Naderism in 2000 was a terrible idea that had horrible consequences. But it did occur in a context in which the Democratic Party had legitimately moved to the right, and in which the Republican candidate was running as a moderate (a con that should have been easy to see through contemporaneously, but never mind for now.) Replicating Nader’s tactics in an election in 2016, with the Democratic Party well to the left of where it was in 2000 and the Republican Party not only well to the right of where it was in 2016 but openly running someone both considerably more reactionary and even more cartoonishly unqualified than George W. Bush is indefensible and not even understandable. And let’s be clear: Jill Stein is at this point a reprehensible public figure willing to risk inflicting harm on many of the most vulnerable citizens for what is at best a pointless exercise in ego gratification.
Which won’t stop her defenders from embarrassing themselves. Cornel West has the latest entry in the “if I say neoliberal enough times it will justify my efforts to elect Donald Trump, who I concede is a neofascist” genre:
We were looking to include them within the platform, so at least it was on paper. Now, of course, putting it on paper is different than putting it in practice. A declaration is different from the execution. But we lost over and over again, because the Clinton people lined up and voted against it. That’s why I, of course, abstained, initially, at the move from writing the draft, and then we took it to the platform committee in Orlando. I was also a member of the platform committee. And I had to abstain again, because—even though they didn’t allow for abstention; it was just no or yes. But there’s no way, based on moral grounds, those based on my own moral conscience, that I could support that platform.
So, to review, Bernie Sanders, the runner-up, was given an unusual amount of influence in drafting the party platform, and in part because of this the result was the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. But because the runner-up did not win on each and every issue, West is now OK with President Trump. But refusing to take yes for an answer ever is at the core of what it means to be a leftier-than-thou voter-as-atomistic consumer.
And once my dear brother moved into his endorsement, his strong endorsement of the neoliberal disaster that Sister Hillary represents, there was no way that I could stay with Bernie Sanders any longer, had to break with the two-party system. The duopoly has to come to an end. I was hoping we could bring the neoliberal era to a close, because a year ago, populist, Bernie Sanders; neofascist with Trump, or neoliberalism limps on with Hillary Clinton. Right now the Democratic Party still run by big corporations, big lobbyists and so forth, from AIPAC to a host of other lobbyists of big money, and it looks like they want to hold on for dear life. And it’s a sad thing to see, because the country is having a nervous breakdown. And you just hope that there can be enough people with compassion and courage to hold onto justice, keep the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Edward Said and Dorothy Day alive.
So much nonsense here. There’s the invocation of MLK to justify tactics the opposite of the ones that made King a successful activist. There’s a vast overestimation of the stakes of the primary fight between Clinton and Sanders. There’s the not-a-dime’s-worth-of-difference assumption being made while comparing a moderate liberal to a “neofascist.” But, as always, what I particularly enjoy about this is West pretending that he’s just now decided to break with the “two-party duopoly,” when in fact he did exactly the same thing in 2000 — breaking after the primaries (even though in 2000 there was even less at stake ideologically,) supporting Ralph Nader using speeches nearly identical to those he used to support Bill Bradley. He’s left the Democratic Party more often than Adam Bellow.
It goes without saying that West has nothing to say about environmental policy, the Supreme Court, the tens of millions of people who would lose health insurance, or any of the other potentially disastrous material consequences of a Trump victory. He concludes with this succession of words next to each other:
And so, this idea that somehow we’ve got to opt for a neoliberal disaster as the only option vis-à-vis the neofascist catastrophe, as a blues man, I appreciate you playing that blues, said I can deal with catastrophe, not by panicking and being driven by fear, but I can look the catastrophe in the face and still tell the truth and still go down swinging with a smile and, most importantly, love, Coltrane’s love—and for me, Jesus’s love—at the center of how we proceed.
It must be said that it’s rather easier to not be driven by fear of a Trump presidency when you’re a very wealthy person with a well-compensated and not-terribly-demanding job. Trying to dignify this nonsense — which isn’t even coherent enough to rise to heighten-the-contradictions — by invoking Coltrane, the blues, and Jesus Christ really takes the pomposity up to 11, though.