fightback has endorsed Obama. They tell workers to vote for him. They promote the idea that having Democrats in office will provide a greater opportunity for reforms.

    I do think demands were made at the anti-NATO events. But the demands obscured rather than exposed the true relationship between US imperialism and NATO. How in the US can we make demands of NATO without honestly telling fellow workers that NATO's orders originate in the White House? Otherwise it is rather like making demands of UNESCO over the anti-science content of US textbooks. Parties calling themselves Marxist need to keep in mind the truth of Karl Liebknecht's statement: "The true enemy is at home."

    My point about the RNC and DNC demos is that, as Marxists we should not let one of these parties off the hook since both defend in their way the capitalist ruling class in the US.

    In the artwork for the anti-RNC demo, for instance, we see the Republican elephant with a line through it and the words "Coalition to March on the RNC." The implication is clear: Republicans are the enemy and the focus of this demo.

    Now look at the artwork for the other demo, coinciding with the DNC. No Democratic Party donkey with a line through it. No demand to "March on the DNC." Only this: "Building Peoples' Power During the DNC."

    The left-liberal protest milieu has no problem taking on Wall Street. Or a Wall Street presidential candidate. As long as the Wall Street presidential candidate is not Barack Obama.

    Groups like Freedom Road-Fightback work in coalitions crafting demands which let a president off the hook. This is a grotesque mockery of clarity. Why not tell workers the truth, even in the short term it may mean less support and funding. In the future, after re-election, when there is a chance to organize greater opposition to Obama's increased austerity and multiplying wars, workers will remember who told them the truth, AND who talked down to them and obscured the class clarity that is so essential.

  • Guest - chegitz guevara

    I read the Workers World piece, and I don't think they are saying what you claim they are saying.

    'Compromise with the super-rich by electing their “lesser evil” candidates to run the government merely postpones the real struggle to combat' says to me that they are simply rejecting the logic of lesser evilism, not that they are advocating a vote for the GOP.

  • Guest - Jay Rothermel

    Good point, but after making a personal survey myself of non-WWPers to whom I sent the article, I discovered some of them came to the conclusion I did. Much tongue-in-cheek sarcasm ensued.

  • Guest - Jay Rothermel

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