In case people need a reminder, the real winner of last Thursday’s Vice Presidential debate was the two party duopoly of the United States of America. No matter how many times Republican Sarah Palin winked at the camera or Democrat Joe Biden offered his seasoned opinions, this is the essential and often overlooked fact. Thankfully, Democracy Now, hosted a post debate analysis segment on their Friday edition that filled the void somewhat. Both Green Party Vice Presidential candidate Rosa Clemente and Matt Gonzalez who alongside Ralph Nader is running under the Peace and Freedom party were invited as guests to offer their perspectives on the Biden-Palin debate. This was a public service of sorts since the perspectives of third party and independent candidates are so outlandishly excluded.
Clemente and Gonzalez spent much of the interview on the program offering mutually agreeable dissections of the VP debate. Co-host Juan Gonzalez interjected with a question asking the two leftist VP candidates why they were running against each other when they seemingly had so much in common politically! The necessary question prompted a debate of sorts between Clemente and Matt Gonzalez. Ralph Nader’s running mate responded that, “In today’s difficult times, having four candidates out there arguing about and trying to raise progressive issues is a positive thing.” I take serious issue with this assessment. My main critique of the left in the US in terms of electoral strategy is that it is quite stupidly fractured. The way the left has won elections in times past – which is not an immediate objective in sight in this country at this time – is by coalition building. Our numbers are so weak, it is imperative that an alternative coalition of parties -with adherents even to the center of us, is built as opposed to one party or another trying to claim the vanguard of the social movements. A stronger percentage needs to be shown on election day for leftist parties in order to argue for change. Splitting an already insignificant number of the vote multiple ways is not effective in any regard.
For her sake, host Amy Goodman gave Rosa Clemente a chance to respond to the very same question. Cynthia McKinney’s running mate replied “I think one of my main differences, I feel that a lot of the issues coming from some of the other third parties are more reformist issues, and I feel we don’t need reform anymore. We need to really look at a lot of these systems in this country and talk about fully dismantling them.” I also take issue with this response. Now don’t get me wrong. I do believe in the end game that systems in this country are institutionally corrupt and their philosophical underpinnings need to be reversed no doubt – just look at Wall Street – however, my viewpoint is tempered by pragmatism in looking at the political realities of the day. Certainly the Green Party is in no position numerically to argue for the dismantling of major institutions of power in this system. Why not strategically build electoral alliances with so-called reformist parties in the meantime in order to build a critical mass necessary to even ponder such postulations with the most minimal degree of sobering reality?
After Clemente offered her views, Matt Gonzalez posed a question to her asking for one specific example where the Nader campaign is reformist as compared to McKinney’s Green Party ticket. Clemente replied, “I applaud Ralph Nader for coming out finally against the prison-industrial complex, but part of that still keeps the prison-industrial complex alive. Part of that still says that there’s people that should be subjected to prisons. And I have a very different view on that. I don’t think we need prisons. I think we need the abolition of prisons.” Only in very brief moments in the history of the last century has there been societal abolishments of prison systems. The anarchist Makhnovshchina in the Ukraine during the early part of the 20th century is one example we can point to in saying that the objective is not purely of the fantasy realm.
For serious consideration, however, there must be an alternative blueprint of rehabilitation from incarceration cited and a sensible strategy on how to get there from this current juncture in history. Even with that provided, to suggest that this difference of reform over systemic dismantling is reasonable enough to jettison what is a much more sound strategy of coalition building is nonsensical. If candidates are to run in a serious effort to dismantle the two party duopoly, then such fractured leftism must be left behind. Dare I paraphrase V.I. Lenin in concluding by suggesting that the true revolutionary pathway must not be divorced from operating within the political realities of the day?