A liberal/left midterm debate

Is The Green Party a Spoiler For Trump?

I have nothing against The Green Party. I have friends who swear by it and work for it and its candidates. During the 2012 election, I struggled with Philly cops to photograph Jill Stein getting arrested for civil disobedience at a bank in Philadelphia. She’s an honorable person with good intentions. But I never voted for her. In national elections like the one in 2016, I was a hold-your-nose, strategic voter for the Democrat; I saw a vote for Stein as a wasted vote — or worse. As it turned out the election was incredibly close, creating questions, such as whether a vote for Jill Stein was Quixotic and whether it had greater strategic power as a spoiler vote for Donald Trump.

This question really stands out in the special congressional election this week in the Ohio 12th District. “That district has been Republican in 48 out of 50 years,” said Republican pollster Frank Luntz about the closeness of the race. “That’s a hit in the head with a baseball bat.” There was a less than 1% difference in votes between the two candidates; and with over 3000 provisional and absentee ballots still to be counted, the Democrat could still win the election in the end. The Green Party reportedly got about 1% of the vote. Do the math. Because the election was so very close, the Green Party seems to have been a key factor in putting the congressional Republican over the top.

 John Grant)Dr. Jill Stein being arrested in Philadelphia when she ran for president in 2012. (Photo: John Grant)

I wonder whether the Green Party is a self-inflicted wound on the part of a greater Left, which one might see as a volatile coalition of moderate, centrist liberals and more radical, angrier leftists. Green Party people, of course, disdain moderate, liberal Democrats like the plague. This has little to do with personalities or ideologies or utopian visions. It has to do with pragmatic electoral politics in a nation at a profound crossroad. (We could debate this stuff all night.) There’s intense polarization and a growing sense of tribalism. Everything that was once common ground is now shaky. There’s all the old government crimes to deal with and, suddenly, there’s a new sense of encroaching authoritarianism that may be in synch with unsavory events and personalities around the world. Great gobs of dark money are obviously fueling it all. More and more normally-centric people are realizing it could happen here. There’s the old metaphor of the frog in the water who does not jump out because the temperature is raised very slowly a half a degree at a time. Presumably, at some point the frog will recognize it’s damn hot — but by that point the little fellow’s energy may be so tapped-out by the rising heat that he can’t move and is doomed. But that’s just a silly metaphor.

In a bizarre turn of events, the same two candidates in Ohio’s 12th District “special” elections will be opposing each other again in three months in the ever-looming midterm. Republicans are so fearful of the midterms that their ample war chests may not be enough to spread around as they would wish; this may play out in Ohio’s 12th District in the form of squeezed funds going into November. So the next three months are going to be intense in the area around Columbus, Ohio. Activist citizens and ordinary voters in the district will be under a national microscope; the fact the Democrats were so unusually strong in the special election can only give Democrats a leg up heading into November. Republicans are said to be scared of a new enthusiasm factor among Democrats. If I were a Democrat-voting citizen there I’d be all over my Green Party friends to give up their insurgent party.

I’m aware of a debate-point in the farther left reaches of the Greater Left (ie. a Left that includes liberals) that focuses on Vladimir Putin and Russia and the idea that it’s good that President Donald Trump is eager to talk with President Putin. It’s about making peace between two long adversaries. What motivates the far left seems to be a long and abiding distrust of the so-called Deep State, something shared by Donald Trump and his favorite commentator, Sean Hannity — something I share. But, then, I’ve always been perplexed by the 2016 photograph of Jill Stein sitting down to dinner in Moscow with Michael Flynn and Vladimir Putin. Sure, talking and breaking bread is good. But given the idea of the Green Party effectively working as a spoiler, Stein’s presence there doesn’t sit well in the mind. Could Dr. Stein’s campaign have been useful in getting Donald Trump elected? I’m not suggesting anything nefarious or criminal on Slein’s part. Just asking: Can one remain a moral actor when one is unintentionally useful to nefarious forces?

Full disclosure: I think Putin and Trump want to exploit their powers the same way two gangsters want to carve up a city; they both envision a new “colonial” world with the three giants making the deals raking in the dough. I don’t like Hillary Clinton, but I never feared she would lead the US to war with Russia. I think the best chance of getting us into war with Russia is unbridled and arrogant stupidity: some kind of narcissistic royal cock fight between Putin and Trump played out in cyberwarfare and mysterious attacks like the Russian mercenary Wagner Group’s attack on a US base in Syria, reportedly ending in up to some 200 dead Russian mercenaries.

For me, one cannot analyze the current mess without accepting the ancient political reality of strange bedfellows. The dilemma on the far left these days seems to be this: Which strange bedfellow do I choose to get it on with? Does one distrust and hate the Deep State so much the mysterious authoritarian Trump-Putin attraction becomes acceptable? Or does one distrust and hate the very idea of a President Donald Trump and all he represents so much that accepting the Deep State’s role in impeaching him becomes acceptable? It’s strange bedfellows either way. The far left seems to face the identical dilemma as those holding their noses and voting for a Democrat. Neither choice is anywhere near ideal and both are a huge stretch from any kind of Utopian socialist thinking. The question then becomes who stinks worse?

Me? I’m going with the Deep State. I know it really sounds nefarious when you call it that, as some of my good far-left friends do and as Sean Hannity does every night. The label The Deep State reminds me of an effort back in the Reagan eighties to undermine something called The Secret Team, which was a deep-cover conspiracy to undermine the Constitution and everything good about America. The idea never went anywhere and fizzled out; I felt it was a case of the label was too conspiratorially opportunistic to incorporate the entire scope of America’s real darkness, the thing Dick Cheney loved so much and called The Dark Side.

Ideology seems to be less of an issue in America or the world these days. Since Capitalism now rules, the really big deal is Corruption and how it breeds and grows in the runaway global train fueled by incredible technological and social-media realities. Justice becomes political and about that old American favorite, Selective Enforcement. Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to cover for Donald Trump isn’t about legalities and justice; it’s about establishing the cultural idea that political life in America (and the world) is so fundamentally corrupt that it would be unfair and unjust to pick on poor Donald Trump, who is only trying to do his job. Everybody does it, including Hillary and other Deep State actors, so it’s politically selective to pick on Trump. And who knows; it may work in the end.

The prospects for a Blue Wave in November is good; a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats fired up with new blood like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez versus the gang of loathsome Republican toads we have now has to be an improvement. If the stars really line up and the Senate goes Democratic, impeachment and conviction becomes a very real possibility. Of course, if Trump were to be convicted by the Senate, citizens would have a President Pence to deal with. But with a first-time-in-history impeachment conviction and a president who refuse to resign run to ground, the Republican Party would be seriously wounded or crippled going into 2020. Also, there’s the real possibility that all the Left/Right critiquing of the Deep State could have a positive reform impact on the FBI et al. But this is getting way ahead of the game.

In the case of Ohio’s 12th District, it would be a crying shame in November if a Green Party candidate siphoned enough votes from the Democratic candidate to push the Republican into a win, meaning that seat would remain Republican and not be one of 23 seats needed to change the leadership of the House.

There is dignity in doggedly holding onto one’s ideals until the bitter end, something that becomes Quixotic when it’s evident the position is a losing position. I’m rusty on my Kant, but I recall his Categorical Imperative revolved around the idea that one should act individually as if what you are doing were a universal law and everybody did it. Does this apply to voting? If everybody voted for Jill Stein or the Green Party candidate the world really might be a better place. But what if the idea of everybody voting this way is only a desire, a fantasy?

There’s certainly a place for the Green Party. Who am I to suggest otherwise? But maybe not right now. As the nation approaches an election that seems more and more to be about impeachment, does the Green Party want to go down in history as the spoiler that tipped enough very close local elections that Republicans kept control of the House, the Senate, the Presidency and the Supreme Court?