Halle/Chomsky: An Eight Point Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting)

John Halle/Noam Chomsky

(note: Comments and discussion can be posted below. Professor Chomsky requests that he not be contacted with responses to this piece.)

Preamble:

Among the elements of the weak form of democracy enshrined in the constitution, presidential elections continue to pose a dilemma for the left in that any form of participation or non participation appears to impose a significant cost on our capacity to develop a serious opposition to the corporate agenda served by establishment politicians. The position outlined below is that which many regard as the most effective response to this quadrennial Hobson’s choice, namely the so-called “lesser evil” voting strategy or LEV. Simply put, LEV involves, where you can, i.e. in safe states, voting for the losing third party candidate you prefer, or not voting at all. In competitive “swing” states, where you must, one votes for the “lesser evil” Democrat.

Before fielding objections, it will be useful to make certain background stipulations with respect to the points below. The first is to note that since changes in the relevant facts require changes in tactics, proposals having to do with our relationship to the “electoral extravaganza” should be regarded as provisional. This is most relevant with respect to point 3) which some will challenge by citing the claim that Clinton’s foreign policy could pose a more serious menace than that of Trump.

In any case, while conceding as an outside possibility that Trump’s foreign policy is preferable, most of us not already convinced that that is so will need more evidence than can be aired in a discussion involving this statement. Furthermore, insofar as this is the fact of the matter, following the logic through seems to require a vote for Trump, though it’s a bit hard to know whether those making this suggestion are intending it seriously.

Another point of disagreement is not factual but involves the ethical/moral principle addressed in 1), sometimes referred to as the “politics of moral witness.” Generally associated with the religious left, secular leftists implicitly invoke it when they reject LEV on the grounds that “a lesser of two evils is still evil.” Leaving aside the obvious rejoinder that this is exactly the point of lesser evil voting-i.e. to do less evil, what needs to be challenged is the assumption that voting should be seen a form of individual self-expression rather than as an act to be judged on its likely consequences, specifically those outlined in 4). The basic moral principle at stake is simple: not only must we take responsibility for our actions, but the consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves.

While some would suggest extending the critique by noting that the politics of moral witness can become indistinguishable from narcissistic self-agrandizement, this is substantially more harsh than what was intended and harsher than what is merited. That said, those reflexively denouncing advocates of LEV on a supposed “moral” basis should consider that their footing on the high ground may not be as secure as they often take for granted to be the case.

A third criticism of LEV equates it with a passive acquiescence to the bipartisan status quo under the guise of pragmatism, usually deriving from those who have lost the appetite for radical change. It is surely the case that some of those endorsing LEV are doing so in bad faith-cynical functionaries whose objective is to promote capitulation to a system which they are invested in protecting. Others supporting LEV, however, can hardly be reasonably accused of having made their peace with the establishment. Their concern, as alluded to in 6) and 7) inheres in the awareness that frivolous and poorly considered electoral decisions impose a cost, their memories extending to the ultra-left faction of the peace movement having minimized the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency during the 1968 elections. The result was six years of senseless death and destruction in Southeast Asia and also a predictable fracture of the left setting it up for its ultimate collapse during the backlash decades to follow.

The broader lesson to be drawn is not to shy away from confronting the dominance of the political system under the management of the two major parties. Rather, challenges to it need to be issued with a full awareness of their possible consequences. This includes the recognition that far right victories not only impose terrible suffering on the most vulnerable segments of society but also function as a powerful weapon in the hands of the establishment center, which, now in opposition can posture as the “reasonable” alternative. A Trump presidency, should it materialize, will undermine the burgeoning movement centered around the Sanders campaign, particularly if it is perceived as having minimized the dangers posed by the far right.

A more general conclusion to be derived from this recognition is that this sort of cost/benefit strategic accounting is fundamental to any politics which is serious about radical change. Those on the left who ignore it, or dismiss it as irrelevant are engaging in political fantasy and are an obstacle to, rather than ally of, the movement which now seems to be materializing.

Finally, it should be understood that the reigning doctrinal system recognizes the role presidential elections perform in diverting the left from actions which have the potential to be effective in advancing its agenda. These include developing organizations committed to extra-political means, most notably street protest, but also competing for office in potentially winnable races. The left should devote the minimum of time necessary to exercise the LEV choice then immediately return to pursuing goals which are not timed to the national electoral cycle.

*****

1) Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites.

2) The exclusive consequence of the act of voting in 2016 will be (if in a contested “swing state”) to marginally increase or decrease the chance of one of the major party candidates winning.

3) One of these candidates, Trump, denies the existence of global warming, calls for increasing use of fossil fuels, dismantling of environmental regulations and refuses assistance to India and other developing nations as called for in the Paris agreement, the combination of which could, in four years, take us to a catastrophic tipping point. Trump has also pledged to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, offered to provide for the defense of supporters who have assaulted African American protestors at his rallies, stated his “openness to using nuclear weapons”, supports a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and regards “the police in this country as absolutely mistreated and misunderstood” while having “done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order.” Trump has also pledged to increase military spending while cutting taxes on the rich, hence shredding what remains of the social welfare “safety net” despite pretenses.

4) The suffering which these and other similarly extremist policies and attitudes will impose on marginalized and already oppressed populations has a high probability of being significantly greater than that which will result from a Clinton presidency.

5) 4) should constitute sufficient basis to voting for Clinton where a vote is potentially consequential-namely, in a contested, “swing” state.

6) However, the left should also recognize that, should Trump win based on its failure to support Clinton, it will repeatedly face the accusation (based in fact), that it lacks concern for those sure to be most victimized by a Trump administration.

7) Often this charge will emanate from establishment operatives who will use it as a bad faith justification for defeating challenges to corporate hegemony either in the Democratic Party or outside of it. They will ensure that it will be widely circulated in mainstream media channels with the result that many of those who would otherwise be sympathetic to a left challenge will find it a convincing reason to maintain their ties with the political establishment rather than breaking with it, as they must.

8) Conclusion: by dismissing a “lesser evil” electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve.

243 thoughts on “Halle/Chomsky: An Eight Point Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting)”

  1. The distinguished authors have made a torturous judgment call…wrongly. Hillary Clinton’s firmly established neoliberal policies, essentially plutocracy and perpetual war, coupled with her governmental experience and competence, are much more to be feared than Donald Trump’s shotgun domestic and foreign policy statements (some to the left of Clinton), coupled with his likely pathetic inability to govern effectively. Despite Trump’s despicable incendiary rhetoric, the fear of full-blown racist fascism in contemporary American society is overblown, given the fact that minorities make up close to 40% of our population–a far cry from the less than 1% of Jews in the population of Nazi Germany. Given Clinton’s inclination and ability to promote and further the neoliberal agenda (increasing austerity and the risk of war with Russia/China), she is by far the deadliest competitor in this presidential fight. The xenophobic huckster making a bumbling ass of himself in the other corner is the lessor of evils (if one decides to vote in that manner), because his almost certain disaster as president would shake up an entrenched and corrupt political system and potentially open new possibilities for the genuine left.

    1. If Trump is elected, it will be far more than just Trump who will govern – he will put extremist Republicans (the “extremist” being a redundancy nowadays) throughout his administration and he will largely work with and sign bills from the Republican US congress. This may be hard for many in the internet-cloistered US-left to believe, but with regard to belligerent foreign policy, there are many Republicans that make Hillary look like Eugene McCarthy (younger readers – look him up).

      There is an almost perfect analogue to the current election – the election of 1968 – where an angry US peace-movement- left, disappointing at the loss of their favored candidates Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, decided against evidence that Hubert Humphrey was no different than Nixon, and cast their protest-non-votes at the Democratic Party by staying home. The result was Nixon, Kissinger, the murder of an additional 1-2 million Indochinese over 6 years – all done in spite of a strong Democratic majority in Congress (which won’t be the case with Trump). It also led to the fracture and demise of critically important leftist movements throughout the US, and particularly following the unprecedented 49-state defeat of McGovern in 1972, caused the Democratic Party to move hard right over the following decades.

      1. While I agree with the basic thrust of this, important not to cross the line into perpetuating any illusions as to how deeply reactionary a Clinton foreign policy is likely to be. Her main advisors, Kagan and Nuland, as well as Kissinger as an eminence grise in the background give little reason for hope and plenty of reason to fear, particularly with respect to a possible war with Iran. Democrats do tend to start wars, after all, suicidal ones, something we also should never forget.

        1. We are in agreement that Hillary’s foreign policy is reactionary, but unfortunately, on the spectrum of the foreign policy views of other current day politicians in the US Congress or Obama Administration, she is probably squarely in the middle.

          And I really need to see more evidence that “Democrats do tend to start wars”. The horrific invasions that are the source of all the current troubles in the middle-east were started by Republicans – Bush and GW Bush. The bloody Contra Wars in central America were started by Reagan.

        2. Also, I came here via the re-posting on Znet, and I am curious – did Noam Chomsky produce this essay specifically for your blog – are you acquaintances or friends? If not, what is the original source?

          1. It is a coauthored essay. I’m curious why you would think otherwise. We are long time acquaintances.

        3. HRC will not listen to any advisors when she is chafing at the bit to start another war. She has already stated that she can hardly wait to annihilate Iran. Clinton, specifically, not “Democrats,” in general, tends to start wars, suicidal ones, regime change ones, because that is what she does. Wars, to H. Clinton, are “business opportunities,” and that’s all that interests her–increasing her ill-gotten wealth.

          This entire article offends me, and I am deeply disappointed in Professor Chomsky.

          1. “HRC will not listen to any advisors when she is chafing at the bit to start another war. ”

            She hasn’t started any wars.

            “She has already stated that she can hardly wait to annihilate Iran. ”

            This is not true. In fact nothing you wrote is true.

            “This entire article offends me”

            That a carefully argued piece offends you rather than is merely a source of disagreement says a lot (negative) about you … although your whole comment already says it.

          2. Maybe this should go without saying, but apparently not: when adults are discussing something and assert a non-common knowledge assertion such as, “She has already stated that she can hardly wait to annihilate Iran. ” , they tend to show some form of provenance for such a statement. As least that was how I was brought up.

          3. That’s too bad that you are disappointed in HIllary – I guess Trump’s declaration to bomb the “….” out of them doesn’t offend you. Now that’s disappointing.

          4. I think it amusing that somebody finds this a carefully- argued piece. Right, make some false assumptions and string them together with big words. Oh, and label the dissenters as self-righteous and feel gooders. Lol. The authors remind me of Catholic priests trying to lay a guilt trip on their congregation. I understand why you are both offended and disappointed.

          5. So typical of the idiot “left” to issue the charge that we make “false assumptions” and then to fail to identify a single one. Lol, indeed, in that they seem to find the prospect of a Trump presidency greatly “amusing”, as I noted here. Not so amusing alas, for the certain victims of Trump’s policies-African Americans, Muslims, Mexican immigrants- 99% of whom vehemently oppose Trump. Of course, our genius commenter here knows better, as white people always do.

        4. Do you have any suggestions on further readings on Kissinger/Kagan/Nuland? Are there international relations academics with some strong Realist/Constructivist/Liberalist/Marxist criticisms of each of these?

          1. Greg Grandin’s Kissingers Shadow is excellent and covers his relations with Clinton in some detail. Don’t think Kagan and Nuland are mentioned, however.

        5. “Democrats do tend to start wars, after all, suicidal ones..” But not the most suicidal one of all – Iraq.

        6. I disagree. Recent wars have all been started by Republicans. Our longest wars started by George W. Bush. Bill Clinton hesitantly enter the Balkan conflict only when it was apparent that genocide was occurring. Obama has tried to disengage us directly from wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and limit our presence in Libya and Syria. History disputes your claim.

      2. Hillary Clinton, like her husband, are RIFs (Republicans in fact), and they are just as irremediably and irretrievably evil as their fellow Republicans (to include Barack Obama).

        Would Hillary Clinton rape, torture, and lynch me and my whole family? YES! Would Obama? YES! Would the rest of their fellow corporate plutocratic Nazi Republicans? YES!

        Would you, Mr. Chomsky, rape, torture, and lynch me and my whole family? By endorsing Secretary Clinton, who, by your own words, is evil (lesser evil still is evil), you say HELL YEAH!

        1. The way you describe the voting process anyone would be guilty of “raping, torturing and lynching you and your whole family”. And what exactly is your decision such that YOU don’t rape, torture and lynch someone and their family? Vote for Trump? Is that what you’re implying? We could vote for Sanders (write in, if possible) or Jill Stein. But if that aids Clinton or Trump then someone is still raping, torturing and lynching someone else and their family. It’s not so nice when that kind of vulgar logic is tossed back at you, is it, Mr. rapist, torturer and lyncher.

          1. “The way you describe the voting process anyone would be guilty of ‘raping, torturing and lynching you and your whole family’” Unclear why you believe this is so. Please explain.

        2. I seriously doubt that a “Republican In Fact” would have canvassed in the South for Eugene McCarthy or in Texas for George McGovern.

          I doubt that any RIF would have been involved in a legal firm that provided assistance to many of the VN War protestors and Black Militants in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1970’s.

          Or have been involved in the Childrens Defense Fund as a Board member and Chief Legal Counsel.

          Or have been involved in the fight to preserve the right of the poor to have legal counsel in court, and actually expanding those service so that groups representing the poor could bring suit against wealthy landlords, corporations, and governments. Migrant workers, minorities, LGBT groups, and many others benefitted enormously from the Legal Services Corporation. Clinton was Director of the Legal Services Corporation at a time when Nixon had attempted to destroy it, and when Reagan was intent on making it toothless.

          And while it was far from a perfect proposal, her 1993 Health Care plan would have given access to basic health care to tens of millions of Americans, reduced the massive inflationary premium increases during the Bush Administration, and saved lives and reduced suffering. It was another two decades before anything like it was close to passage again. It was the Big HMO’s, the Insurance Industry, Wall Street and the GOP that killed the proposal after a hundred million dollar publicity campaign to crush it.

          RIF?

          1. Any serious defense of a vote for her needs to begin by conceding that the positions Clinton has endorsed over the years have been reprehensible and that much of what she will do in office will be no less so.

            Two good books on the subject here and here.

            That does not mean-as a matter of elementary logic-that Trump could not, and almost certainly will-be much worse.

        3. “Hillary Clinton, like her husband, are RIFs (Republicans in fact)”

          It is notable that so many people who attack Clinton make such statements that are transparently false, and grossly intellectually dishonest.

          1. It’s a mistake, in my opinion, to deny what Chomsky routinely notes, namely that Clinton’s politics are in some ways indistinguishable from those of moderate Republicans, and in other ways well to the right of them (e.g. the likely presence of neocons Victoria Nuland and Robert Kagan on the National Security Council). Again, that does not mean that Trump could not, and almost certainly will be, worse and even much worse.

      3. More nonsense. If, as you say, “all done in spite of a strong Democratic majority in Congress” then why blame the kids? Obviously the Democrats had no interest in ending the war. AND were presumably voted in by clods like yourself to end the war, clods who NEVER draw the balance sheet on their craven eternal, USELESS capitulation to the Democrats, clods who to this very day want to blame Nixon for a staunchly Democratic Party war. Humphrey was not opposed to the war and did not campaign to end it. I just looked this up the other day to refresh my memory in response to one of your fellow clod’s assertion that a vote for anyone other than Humphrey cost millions of lives. Otherwise they would have get real about the class nature of both the ruling parties. Now you’re gonna tell me that Ralph Nader caused the Iraq War. I was there.

        1. Well known that the North Vietnamese Paris negotiators were appalled by the student movement’s failure to oppose Nixon’s election on the grounds of Humphrey’s unsatisfactory position on the war. They recognized and predicted the six years of senseless death and destruction which did, in fact materialize, as well as the expansion of the war to Laos and Cambodia as detailed in Greg Grandin’s Kissinger’s Shadow. The left can run from these facts, but it can’t hide. It can also try to close its eyes to Trump”s stated commitment to racist vigilante attacks and support of an intensification of state repression against immigrants and other undesirables. Fortunately, the communities who will be on the receiving end will not let them.

          1. I feel the obvious rejoinder to this argument (as long as you want to speculate about political consequences) is that it’s also quite possible that if the left had dropped the LEV argument against Nixon or Bush, really anytime in the past, then the left may have by this point actually gained political footing, rather than languishing in the infertile duopoly that you argue we must remain in–and which is diametrically opposed to your cause of supporting a leftist movement. You may accuse third partiers of being inconsiderate, even accelerationists, but it is equally true that their position seeks to end the long history of damage already perpetuated by LEV.

            If LEV could be considered empirically, then as a political strategy for preventing the suffering of marginalized people, the last 40 years has proven it a massive and dangerous failure. It’s time to move on.

            Moreover, in terms of historical context, the consequences of a vote this year may not only determine the level of increased suffering by the marginalized, but threatens the future of civilization and all biological life in general. While it was not the case with Nixon, not quite as harsh of a reality with Bush, the LEV is now an existential threat to the possibility of having a future on this planet. There is little purpose in worrying about the speculative differences in suffering imposed by HRC or TRUMP when the fact is that either will assuredly push us past the point of no return. i.e. there are no concessions the democrats might make which will matter to anyone in the eventuality that our planet cannot sustain biological life.

            Your argument needs to account for the rightwing drift caused by LEV, and contexualized by the ongoing and increased suffering unleashed by having taken that position for decades, otherwise I can’t respect that your position has any basis in history. You and Chomsky might be correct in warning the youth of the severe consequences of pushing a third party, but you should also try to remember that we are not living in the past, that history in not quite doomed-to-repeat-itself this time, rather, it is clearly coming to an end.

          2. We do not “warn the youth of the severe consequences of pushing a third party,” rather the opposite: we explicitly endorse “voting for the losing third party candidate you prefer,” as well as “competing for office in potentially winnable races” including against Democrats. (As I myself did.)

          3. The North Vietnamese Paris negotiators knew more about Nixon than we presently know about Trump’s foreign policy realities, beyond his barroom rants. The
            Republican party is always going to present an extreme candidate. As Noam Chomsky has said, this is a party that has lost all sense of being a rational entity for the last 30 years. If it wasn’t Trump it would have been Ted Cruz. Couple that with the New Dems, ever staying faithful to their role of never venturing far from the GOP. This would seem to be a prescription for election after election of ‘lesser than’ dilemmas, where it gets harder to find differences between the two extreme choices. Countering this is the changing demographics coming from the younger generations who could nominate and elect a true progressive, a Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein type of candidate. And who don’t handicap themselves by relying on the mainstream media for information and its associated propaganda. And with a real progressive in the While House, the chances improve for creating a change in the voting system that would make future ‘lesser than’ situations much more unlikely. ‘A real progressive in the White House’. The phrase itself sounds almost surreal.

          4. “Countering this is the changing demographics coming from the younger generations who could nominate and elect a true progressive, a Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein type of candidate.” Quite agree with you-unlike a few on the left, most notably those at Counterpunch, who were intensely hostile to Sanders campaign. What in our piece gives any indication that we would take issue with this point?

        2. The “clod” was referring to the illigal and secret carpet bombing of Cambodia and Laos, horrendous pursuits carried out Nixon and Kissinger, that would not have been carried out by Humphrey. And while no one is arguing Nader is responsible for the Iraq war, it was purists who voted for him instead of Gore, and considering he lost the election by 537 votes, I think that is an instructive example of the very thesis of this article. Are you now going to argue that the country- and certainly the world would be in a less precarious state if we didn’t elect president who started the most disastrous war in recent memory. Not even to mention action on climate change

      4. Well said. It also led to the destruction of theparty system, the consequence of whcih is a growth of single issue politics, and the hardening of non-compromising stances, esp on the Right.

      5. Do you have any evidence the Humphrey would not have pursued as murdurous a policy in Indochina as did Nixon and Kissinger?

        1. Greg Grandin’s Kissinger’s Shadow strongly implies that this is the case. I’ll ask Greg whether he believes that is the case.

      6. Clinton proudly claims that Kissinger is her good friend and mentor who has advised her many times. She voted for the Iraq war… a war that, in the economic sanction/pre-invasion stage, had already killed half a million children under the age of five and many hundreds of thousands of other citizens. Picking Nixon/Kissinger and Kissinger’s global domination scheme as your example to avoid Trump and vote for Hillary…begs the question… How many people has Trump killed so far vs Hillary? He is full of swagger, braggadocio, wild and bigoted rhetoric, but she actually has had a hand in toppling governments, using military might against sovereign nations and wreaking what turned out to be havoc in various nations and areas.

        1. As Chomsky has routinely noted, every post-war U.S president “has had a hand in toppling governments, using military might against sovereign nations and wreaking what turned out to be havoc in various nations and areas.” In no way does that make Clinton unique or in any way uniquely awful. As for Trump, to ask the rhetorical question “How many people has Trump killed so far?” is to argue in bad faith. Trump, of course, has no record. His statements enthusiastically endorsing torture, the mass deportation of immigrants and invitation to his followers to engage in hate crimes are all we have to go on and should set off alarms bells among those concerned for their and their children’s future.

          For the 1000th time: Clinton is likely to be a very bad president. As a matter of elementary logic, in no way does that negate the possibility, and indeed the high likelihood that Trump, for any number of reasons will be much worse.

      7. Hi Paul — I agree that the situation is analagous — but not that Dump the Hump was the wrong strategy. As with Lurleen Clinton with Iraq, Libya, arms for Saudi, Bahrain, Uganda, and other militarily cooperative dictatorships, Hubert had shown his warrior liberalism in backing the Truman-Eisenhower-JFK-LBJ war that had already killed over a million Vietnamese for no reason other than European-American control of Asia. It was impossible, impossible, for those of us in the anti-war movement to back a proven pro-war, and more importantly pro-imperial (which is what leads to the many wars and backing of dictators) candidate. You cannot build an anti-imperial movement backing an imperialist. Our first duty is to build a movement that stops the oppression of others by our state — concerns for domestic issues come second.

    2. The lengths to which the human mind will go to prove itself right despite all evidence to the contrary amazes me. You literally provided no basis for opinion. You use blanket, essentially meaningless terms like neo-liberal, and project war with every major world power without a single supporting fact? Anarchy, which seems to be your policy prescription, will not lead to some leftist utopia. It will probably lead to a technocratic oligarchical dystopia greater than what we currently live under. Should Trump be elected president, it is likely that he will appoint 2 to 3 supreme court justices. The list he provided ensures that the constitutional protections fought for by women, minorities, and lgbt folk will be decimated. Corporate personhood would likely be expanded and campaign finance rules will be overturned. Systemic disenfranchisement via voter obstruction laws will be upheld. Further, as he has no policies of his own, he will simply adopt the policies of the Republican Congress (which will stay with Republicans in the event of a Trump win), which means greater economic inequality via lower taxes for the rich, dismemberment of social security and medicare, and worse healthcare for lower income Americans. Muslims and Latinos will continue to be ostracized from the biggest Bully Pulpit in the world, which will likely lead to higher levels of hate crimes and civil unrest. Nothing will be done about gun violence, climate change, judicial reform, especially with non-violent drug offenses considering Trump’s antipathy towards drugs, even marijuana and alcohol.

      That’s what you argue is the lesser of two evils? K…

      1. I agree with you Jonathan and would add that Hubert Humphrey was a staunch and relentless advocate of civil rights and trade unions and his actions made a real difference in the lives of millions of people. He was wrong about Vietnam but was moving against the war as was most of the Democratic establishment in the late 1960s. If you want to have a viable left alternative you need political power and until you demonstrate that by winning elections, on a least the State level, like the Tea Party has, you are not an alternative, you are a study group.

      2. Right on, there are so many critical issues here. To me the Supreme Court is perhaps the most essential ingredient of any of them, along with climate change, voter rights, LGTBQ rights, women’s rights and equity, pro choice, etc. The list goes on and on and on. To me, in spite of Hillary Clinton’s flaws, there is absolutely no contest here. Everyone needs to get a grip on reality here.

    3. Just because “minorities make up close to 40% of our population” doesn’t mean all those minorities are safe as a result. Minorities don’t band together as simplistically as you’re implying. An executive order or legislation, with a GoP controlled Congress, to deport 11 million Mexicans or ban the immigration of Muslims has far broader implications than your critique implies.

      The concern isn’t overblown, especially considering the down ballot impact of increased GOP spending on those races would have. His winning would have fast greater impact across minorities than you’re conceding.

    4. False equivalency between blacks and Jews. Not to mention black people already live in a police state and that’s under president Obama. You are what’s wrong with the white left. But what’s wrong with blacks being treated like shit under a president trump as long as Hillary isn’t elected?

    5. You must have missed paragraph four, it’s about you.
      Are you too young to remember how Nader split the democratic ticket and “opened up new possibilities for the genuine left” by electing GW Bush, who gave us the Iraq war and a near global financial meltdown?

      1. Nader took a lot of criticism for ‘causing Gore to lose’. But what did those critics of Nader do AFTER 9-11. Talk about monumental hypocrisy. They did nothing. The cowards wore their flag pins, obediently ‘followed orders’ with their spineless silence and genuflected like good little Johnny(s) and Sally(s) to every criminal activity the Bush administration implemented. The Democratic establishment allowed the Bush criminal circus to happen. And those pieces of scum spent a decade and a half castigating Nader while never moving far from the GOP. Look at the New Dem obstructionists on the party platform committee. Student Debt, Healthcare, they have the gall to agree with the Sanders delegates that its a right, but they won’t do a damn thing to initiate anything, the environment. Check it, it’s all out in the open. The Democrats could win every election all the time if they worked for what the American public have stated in polls for decades. But they side with the money, time and again. The hypocrites who claim doom if Trump gets elected but never talk of the New Dems who for a generation have stabbed their constituents in the back, over and over. At least the right wing is honest about their perverse behavior. Hypocrites, if you don’t want a Trump presidency, tell you elite party apparatchiks to join the human race.

        1. “If you don’t want a Trump presidency, tell you elite party apparatchiks to join the human race.” You mean “speak truth to power?” As Noam has often pointed out, the problem with this strategy is that they aren’t listening and don’t care.

    6. “The xenophobic huckster…is the lesser of two evils…his almost certain disaster as president would shake up an entrenched and corrupt political system and potentially open new possibilities for the genuine left.”

      That’s an appealing thought, but it’s a gamble, and to say otherwise would be disingenuous. People thought George W. was an idiot, and underestimated him, too. And think about who Trump would bring in to power with him….who would be Donald Trump’s Dick Cheney?

    7. I agree, completely. Let me add that the plutocrats will have their way, no matter who sits in the President’s chair, unless, there is a mass popular movement behind his/her policies. Trump doesn’t have such a movement. Chomsky just prefers despotism w/a smiley face to naked power grabbing. He prefers writing letters to the editor to manning the barricades. He’s too comfortable.

      1. Professor Chomsky should show that he’s not too “comfortable” to subject the most vulnerable members of society to the danger of vigilante attacks? The 92% of Latino citizens who have an “extremely unfavorable” view of Trump would be inclined to disagree.

    8. When you say “lessor of evils” I take it that you’re not referring to the property of which Trump is the landlord. Why do people think that Trump means what he says? He’s just trying to vacuum up all those loose racist & ignoranti votes, which the Reps depend upon. As a real estate mogul, if he doesn’t, now, believe in global warming, he soon will, when he sees his property decline in value due to its effects. I have no reason to think that his incompetence will prevent the group who will run his presidency from using their expertise to achieve their goals. Will a Dem congress block the Reps? Not if they have the same goals.

    9. Completely and totally wrong. Trump is MUCH more dangerous than Hillary.

      A cursory look at Trump’s proposals should be enough to make any sane person who lived under the Bush presidency want to scream. Trump has some of the most extremist positions of any modern presidential candidate ever – defund the EPA, defund the department of education, cut taxes on the ultra wealthy by 20%, cut corporate taxes by 20%, loosen corporate regulations, don’t raise the minimum wage, reduce the usage of vaccines because they cause autism, stop investing in renewable energies because climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, oppose net neutrality because it’s a ‘power grab from the top down,’ deport 11 million illegals, forbid Muslims from entering the US, spy on mosques, kill alleged terrorists’ families, sanction worse torture methods than waterboarding, bomb the oil fields of Iraq to get at ISIS, ‘close up the internet’ to stop ISIS recruitment, stand up to the Chinese in a trade war because they are our enemies, make foreign countries reimburse us for our soldiers and military bases, expand the military budget, believes we could have avoided the Syrian refugee crisis if Obama had invaded Syria… there’s plenty more I can keep listing.

      Say what you want about Clinton, but she does not even hold a quarter of the views as nuts as Trump does.

    10. Dear Mr.Finn,

      Hitler’s first target was the left and the labor movement. The communists would not unite with the socialists. Indeed they argued that they were worse than the Nazis. The eventually got to unite in concentration camps.

      Trump isnt Hitler but if he wins we will be repressed and the groups he is targetting will take it on the chin. He would appoint at least one and possibly 4 supreme court justices. Of course maybe with abortion rights slammed, states allowed to promote anti-gay discrmination, deportations and the whole country going right to work it will hasten a revolution.

      Except that has never happened. The last time i heard this arguement it was about George Bush. That did not end well

    11. What the writers neglected to mention was that Trump SCOTUS appointments would likely be more conservative than Hillary appointments. Notwithstanding the possibility of armed Leftist revolution, any “new possibilities for the genuine left” will happen in the form of legislation that will have to get past the SCOTUS. Setting aside my disagreement with your assertion that Hillary is more dangerous than Trump (whose threat not to honor NATO invites catastrophe in Europe), this alone would seem to be reason to see Hillary into office.

    12. “The distinguished authors have made a torturous judgment call…wrongly. ”

      Says someone who addresses none of their points and makes ludicrous claims such as ” because his almost certain disaster as president would shake up an entrenched and corrupt political system and potentially open new possibilities for the genuine left” which is repeatedly refuted in the article. The Supreme Court seats alone are enough to completely refute this grossly intellectually dishonest nonsense.

    13. you conveniently forget to mention the fact that, if elected, Trump will likely have the opportunity to appoint as many as 3 supreme court justices. That ALONE is reason enough to vote for Clinton.

    14. Wrong, wrong, wrong…if you elect Trump you are opening the door for the end of our country. You might as well hand the White House to the Koch Brothers and all of the big multinational companies.

      1. Koch brothers are supporting Hillary. Multinationals are almost unanimously in favor of her campaign and have contributed lavishly to it. Try another argument.

    15. @Newton Finn: The “shaking up” argument (your last sentence) has been COMPLETELY discredited. I heard it used in the past, and nothing ever got shook up. With respect to HRC (if she is really as bad as you make out), “Better the devil you know …”. It’s clear that Trump is capable of creating the biggest shitstorm we have ever seen.

    16. Agree. How does voting for a lesser evil remedy the wrongs? The points in this article suggest that there are only very limited options but in reality, wouldn’t a more reasonable and logical thing to do be to acknowledge and investigate the election fraud claims and evidence? Shouldn’t that be worthy of some effort, rather than to continue to ignore the facts and prop up a horrible candidate? That just doesn’t make sense. If there is blame to place anywhere is needs to be placed on the ones that chose such a horrible candidate. Bernie beats Trump by double digits. Hillary loses to him, it’s not rocket science. I’m tired of hearing the same guilt trip by otherwise rational people. Let’s stop ignoring things just to get people elected.

      1. True, but you’ll need to do a lot better to convince the millions whose lives have been destroyed by the economy Clinton and her neoliberal pals helped create.

    17. Your taking a yuuuge gamble, and somewhat of a scorched earth policy, hoping to rise in response.

      I voted for al gore in 2000, and remember the claims pushed by the corporate media and the far left (why do they often seem to line up…someone is playing someone for suckers), and had the left been unified – bush v gore wouldn’t have been an issue. And I don’t know who could argue against, now, how different the two candidate were in two major areas: gore was the science candidate who likely wouldn’t have “searched” for connections between Sadaam and terrorists (leading to a waste of US govt lives and resources, not to mention the catastrophic loss of life in the Middle East) and global warming. We’re 15 years down having done too little.

      If only the watcher could show us a what if-but id argue while they both wear suits and are capitalists, the loss of human life, destruction of social services, and the killing of our planet are huge deals.

      Why wouldn’t sanders candidates (followers of Bernie should now be stepping up to lead and continue the change of the party) want a Clinton in office to “tea party” against, than a trump in office to be buried under.

    18. You did not have the advantage of knowing who Trump would choose for a running mate at the time that you made your comment, so this is not criticism. Nonetheless, Trump’s selection of Mike Pence, coupled with hints that his VP would be responsible for foreign and domestic policy, pretty much negates your argument against LEV in 2016.

      Pence is every bit the warmonger that Clinton is; considers austerity to be an ideological imperative, not a considered response to conditions; he has done his best to impose his Evangelical Christian beliefs on the residents of Indiana, especially regarding K-12 education; and he is an avid supporter of ALEC and a loyal foot soldier for the Kochs.

      He will work well enough with Republicans in Congress to further the destruction of the social safety net, as he has done in Indiana. He is less flamboyant than either Brownback or Scott Walker, but the result will be the same.

    19. Voting for either Clinton or Trump would endorse a number of political positions, involving such matters as killing people all over the world, and continuing a whole set of policies that are making us into a third world country, with a tiny elite, served by a small middle class, dominating a majority of the population living near the subsistence level. Altho Trump is clearly a crude, nasty character, I consider him to be somewhat less dangerous than Clinton, because he is not well organized, and would face greater opposition while in office than would Clinton. He also seems somewhat less eager to wage war than is Clinton, who has already shown herself to be more than willing to escalate conflicts, and to attack other countries.

      We are in this situation as a consequence of decent, intelligent people repeatedly voting for lesser evils. We could stop this deadly slide toward disaster if each of us voted the way we would like to see others vote. If a substantial number of people voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, we could turn things around in one or two election cycles.

      1. A good thing, in our opinion, that we will, if polls are correct, not have to test the proposition that Trump will be “somewhat less dangerous than Clinton, because he is not well organized.” Also, among the notable polling results, 0% of African American voters support Trump. Evidently, they are less sanguine about the prospects for a Trump presidency than those imagined here.

    20. I agree. Trump will be challenged at every turn by national Press that hates him with a passion. The press is also held in such low esteem right now that their blaming of the left would sound ridiculous given how common knowledge it is that she is running right.
      The environment is clearly the issue at play. However, I am not convinced Clinton will do anything except expand fracking which is worse than continuing on coal and oil because killing a thriving profit somewhere is impossible. Trump has spoken out against fracking, not that I trust him. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/29/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-hits-back-at-controversies
      Climate change has made progress in the courts and will become increasingly unavoidable.
      Trump isn’t a racist, he is racially insensitive. The left has conflated the two which has created the backlash. In the mind of a poor white republican, the kkk is racist not him. Calling him racist for saying something stupid is provocation.
      Legislatively, he will be filibustered. Of course that won’t stop him from abusing executive actions and deporting people unnecessarily.

      Worst of all is 2020. The fever pitch of revolt this cycle will pale in comparison to the frustration over business as usual under Clinton. I don’t see her losing a primary as an incumbent and I can easily see someone who is an actual fascist following in Trump’s footsteps and cream Clinton. Especially since we will have a recession before the end of her term. And we will lose the house till 2032 thanks to redistricting governors being elected in 2018 when the vote goes against the White House. The 2020 Fascist might even walk into office with a supermajority.

      1. In reference to the assertion that “Trump isn’t a racist, he is racially insensitive. The left has conflated the two which has created the backlash. In the mind of a poor white republican, the kkk is racist not him. Calling him racist for saying something stupid is provocation.”

        Please imagine how african americans who are, literally, unanimous in regarding Trump as a racist, or Mexican americans who Trump has declared to be “rapists” and “criminals” and threatened with mass deportation, or Muslims who Trump has demonized as “terrorists” would respond to this statement.

        If there is any hope of uniting with them in a movement to overthrow and develop an alternative to neoliberalism, we need to show that we understand and are sympathetic to their concerns. The above is, and will be understood as, an unvarnished declaration that you simply don’t care. Is that how you want to be seen by others?

    21. this is exactly correct. the authors have shown their class allegiances. their allegiances are to the ruling class.

      i voted for bernie in a closed primary. i had to change my registration from independent.

      1. trump is not “the forces of reaction” or whatever. he’s not bought. he’s not an ideologue. as president he will do whatever it takes to make himself look good. he will be a populist.

      2. after 4 years his presidency and the defeat of clinton should mean the victory of a sanders type democrat.

      …A Trump presidency, should it materialize, will undermine the burgeoning movement centered around the Sanders campaign, particularly if it is perceived as having minimized the dangers posed by the far right…

      [THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THE CASE]

      the combination of which could, in four years, take us to a catastrophic tipping point… [THIS TIPPING POINT WAS SUPPOSED TO COME MORE THAN A DECADE AGO. THE EARTH IS NOT SIGNIFICANTLY WARMER THAN IT WAS IN 2000.]

      has a high probability of being significantly greater than… [100% CONJECTURE.]

  2. I would substitute the notion of “moral witness” with one of “historical witness.” In the first place, the lesser evil argument is no less a matter of “feeling good about oneself” than the individual voting their conscience regardless of imaginable consequences, and Lesser Evil Voting begs the very question, the antecedent being that no one, no one at all, has a crystal ball to foresee the future, however well it may be imagined. The use of 20-20 hindsight in the reference to Nixon and Vietnam is intellectually shameful as we have no candidate with a specific war in mind, despite no shortage of belligerent rhetoric, particularly from the supposed lesser evil Clinton I must add.

    While one may take a stand as “moral witness,” one may simultaneously or separately take a stand as “historical witness” to the fact that it is the Duopoly itself that is responsible for the consequences of its actions, and the Democratic Party establishment in particular in 2016 for its resolve to nominate Clinton in the face of the Sanders insurgency. I will be voting my conscience for Jill Stein, and would do the same if I were located in a so-called “swing” state, not only because, as moral witness, it is the right thing to do, but because as historical witness, the Democratic Party, and its supporters, will never learn or progress beyond this toxic duopoly unless and until it loses, if necessary again and again and again, no matter what greater harm one may choose to imagine its greater evil counterpart doing. What you may call a reckless disdain for “the consequences of my action” is actually an unequivocal acceptance of them, no matter how unsavory to some, many, or all, including myself, those consequences may be. I repeat, however, no one has a crystal ball!

    Historically, the left has no non-violent, electoral substance whatsoever, not a chance in hell of winning over congress or the White House, and never really has, until the Sanders insurgency came along to teach us all a priceless historical lesson: namely, we can raise all the millions needed to run our own candidate, or form our own party for that matter, if we stand together in opposition. Once you establish Lesser Evil Voting as an operating principle of concession to toxic duopoly, it authorizes it, and empowers its modus operandi for dominance, and grants to that duopoly a lease on life in perpetuity.

    Honestly, do you imagine the DNC is so stupid, so pig-headed, that having lost to Trump, and Trump again in 2020 when it tries yet again to beat off the next challenger to their establishment candidate, it will not learn its lesson, and run a revolutionary “democratic socialist,” the only real meaning of the word “democrat?”

    I could fill a page with invective against the Republican mindset, but suicidal-in-the-short-term would not be one of those characteristics. Long-term suicidal, via climate change, surely one can make that argument, but no rich man, no defender of the status quo, wants to live in a post-nuclear holocaust world, or one flooded and starving in rolling ecological collapse.

    As a moral and as an historical witness, I reject the notion that the left is somehow dis-empowered to a greater degree by the existence of a monster in the White House, together with the existing majority of monsters in congress. Obama’s record of GOP collusion is sufficiently grim to dispel illusions on that score.

    I would not argue that the worse things get, the stronger the resistance becomes, but I do not see it becoming weaker either, or having some advantage under Clinton it would not have under Trump. Fascism is inherent to capitalism, and arguing which capitalist party is the lesser evil is, to me, frankly embarrassing.

    “This discourse between twin capitalist parties is a black tie affair in a museum of democracy,” to quote myself. For the left to favor one evil over the other is to have given up.

    1. A look at history shows the opposite of what you are asserting – from 1972 onward, the Democrats have lost again and again – and the only “lesson” they took from from it has been to move further rightward with every candidate – only winning once they fielded some pretty right-wing presidential candidates like Bill Clinton.

      Furthermore, it was during the terms of these right-wing Democrats that the most effective movements on the left were resurgent – notably such as global economic justice movement (remember Seattle, Quebec, Goteborg, Genoa, DC, the World Social Forum?) and the anti-Iraq Sanctions movement. This all came to an end with the election of Bush in a close election largely determined by by the anti-LEV faction, including Nader supporters** who decided against wiser perspectives that there was no difference between Bush and Gore. Well, there ended up being a difference.

      Also, I cannot fail to notice that the anti-LEV advocates tend to base their arguments almost entirely on a single issue – Hillary’s hawkish foreign policy history, while ignoring all other issues of importance, and also seemingly failing to notice that there are plenty of Republicans who will acquire powerful positions under a Trump presidency who make Hillary look like Eugene McCarthy. Those on the US left who think Hillary is unacceptably right-wing and indistinguishable from a Republican really need to get up from their keyboards, go to a neighborhood bar, and chat with some real-life Republicans.

      **I worked for the Nader campaign and voted for Nader in 2000. While I understand that Nader did not actually influence the election (had a full recount in Florida been done), it certainly was our intent to influence the election. For that, I admit I participated in a big mistake based on exactly the beliefs that Chomsky debunks above

      1. They may yet learn a lesson when they clearly lose due to third-party defection, and my point was not so much the past history as the current ‘historical’ phenomenon of Bernie Sanders, to which Ralph Nader does not compare.

        I raised a number of issues, and Queen Hillary’s war mongering tendencies were only mentioned in passing. The point is the base of both parties are disgusted with their establishment leadership, Trump and Sanders are both evidence of this, and both parties, the duopoly itself, relies on this accursed Lesser Evil Voting mechanism for its perpetuation. Breaking this electoral cycle is going to require quite a lot of extra-electoral work between elections, and from a Sandernista third-party perspective, a willingness to endure monsters in office in consequence. There will never be a viable alternative party unless the future comes to matter more than the present day election.

        See, “Lesser of Two Evils Vote is Counterproductive and Morally Corrupt” at http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/13/lesser-of-two-evils-vote-is-counterproductive-and-morally-corrupt/

        While the moral issue is broached, the counterproductive issue is the more important in that piece.

        Finally, my veneration for Noam Chomsky is undiminished by his over-thinking in this merry-go-round of ‘pragmatism,’ the self-same misguided notion the Dems have pedaled to defeat Sanders. Where, indeed, does it end?

      2. Don’t you know that Bush stole the 2000 election? I am sick of hearing Nader (whom I voted for, in that & other elections) being blamed for Gore’s loss. First of all, read The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, & see how the voter rolls were purged of presumed -i.e.- mostly Black & poor – Dem voters. Next, review statistical analyses by Richard Charnin, among others, which demonstrate that enough election shenanigans occurred in enough states, that Gore actually won by about 7 million votes. Lastly, ask yourself why Gore refused to contest the initial results, didn’t insist on a full Fl recount, that is, folded. And in 2004 Kerry actually won, the worst election fraud having occurred in Ohio. He, too, caved, with almost no hesitation. “Election fraud is as American as apple pie.” In fact its taken place during this Dem primary, in virtually every state. Even Bernie’s wins were shaved.

        1. Yes, of course the Supreme Court perpetrated a judicial coup. But had Nader not been on the ballot in Florida, the vote would not have been close enough for the court to steal the election for Bush. I’m amazed Nader voters are so unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions.
          History isn’t too kind about Nader’s suggestion there wasn’t much difference between tweeedle Dee and tweedle Dum as he put it. Here’s what Bush gave us that Gore would not have: the Iraq War, two of the five Republican justices who voted for Citizens United and to eviscerate the voting rights act, and 8 years of climate change denial.

    2. Nicely said anonym.

      Your argument is better than Chomsky’s but I still find it compelling, especially this early on, to push for the lowest voter turn out in history. As a moral and historical witness, I see utterly no value in voting, especially considering the grim realities we face (and many, many people have been facing for centuries) with no hope for the electoral process helping to change course in any meaningful way for any of us.

      The game is rigged to the extent that even third party participation is so obstructed as to be a waste of time and money for little to no good framework from which massive shifts can grow. Our remedies do not exist within the electoral system anymore.

      In fact, we urgently need everyone telling the rest of the world we do not have a legitimate democracy.

      1. George Carln is nodding is head somewhere in the universe. One has to wonder what goes on behind closed doors to get Gore and Kerry not to contest and Sanders to cave. We are all pawns in a game of thrones.

  3. The problem with LEV is a practical one: most people vote straight party line. If they stay home in a safe state all the down ballot candidates will lose their vote. In a society where a majority of voters often fail to vote, not out of principle, but laziness, it is impractical to recommend LEV, imagining that voters will apply it down to the level of School Board. They will make a calculation based on the top of the ticket and their vote will be lost to the candidates who can build a future for liberalism.

    1. Reasonable objection. The longstanding tendency towards political disengagement you note needs to be counteracted, of course, though I think that it is mostly a symptom of a pathology which could, at least in principle, be addressed if the movement developing from the Sanders campaign gets its footing. I may write a subsequent piece where go into more detail. Thanks for your comment, in any case.

      1. So, what are you saying, none of the other objections are reasonable?

        😉

        Here are a few references from my recent Twitter timeline (@NineInchBride) you and everyone else in this discussion may find useful:

        http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/04/political-revolution-and-the-third-party-imperative/

        http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/05/30/no-i-wont-work-hillary-clinton-response-robert-reich

        http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/13/lesser-of-two-evils-vote-is-counterproductive-and-morally-corrupt/

        http://www.greanvillepost.com/2016/05/11/there-will-be-no-lesser-evil/

        http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/29/us-presidential-election-beyond-lesser-evilism/

        http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/35570-what-will-lesser-evilism-look-like-in-2016

        http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/26/imagine-no-clintons/

        http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/36160-read-between-the-lines-the-case-for-bernie-sanders-running-as-an-independent

        http://billmoyers.com/segment/jill-stein-and-cheri-honkala-on-third-party-politics/

        I couldn’t find the article which broached the absurdity of LEV when less than 50% of eligible voters vote, leaving a literal majority for third-parties to tap, but it may be in the last one, the Jill Stein interview. There is a treasure trove of additional thinking on topic at the domains above, CounterPunch in particular, which may be worth a search.

        I seem to vaguely recall Noam Chomsky making this same LEV mistake in past elections. Am I wrong? It would be grand to see him and others change their minds on this at long last.

  4. IF Chomsky DID write this then his famous mind is slipping. I hope to be as persuasive when I am dead wrong as he is. HOWEVER, he is still wrong. Historically he is wrong because we of the left are in the position we are precisely BECAUSE the Democrats can ALWAYS count on us to reluctantly vote for them. Which is why they ignore our interests and the interests of African Americans and organized labor (or what is left of it’s corpse after Clinton 1 killed it.) So their argument that somehow voting for Clinton will strengthen the movement is blatantly stupid. But let’s look at their points. Point 1 is wrong. WE ARE AS CITIZENS supposed to vote our conscience REGARDLESS of the consequences! That is our civil duty. Any statement otherwise demeans us as people and the act of voting. They should be shamed for suggesting otherwise. Point 2 is there to simply muddy the water. Voting for ANYONE rather than SOMEONE else will ALWAYS improve one candidates chances over the other. Point 3 MAY or MAY NOT be true but if they do not also list the shortcomings of the presumptive Dem nominee then this is simply propaganda! Almost everything on Trumps list is ALMOST or HAS BEEN things the presumptive Democratic nominee has done or supported! Point 4 cannot be ASSUMED since they did not contrast Trumps positions with Clintons. Since Clinton has espoused policies that could well lead to MORE “eternal war” with Iran AND Russia you could argue that Trumps policies though terrible have a lesser chance of starting WW3 than Clintons oft repeated mantra of being “more muscular” than Obama. Since point 4 has no merit point 5 has no merit. Point 6 is wrong BECAUSE IF the left mobilizes for Stein there is a good chance the election would go to the House and they would elect Clinton anyway. 7 and 8 are simply wordy bullshit. Weak arguments to coerce support of a war hawk corrupt politician should be beneath Chomsky. IF he wrote this write him off he’s unfortunately finally lost his game.

    1. How will the Democratic Party ever know of these protest non-votes from their left? An election is not a detailed opinion survey, so the votes cast do not contain the information necessary to give the Democratic party your intended message. If they lose, they will assume that their positions were too far to the left, and move further rightward. Recall George McGovern (look him up if you are young).

      And Jill Stein is probably not going to even be on the ballot in a lot of states – including my populous state. She will do, at very best, as well as Nader did in 2000 when there was similar disgust with both candidates – 2.5%

    2. I’ll skip a formal reply to the disgusting comment regarding a “mind slipping” and challenge your suggestion that Trump is a foreign policy dove.

      In a number of speeches and interviews Trump has espoused a crude 19th century imperialism in that he claims the war in Iraq would have been justified in the US had taken the Iraqi oil. And he made a similar comment regarding Libya.

      He has been all over the map regarding foreign policy – but projecting a favored position on Israel like Clinton. Any attempt to claim he’s less prone to intervention is fantasy – especially when considering temperament. And given that he will be required to surround himself with advisors from the party that has engineered and promoted ALL of the military foreign interventions since Vietnam, why would anyone believe that his administration would be less likely to intervene than Clinton’s?

    3. Your mistake comes from your belief that the Democratic Party will respond to the far left’s proposed abandonment of the Party by tailoring their platform to appease them. This couldn’t be further from reality, as history attests. The result of a Clinton loss would be to forge a coalition with disaffected moderate independents and Republicans disgusted by Tea Party politics, a larger a more reliable source of votes. As has happened before, the result of an angry progressive insurgency will be to push the party Right.

      The base of the Democratic coalition continues to be widely moderate to centrist in nature. Even succeeding in co-opting the party for the fringe left would result in a loss of support from enough in the base to destroy the national aspirations of the party anyhow. The party is not a car you merely need the keys for to drive your policies home.

      Sometimes in a democracy you have to concede to the victor after a hard fought debate on policy. That debate has occurred, and even in the left-skewed world of the primaries, the result is clear and incontrovertible: more moderate policy has won the day. The question that remains is, will the fringe left respect democracy or throw a fit in an effort to thwart it?

      1. Anyone celebrating the DP primary process as anything other than a deeply flawed and highly corrupt exercise of the power in the hands of corporate elites and their servants in the party leadership is either misinformed or among the “cynical functionaries” operating “in bad faith”, as the piece refers to them.

    4. Yeah, I find it all strange as well. The other point that has me shaking my head is that it is June!!

      If there even was a chance of getting a candidate to change and respond, you stand your ground and withhold your vote. You don’t say, “okay, this is a provisional stance, but if the vote were tomorrow, you’ve got us all on ‘the Trump is fucking scary thing’, so we’re in for Hillary.”

      Voting doesn’t change the Democratic Party, voting third party doesn’t change the Democratic Party, putting Bernie in the primaries isn’t changing the Democratic Party. The problem though, is not the Democratic Party. It is that the entirety of the American Presidential Election extravaganza is a joke. It is a multibillion dollar public relations campaign designed and managed to help US citizens and the rest of the world believe there is such a thing as democracy.

      Participating in it has no positive effect.

      Bush was not elected, we know that (and Nader has nothing to do with it, it’s a shame he didn’t have something to do with it). Hillary is supported by the same people that put Bush in office. To participate in anything other than attempting to cast a light on the fraud and abuse is to confer legitimacy on an illegitimate system.

    5. “So their argument that somehow voting for Clinton will strengthen the movement is blatantly stupid.”
      That’s a blatantly stupid distortion of the argument. The argument is that the progressive cause will be set back more by a Trump presidency than a Clinton presidency.

      “But let’s look at their points. Point 1 is wrong. WE ARE AS CITIZENS supposed to vote our conscience REGARDLESS of the consequences! That is our civil duty. Any statement otherwise demeans us as people and the act of voting. They should be shamed for suggesting otherwise. ”

      Way to beg the question. “Supposed to”? “Duty” According to whom, and why? Utter nonsense based on an unsupported assumption. It doesn’t sound like you read the article.

  5. [This is a corrected version.]

    In general, I question why the Chomsky/Halle points have been made as if there are no other electoral alternatives for voters. In other words, the arguments are all premised on a presumed model that does not reflect the commitments and actual choices available to many voters around the country. This calls in question the rather arbitrary lumping together of non-rightwing voters into a supposed “left” that is pointedly addressed by the authors’ arguments.

    Surely, that’s a flawed presumption since those who identify with parties other than the major corporate duopoly parties do already have an electoral alternative that they support and to which they have an allegiance in promoting. As a Green Party US supporter, I consider it a questionable slight-of-hand for the authors to pretend or assume that the only responsible choice (or to use your phrase “the most effective response”) available to non-rightwing voters is the Democratic party in this electoral cycle’s “Hobson’s choice.” Indeed, for Greens and other third-party supporters, there is an alternative non-Hobson’s choice that weakens the relevance of the points made by you in support of a lesser-evil voting strategy.

    You should also note that, given the closed-primary and other exclusive rules of the Democratic party, countless voters registered as Democrats for the sole purpose of having their progressive preferences counted in the primaries. Whether all of them are to be aggregated into a categorical “left” is also questionable, since perhaps many have never voted before, have abstained, or are only now eligible to vote for the first time, owing to their youth. When it appears that unprecedented numbers of young people have chosen to participate in the primary electoral process because they have heard a truth-teller recognize, describe and forcefully and intelligently advocate for the practical, everyday, existential truth of their lives, that does not make them members of the left, nor should they implicitly or explicitly be presumed to be leftist, let alone be considered to be leftist ideologues.

    Although many additional assumptions are made about what a Trump presidency might bring (that I, for argument’s sake, can stipulate to), there are also other relative or comparative and implicit assumptions that seem biased in favor of how a Clinton presidency would be different. Specifically, see point 3, where clear negatives of Trump pronouncements are highlighted, without pointing out the clear negatives of Clintonian postures and positions. For example, she was a vigorous proponent of worldwide fracking, while she was Secretary of State, and is a continuing supporter of that form of fossil fuel extraction that is known to generate and release methane gas that has many more times the global-warming greenhouse effect than other fossil fuels; in fact, she opposes banning fracking, and misguidedly refers to it as a “transitional technology,” so she is clearly no champion in the fight to reverse or stop global warming and quickly move to renewable green technologies. The authors’ bias on that score is faulty, and not at all a demonstrable (let alone defensible) difference to contrast with Trump.

    Also with respect to immigration, she may not favor a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., but she is adamant about maintaining border controls and even favors the return of immigrant children who cross our borders fleeing violence in their own countries. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtu50I9IMys Also, her astounding lack of sympathy and empathy for the many children and other innocents abused, and even slaughtered, in the Palestinian territories occupied by an extreme, rightwing, brutal Israeli apartheid regime is arguably and morally worse, and no less repugnant than Trump’s support for a ban.

    Moreover, her openness to using a nuclear option to obliterate Iran is comparable to Trump’s (and her hawkish credentials are far more well established than Trump’s, hence her propensity for using lethal force is more credible than Trump’s). (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/04/clintons-obliterate-iran_n_100031.html)

    Furthermore, Clinton is unknown as a champion for safeguarding and preserving the American “safety net.” She was a high-ranking member of an administration that has collaborated with the rightwing agenda to weaken social welfare program spending, without any indication of her opposition to such collaboration or weakening of government programs in support of the most needy. Indeed, there is nothing in her record that supports confidence that she, unlike Mr. Obama, would not agree and sign into law further cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, as the president enacted two years ago in the farm bill, which heartlessly cut $8.7 billion in food assistance to 47 million people in need (including the elderly, the disabled, children, the unemployed and underemployed, and even veterans).

    Yes, talk to us about point 4 and “the suffering which these and other similarly extremist policies and attitudes will impose on marginalized and already oppressed populations.” Please. You simply have not demonstrated by what you have pointed out that a Clinton presidency would have significantly less baneful effects on the most vulnerable, both within and outside our national boundaries.

    So wherefore the fact-free assumption of “lesser evil” when, in fact, as Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton has directly presided, during the course of her tenure, over the sale of arms and weapons of mass destruction (e.g., bombs and missiles and other armaments) to governments and regimes around the world that can be counted among the world’s most heinous human rights violators, and when such arms decisions and foreign aid have only further armed a region of the world, the Middle East, known for its many atrocities and for being a continuing crime scene?

    No, you don’t get to make up your own rationales for “lesser evil” when the existing record clearly does not support such an invidious comparison.

    A Trump victory (if that were even possible) would signal the last dying gasp of an effete neoliberal/neoconservative duopoly that has proven its utter failure and disinclination to work for the greater good, let alone the common good, of most citizens.

    Consider that for a third-party people’s alternative to win the White House outright would necessarily mean that neither of the two major corporate parties have won the lion’s share of the electorate. When that day comes — and it can only come because neither discredited party now commands a plurality of the electorate (with over 43% of the electorate now describing itself as independents) — it will be because things will look much as they do now, or even more acutely so.

    The corporate parties are in electoral disarray. A political truth-teller emerged in this quadrennial electoral cycle, who has searingly denounced and exposed the profound inadequacies and bribed donor-class allegiances evident in the prevailing duopoly.

    The Sanders candidacy has functioned as a necessary catalyst to ignite a popular groundswell of political consciousness about the status quo, the likes of which none of us has seen in our lifetimes.

    But, the great risk now is for that consciousness to be misdirected and dissipated through a lack of clear direction and leadership at this crucial juncture. Does anyone seriously believe that the authors’ lesser-evil candidate is “the one” to provide such leadership?

    Yes, the stakes are high. For the first time in a long time, a thoughtful people-centered progressive agenda has been presented and laid out, and what remains to be seen at this time is whether it can survive as a commanding platform for progressive change, whether within the questionable, unlikely and unsympathetic structure of the corporate-owned Democratic party establishment, or outside and beyond that inhospitable structure as a viable electoral program alternative into November and thereafter.

    Although no one has a crystal ball, it is apparent that the status quo does not want or favor, nor is even willing to concede the desirability of, a popular victory in this regard. So, indeed, there is good reason why such a large portion of the electorate (and not necessarily “leftists”) does not identify with either wing of the corporate duopoly and is unwilling to vote for either one.

    Can the people really take back their now-captured corporate governments at the municipal, state and federal levels? One might have supposed so, had Sanders prevailed in the overwhelming majority of primary contests. At this point, it remains unclear whether the millions of voters who did vote for him constitute a sufficiently large critical mass of citizens to be able to carry on the revolution. It remains to be seen.

    Unfortunately, the LEV strategy the authors argue for would only re-affirm a failed status quo. And a candidate who is perhaps even more beholden to the donor class than Trump is hardly a lesser evil when she has survived most of her political life as a handmaiden of an anti-populist power elite that is manifestly indifferent to the sufferings the authors point to as a rationale for considering Clinton a lesser evil.

    Following November, we may collectively enter into an utterly feckless and dystopic grid-locked legislative era in which the sham of governance in America is acknowledged to be the undeniable reality that must precede and yield to a truly overwhelming political revolution. At least, that’s a possible scenario.

    1. wow, the ignorance of the people posting on this page knows no bounds. clinton is unknown as a champion for safeguarding the american safety net? what exactly was her attempt, then, to develop a universal health care plan as first lady? and when that failed due to massive repub opposition, support of CHIP (children’s health ins) – which passed, and happens to be the largest expansion of taxpayer-funded expansion of health ins. since medicaid? you really need to get your facts straight.

      despite the claims of others in the comments here, the democratic party has *not* been able to reliably depend upon the votes of those on the left since the 70s and 80s, resulting in the repub dominance of national politics exemplified in the rise of reagan. due to the LOSS of the left as a reliable source of votes, the dems had to shift rightward in order to regain office (bill clinton) – and as a result, their mandate has been to govern more from the center, and not from the left. if the left were to actually be a reliable source of votes – if supporters of sanders (follow the recommendation outlined in this essay and) vote for clinton – then her mandate will be to govern more from the left. (as sanders supporters claim, she “panders to voters”, right? so then vote for her, and let her pander to you!)

      in any case, i can’t not comment here without mentioning the supreme court and citizen’s united. the next president will likely be appointing at least 2, and possibly up to 4, supreme court justices. for this reason alone, those on the left should make the smart decision and vote for clinton. the appointment of liberal justices is our only hope getting citizen’s united overturned, a crucial step if we want to get money out of politics, which i believe we all do.

      1. Interesting. Not a single assertion supported with even a shred of evidence. Clinton partisans see themselves as exempt from that requirement, apparently. Typical of the PMC (Professional Managerial Class) which is her core constituency, as Tom Frank nicely argues in his recent book Listen Liberal. (Of course the liberals won’t listen. That’s the joke.)

      2. Ignoring the fact, commentator a., that you seem to be presuming the partys’ stances are solely the result of political maneuvering, and ignoring the corporate hand that mostly guides both sides’ respective policies regardless of who wins or loses, I would simply state that the criticism leveled against HRC as pandering is not as you seem to understand. I don’t think any critics mean to express that she is pandering to VOTERS, but rather pandering to VOTES, and once the votes are cast the pandering ends, at least to the people. It seems fairly obvious she will continue to pander to her corporate backers. Also I think their have been a lot of valuable and well expressed points made in these postings, at least more valuable than calling everyone ignorant.

    2. “You simply have not demonstrated by what you have pointed out that a Clinton presidency would have significantly less baneful effects on the most vulnerable, both within and outside our national boundaries.”

      It’s not the article’s purpose to convince you that Clinton is the lesser evil. The argument is that voting for the lesser evil is sensible, an idea that your criticisms don’t weaken.

  6. I’d like to strongly disagree with smh, i gained a lot from all this so thanks to everyone else for writing and commenting on this post.

  7. John Halle and Noam Chomsky — whom I respect — are profoundly wrong here.
    First, they go too far in following the mainstream’s media’s lead in depicting Trump as some racist, fascist demagogue. As bad as he is, he is not the bogeyman they depict in hopes that enough people will be frightened into voting for Clinton.
    Second, Halle and Chomsky don’t fully acknowledge the truth about Hillary Clinton. She is not a progressive Democrat. She is a neoliberal neocon. In addition, she is deeply dishonest and untrustworthy.
    We face a nightmarish choice, which means the American people are screwed for at least the next four years.
    I am a diehard supporter of Bernie Sanders. I want to see the political revolution he talks about happen. Which is why I offer two compelling reasons to vote for Trump and against Clinton.
    (1) With Trump, we will have an opportunity for positive change four years from now. He will likely be a weak incumbent. With Clinton, four years from now we will be faced with the same terrible choice we have this year: Clinton or a Republican.
    (2) Bernie Sanders now appears focused on working toward a progressive resurgence in the Democratic Party. If the Clintons are back in the White House, and the Clinton Democrats still control the Democratic Party, they will have the power, and the Machiavellian ruthlessness, to thwart any efforts at a progressive resurgence. If Trump wins, there will be no clear leader in the Democratic Party, the Clinton Democrats will have taken a big hit, and Sanders, et al, will have an opportunity to mount that progressive resurgence in the party. With Trump likely ripe for defeat in 2020, we can nominate a strong progressive for the Democratic nomination.
    The choice is clear. If not Sanders, then Trump, if only to stop Clinton and begin to take the party back from the neoliberal neocons who have done so much damage to this nation.

    1. “(1) With Trump, we will have an opportunity for positive change four years from now. He will likely be a weak incumbent. With Clinton, four years from now we will be faced with the same terrible choice we have this year: Clinton or a Republican.
      (2) Bernie Sanders now appears focused on working toward a progressive resurgence in the Democratic Party. If the Clintons are back in the White House, and the Clinton Democrats still control the Democratic Party, they will have the power, and the Machiavellian ruthlessness, to thwart any efforts at a progressive resurgence. If Trump wins, there will be no clear leader in the Democratic Party, the Clinton Democrats will have taken a big hit, and Sanders, et al, will have an opportunity to mount that progressive resurgence in the party. With Trump likely ripe for defeat in 2020, we can nominate a strong progressive for the Democratic nomination.

      The choice is clear. If not Sanders, then Trump, if only to stop Clinton and begin to take the party back from the neoliberal neocons who have done so much damage to this nation.”

      Best argument I’ve seen here for against voting for Clinton, but it’s not really an argument against LEV; you’re just saying that a Trump presidency would be the lesser evil. However, you apparently don’t understand how Trump’s SCOTUS picks could cripple the progressive movement longer and more completely than anything Clinton could do.

  8. Professor Chomsky is a hero of mine. Would that there were an elixir of youth. He’d be my first choice to receive it.

    But he’s wrong this time.

    Clinton is not a lesser evil, and voting for lesser evils in the past is precisely why we’ve come to the dangerous point in history where we’re at. So-called “liberal” Democrats have led the neoliberal revolution that has immiserated millions of Americans, not to mention the many millions more around the globe. It was Mrs. Clinton who beat the drums of war in Libya and Syria and who voted for the catastrophic war in Iraq.

    Voting for the lesser evil has led us inexorably to greater evil, not less. It’s time to unite and stand against the two-party duopoly, the two right-wing factions of the Property Party, as the late Gore Vidal put it. Lesser evilism equates with greater evil to come.

  9. “LEV – Lesser Evil Voting” is a form of negotiation with terrorists. Vote for the Democrat who acts like a Republican because if you don’t, you’re going to be stuck with this second incarnation of HItler. Trump is by and large running on the same values and policies the GOP has overtly or covertly promoted for decades. Hillary Clinton has garnered support of powerful neocons and conservatives, most of whom trust her as a safer bet for bought government than a loose cannon caricature of the GOP ideal, Trump.
    The truth is, if I vote for HIllary, I assuage the fears of conservatives and the plutocrats who, but for Donald Trump, have been able to institute the very policies he openly declares, ones that they would prefer to remain in that high-frequency, inaudible “dog-whistle” territory. The establishment has walked into the room wearing an explosive vest (Trump) and stated “Vote for HIllary or we’ll blow it all up.” And now two otherwise rational thinkers actually want the recipients of this “briefing” to feel as though we’re the ones making the threat? No, we didn’t make the rules that gave us two “evils.” We aren’t the ones making the threats. Look back over the last 8 years of take-no-prisoners, “say no to everything” GOP tactics that abandon the poor and feed the wealthy and well-connected. Shall we just throw our hands up and say, “you win?” You want to blame someone for the choices we have in this election? Blame someone else besides Bernie voters. And get it right this time. Give us a real choice, not “LEV.” ‪#‎StillSanders‬

  10. I believe this analysis is clear and concise. I would emphasize a few points. As to foreign policy , it is clear that Hillary is a militaristic hawk,but as you point out ,she is not a climate denier and the fate of the planet rests on the environmental crisis. Also,it is clear that Trump is so unstable without any institutional checks that the use of a nuclear holocaust becomes much more likely. One other point , are we seeing here a gap between those of us who experienced the historical defeat of the left with Nixon and the younger generation new to politics and more willing to be seduced by Moral Purity?

    1. yes, i think what we’re seeing on the left is a lack of awareness of history. combined with an undercurrent of misogyny, and a disapppointing lack of ability to recognize that one is believing a 25 yr right-wing smear campaign against hillary (“she’s a dishonest liar who can’t be trusted!” – all started by a completely unsubstantiated article written by william safire). the future of the planet, appointment of supreme court justices who may influence the course of our nation for 40+ years, and potential deportation of an entire group of people (muslims) (all the claims of “it’ll never happen!” = white folks who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about) – all of it, be damned.

  11. For the past couple of months I’ve watched as progressive after progressive jumps on the HRC bandwagon, and now this. I am deeply saddened that Mr. Chomsky would pen such nonsense. I will take it as face value that he in fact authored this essay, but the logic does not seem to me of his caliber. It reads more like activists becoming theorists. I am 52 years of age, and while I worship no man, Noam Chomsky comes closest to idolization for me, poster on the wall above the bed next to Farah Fawcett kinda’ thing. As a young man I clearly remember being inspired by his words, and continue to be awed at the quantity and quality of his thoughts and work. My personal determination to live my life with conviction, and integrity, and principled on rational thought were born from reading his words.

    The Lesser of Two Evils is the formula of the Status Quo. It is not new, in fact, it’s old and dusty, and used as the last resort when we are just too tired to fight any longer. It is the model that has brought us to today, ever 4 years we are asked to vote the lesser of two evils, it is going on 35 years as an eligible voter for me now. The point is that LEV has not worked up to this point so why do we think this time is any different? I have a 20 year old son, and what I try and share with him is that our country was not always like this, when I was his age there was MORE equality in this country than there is today…please understand that all of this is a choice and simply because it exists today does not mean that it needs to continue. But it won’t happen if we keep tossing our values out like a munching on a bunch of Flintstone chewables.

    In my lifetime voting LEV has resulted in a shift Right, and it will obviously do so again this year if we do as asked. I do not want to go any further Right, I am done. This year is different however…they say, Trump is the tyrant demagogue that must be stopped this cycle, and life as we know it is over if he is elected. Bullshit! What is it exactly that we expect this clown to do that hasn’t been done already; afraid of losing respect on international stage? Concerned with alienating our allies? Perhaps making new enemies? He will make living conditions more difficult for the 99%? He will get us in a war? He will destroy our environment? He will make us more racist? Look, there is ALWAYS a THEM and singling DJT out for his particular set of lunacy is really just naïve and fearmongering. I am a businessman, not a politician, so perhaps I am biased, but I understand Mr. Trump but don’t TRUST Hillary one iota. With DJT you know what you are up against, you know where you stand with the guy, he is a man of principles and operates within them. It’s exhausting trying to follow Hillary’s stance on any issue, and it means much less to me anyway because she will pander it away.

    I have tried to pass along to my son an understanding of how I live my life. I teach honesty and integrity, the value of hard work, the power of logical thought, and his responsibility to fight for a common good. I teach him how very hard it is to live your life according to a set of ideals that are often in stark contrast to how the rest of society views the issue. And I teach him that most days I fail, but the struggle to lift ourselves and others is a blessing and worthy of our labors. NOW I must tell him to forget this message and vote for the lying, pandering, warmongering, neo-liberal that stands for nothing, AND we KNOW her track record. So we won’t be surprised when HRC gets us into WWIII. And then we will escalate and exaggerate, Trump would have gotten us into ‘nuclear war’ we say to justify our shitty decision.

    I am more frightened by how everyone dreams up elaborate scenarios of what might happen under a Trump presidency, it borders on lunacy. Perhaps I did not get in the correct line when the Crystal Balls were handed out at the Progressive Convention, but it is inane logic to suggest that we have any idea how a Trump presidency might unfold. And why are the scenarios that we make up for Hillary, 100% of the time better and to the left of Trump? Because there is no truth in this thought!

    If what we profess what will happen, does happen, then perhaps this is the catalyst progressives need to continue what Bernie has created. Typically, historically, we elect someone in the Middle and they “aren’t bad” and the passion for change gets swept along with the status quo. We are comfortable. So perhaps Trump affords me the opportunity to vote my conscience, live with integrity, show leadership to my son, and use the grassroots energy of Sanders revolution to move Left with Trumps inevitable fall?

    Lastly, voting the lesser of two evils is in my mind is tantamount to getting handed a gun and told to choose between shooting your wife or shooting your daughter. I dismiss the premise in its entirety. This logic would say that both of them would die “anyway”, so by not choosing…or choosing to substitute my life, does not provide any value. Bullshit!

    So this grey haired old man, will vote for an equally grey haired and slightly older Bernie Sanders. The guy that probably pulled down as many Legal votes as Hillary, and that STILL BELIEVES IN PROGRESSIVE IDEALS AND IS WILLING TO STANDUP FOR THEM. I will take this so very rare of an opportunity to vote for the person with Character, and Integrity, and Values that I hold dear to my heart. I will vote my heart and watch the thing burn to the ground if my vote doesn’t ‘win.’ And I will do this because anything else is Less, anything else is a betrayal to what I hold important in my life.

    1. Thanks Sean, my family raised me with a similar philosophy.

      Casting a vote based on sound logic from one’s moral base is the only real way to make Democracy work. LEV is like routing for a sports team that isn’t “yours” because you want the other team to lose. It has no value except self-satisfaction from being on the winning side. It does not express the popular opinion and only further enshrines the two-party system, which is simply a tool used by the moneyed puppet masters (meaning they prop up one side or the other in relative opposition to enact legislation that is advantageous at some given point). If the guiding principle were to vote one’s actual choice, and this were acted on by voters, the political playing field would look very different and express a vast plurality of platforms. Furthermore, with such a plurality their would be a greater likelihood of any individual to be able to successfully run for public office (especially on the local level where the two party system dominates for no good reason other than to mirror the national politics), and for voters to feel more enfranchised, thusly drawing out a large portion of the non-voters.
      To make this happen–to act in a way that increases all Americans freedom to choose–simply requires voting your choice, not the lesser evil, and to not make that choice now because of fear of one guy is to never make that choice, because we will always be thrown a demagogue either in actuality or by distortion of their public appearance. LEV is the greatest evil in that it preempts actual choice.

  12. I think this article… and the comments that follow it on the site to be very valuable if we are going to begin to have a serious discussion of Plan B. However, at this point I think we need to listen very carefully to what Sanders is saying. Whether Sanders is nominated or not the key transition is how to coalesce the Populist Insurgency surrounding his Campaign into an organized and sustainable Mass Movement. Sanders’ challenge last week resulted in over 7 thousand people who share his values promising to run for office. Much of the discussion involves comparisons of the anticipated collateral damage to the most vulnerable populations in the US. Continued engagement of Sandersitas at all levels of governance will do much to blunt such damage resulting from either a Trump or Clinton Presidency while building the critical mass necessary for deep systemic change.

  13. I find the range of comments to be quite enlightening, but also to be quite frightening. There seems to be a level of ideology and denialism that the vote at the top of the ticket is somehow the most important process by which changes wrought. Unfortunately, the vehemently negative attitude toward all aspects of Clinton (both just and unjustly founded) and the propensity of some Sanders supporters to stay home rather than vote at all simply allow for a continual rise of radical right-wing candidates at all levels of government. The continued entrenchment of right-wing establishment and tea party candidates impacts voting laws, gerrymandering, the dysfunctionality of Congress, and eventually leads to unacceptable and longterm damage to the makeup of the judicial system up to and including the Supreme Court. That the most militant Sanders reporters supporters cannot understand that it is, in fact, the down ticket voting which makes the most impact on the political process as a whole is an egregious failure in both logic, civic responsibility and general intellect. I was a Sanders supporter from the beginning, but changed my allegiance after the primaries in my state were over largely because of the conceited rhetoric that I found to be so prevalent from the most vocal of the Sanders proponents. Coupled with Sanders’ outright refusal to offer support to down-ballot liberals and progressives cinched the deal for me. It’s a bit like burning down the Baskin-Robbins because they don’t have maple swirl ice cream… It does, in many ways, ring tragic memories of the Nixon election. We, as a nation, cannot afford to remain apathetic in our voting habits if we ever expect to elicit change. That must include running and actively supporting liberal and Progressive candidates in every local and state level election Across the Nation. We cannot expect any changes to result when we focus purely on the presidential election, but leave all of other governments to fall completely by the wayside. This is the single most abject failure of our political party system as it stands today yes, the two party system is broken and will take a huge amount of work to fix, ultimately the two party system or “first-past-the-post” voting, needs to find its well-earned end. But, that will never happen unless we have created the foundation by which that change can occur. Anything less than that is simply petulant whining.

  14. A lot of people (on the left especially, but some on the right as well) seem to overstate the presidency, it’s an important position, yes, but due to it’s very nature it is both the hardest for progressive groups to seriously capture, and the position where a right-wing victory does the most damage. It’s thus very much favours the kind of LEV calculus the essay favours.

    And this without having a substantial base or organization. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of positions that are actually within reach (both federal and local) and who can be used as a base to further strengthen progressive agendas. (especially in mid-term elections)

    There’s this romantic image of a candidate being brought in by a surge of popular support (which I suspect is the reformist left’s version of the violent revolution) but disregarding the fact that improving matters not only takes years, but usually means taking what small pieces you can grab and trying to expand it, not seizing everything in some grand movement.

    1. This is a common argument but I’m unconvinced that a “bottom up” versus “top down” strategy is more likely to yield results for liberals. History seems to indicate otherwise. Down-ballot offices are often heavily gerrymandered and/or captive to the local machine and hard for non-establishment candidate to win and hold.

  15. I feel that the arguments expressed by Mr. Halle and Mr. Chomsky are circular. If leftists believe that a Clinton presidency will be a failure and inevitably lead to a Republican victory in 2020, then they would be perpetrating a fraud on the most vulnerable by advocating LEV.

  16. By what weird logic is “we care about people’s suffering, third party supporters do not” not itself an exercise in moralism?

    1. As we explicitly say we care about “The basic moral principle: not only must we take responsibility for our actions, but the consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves.” But it is a different moral principle from “The lesser of two evils is still evil.” The point is no one has the moral high ground here, thus: “those reflexively denouncing advocates of LEV on a supposed “moral” basis should consider that their footing on the high ground may not be as secure as they often take for granted to be the case.” Hope that’s clear.

  17. “I watched my parents vote for the lesser of two evils — and where has it gotten us?

    Has the lesser evil ever reversed climate-change?
    It has not — the earth continues to suffer beneath us.

    Has the lesser evil ever helped the millions of humans in our prisons?
    It has not — our prison populations are growing as I write this.

    Has the lesser evil ever protected us from the financial institutions that prey on us?
    It has not — in fact, it has protected them from us.

    Has the lesser evil ever stopped the seemingly endless wars?
    It has not — in fact, since leaving Vietnam, in 1975, we’ve only had 5 years of peace.

    Has the lesser evil ever reversed our increasing income-inequality?
    It has not — every year, income inequality only grows larger.

    “Honestly, has the lesser evil ever made things better?”
    by John Laurits

    1. I filled up the tank with gas. But where has it gotten us?

      Did it stop the leak in the back tire?
      No. The tire is still going flat.

      Has it prevented the passengers side seat from falling through the floor?
      Not at all. The rust is just as bad. Every day I worry my kid end up on the pavement when I drive him to school.

      Has it addressed the misfiring spark plugs on all the cylinders?
      No. The engine still cuts out when we go up hills.

      Does it mean that I can now shift into reverse?
      No, the transmission is still just as shot as it was before I filled up the tank.

      Honestly, what has filling up the tank with gas ever done for us?

      1. A full tank of gas in a broken down car is as useless as a Lesser Evil vote in an electoral system designed to frustrate the will of the people.

        When both parties present candidates with a well-deserved, high, public unfavorability rating, this is effectively a mockery of democracy that will not be redeemed by any voting strategy.

        With an even number of justices on the Supreme Court, even the unconstitutional selection of a President by the court as occurred in 2000, will not be possible.

        The election process itself is becoming moot in this era of ever less respect for the Constitution, by its Constitutional officers.

        1. Correct: The “electoral system (is) designed to frustrate the will of the people.” So the rational response is to attempt to achieve the limited results which are possible within in it and then devote energy to those forms of activism which have a chance to succeed. I don’t understand why so many have difficulty grasping this basic logical point.

          1. The arrow of time points from the highly ordered state of the past, to the high entropy state of the present, toward a future heat death.

            So much for physics.

            Time’s arrow of social entropy points from a localized past higher state of order to the high social entropy state of the present—to use the entropy metaphor.

            Perhaps all we have to look forward to is palliative care in our decline into a social entropic heat death.

            Margaret Thatcher said there is no society, only individuals. If this is accepted as a truism—and it is in some quarters— then there is no recognized debt to society, and no recognized crime against society, for no violation against that which does not exist is possible.

            Back to physics: the post Big Bang low entropy state is thought to be unreachable from here and now.

            Are the forces of social disorder so great that justice, empathetic human caring, and decency have transitioned into utopianism?

            If there is no alternative, then perhaps we must—and can only—choose evil under any guise in which it presents itself.

            If the only end we must move toward has many means to arrive there, then what do the means matter, aside from one with merciful palliative care?

            Does this thinking conform with Lesser Evil Voting?

          2. I’d like to thank you for posting this here and not emailing it to Noam. Since he actually knows some physics, it would drive him completely crazy in that he would feel he would have to patiently explain what entropy is and is not, likely requiring hours of his remaining time as an inhabitant of this planet. Me, I don’t really know that stuff, thereby exempting from the responsibility. So thanks again for posting it here and not there!

          3. “…the rational response is to attempt to achieve the limited results which are possible within in it…”

            That’s essentially what all sides are arguing: what is the ‘limited result’ that is ‘achievable’ given all choices are to some degree ‘evil.’ My argument is that the third-party option has never looked more promising, thanks to Bernie Sanders, and to some lesser extent to Jill Stein’s courageous persistence, and therefore at this juncture historically is the ‘least worst’ evil, to borrow Chris Hedges phrase (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/con_vs_con_20160619)

            Initially I thought the LEV argument itself mistaken, now I can see from reading all these viewpoints that, indeed, there is no evading it. The question really is: what is the lesser evil that is achievable?

            Given Sanders current role in guiding the DNC not to blow it versus Trump, a la Trans-Pacific Partnership for example, has not changed my view on voting Green Party, whether he succeeds or not. We all know that platforms are just for show, and Queen Hillary in particular knows no law.

            What is achievable is taking Sanders’ momentum and channeling it into the beginning, at least, of a viable third-party alternative. Arguably, the Green Party, with its eco-socialist bent, is the best vehicle available.

            What is achievable is a focus on the country’s electoral future, not on issue or party or candidate expediency in the present.

            Still hoping to see some minds change here.

          4. I think perhaps the reason why so many are having difficulty grasping that basic logical point (that the electoral system is designed to frustrate the will of the people; so rationally, attempt to achieve whatever limited results are possible, and then get on with the really important work), is because it places too much responsibility for activism and action in their own hands.

            I might also suggest that this basic logical point is not presented clearly (and perhaps necessarily: repeatedly!) as the framing concept for the overall piece.

            I am relatively fresh from reading one of Professor Chomsky’s recent publications, “Who Rules the World?”, and as I read this piece, I still had ringing in my mind, one of the central themes that runs through that work: that Elections are a distraction, designed and maintained to frustrate the will of the people.

            Serious, effective and enduring change has never and can never come from participation (however well tactically or strategically informed) in the “Election” side-shows run by Establishment Elites. This is a point made repeatedly by Chomsky in many of his works, and with that as context, this co-authored piece doesn’t seem in any way aberrant or misguided.

            So there’s another Side-show taking place in 2016, with another brace of wholly unappealing candidates, so what..? Flip a coin… Pick the one that seems least odious to you… In the Grand Scheme of Things, it really doesn’t make a lot of difference whether it is President Trump, President Clinton II, or even President Stein (if it should ever come down to that).

            The mass and weight of the power invested in the established political and social system, is not to be located in the body of a single individual, before, during or after these popularity contests. The vested interests that fund, promote, approve and direct political candidates are not subject to democratic election or deselection. To cleanly and completely remove the Financial, Military, Energy and Geo-Political tapeworms that have wound themselves tightly around the gut of the Body Politic is going to take a lot more effort than merely choosing whether to press a Red, Blue or Green button.

            Tactically, in the narrow and virtually irrelevant context of a single Presidential Election Cycle, maybe Hilary Clinton is the lesser evil out of the two main party candidates. But she could just as plausibly be the greater evil, because she so epitomises the Establishment: a vote for Clinton could be a vote for the status quo; whereas a vote for Trump is a vote against the status quo.

            But there is simply no way of knowing which is which. The whole principle of (tactical) Lesser Evil Voting rests on an ability to accurately foresee the future; and again, has to be considered in the context of these Elections being primarily a distraction – albeit one where the Establishment becomes slightly and only momentarily vulnerable.

            When and where there is a sufficient level of popular support for substantial and (hopefully) sensible change in the management of human affairs, and that support is effectively co-ordinated and coherent: nobody is going to wait around for the next Election Cycle. And nor should they.

            Effective social and political change comes from co-ordinated disengagement from established systems; not from reluctant, but “tactically shrewd” engagement. It takes a tremendous degree of effort, not a little personal sacrifice, and above all, a determination to achieve change on one’s own terms, not within the boundaries permitted by those you seek to change.

            In a National Referendum in my own country last week, I voted to “Leave” the European Union. I’m not a racist, I’m not xenophobic, I’m certainly not a Nationalist, and I could care less whether it is distant and disconnected politicians in Brussels, Westminster or Washington, D.C. that I am personally disregarded by.

            I voted “Leave”, and I have spent the last three months actively encouraging other people to vote “Leave”, because I understood fully that for the U.K. to withdraw from the European Union was not what any leading interest in the Establishment desired. I was even fortunate enough to receive some campaign literature from the Official “Remain” Campaign that listed all of the organisations, corporations, wealthy individuals and global politicians that supported “Remain”. Fortunate because it saved me from having to type up my own list of exactly the same entities and individuals to use as justification for a vote for “Leave”.

            I wanted to thwart the desire of the Establishment. I wanted to see the whole Establishment (in Britain at least, but hopefully in Berlin, Brussels and Paris) in a state of blind panic. I knew that the British Prime Minister had only consented to the Referendum to try to silence internal party divisions, and on the basis that a victory for “Remain” was a racing certainty.

            The reaction to the “Leave” vote has been astounding. All of a sudden, my fellow Citizens have finally woken up to what has been done and is being done in their names. I think it is fantastic that those who voted “Remain” have suddenly found their indignant voices, and are now rapidly informing themselves about the actual detail of their choices.

            Who really knows whether “Leave” was the better choice? If it was the lesser or greater of the two “Evils” presented to the British Public last week? The fact of the matter is that by thwarting and disrupting the desires of the Establishment, everything has been thrown into disarray, and the British Public has become more politically engaged, by several orders of magnitude, than it has been since at least the 1970’s.

            If I were a voter in the United States this November, my sensibility would probably steer me towards a vote for Trump as the “Lesser Evil”. Simply on the basis that the shock and horror that would sweep across America (and the Rest of the World) if he should win the Election, is far more likely to precipitate and galvanise widespread (and long overdue) political activism amongst the People of the United States.

            More likely… But not certainly. Because it is impossible to be certain about the Future.

            And, of course, as the co-authors of this piece remind us:

            The idea that the choices we make, if we participate in these Elections. might have any kind of influence on the direction our Societies travel in, is only faintly connected with the reality of our situation.

            The kind of changes we need to make, when they are ready to take place, will not wait for the appointed and authorised opportunity to officially verify their popularity.

            When Real Change comes, the current Electoral Systems will simply be too weak to continue to frustrate the Will of the People.

            We are certainly seeing that weakness already; all that remains, is for the People to sufficiently strengthen their Will. And then we may finally have the opportunity to choose the Greater Good.

  18. Good morning!
    Have you read this article which is a response your article?

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/17/no-lesser-evil-not-this-time/
    by John Smolski

    He makes some excellent points! Would be interested to hear how you respond to the authors challenges to your position.

    For example (climate change):

    “For instance, on climate change they state that Trump “denies the existence of global warming, calls for increasing use of fossil fuels, dismantling of environmental regulations and refuses assistance to India and other developing nations as called for in the Paris agreement, the combination of which could, in four years, take us to a catastrophic tipping point.” What is left unsaid is that Clinton only rhetorically accepts the existence of climate change, that under her tenure at the State Department she pushed for privatization of PEMEX, for more fracking, and has continuously stated she would continue policies beneficial to fossil fuel companies. Further, and known most likely to both Halle and Chomsky, the Paris agreement dropped the more direct language on reparations for ecological debt that were part of the Lima draft agreement, for the less direct language about transferring knowledge and research to aid in reducing effects. Nor has it mattered whether a Democrat or a Republican is in power in terms of global CO2 emissions, which rise in either case, as production is moved around the world-system in accordance with the trade agreements pushed by both parties. Thus, the consequences for the planet are identical whomever is elected. Halle and Chomsky would be hard pressed to dispute that fact.”

    Or the military:

    On militarism, we have a candidate, Clinton, with a clear record, from Serbia to Libya, from Honduras to Paraguay, of supporting coups, militarization of authoritarian regimes, breaking international law, and genuinely following the neoconservative playbook in trying to make the 21st Century another century of American hegemony and empire. Militarism is highly destructive on the environment, and the US military is one the principal consumers of fossil fuels, on top of dispersing environmentally destructive materials around the world (agent orange, depleted uranium, etc.). When Halle and Chomsky write, “Trump has also pledged to increase military spending while cutting taxes on the rich, hence shredding what remains of the social welfare “safety net” despite pretenses”, this could just as easily apply to Hillary, a candidate who has already stated she would like to expand Plan Colombia-style policy in the Western Hemisphere. Further, we know Hillary supported the destruction of welfare, the repeal of Glass-Stegall, and has pushed for privatizing social security (Bill supported this at the 2012 convention with the Simpson-Bowles budget).

    Thank you!

    1. More or less typical of the level at Counterpunch recently, described by Doug Henwood as Cockburn but without the brains and wit.

      Not really worth responding to. I’ll cut and paste Max Sawicky’s response which deals with the basic points.

      Meanwhile I see goofy arguments from lefts that discount the importance of Bernie’s priority of keeping Trump out of the White House. Would that they were left enough to appreciate the dangers of fascism.

      One delusion is that there is little difference between Trump and Clinton. This is not well-founded on any comparison of policy proposals since Trump has no policies; he has psychoses. His penchant for changing his view in mid-sentence is well-known. So what can be foreseen about him as president? In my view there will be two Trumps in the White House.

      One is utterly ignorant in all policy areas and uninterested in becoming informed. He will be putty in the hands of a Republican Congress. (It’s reasonable to expect that a Trump victory will be matched by Republican control of both houses of Congress.) Such a Congress would take a wrecking ball to the U.S. welfare state.

      Every so often I see lefty comments to the effect that our welfare state has been destroyed, so there is nothing left to defend. In actuality, over $700 billion a year is devoted to means-tested programs, in addition to our much larger social insurance system, in addition to state and local government spending. Ms Clinton might interest herself in trimming the edges in objectionable ways (they call it “modernizing,” or “strengthening the program”), but there is no case for her matching the scale of destruction that the Republicans promise.

      It is true that the Clintons were responsible for destroying the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, but there has been no indication that they would follow suit for other Federal anti-poverty benefits. Liberal defenders of so-called welfare reform have been put back on their heels rather than urging more of the same.

      The greater lefty delusion is that Trump would somehow be less adventurist in foreign policy than Ms Clinton. This gets me to Trump #2. While his policy pronouncements are murky, his dependence on the mob is clear. He is good at reading it and performing for it.

      What is the mob? Its proletarian character has been exaggerated. Perhaps some mistake its boorish behavior for that of working people, in contrast, say, to some well-heeled student out of Stanford University. What comes out most clearly is the desire for violence, the hatred of minorities, of gays, of immigrants, of women. The thirst for violence is two-tiered.

      One tier is street level abuse of other Americans. I would argue that indulgence of such scenarios is related to Trump’s denunciations of the press. I have doubts that the left would be able to function even at its present level given Trump’s lack of commitment to democratic norms.

      The other tier is the wish for mass violence committed by the U.S. military against foreigners. I’ve tried to establish my opposition to Ms Clinton’s brand of American exceptionalism. Those who would rank it as more dangerous than a Trump administration need to answer this question: given his rhetoric to date, not to mention his loopy foreign policy advisers, how do you think a President Trump would react to a non-trivial provocation from what could be labeled an Islamic source? He has has spoken of his desire to “bomb the shit out of them.” I understand that remark as a lack of concern for any collateral damage. When the subject of water-boarding has come up, he promises to go further, as if torture is not a device for obtaining intelligence, however dubious, but as a means of punishment.

      In a nutshell, the Trump campaign displays all sorts of sirens, flashing lights, and strains of the Ride of the Valkyries, signaling danger. Obliterating his campaign would have the added benefit of diminishing Republican prospects in other races. I submit that this would be a good thing.

      In summary, if you’re any kind of semi-conscious lefty, you have to want to see a Republican Party meltdown, the counterpart of which is a Democratic Party landslide, this year.

      1. Many of us do not see the desire for ‘a Republican Party meltdown’ somehow antithetical to voting third-party. As Jill Stein points astutely points out, though admittedly it is self-serving (in a good way), more than 50% of the eligible voters in the US don’t vote. How can you reasonably claim not-voting-Clinton in this election is somehow supporting Trump? There is a landslide victory in disillusioned, disaffected, call-it-what-you-will voters out there, a great many I’d venture to say who are just waiting for—no, I was going to say ‘a viable third-party alternative—for a viable symbol of opposition to both establishment parties and the duopoly itself—in order to start voting.

        To borrow from the BV (bi-partisan) voting idea expressed below, one can readily imagine as many new voters voting Green for the first time as Dems defecting from the Trump look-alike, in an effective wash.

        And make no mistake, it is what we imagine and fear that is at issue here, not what we know with certainly.

        What we know with certainty is that as long as this entrenched duopoly is tolerated, and here coddled on one side, we will continue to lose.

      2. It is so strange that people even focus on Trump and Hillary. Imagine your country is engaged in genocide and the threat of climate change is exacerbating. Then imagine you’re given a choice between two people who will do NOTHING about either of those things. Then imagine the entire process is a fraud.

  19. This discussion, rationally, should end at this: one candidate has stated their “openness to using nuclear weapons”, the other has not. What could possibly be of greater import and risk to all people than that?

  20. There was a time when America was (widely thought to be) great; that one was held to be innocent until proven guilty, when restrictions on behavior and rights were subject to adjudication instead of secret no-fly lists, and you had the right to face your accuser in court of law before being punished.

    Liberals are blind to their own unjust practices; they need to see them performed by an opposite Other before they can begin to take them seriously.

    Perhaps in their confrontation with the feared Trump they will comprehend their own enabling slide into totalitarianism.

    Can President Trump become the irritating grain of sand that will stimulate liberals into restoring the now absent pearls of justice they once claimed to stand for, and once defended?

    The Democratic Party’s sham House of Representatives demonstration was another shameful display of their indifference to the rights of the people.

    The Upstairs Masters’ class of the Duopoly will not recognize nor take responsibility for the Blowback brought home to the under-represented people of the Downstairs Servants’ class by their perpetual wars for peace.

    They bomb the “unworthy” victims’ homes into rubble and then cry about the Blowback of mass immigration.

    They kill families with the impunity and unaccountability of a tyrant, and when Blowback devastates families here, they propose disarming the victims of the Blowback they inspired.

    They back NAFTA and the TPP in a surrender of sovereignty, and when the longtime unemployed disappear from the workforce, they celebrate the higher employment of a recovery.

    Maybe in a Trump presidency the people will renounce the excesses of the Unitary Executive, which they were blind to under Obama. I wouldn’t count on it but it most certainly won’t happen under a Clinton presidency.

  21. The choice among LEV or a non-vote or a third party vote seems to me like old school, unimaginative thinking. I will be taking a different path, one I call bipartisan voting or BV. I will not be voting for Hillary (I’ll probably write in Bernie) though I have voted the Democratic candidate throughout my voting life, but I will be doing nothing to aid Trump’s candidacy. That is because I have teamed up with a friend, in my state, who has voted for the Republican candidate throughout his voting life but can’t stand Trump. He will be voting for someone other than Trump. Our non-votes for the party nominees will cancel out and we will both have been able to exercise our right to vote our conscience. If BV were undertaken on any large scale it would have a decided effect. Both parties would see a shrinkage in their vote totals and neoliberals might understand that they can’t bulldoze their constituencies and count on LEV to save their candidate.

  22. If this is provisional then why not lead with:

    “If things continue as they are, no one in good conscience can promote a strategy of supporting either of the main candidates as it confers legitimacy on an illegitimate system.”

    Do you get a commission on the number of votes you bring in for Hillary?

    It’s very early for intellectuals to be doubling down on this strategy.

    If we’re talking about an existential threat and climate change, shouldn’t we consider details that keep coming in like what Bill McKibbon just said of the platform process:

    “A ban on fracking? Voted down 7-6. An effort to keep fossils in the ground, at least on federal land? Voted down 7-6. A measure to mandate that federal agencies weigh the climate impact of their decisions? Voted down 7-6. Even a plan to keep fossil fuel companies from taking private land by eminent domain, voted down 7-6. (We did, however, reach unanimous consent on more bike paths!)”

    It is beyond absurd to participate this early in scare mongering on behalf of Hillary. I’m not sure what will change, but hopefully so will your public position on the absurdity of all this.

    This election will be the lowest turnout in decades and we should keep it that way. In face we should promote the lowest turnout in the history of the US. We need international assistance, or a complete deconstruction of the Democratic and Republican parties. Not, ho hum, business as usual LEV, pseudo-democracy legitmizing bullshit.

    Who knows how it will play out, but it’s impossible to think that Goldman Sachs, the Carlyle Group, Dick Cheney, the Bush’s aren’t going to get who they want for President. I can’t believe that now Chomsky is on that list of people who want her too and he’s willing to spend words and time promoting the notion that any of this is real.

    With apologies to the third parties, sorry, I’ve seen it up close, it’s a waste of time and resources – we don’t have time or the money anymore for playing by their ever-changing, tightening, obstructive rules, and it clearly doesn’t shift their platform.

    If people are on the fence about voting, they absolutely should not. If they are on the fence about Hillary or Trump, whichever way they tip, they’re pushing our species toward the tipping point.

  23. Refreshing logic – I have always found leftists to be a bit irrational on this topic. How can one simultaneously insist that voting Democrat is a horrible sin and that voting doesn’t matter, as many leftists I’ve encountered do?

    1. The way I view it is that, particularly in the case of US presidents, we should never consider voting a vehicle for change – such a strategy is futile. Organizing outside of electoral politics is the best way to do this for now. However, voting may be important to maintain the best possible background conditions for organizing. The next president will be either Trump or Clinton – it should be obvious that Trump will not create the best condition for progress through activism. The current events in the USA post Brexit – the neo-fascist triumphalism and Corbyn’s left wing of the Labour party falling into disarray, is almost a perfectly simulation of what we have coming if Trump gets elected.

  24. You used intellect and a studious front when all you need to say is
    1) Trump is a creep because……
    2 Vote for Hillary
    I find it astonishing that you have sold your soul to over look the life-long behavior of Mrs. Clinton in order to see her elected. If a GOP candidate was accused of just ONE of the things Hillary has done you would denounce him. If you have become blinded to her behaviors you can view a short video on youtube called Hillary Clinton Career Criminal, in which her misdeeds have been shown alone with fines she has paid, etc. Some of which include stealing $200,000 of White House furniture which she was ordered to return, Boxes of files taken from Vince Foster’s home the night he was killed showed up at her house after claiming she didn’t have them Video link here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LePUhmjZQk

    1. I’m curious what makes you think either of the authors overlook Ms. Clinton’s past behavior?

      If they did overlook it don’t you think they’d have titled their post “An Eight Point Brief for GVEV (Good vs. Evil Voting.)” If they’d posted anything at all?

  25. I would have thought that Chomsky would have learned something from his earlier experiences with this LEV nonsense … apparently not.

    1. What are the lessons to be learned? Progress in left organizing (i.e. not just protesting to stop a disastrous policy or war) outside the electoral sphere (both labor organizing and social-justice organizing) in the USA has generally been better when a there has been a Democratic president and Congress. The eight years of Obama seem to have been an exception, but the rule holds for the others – going back to FDR.

      1. I don’t quite agree that Obama is an exception: Occupy Wall Street would not have happened under Bush. Though it is true that the left waited for far too long to begin protesting Obama, see here.

    1. Sorry. It appears they were caught in the spam filter-the location of which I just now discovered.

      They are now all published. Thanks for your enlightening contributions.

  26. It’s not “the Lesser Evil” that should concern us. That misstates the problem.
    Act so as to prevent the greater harm to the greatest number.
    We cannot apparently eliminate all harm, but it is reducible, and ‘morality’ calls upon us to do so to the greatest extent we can.
    See, e.g., John Rawls, “A Theory of Justice,” (1971). Belknap/Harvard U. Press
    http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/SocialSciences/ppecorino/CISESHV_TEXT/Chapter-3-Ethics/ch-3-Rawls.html

  27. A Clinton Presidence in 2016 will do nothing to address the horrible living conditions, and inequality that gave Trump traction. Midterm elections go against the white house, Giving the GOP the majority of 36 governorships that have veto power over the 2020 reappointment maps. and they would likely pick up some senate seats. Due to Clinton’s massive unpopularity and the same stagnant economy (Actually, chances are we will be in a recession for most of the next 4 years) Will make her re-election impossible. and and a worse version of Trump will likely defeat her in 2020 locking up more Governorships with reappointment and with a decent chance of a supermajority in the Senate. 4 years of Trump with some checks and balances in place is infinitely better then prospects of a failed Clinton presidency.

  28. John,

    Unfortunately, the savage vitriol and insults keeps flying your and Noam Chomsky’s way. If you are still up at this hour, see what Jeffery St. Clair just wrote on Counterpunch. The attacks seem to be coming from some deep ugly reptilian side of the brain.

    I really like Bernie Sanders albeit I have no illusion that he is some kind of Che-Guevarano revolutionary savior like some of his followers seem to believe. I am still holding onto admittedly completely unrealistic hope that the Democrats will come to their senses and save themselves by nominating Sanders. But his angry followers are becoming almost indistinguishable from, and about as frightening as, the Trumpists. Leftists they are not.

    1. What is increasingly coming to mind when I see the behavior of Sanders followers toward any who disagree with them – or even merely write criticisms of Trump, is “Lord of the Flies”. And the poor bespectacled Noam Chomsky is Piggy who is killed by his would be allies for being too smart.

      1. It should be made clear that St. Clair and the Counterpunch clique have never been Sanders supporters. Quite the opposite in fact. There may be some Sanders supporters who are behaving the way you describe but it is wrong to conflate the two groups. The Counterpunchers are not Bernie or Busters: since they never supported Bernie they are merely “busters”, motivated entirely by cynicism and useless rage.

  29. Endorsing war-criminal Hillary Clinton and guilty of crimes against humanity in Libya,Syria, Iraq etc. Killed 10.000’s of children,women, elderly men.Planned a Sarin gas attack on civilians in Syria that would have killed hundreds/thousands of civilians, to give the blame on Assad and have an excuse to invade Syria….
    This woman shouldn’t have been allowed to run for president in the first place,but put in jail…
    and the well educated,’intelligent’ Halle and Chomsky endorse her……………..

    1. “This woman shouldn’t have been allowed to run for president in the first place,but put in jail…” What in our piece gives any indication that we disagree with this?

      1. And also, how in the world does this proposal for strategic voting constitute an “endorsement” of Clinton? The whole idea of the proposal can be thought of as a way to choose the enemy we wish to fight. But St. Clair’s behavior points to a dismaying psychological phenomenon I’ve seen before, whereby criticizing a repugnant Republican position or policy (with no mention of the democrats whatsoever) immediately leads to being attacked for being a “shill” for the Democrats – even though they were not even part of the discussion. It sometimes goes even further – one cannot even criticize a repugnant corrupt leader like Vladimir Putin, without being called a “shill for Hillary”.

        The origin of this behavior seem to come from some kind of unconscious cognitive fear of holding two ideas in ones mind at once and understanding that two-way fights and using smart strategy in engaging in such fights, is sometimes necessary.

        1. Indeed: how a strategy which may mean (depending on what materializes) not a single vote for Hillary equates to “shilling for Hillary” is really a bizarre torturing of logic. Counterpunch has long since been reduced to (in Doug Henwood’s words) “Alexander Cockburn but without the brains and wit” though here it’s the almost total absence of a functioning brain that’s most conspicuous. There’s a reason why you will almost never find Glenn Greenwald, for example, citing it: he doesn’t want to confer on it credibility or associate the left in any way with the lunacy which is constantly on display there. I regret having made the mistake of continuing my association with it for as long as I did.

          1. Cockburn had his annoying stands – notably his global warming denialism toward the end of his life.

          2. Cockburn had his annoying stands – notably his global warming denialism toward the end of his life.

            And I could never figure out St. Clair’s politics since most of his article are preservationist “save the wide west” appeals.

          3. St. Clair’s politics could be described as Edward Abbey primitivism. As for Cockburn, you might be interested in this unpublished (and unpublishable) piece following attending his memorial in NYC.

      2. But you don’t say this most important issue…
        Instead you write
        “The suffering which these and other similarly extremist policies and attitudes will impose on marginalized and already oppressed populations has a high probability of being significantly greater than that which will result from a Clinton presidency.
        5) 4) should constitute sufficient basis to voting for Clinton ”
        …in itself, you (clinically)advice people to vote for a brutal war criminal ,but say it’s out of a strategic point of view……That’s what I call unhealthy,inhuman logic.
        (Knowing at forehand Clinton also will cause at least as much killed civilians abroad as Obama………….)

        1. Indeed “(w)e advise people to vote for a brutal war criminal” because there’s only one thing worse than having a “brutal war criminal” as president: a president who is almost certain to do worse, particularly to “marginalized and already oppressed populations”.

          1. The only option is not voting ,for voting is submissing yourself to a totally corrupt system,giving fuel to it,with this time even the option only between to lunatics……..
            Talking in “results”, in the long run not voting,revolting against governmental aggression, has far more positive results than the short term LEV …..
            But, again, you don’t vote for a cruel woman that has already committed many atrocities……

      3. Where’s the logic of saying that Person A should be put in jail and, at the same time, saying that Person A should move into the white house (unless you conflate the one with the other)?

        1. Every post war president should be in jail, for reasons discussed by Chomsky here. Some have been better presidents than others. There is no logical contradiction here, obviously.

          1. John, no offense, but that misses my point (which concerns time).

            In the article, Chomsky wants them to be put in jail by giving specific reasons concerning their actions – in retrospect.
            You can apply the same to HRC, as we all agree.

            The difference: a convicted HRC is technically unable to become the next president. You agree that she “shouldn’t have been allowed to run for president in the first place, but put in jail” – yet, your message comes down to “let’s make her president until she’s in jail”.

            Not trying to be a nitpicker, but if you want a person to be put in jail, voting in a way that makes this person become (!) the next president – if that’s no contradiction, what is?

            I respect your stance and don’t mean this point to be discussed on moral grounds.

  30. Should we really be conferring legitimacy on American democracy?

    Start with all of the places where we know the United States has spent time and money to overthrow elected leaders. Chomsky knows all of them better than me. Honduras, Haiti, Chile, Iran to name a few. Or look at what was done to Iraq or Libya or how the United States helps democracy in Egypt or Ukraine. No one votes for the United States to do any of these things, but we go places and undermine democracy through manipulation, coercion and murder.

    With all that invested abroad do we really think the United States allows for democracy at home?

    And when did it start being a democracy anyway? As Native American poet John Trudell said “when they created the voting system of democracy here, I was the majority … the little old majority rule thing came out of the smallest number of people on the entire hemisphere … there’s something about it I don’t trust … and I don’t understand why you do … now that we’re the smallest numerical minority on our own land base, they say, come vote.”

    Even when the system in place appears to be working, we have direct evidence that it will be subverted in plain site. More than 5.3 million suppressed votes due to a corrupt and racist felony disenfranchisement. Voter roles being purged, voting obstruction, obstruction to third party involvement and when all of that isn’t enough, a Supreme Court can come in and provide the aura of legality to a charade.

    Oh, and the very best friends of the United States? Saudi Arabia and Israel? A theocracy that murders journalists, atheists, gays and women and a racist ethnocratic apartheid state occupying Palestinian land. Very democratic states.

    So aside from a system designed to keep us out, a country run by people who have no problem killing leaders and meddling in democratic processes around the globe, evidence that elections are stolen and no one cares and their best friends hate democracy … what tells anyone that the United States is a democracy?

    There was a Princeton study that says the US is an oligarchy. Chomsky himself says the US is not really a democracy.

    The best we can hope for is the lowest voter turn out in decades. So the rest of the world sees what we see. This is why Chomsky’s advice is so disturbing.

    That is aside from the fact that he has absolutely zero evidence that Hillary is the lesser of two evils. She is supported by the same people who got Bush “elected” in 2000. Including Laura Bush and Dick Cheney, and the Carlyle Group to name a few. Chomsky and LEV are just helping to ensure the veneer of democracy is upheld.

    We have to do everything in our power to undermine the multi-billion dollar PR extravaganza. Participating in a system that requires one to choose between killing many or killing not AS many – especially on the scale and for the reasons that the US is killing people at home and across the globe – is reprehensible. That these mathematics are casually discussed as though there are no alternatives, is evidence that voters in the United States – and the leaders they choose – are morally and spiritually bankrupt. The world does not have to be this way and we are responsible for changing it.

    The elections and all the doctrinaire that come with them have us believing the discussion is about LEV or who is worse, Trump or Hillary, but the problem is the United States. We shouldn’t vote for it. We should join in solidarity with all who don’t and can’t vote and boycott this election. Especially this election.

  31. I don’t like Trump.

    I don’t like his macho racist posturing style; his history of economic exploitation of the socially disadvantaged; his indifference to its consequences.

    I don’t like anything he stands for.

    But will Democrats protest any murderous wars Hillary would engage in (in light of her blood lust cackle after the death of Libya’s Qaddafi), especially any war that serves no purpose other than to establish her credibility as a Commander in Chief worthy of the title?

    Will Democrats protest her domestic or foreign policies with any but the feeblest passionless demeanor demonstrated on the occasion of Obama’s breaking faith with those who took his campaign promises at face value?

    My Democratic Representative gathered people to a downtown Chicago office to speak out against George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. But when Obama invaded Afghanistan she was very less vocal to the point of responding to me with a letter tantamount to an apology for her support of it.

    Democrats do not hold Democrats’ feet to the fire.

    We do not need another war, not another person of questionable guilt murdered, one whose murder will inspire more blow-back in the form of a more murderous retaliation on a citizenry left vulnerable before a rage inspired by more racist wars for empire.

    Obama announced modifications to the nuclear weapon stockpile that will make their blast yield scalable. This will make their use more thinkable and cost in the neighborhood of a trillion dollars. The NATO push east to Russia’s border is unsettling but more so under the control of one who has something to prove.

    Hillary is more dangerous because Democrats don’t protest Democrats, and Republicans don’t protest war.

  32. I’d like to call your attention to Hannah Arendt’s essay, “Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship” where she discusses lesser evil choices:

    “In their moral justification, the argument of the lesser evil has played a prominent role. If you are confronted with two evils, thus the argument runs, it is your duty to opt for the lesser one, whereas it is irresponsible to refuse to choose altogether. Those who denounce the moral fallacy of this argument are usually accused of germ-proof moralism which is alien to political circumstances, of being unwilling to dirty their hands…

    Politically, the weakness of the argument has always been that those who can choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they choose evil. ..Moreover if we look at the techniques of totalitarian governmnet, it is obvious that the argument of the “lesser evil”–far from being raised only from the outside by those who do not belong to the ruling elite–is one of the mecahnisms built into the machinery of terror and criminality. Acceptance of lesser evils is consciously used in conditioning the government officials as well as the population at large to the acceptance of evil as such.” (pp. 36-37′; http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~other1/Hannah%20Arendt%20-%20Personal%20Responsibility%20Under%20Dictatorship.pdf).

    If we, as voters in a non-totalitarian state, choose lesser evils, we give up any leverage we may have to alter the commission of evil by society–as Arendt says, we still choose evil. Only by forcing the political elites to pay attention to the issues which impact us all, can we force change from the inside, just as the Progressive Party of the early 20th century had its agenda embraced by the Wilson and later FDR administrations.

  33. Great piece, helps you think. As for these “Leftists” who are calling Chomsky et.al. shills, Establishment, etc.. So many “leftists” are losing it so much that they’re accusing Chomsky of being part of the Establishment, a shill, and godknowswhat. I’m personally sick of these articles who trumpet grassroots activism [fine] but to boycott Trump/Clinton [i.e., not vote at all, as if the corporate elite DON’T want that!] and pretend that by doing so they not only challenge the system, but somehow the results of the election will not affect them. Geezus. In Counterpunch recently David McDonald wrote: “In practice he [Chomsky] is a Democratic Party dues cheater pretending a political independence he has never demonstrated.” What the flying frick? If this [along with the incoherent ramblings of New Left “philosophers” like Badiou, Althusser, etc] is the best the “Left” can represent today, then to hell with the Left. It’ll never recover unless it is willing to improve itself and learn to co-opt the system, just like the neoliberals and the far right have… But, I was reading “The S Word” by John Nichols, and the history of American socialism is indeed one of mass movements, but also leftists figures coopting the establishment [Nader, LaGuardia, etc] and establishing social/economic policies during the New Deal and Great Society that benefited millions. Isn’t this the kind of “pressure on the elites” that figures like the etiolated Chris Hedges [who I swear despises Bernie more than Hillary, and couldn’t smile if he tried] always harps about? Isn’t that what the Sanders movement and he himself is achieving in pressuring the DNC to the left? The DNC platform now includes a goal for tuition-free college education, as an example. This is very impressive. Maybe if more on the left weren’t so lazy, or if they didn’t waste their time reading Critical Theory drivel, they could actually work into the system and sway change…

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  35. People either not to vote or vote for Ronald trump and after his victory, people should be united against him if he tries to copy the Killary Rotten Killinton’s criminal policies where led to millions of deaths, including babies and women and men in countries not friendly to racist zionists who have stolen Palestine. Chomsky is one of them and an imposter who is promoting a zionist baby killer and a servant of zionist Jews to benefit this criminal tribe to keep the stolen land of Palestine. Chomsky always was in the camp of Henri Kissinger, you should have brain damaged not to realize it. Chomsky also asked the fools to vote for another zionist servant, Barak Obama in 2012.
    How many times do you want to be fooled by an impostor promoted by the zionist media as phony ‘public intellectuals’??? Chomsky like Kissinger and Kagan deceives you to vote for these criminals to protect the interest of Israel, an apartheid entity. Ask yourself who has benefit ted from 9/11 False Flag terror, designed and implemented by US/Israel and construction of an army, ISIS, to change the map of the region to erect ‘greater Israel’. Even Chomsky is talking about ‘greater Israel’. Chomsky always hide the hand of the criminal tribe in these wars. If Killary is Kissinger girl, then Chomsky is Kissinger boy.

  36. {a president who is almost certain to do worse, particularly to ..)

    You are promoting a racist, baby killer, anti Muslim war criminal. look at the countries that she has destroyed by bombing, look at its population – almost ALL are Muslims. Can you find more racist than this wall street pimp? who is responsible for bombing and killings of millions of people around the globe for the past 20 years? At least, Trump has come out strongly against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but she supported it.

    Chomsky, an impostor, is comparing Hillary PROVEN criminal record, with heretic of someone who has NO record of killing millions of Muslims and bombing and destroying many countries around the globe for the past 20 years. Hillary Clinton is a PROVEN racist, anti working class, anti black, anti Muslims, anti women and children by looking at her criminal record. What else do you need? On the other hand the impostors are trying to deceive dummies with ‘trump do worse’ HOAX, to frighten people and making them vote for a known war criminal.

    NO one can do worse than Hillary Clinton, the most savage, racist, sexist as president. SHE IS NOT FIT TO BE PRESIDENT, only the criminal zionists are behind her ass to bring more WARS against Muslim countries and others, including Iran and Russia, to erect ‘greater Israel’. The zionist criminals want this wall street’s pimp wage wars for ‘greater Israel. ‘

    Kill Hillary Rotten Clinton presidency by voting for Donald Trump Only dummies follow ORDER of Zionists and zionist wall street bankers, a criminal group anti working people.
    People should do anything not allow a proven war criminal occupy the position in the coming election. Kill her by electing Trump as president.

  37. I’m afraid posting the above looney tune has effectively shut down this discussion, which is a shame because it may only have been getting started.

    I’ve posted some further thoughts, and questions, here:

    http://nineinchbride.com/author-blog-commentary/entry/re-noamchomsky-lesser-evil-voting.html

    There should be a ‘pingback’ on this page since I begin with a link to this article and discussion, but I don’t see it. I’d post the commentary itself here, but for the aforesaid ‘death by looney tunes’ that has apparently come to what had been a vital and sensible discussion.

  38. Nice to read another Chomsky-Halle collaboration. (Not sure if I should ask if you’re related to the late, great Morris Halle.)

    Chomsky here seems to have changed his mind a little on whether it’s good to vote for or against someone like Nixon, since he said something kind of different in the past. I’m not going to criticize him merely because he may have changed his mind. But something else in what he’s saying does seem kind of troubling. He basically leaves the impression that he’s making a sweeping criticism of those who voted for Nixon in 1968 and those who suggested that Nixon might be as good or better than Humphrey — even though he used to suggest himself that Nixon might be a better choice. I have doubts about whether he’s totally fair on that point. The Chomsky-Halle article above speaks of “the ultra-left faction of the peace movement having minimized the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency during the 1968 elections. The result was six years of senseless death and destruction in Southeast Asia and also a predictable fracture of the left setting it up for its ultimate collapse during the backlash decades to follow.” Also, this article describes minimizing the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency as an example of “frivolous and poorly considered electoral decisions”. On the other hand, in an earlier interview in 1990, Chomsky talked about his decision not to vote in 1968: “The major issue, on which virtually everything else turned, was terminating the war in Indochina. My own guess was that Nixon would probably do it a bit faster than Humphrey, which in retrospect is probably correct. But I couldn’t make a choice, so I didn’t vote.”

    I’m not sure it’s fair for Chomsky to say what he says now. given what he said earlier. One problem is that his new article talks about how terrible it was that people let Nixon win, but his decision about whether to vote in 1968 kind of contributed to that result. The other problem is that his current article says it’s a bad thing to “minimize the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency”, but in his 1990 interview he implied that there were hardly any comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency. He said in 1990 that virtually everything that he considered important in voting in 1968 turned on terminating the war in Southeast Asia, and he said that Nixon terminated the war quicker than Humphrey probably would have, so there were hardly any “comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency”. If there’s anything I’m misinterpreting here, please point it out. But even if I’m somehow misinterpreting Chomsky, there’s a third problem: he’s writing in a way that gives many readers the impression that a particular position is bad, when it’s a position that he himself used to hold in 1990 and apparently it guided his own decision about voting in 1968. I think it would be fairer to readers if he addressed how his current article bears on what he used to say. Is he saying he was wrong before to think that having Nixon win might be as good or better than having Humphrey win? And if he’s not changing his mind, how exactly does he mean to exempt his previous view from the criticism he’s now expressing? The 1990 interview can be found here:
    http://adamjones.freeservers.com/chomsky.htm

    I think Chomsky’s often good, but of course he’s not perfect. If I’ve missed something here, let me know.

  39. Nice to read another Chomsky-Halle collaboration. (Not sure if I should ask if you’re related to the great Morris Halle.)

    Chomsky here seems to have changed his mind a little on whether it’s good to vote for or against someone like Nixon, since he said something kind of different in the past. I’m not going to criticize him merely because he may have changed his mind. But something else in what he’s saying does seem kind of troubling. He basically leaves the impression that he’s making a sweeping criticism of those who voted for Nixon in 1968 and those who suggested that Nixon might be as good or better than Humphrey — even though he used to suggest himself that Nixon might be a better choice. I have doubts about whether he’s totally fair on that point. The Chomsky-Halle article above speaks of “the ultra-left faction of the peace movement having minimized the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency during the 1968 elections. The result was six years of senseless death and destruction in Southeast Asia and also a predictable fracture of the left setting it up for its ultimate collapse during the backlash decades to follow.” Also, this article describes minimizing the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency as an example of “frivolous and poorly considered electoral decisions”. On the other hand, in an earlier interview in 1990, Chomsky talked about his decision not to vote in 1968: “The major issue, on which virtually everything else turned, was terminating the war in Indochina. My own guess was that Nixon would probably do it a bit faster than Humphrey, which in retrospect is probably correct. But I couldn’t make a choice, so I didn’t vote.”

    I’m not sure it’s fair for Chomsky to say what he says now. given what he said earlier. One problem is that his new article talks about how terrible it was that people let Nixon win, but his decision about whether to vote in 1968 kind of contributed to that result. The other problem is that his current article says it’s a bad thing to “minimize the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency”, but in his 1990 interview he implied that there were hardly any comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency. He said in 1990 that virtually everything that he considered important in voting in 1968 turned on terminating the war in Southeast Asia, and he said that Nixon terminated the war quicker than Humphrey probably would have, so there were hardly any “comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency”. If there’s anything I’m misinterpreting here, please point it out. But even if I’m somehow misinterpreting Chomsky, there’s a third problem: he’s writing in a way that gives many readers the impression that a particular position is bad, when it’s a position that he himself used to hold in 1990 and apparently it guided his own decision about voting in 1968. I think it would be fairer to readers if he addressed how his current article bears on what he used to say. Is he saying he was wrong before to think that having Nixon win might be as good or better than having Humphrey win? And if he’s not changing his mind, how exactly does he mean to exempt his previous view from the criticism he’s now expressing? The 1990 interview can be found here:
    http://adamjones.freeservers.com/chomsky.htm

    I think Chomsky’s often good, but of course he’s not perfect. If I’ve missed something here, let me know.

  40. You started off by not supporting Bernie Sanders and now you try to convince everyone to vote for HRC. What is your agenda exactly, John Halle? And more importantly, what could have happened if you and others on the Left would have supported Bernie Sanders in the first place? http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=12275

  41. I am having trouble understanding exactly what the “Lesser of evils” proposal is. It seems that a key (but undefined) concept in the proposal is that of a swing state. What does “swing state” mean? If it means a state that either Trump or Clinton might conceivably win, then there seem to be very few states that are not swing states. The District of Columbia comes to mind as a state that it is virtually impossible for Trump to win. All the other states could, I think go either way in November 2016, and therefore should be considered swing states. So I would interpret the proposal as applying to voting by DC residents only. Is this interpretation wrong?

    1. Yes, it is wrong. Even in very close elections (e.g. Bush-Gore 2000) there were no more than five or six swing states. All others, by any reasonable definition, were safe.

  42. From the article and your responses to the comments, John, it seems to me that your premise for LEV comes from a highly pessimistic position in regards to this upcoming election. You and Chomsky seem to express little to no faith in the whole governing system. So besides damage control, I can’t really fathom why you would even publish this article, aside from as an incendiary for the resulting discussion, which I am glad to have read.
    Anyways…now for my voice on it. I can’t agree on LEV, especially just on the presumption Trump being the greater evil. As has been stated that is an unknown, despite his inflammatory rhetoric. As a matter of fact I can barely agree on the Democratic process at all, given how blatantly rigged this primary was, which puts me at square one of why I would actually vote Trump over Hillary (If I had to choose with a gun to my head).
    She was basically handed the nomination before the primaries even started, and despite an opponent with massive grassroots support, despite all the scandal and allegations against her, despite her blatant and constant lying, still held onto that nomination. If she comes to power riding that wave isn’t she ultimately the tyrant? Regardless of her campaign stance on issues, voting for her would be equivocal to voting for someone with no regard for functioning democracy. And looking down the road, if she so handily dispatched of her opponents prior to being president, why should anyone think that her and her co-conspirators should behave any less autocratically as president?
    Concerning the policies that she has facilitated, the major ones have been behind closed doors and entirely beholden to corporate interests. In fact I find all of her policies to have the slimy texture of ulterior motives, and when it comes to the issues of social justice they seem quite insincere and equally slimy in that as much as everyone deserves equality, the emphasis on individual subsets of the population is a distraction from the fact that just as trans people are getting their bathroom rights we are all under massive assault from the ruling elite and moving in the direction of being government/corporate chattel from which to squeeze profits out of. Very few people seem to notice the slide whilst they are bickering about superficialities, which is what frightens me most about her. Our freedoms are all under attack no matter wether it is Trump or Hillary, but with her I don’t think we will see the inevitable until it is here.
    Trump bad. Very bad man. But frankly I don’t believe in his commitment to the character that he has become. This is a man who is recorded as describing himself as a democrat during the Clinton I regime. This is a man who hosted a terrible reality show that was watched in droves. This is a man who came out of the political woodworks while Hillary was campaigning against Obama, with some crazy birther rhetoric. He also likes pro wrestling. The point being he knows how to get a crowd worked up real good like, and has conveniently started running as the most absurd type of right winger ever to get nominated. I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere behind closed doors his existence was part of HRC’s master plan to continue the dynasty by creating a reactionary response within both parties to move towards her. I don’t think she expected Bernie, thus the poorly executed vote rigging.
    But assuming he is for real and he were to become president I don’t think that would go over well for the establishment. If he were to do everything he says it seems inevitable that there would be a coup of some sort, foreign intervention into our actions, or a splintering of the union. Or maybe we would all suffer for four years, but he is definitely not getting re-elected.
    As a previous commentator put in relation to his Brexit vote (remain=establishment, leave=anti-establishment), voting for Trump is anti-establishment. It is a vote to fuck the whole system up, and voting for HRC is quiet acquiescence to the status quo wherein we lose more freedom in a way that is as immediately obvious as the watching a glacier melt.
    Concerning all the talk about Republicans were responsible for this and Dems for that, or Democrats make the economy better and wage more wars, that is a distraction, and with hind sight (which definitely isn’t 20/20 because I don’t think we ever got the whole story) presidential involvement with economic and political events is often spurious correlation. For example, Obama was president during the recession. That legacy goes so far back. It was the result of decades of deregulation and power consolidation by politicians and the wealthy. Who gets into office, what bills get passed, what wars get started is all coming from the people behind the scenes with presidents as figureheads.
    Finally, In response to the wearisome moral high ground argument against those who choose not the lesser evil, the point is not to pat myself on the back because I think that my morals are somehow more perfect than others. Everyone has their own morals and philosophy and I believe that each individual should express that. If we were all to express what we believe without trying to describe it from some pigeon hole we wouldn’t be in this dilemma in the first place. There would likely be many parties which would be different from state to state town to town, and as a result more choice for voters to find someone they agree with. That would solve at least some of the voter turnout issues. There also would probably be less power on the national level, reducing the gravity of this absurd circus of an election. Society must choose freedom of choice if it wishes to have freedom of choice. I guess I could have summed up my point in just that one sentence actually.

    1. “I can’t really fathom why you would even publish this article.” Oh, I don’t know. Maybe to try to help prevent a neo-fascist/white supremacist from holding the world’s most powerful office. Indeed, very strange that we would do so.

  43. I appreciate this piece- as always Chomsky’s wisdom and clarity is helpful and refreshing, and Halle just getting to know you but appreciating your points so far. I generally agree with the LEV strategy since it allows for third party voting where safe to do but minimizes fallout. And I DEFINITELY agree that we need to get what we can from the prez race with as little effort as possible, and get back to more important on he ground work. I couldn’t read every comment/question and response above so forgive me if these questions have already been addressed:

    1) I have been reading a growing body of written pieces by members of very marginalized group objecting to and debunking the idea that voting against the Dems is a sign of privilege and is throwing the most vulnerable under the bus. They point out that it is actually the more privileged among the left are most likely to support HRC and that it is this relative privilege that protects these voters from the ravages of neoliberalism, which though perhaps slower-acting are no less deadly to marginalized groups than right wing extremism. So my question is: your argument also seems to assume it is more privileged voters making these decisions that will hurt the more vulnerable; would it change your argument at all if it were to be shown that actually it IS these vulnerable groups who feel they can no longer survive under neoliberalism, and who are ready for change at all costs, so to speak? Do we who are more privileged have a responsibility to back these groups in what hey believe will help them rather than what we think will be better for them? And does this change how it will be painted in subsequent debate should trump win? I agree that power players will make this argument against the left of trump wins regardless, and I appreciate your acknowledgement that this would be done disingenuously. But just wondering if those assumptions need to be unpacked further?

    2) what are your recommendations about continuing to voice honest and pointed critique of the Dems and the mainstream political machine in general, even as we strategically vote LEV? Is this also seen as undermining. HRC and promoting trump, or is this part how we continue to challenge the overall system as you put it?

    1. hm. ok but you haven’t answered either of my questions. i don’t think anyone here is suggesting voting for Trump so clearly we are already in solidarity with Black voters- nor are Black voters the only group to look at in terms of this question (even within the black community there is young vs old, working vs middle and upper classes, gender, etc.).

      here are a couple of links i am referring to for question #1 (there are others but these are some that i have handy):

      https://medium.com/@discomfiting/youre-not-voting-for-hillary-to-protect-me-73754a9b189e#.do5pbphzv

      https://medium.com/@discomfiting/debunking-the-bullshit-claim-youre-privileged-if-you-don-t-vote-for-clinton-3f38f7de737b#.86djon9ki

      http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/column-the-democratic-party-is-not-what-it-seems/

      i get that there is a difference between who supported Sanders in the primary vs who thinks its worth holding out for a 3rd party in the GE. do we have data on the demographics of current independent voters? and on those polling for stein vs
      johnson vs the mainstream candidates? and perhaps before we even look at the data, my question is: you two said in your original argument that your analysis was provisional- is this the kind of information that we should be looking out for, which might change your analysis? are we to make decisions FOR less privileged folks or listen to what they want (recognizing of course that there will be differences within and across groups)?

      You also did not address question #2 at all, which is more of a tactical question about how we behave toward the Dems between now and November, regardless of how we privately vote.

      these are honest questions i hope you will provide some guidance on, and/or ask Chomsky to comment on. i am not challenging or criticizing your position, these are issues i have been grappling with and would appreciate your thoughts. I am a social worker, activist, and i did my doctoral dissertation on social justice organizing. so i need to dig deeper than pat answers like the one you have provided so far. thanks.

      1. I did not provide you a “pat” answer. I simply noted that 100% of African American voters in swing states do not agree with three random bloggers who claim that Clinton is as much of a danger to them as Trump. You could also find three African American, Mexican or Muslim supporters of Trump as well. That doesn’t mean that we should take their views as at all representative of the constituency they claim to speak for-particularly against a major network poll indicate a virtually unanimous consensus to the contrary.

      2. As for question 2), as you can see from my comments above, many of which rebut facile and sometimes dishonest claims for Clinton’s progressive credentials, the best, and I would suggest only, viable strategy for those promoting a strategic vote for Clinton, is a frank recognition of her numerous flaws as a candidate-along with the recognition that her opponent is almost certain to be much worse. As I have said on countless occasions by now, just because X is terrible does not imply that Y cannot be worse than X. Odd that so few are able to apply this elementary principle of logic to national elections.

        1. appreciate the answer to #2, and again i apologize i wasn’t able to read every comment above. i don’t have a problem voting for someone, as a strategy, while continuing to critique vocally. and i agree it’s strange that so many folks don’t see it that way. i do notice that when i point that out, people are often kind of relieved and happy to realize they have that option. so it is worth raising and i just wanted to know your stance on it.

          as for #1 i think we are talking past each other and am not sure why: the fact that Blacks are polling against Trump doesn’t address how they feel about third parties, nor does it tell us how other disenfranchised groups feel. i read the article you posted and it simply doesn’t address my question. as i said above, i am wondering if we have data on how vulnerable groups are polling for independents. i plan to do some research on it myself, but since a main basis of your argument is that we are hurting these groups by risking Trump, i would think you would want to check the data on whether those groups by an large agree with you. i certainly never meant to imply that some bloggers are representative, but nor have you presented any evidence that they are not. hence my question. perhaps it is too soon to tell- which is why i asked if this might be one of the factors that would change your provisional analysis. if it were to turn out that mass numbers of the most oppressed were fed up and ready to full scale rebel against the Dems, would that change your analysis?

          as an aside- perhaps you don’t mean to sound defensive and dismissive about this question, but you do, which is surprising after such a thoughful piece. unfortunately that doesn’t help me assess how fully i can buy into your position. i appreciate you and Prof. Chomksy taking the time to write this, and all the time you have taken to answer people’s concerns and questions.

          1. On the question of “how vulnerable groups are polling for independents” the most recent aggregate poll I’ve seen has Stein polling at around 3%. I haven’t seen the figure broken down by demographic group, though if it’s any indication, virtually every Green Party office holder is white and is elected in a overwhelmingly white locality. Johnson the Libertarian polls somewhat better, and his support is also almost entirely white. So that would seem to suggest pretty thin support for “independents” within “vulnerable groups.” If you are able to acquire additional data, I’d be interested in seeing it.

  44. The only reason we believe that the choice is between one evil (Trump) versus another (Clinton) is because we’ve been inured by the machinery of the two-party system and sold the lie that a third party candidate will never garner sufficient votes to make a third option (that is, NO evil) a viable one.

    Thus, WE implicitly CREATE the only “choice” we rail against.

    Sanders’ campaign was effectively one of a third party candidate. Not only was the contest a close one, but for months polls had him at an advantage over Clinton versus Trump. Taken at face value, this has nothing to do with sour grapes or anti-Hillary sentiment, but one of PRAGMATISM: a choice that happened to yield a better set of options than just Evil 1 versus Evil 2.

    We make our own beds. The rest is eleventh-hour rationalization.

  45. I can’t believe he blames Nixon’s war on the electorate! And no rationale is presented for the “left” being far stronger than two EXTREMELY weak right-wing candidates.

    1. Yeah, you elect a crazed McCarthyite anti-communist and for some unknown reason he conducts foreign policy like a crazed McCarthyite anti-communist. Unbelievable!

  46. Thank you for this. I wanted to share some of my thoughts, even though, I probably won’t be able to articulate them as well as some of the other posters here. I hope my switching between formal and informal writing styles doesn’t offend anyone.

    I have been struggling with the issue raised in this piece for quite some time. My struggle mainly stems from the fact that I feel as if those dismissing the threat that a Trump election poses, are often not members of the marginalized communities they claim to speak for. Whether or not they actually are, is not the point I want to make, as our perceptions of reality, and not necessarily the reality itself, is often how our views are shaped.

    I will argue that these perceptions do not stem from media bias, or personal prejudices as much as they do from what is missing from the dialog, what is being proposed, and what we know from the realities we see in current events. Following this I will provide some suggestions on the current points made in the piece.

    Often in the dialog about Trump versus Clinton, it seems as if the human factors that impact people in marginalized communities are missing. For instance, many feel, whether justly or not, that the gains made in the Trump campaign stem from racist and xenophobic attitudes towards Latinos, Muslims and other groups. Indeed, many of Trump’s proposed policies reflect these attitudes, such as the removal of birthright citizenship, holds on immigration, a wall to protect US citizens from the “evils” of Mexican migrants, etc. Further Trump himself seems to be provoking more hateful attacks on these groups as he cheers the attacks on protesters, derides “political correctness”, and is willing to criticize people for their heritage.

    While we may believe that these feelings are misguided and can be overcome by countering them with comparisons to Clinton, this approach may further alienate some who may feel they are being asked to sacrifice themselves for the interests of others. In community organizing we are often taught about how self-interest plays a role in a person’s decisions to become involved in organized actions. Based on the previous descriptions, it would be fair to consider that many people in marginalized communities feel a real fear over what the policies of Trump would mean for them. However, in the current dialog the corruption of Clinton, war hawkishness, etc. are described by leftists as more pressing than the threats to a person’s own self-interests, right or wrong, that they may feel are threatened by Trump.

    These threats that people feel from a Trump presidency are not just based on perceptions of what Trump “might do”, but can be seen in what is happening in current world events. For instance, many immigrants often pay close attention to foreign media outlets and world events. Regardless of whether one views events such as Brexit as resulting from neo-liberalism, neo-fascism, or having other roots, there remains a widely discussed racist component. Whether it is media manipulation or on the ground truth, people see how the results of the vote were followed by increased racial hostility. Asking people to take similar risks through the use of monikers such as “Demexit”, can be misconstrued as support of the racist aspects of the Brexit. This could be seen in some of the criticisms of Green party candidate Jill Stein following statements she made after the success of the Brexit vote.

    Based on this discussion, I want to leave some suggestions for improving and maybe expanding the 8-point brief.

    First, I would like to offer thanks for sharing these thoughts as they have definitely given me and others more to consider about current events.

    Next, I have three additional points, I feel should be considered that support LEV.

    The first is the empowerment / dis-empowerment aspect of the campaign. The gains made by certain candidates can serve to further empower or dis-empower movements and social groups. For example, an argument can be made that the gains made by Sanders helped further empower many young voters and also served as a “re-legitimizing” factor for socialism in mainstream US politics. Similarly, the gains made by Trump are empowering many right wing extremists. This can be seen in the announcement by David Duke to run, as he claimed the time was right for him to re-engage in politics. However, similarly groups can become “dis-empowered” from certain gains made. The selection of Clinton over Sanders should show this as many Sanders supporters were dis-empowered by the gains of Clinton. A Trump victory may also further disenfranchise many, particularly in already marginalized communities as they feel further alienated and they see their self-interests ignored or attempts at voting against what they perceive as a more immediate threat, turn futile.

    Second would be a modification to point 6 to include not only the effects following a Trump victory, but also the marginalization that can occur during the election cycle. As discussed previously many groups feel they are being targeted and are under threat from a Trump presidency. During the course of the election, as people are continuously told by leftist groups that things which directly impact their self-interest are not as important as events they are either accustomed to, (i.e., corruption) or may not be directly impacted by (i.e. foreign wars), they may further embrace those they feel will address their concerns and reject those that they feel are ignoring their concerns. For instance, video of Jill Stein seeming to acknowledge the potential of her campaign to cause a “spoiler effect” and brushing it off with the claims that sometimes an election has to be lost to gain power, can be viewed as a willingness to support Trump. This has already been shared on several websites with descriptions such as “Stein doesn’t mind helping Trump”. These arguments can be used to shape perspectives as much during as after the results of the election.

    Finally the third, would be to include the global consequences of US elections not only in terms of policy but also of influence. While the threats that a Trump election can pose to US foreign policy have been discussed by many, his influence on other right wing movements in places such as Europe are often not considered. One only has to look at the places such as France, Austria, Hungary, Poland, etc. to see the growth in right wing movements. While these movements have been growing steadily for some time, an argument can be made that ideas are spread and adopted in part based on the observations of their potential advantages. The threat of Cuba for example was as much, or even more, in the idea that a successful communist nation near US borders would influence others in the region as it was of any militaristic threats. Similarly, the views of the success of Brexit have inspired similar talks from organizers in other nations such as France. Unlike many of these other nations however the US as the largest global superpower is in a greater position to spread similar influences because of its hegemony over, not only individual nations, but entire regions.

    Thank you again, for sharing these thoughts and your willingness to consider those I presented here.

  47. Noam is a genius.
    However, he’s never been able to be concise enough for any media people to be able consume what he writes or says.
    When I saw that someone else was co-writing this piece, I clicked on it instantly — with the thought that maybe it would be a short, to-the-point message.
    Oh, how disappointed I am to see the word “preamble.”
    That, in itself, is a killer.
    A list is bad enough.
    A preamble to the list means there will be zero readers except for his followers.

    1. Chomsky quoted in the wikipedia entry on “concision”:
      “In fact, the structure of the news production system is, you can’t produce evidence. There’s even a name for it — I learned it from the producer of Nightline, Jeff Greenfield. It’s called ‘concision.’ He was asked in an interview somewhere why they didn’t have me on Nightline, and his answer was — two answers. First of all, he says, ‘Well, he talks Turkish, and nobody understands it.’ But the other answer was, ‘He lacks concision.’ Which is correct, I agree with him. The kinds of things that I would say on Nightline, you can’t say in one sentence because they depart from standard religion. If you want to repeat the religion, you can get away with it between two commercials. If you want to say something that questions the religion, you’re expected to give evidence, and that you can’t do between two commercials. So therefore you lack concision, so therefore you can’t talk.”

  48. I was put off by the idea that refusing to choose the lesser evil is a form of narcissism.

    This article predates the sham democratic convention and thus the writers may have changed their minds.

    Here is the intellectual problem; Clinton will tie up the presidency for eight more years of rampaging US holocaust.

    The astute political action is to recognize that representative democracy is an old form of government that is not working anymore. Vote green in every state and build a new party for the mid-term house of representative election. Now keep working for the next presidential election and the mid-term that follows that.

    Autonomous democracy is being born in areas where real democracy is denied. The Kurds and Zapatistas are midwifes and intellectual source of this idea. Autonomous democracy is used to focus distributed human intelligence and then tell the government what to do.

    Vivir bien,

    Garrett

    1. Three responses. First, it is a mistake to assume that urging a vote for a Green in a presidential election will do anything to build the local power base which is required for a third party to establish a foundation for runs for higher office. In fact, it does the opposite, channeling energy and resources into a losing campaign which, by its marginal showing, marginalizes the issues on which it is based-the exact mirror image to the strong showing of the Sanders campaign which legitimated these issues in public perception.

      Second, as a former Green Party alderman, I know all too well where the priorities of the national Green Party lie-namely not with doing the necessary job of promoting winnable local candidacies but on hyping the anointed celebrity to run at the top of the ticket (and not incidentally, soliciting contributions going toward the salaries of those employed within it). The fact that Greens now hold around 100 of something like 1 million elected offices (probably less than .01 percent) after being an established party for more than 30 years is indicative of their priorities-and the party’s failure in this respect. A smart vote, incidentally, is not Stein 2016, but Stein 2018, as a state legislator. She could be then be the only Green to hold statewide office, and this would benefit the party far more than another failed, marginal presidential run.

      Finally, insofar as the European Greens are any indication, there is no basis to assume that Greens here would provide an alternative to the dominant neoliberal ideology which has dictated governance for two generations: please note that Joschka Fischer enthusiastically supported the bombing of Kossovo and European Greens in parliament have supported subsequent military interventions-something they were rightly criticized for, by of all people, Nigel Farage. Furthermore, so-called ecolo-bobos such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit have been on the cutting edge of implementing neoliberal austerity, including signing off on the ECB’s fiscal water boarding of Greece. In short, the view that a vote for Stein, particularly in a swing state, enhances the kind of revolutionary insurgency referenced here is simply delusional.

  49. There still hasn’t been much voice on the matter of the corruption of the whole primary process. The DNC’s unwillingness to even acknowledge the polling issues that occurred time and again, especially in pro-Sanders districts, and the growing evidence that they had an active hand in suppressing Sanders’ nomination precludes the argument that “a vote against Hillary is a vote for Trump”. As one protester who was interviewed put it (I thought pretty logically), it was the DNC who originally made the move to support Trump (by that reasoning) by alienating their own voters through rigging the election in favor of Hillary. This wouldn’t even be a discussion if not for that move. The Democratic party is only fractured because of the contentions over the legitimacy of the election.

    On the other hand the media’s bias in the whole primary circus is what has made Trump a person of importance in the first place. Vastly more coverage has been given over to Trump and how insane and bigoted and ridiculous he is, versus any other topic concerning the nominees. Meanwhile Sander’s, despite breaking not just numerical records, but less quantifiable records as a political/social movement, has been essentially blacked out of coverage, with mainstream pundit commentary portraying him as some goofy guy who couldn’t possibly win, despite neck and neck pre-poll percentages in most states. And that’s to leave out the camera tricks that portrayed Hillary’s under-attended rallies as being packed to the gills, and the preemptory lip service of talking heads for Clinton.

    So, the way I see it, the entire conflict here is the result of lies and deception perpetrated by others with far greater power, and to blame those who still choose to vote their conscience is misplacing blame, and is creating another welcome artificial division amongst us which the establishment will benefit from–just as black and white, alien or native, gay or straight. In fretting and arguing about these divisions we are distracted from the real issues at hand. By which I don’t mean to dismiss the already marginalized people’s plight, but there will continue to be manufactured divisiveness even as we resolve the disenfranchisement of any one particular group. Enfranchisment must be equally applied to all or else these superficial boundaries in our society will morph and persist as they have since at least the black slaves were liberated.

    1. “1) Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites.”

  50. So how do we resist/dismantle an infrastructure that gives us two white-supremacy-serving war criminals to choose from every 4 years? Given two cups of poison, we drink the less poisonous (but still poisonous!) cup and then what…try to get more leftists in local govt? You can see how that seems very “the moderate liberal is the greatest stumbling block to our progress” – esque when meanwhile people are being blown up in wars and mass – incarceration and the for-profit healthcare system continue apace.

    But I sincerely want to know, what do you and Chomsky propose?

    1. Speaking for myself, I found Yanis Varoufakis’s recent comments a fairly clear and convincing formulation of a reasonable direction to follow-at least provisionally, as is always the case:
      “What I think matters the most at the moment is the conversion of the Bernie Sanders political revolution into a lasting political party of sorts, a political movement that does not die out once the convention once the presidential election is over. What Bernie Sanders managed to do is magnificent, should have a dynamic future, and should infect, in the nicest possible way, American politics for many years to come.

      “In the short run, there is no doubt that, even though I consider Hillary Clinton to be a particularly dangerous person and an unwholesome politician, nevertheless when you face Donald Trump on the opposite side you have to make sure that, somehow, we block his passage to the White House.

      “What is absolutely essential is, assuming that Hillary will win, that we make her life complete and utter misery every time she drifts and slides towards the usual geopolitical menace on the one hand or favoritism of Wall Street and the powers that be on the other.”

  51. Current system is unstoppable, it needs a reset, I see a Trump Vote more aligned with “No”, as Brexit vote, Opposition to Trump in world and America would be so great, that will start the revolution on all fronts. Let’s not be afraid.

    1. The concern is about the “us” here since, as the piece notes, “Far right victories . . . impose terrible suffering on the most vulnerable segments of society.”

      It’s very easy to be courageous when others are making the sacrifices.

  52. “the politics of moral witness can become indistinguishable from narcissistic self-aggrandizement”

    Some would suggest that we should keep the name calling to a minimum in a civilized discussion;)

    The democrats are counting on LEV that is why the give aways to the 99% is an empty box in this election. LEV as they say is a “well warn path” and Obama was most assuredly the LEV candidate of choice in the past two elections. The US electorate has been using LEV for decades now and who can argue with results like this;)

    Which got us, endless war expansion, banking bailout, spy on everyone, an economy ready to collapse again, no banking re-regulation, climate disaster, growing fascist/racist parties and war on poor people to keep a lid on growing discontent.

    The cherry on the cake, is candidates like Trump. Who are a direct right wing/proto-fascist response to all the LEV candidates worsening the plight of 99% of the population while helping the 1% get there entire Christmas shopping done early.

    I guess some LEV supporters would call that winning?

    I think LEV offers nothing but a continued downward spiral as capitalist turn to fascism as the propaganda can no longer keep a handle on collapsing society.

    The debate as to which candidate is the LEV winner is much akin to the debate of deck chair placement on the Titanic.

    Curiously Trump lies/rhetoric on trade deals, banking regulations and foreign policy are actually more progressive then Hillary’s lies. I guess that is why the republicans and some billionaires are abandoning ship. It also a clear indication of the narcism of small difference that is now the divide between republican and democratic candidates. If you are wealthy, you buy both.

    Fear is what is for sale today as always. If Hillary looses the election it will be because of Hillary’s inability to make anyone believe she is a better candidate. The Dems had a more progressive candidate with greater margin of support in the public against Trump. They decided LEV could win the day and it was more important to give nothing to working people. So they sabotaged Bernie’s campaign as revealed by Wiki leaks email release. Their accounting determined they could win LEV against Trump, no Bernie required.

    Last but not least Hillary as environmental LEV. The Koch brothers and fracking industry know very well how progressive her environmental solutions will be. That is why they have given her their full support.

    I hope this didn’t chafe you too hard and found you slightly amused.

    If the Green Party can get 15% support of the people they can apparently get in the debates. Then who will the LEV be?

    All the best,

    Sean

    1. 15% for Stein almost certain means President Trump. Most of us, especially his victims will not find that even slightly amusing.

  53. The “frivolous and poorly considered” 8-point LEV brief is (1.) an extremely subtle endorsement of current world wide warfare, (2.) exhibits a surprising lack of concern for people who do not live in the USA, (3) recommends that Americans perpetuate a dominant system that is in fact evil, the consequence of the established decades-long policy to provide American voters with the lesser of evil choice, and (4.) written by adults for whom it has been too many years since they spent day after day working by the sweat of their brows, within whom the willingness to sink or swim is gone, and who prefer to stay in a sinking boat, rather than make the herculean effort now required from American adults to join hands with our neighbors-like them or not, listen to our individual consciences with as much compassion as each of us can muster, and non-violently vote for the 2016 Presidential candidate who each of us feels and thinks will create the most loving world for our children and grandchildren, and equally for the children and grandchildren across the Earth. Specifically, points #4, 6, and 7, are provided by the authors as a half-truth to instill guilt in those progressive American voters who can no longer stomach their tacit endorsement of the increasingly predatory, violent, and ruthless American culture at home and across the globe. The overall variance in consequences upon the world’s poor, marginalized, young and elderly, the vast majority of whom live outside of the USA, between a President Clinton or President Trump are likely to be minor. The half of these statements that may be true is that the American disenfranchised might fare better for a few years if the author’s candidate, Mrs. Clinton is elected. The 2016 American presidential election is about our responsibility as Americans adults to our children and grandchildren, and to all current residents of the Earth, to their descendants, and to the Earth itself. Talk about taking global warfare and global climate change seriously or not by the established system has made little difference to the Earth and its poor. If we are fortunate, the American electorate will decide to put the best each of us has within ourselves into action this August, September and October, and with hope, step into the unknown, rather than trod any longer on the rutted path of fear, greed and war.

    1. “Step into the unknown” with Donald Trump? I think most rational people will be less than thrilled with the idea.

    2. Bravo, and Amen to that, Charlie Greene.

      Perhaps you could also share some insight into how a third-party can ~ever~ gain so much as a toehold without enabling GOP wins and the concomitant suffering of the marginalized in the US? How can this be avoided?

      What ~is~ the endgame strategy for ridding America of the ‘cholera or gonorrhea’ choice decade after decade—if not building a third-party here, with all attendant downsides to the undertaking? This question seems to me the unmentionable gorilla in the room.

      Please see “Re: Halle/Chomsky: An Eight Point Brief for Lesser Evil Voting” @ http://po.st/Third-Party-Building for my concluding thoughts on the matter.

      By all means post your response here if you prefer, or reach me directly via the contact page @ http://po.st/ContactMe

      1. A reasonable, if elementary question which I’ve written about extensively.

        A short answer:

        1) Third parties can, to take one example, establish themselves by competing in local elections particularly in numerous cities (many very large) dominated by single party machines. Under this circumstance, they are the de facto second party and, rather than functioning as spoilers, their participating is actively welcomed by those wanting an alternative to often reactionary machine politics. (This was the case in New Haven, where I was elected twice as a Green Party alderman).

        2) Once this foundation is established, candidates can move up the electoral ladder by making credible runs for higher office, as Sanders did. And as the Vermont Progressive Party-which now has significant representation in both the Vermont state legislature and senate-is now doing.

        3) Focussing on losing national races undermines attempts to build a local foundation, as the Greens have shown as they have now become almost completely irrelevant-having fewer than 100 office holders, all of these local, most of them tiny, out of something like 800,000 available elected positions. Encouraging their national runs reinforces the tendencies which have led to their failure.

        1. Thank you.

          I have to wonder if this is not all related to under-capitalization, a matter of funding, and parochial to insiders like yourself.

          I still don’t see a problem with walk ‘local’ and chew ‘national’ at the same time.

          I perceive no path to an end for the affliction vote.

          1. 1) “Under-capitalization” is a fact of life of anti-corporate candidacies which needs to be incorporated within any viable campaign strategy, as Sanders recognized and, more significantly, implemented. Hard to see how this matter is “parochial to insiders”, or for that matter, in what world Chomsky and myself can be construed as “insiders.”

            2) The three decade history of the Green Party has shown that they have not successfully combined national with local campaigns, in practice the former always taking precedence over the latter, demonstrably so, as I indicated in a previous posting. It would be nice to imagine otherwise, however it is not the fact of the matter.

            3) Entirely unclear what is meant by “the affliction vote” or what it would mean to “end it”.

    1. 1) The piece has now been out for two weeks. I have seen no indication of it being used “to bash everyone an inch to the left of the Democrats.” Have you?
      2) What indication do you have that that was our “intent”?

      1. By the way: Trump cannot win. This election is not close. It has never been close. The notion that it was ever close was always a fantasy sold by a media that needs to perpetuate the idea that it’s close.

        And in 2020, they’ll nominate another conservative Democrat again, and you’ll make this identical argument again. Every presidential election of my lifetime, the Democrats have lured soft leftists like you to hippie punch with this argument. And they will never stop doing it.

        1. So we are to assume that all of the polls indicating a close race last week were “fantasies”?

          As for a “conservative Democrat” being nominated in 2020, the way to insure that will be to elect Trump, for reasons provided in the piece, and which should be obvious to anyone who is aware of how the Democrats have responded to defeat by right wing Republicans since Reagan.

          As for me being a “soft leftist”, I defeated Democrats in two elections running as a Green, hoping to help build the foundation of a serious left opposition.

          As for Chomsky, the charge is ridiculous on its face.

          The word you are looking for is “serious”, not soft.

  54. Much of the discussion here seems to be based on the obvious fallacy that for any individual, her or his single vote can alter the outcome of a large election (one with more than a few hundred people voting). The chance of that is manifestly submicroscopic, infinitesimal. What one’s vote may do, possibly, is affect the mind of the voter. By voting, one attaches oneself morally to the one for whom one has voted. If the candidate is a war criminal, then one become the war criminal’s accomplice. If one is not a fan of war crimes, the effect of supporting them can only be depressing, emphasizing one’s powerlessness and demoralization.

    We on the Left do not have the power and wealth of the Right. All we have is our truth. Let’s stick to it.

    1. “By voting, one attaches oneself morally to the one for whom one has voted.”

      While recognizing that this is a dominant view among certain sectors of the self-identified “left”, Noam and I reject it, for reasons advanced in the piece.

    2. Anarcissie calls it a fallacy that “for any individual, her or his single vote can alter the outcome of a large election .” If that is so, please explain how the outcome of the election is determined. I thought it was just a sum over the votes. Is there some other influence on the outcome, besides the votes?

  55. John,

    I came back her just for fun.

    I never thought that the attacks on your and Dr. Chomsky’s article would be still be trickling in. Of course, none of them address the substance of your arguments – only attack you in ways that I used to think only the hard right-wing was capable of.

    I admire your fortitude in calmly responding to them. This could go on for a long time.

  56. Mr. Halle and Mr. Chomsky:

    Thank you for the very thoughtful piece. I have one worry.

    It seems to me that when people react badly to LEV arguments, they’re reacting, in part, to a certain foreclosure of possibility. That is to say, until I and others cast our votes, consequences besides Clinton and Trump remain open, strictly speaking. The foreclosure of these possibilities may help undermine political movement between now and November, and thus also a better eventual actuality. (There’s a funny “Simpsons” episode on this point, where the two evil aliens, “Bob Dole” and “Clinton,” say that a consideration of alternatives is a waste of time.) I guess what I’m suggesting is we have to take the “temporal” nature of elections seriously — like, we aren’t there yet — and that perhaps we need to make a case for our preferred political possibility, not turn those possibilities into a two-sided dilemma just yet. You’ve probably done this in other places, but I (like many other readers) am only acquainted with this piece of yours, having been directed to it while studying other work of Chomsky’s.

    So, I recognize you’re giving advice on voting now so that you’ll have swayed voters like me (in NH, a swing state) by November; but this undermines my sense of freedom and it may contribute to poorer long-range consequences, because the parameters of thought feel already limited by authorities like you and Chomsky. Ironically, as long as the presidential election season is in the U.S., we seem to foreclose our options pretty fast.

    I’ve been interested by Cornel West’s position (as I understand it): He’s supporting Stein, but on a recent episode of Bill Maher’s show, he said if it came down to it and his vote was the difference between Clinton and Trump, he’d vote for Clinton. But he only admitted that after a lot of pushing by Barney Frank. He seems to accept your argument, then; but my sense is that he wants to preserve the possibilities first and foremost.

    That’s what I’d like to do, too, and why I resist LEV arguments at this point: I want time to think. But I appreciate your arguments here. Thank you.

    1. Thank you. We recognize we take what might be a minority position within certain sectors of the left. And it’s difficult to accept positions which challenge conventional wisdoms, as Noam has done throughout his career, often being attacked for doing so. The attacks, incidentally, have sometimes in the past come from the self-identified left (as the piece alludes to). The ones we are receiving are therefore quite familiar, though no more or less disconcerting than those of 40 years ago.

  57. As Chomsky has often pointed out, political “theories” and prognostications are not science. Life outside the laboratory is complex, and predicting the impact of a vote for Clinton, Trump, Stein or no one is not a scientific or straightforward task. What if a failed but inconsequential 4 year Trump term is followed by a genuine turn to the left in the next election? What if a Clinton election decimates the nascent Social Democratic movement and escalates violence abroad as a means to distract from economic inequality at home?

    Chomsky and Halle make a reasonable argument for voting Clinton. But I would be cautious to stigmatize or shame those who abstain or vote Stein based on their conscious or principles rather then Clinton based on their confidence in predicting the future. Voting Stein is, after all, not blowing up a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan and we should not pretend the consequences are similarly predictable.

    1. In fact, we don’t make an argument to vote for Clinton. If current polls hold into November, we make an argument for NOT voting for Clinton.

      1. Well, that is a bit disingenuous. To the extent that you are making an “argument” with others on the self-identified left at all, it is to vote Clinton. There is no argument about the “safe” states. My point was about the merits of principles and emotions relative to consequentialism.

          1. The linked article explicitly names the “right” or “pragmatic center” as the group arguing for a Clinton vote in safe states. Again, within the left the argument is about swing states. You and Chomsky make a reasonable argument based on the consequences you project of not voting Clinton. I think a vote based on prinipals rather then predicted consequences is a also a defensible option.

  58. My problem is that I’m truly not sure which candidate this year IS the lesser evil. I believe we are undergoing a major realignment in American politics — much the same as the realignment that occurred in the early 1900s, the last time that there was such vast wealth inequality and such rampant political corruption in our system. In this new realignment it is no longer simply the case that Democrats are automatically LEV.

    Was Obama LEV than Bush on deporation? On whistleblower protections and the espionage act? On drone warfare> On using the War on Terror to crush third world pro-democracy activists and extend US-corporate imperialism? I don’t know. Honestly. And anyone who says this is an “easy” question is either lying, ignorant, or looking for a job in Washington.

    And Clinton is far to the right of Obama on some extremely critical issues. At this point I am honestly in agony over this election. I see a vote for Trump as a vote for a domestic politics consumed by racist hate-mongering … but with a chance at escaping the TPP and avoiding major foreign wars. I see a vote for Clinton as buying mostly empty lip service on social issues … but at a price that arguably eclipses Trump’s parade of horribles. Clinton is DESPERATE to drag us into a proxy war in Syria that will directly pit the US against Russia and destabilize the whole world, not just the Middle East. She advocated for it throughout her time at State, and she’s unapologetically cooperating with the worst neocons to start the drumbeat to war before she’s even in the Oval Office.

    Bottom line: I do not believe that EITHER Clinton or Trump have should be trusted with the all-seeing omnipotent security state Bush and Obama worked together to build. And though I shudder every time Trump opens his mouth, I am terrified that Clinton is going to drag us into a new Vietman.

    Where is the lesser evil here? Both of these candidates are just different flavors of GREATER evil. I see violence, bloodshed and tragedy coming out of this election no matter who wins.

    1. Not complicated: the candidate who 1) will consider using nuclear weapons against ISIS and Europe 2) explicitly endorses torture 3) denies global warming 4) offers to pay for the defense of those who assault protesters at his rallies and 5) whose election will embolden extremist vigilante white supremacist elements such as David Duke, Joe Arpaio and Rudolph Giuliani is the greater evil.

      There’s a basic principle certain element of the left need to better understand, in my opinion: just because X is terrible, that doesn’t mean that Y can’t be worse. (I’ve actually had leftists try to argue that this is not a logically sound proposition.)

    2. Jessica Woodhouse: I agree. That is the wisest comment I read on this thread.

      I voted for Obama in 2008. I also happen to have personally paid for the permit for what was the very first anti-Dubya Bush demonstration, according to the New York Times. But in retrospect, Obama was clearly a greater evil than Bush. I was wrong.

      Obama decided, and the rest of the country has acceded, with hardly a peep, that he has the right to murder any man, woman or child in the world, that there is no law or legal status that can stop him from commanding a murder, and he has exercised this criminal power. Bush had only tentatively proposed, suggested this. There is nothing like it in the history of the USA. A few decades ago a US official would have been impeached for insanity for even suggesting it. Hitler was in office for a long time, the war had been going on for years, before the Reichstag awarded him this power.

      John Halle has a crystal ball, Noam Chomsky has a crystal ball. Many other commenters have one too, although their crystal balls mysteriously say different things. They KNOW that President Trump would be worse than President Clinton, or vice versa or whatever. They know the mechanistically determined future. They KNOW what would be better for them, or for the oppressed.

      My own opinion is that Clinton is more of a known thing. Trump would most likely govern a bit to the right, but he is less predictable, with a wider range of possibilities; it is not out of the question that he would govern to the left of Clinton overall.
      I just don’t KNOW, this is only an opinion.

      As always, but particularly in a situation like this, the obligation one has is to do what Halle & Chomsky themselves DO, but self-contradictorily belittle and criticize others for doing- follow their moral conscience, which of course includes thinking hard about the decision, its consequences etc above all. Always look at what people do, even more than what they say.

      I live in a very swing state, but am voting for Stein.

      1. While Obama has much to answer for, the claim that “Obama was clearly a greater evil than Bush” who perpetrated what may have been the greatest war crime in the history of the nation is simply indefensible.

  59. There have been a lot of war crimes before and after Bush. Look at all the bloody wars Obama has started or enlarged since. Bush & Iraq is not unusual. I think it is easy to defend that claim, and I made a start on it above.

    1. The Iraq war resulted in over a million deaths, twice as many refugees and cost upwards of 5 trillion dollars. As disgraceful as Obama’s wars have been, they are several orders of magnitude less in each significant respect. It is simply delusional to compare them.

  60. “… far right victories not only impose terrible suffering on the most vulnerable segments of society but also function as a powerful weapon in the hands of the establishment center, which, now in opposition can posture as the “reasonable” alternative.”

    Excuse my ignorance, but is this an implication that the center is some sort of evil in itself?

    1. Over the next few months it will be easy to forget the profound destruction which was inflicted by neoliberal, centrist Democrats via, to take a few examples, trade agreements, welfare “reform”, mass incarceration, continual insane levels of defense expenditures unwitting the “war on terror”, and, of course, ignoring the impending climate catastrophe. We should not.

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