how to manipulate voters: the DNC performs salome's dance

The RNC horror show has passed and given way to Salome’s Dance AKA the DNC. This is the phase in a presidential election cycle in which the distinctions drawn between presidential candidates – often sharply – during the Democrats’ primaries are hypocritically (but seductively) erased in favour of a mystical “party unity.” Hence, Hillary Clinton’s coronation in the most hyperbolic terms, laced with a disturbing appropriation of Ronald Reagan and right-wing cheerleading. DNC malconduct? What malconduct?

For Sanders supporters and everyone else who hoped that Democrats would be bold enough to field a candidate not named Clinton, the re-alignment has been jarring. But following tradition, Lesser Evil Logic has nevertheless taken hold among those who don’t accept Clinton’s merits as a presidential candidate with Clinton cast as the Lesser Evil to Trump’s Huge Evil. To which I say this:

The more honest of these Lesser Evil voters will at least heave heavy sighs with every proclamation that Trump must be defeated, after which Clinton and Democrats can be held accountable for implementing progressive policies. Meanwhile, a strong counter-reaction has arisen directed towards the Bernie or Bust folk or anyone else rejecting Clinton’s Lesser Evil Logic. At a convention hostile to Sanders delegates, Clinton supporters are directed to drown out vocal dissenters with counter-chants. Wealthy Clinton donors gripe about Sanders supporters who won’t go away. Third parties like the Green Party are dismissed as having no chance, and a vote for Jill Stein is considered equivalent to a vote for Trump.

When instilling fear of the Bogeyman doesn’t work, the shaming of non-conformist voters becomes personal. Among the various condescending attempts to lock the rabble into step is a pastime favoured by aging adults:  blaming “kids these days,” in this case those viewed as spoiled bratty narcissists unwilling to make the hard self-sacrificing choices like mature adults. Characterizing an entire generation based on anecdotal experience reflects precisely the sort of prejudiced attitude we condemn in right-wingers, but groupthink is a universal human failing. (Personally, I can think of many Millenials who are far from lazy; social entrepreneurs who use business for socially valuable work.)

If you’re not a lazy Milennial unwilling to adult-up and accept reality, commentators like Rolling Stone’s Joshua Holland (RNC and DNC Showed There Are Two Teams in America – Choose Wisely) will gladly bludgeon you with reminders that there only two sides to America, and you’d better prove your political sophistication by A) accepting the polarity and B) picking the right one or else – Trump!

Almost as galling as the repeated attempts to present Hillary Clinton as someone her record says she isn’t is the persistent description of American politics as a two-party system. From a propagandist perspective, promoting this myth makes sense for both the establishment right and left as each side can use the other to motivate their bases with the Monstrous Other that must be stopped. The media, of course, embraces the polarity with enthusiasm since it allows them to turn politics into sports and reality TV. It all works to delegitimize dissent and erase criticism.

Here’s what establishment politicians and the media don’t want people to think about too deeply, lest it upset the balance of power: America is not a two-party state. There’s nothing in the Constitution that limits the number of political parties to two, nor has congress passed any legislation to that effect. What we have is bad math in the way votes are counted, a system that intrinsically allows paradoxical and undemocratic results. For example, suppose we have four presidential candidates in the running. The votes split 43%, 34%, 16%, and 7%. Under the current system, the victor wins with 43% even though 57% of voters did not vote for him/her. It is precisely this sort of problematic outcome that ranked voting / instant runoffs methods are intended to eliminate.

We saw in 2000 how a simple majority-wins voting system doesn’t work. Instead of admitting that the system is inherently flawed, however, the media gave us instead the Nader Effect (which is itself based on a misunderstanding that Democrats and their media enablers willingly exploit for their own benefit – see Truthdig’s Don’t Fall for It: The Nader Myth and Your 2016 Vote). Enter the spoiler, the result of distinguishing between “correct” and” incorrect” votes in a system judged by its outcome and not for the information it provides us about voter preferences across the board. Of course, “spoiler” is just tantrum-speak for “you didn’t vote the way I wanted you to, so you’re a bad voter.” We could just as easily describe Al Gore as the spoiler for Nader’s presidency. It’s an arrogant peer pressure tactic, one of many intended to bully voters into supporting the Democratic Party when they believe their political interest lie elsewhere. (Another tactic is mockery of the kind practiced by celebrities like Sarah Silverman and Samantha Bee). But here’s the rub: partisan Democrats use the same arguments at every election: elect a Democrat or flush the Supreme Court, Civil Rights, and any chance of progress down history’s privy. (Republicans, of course, have their own versions centered on “freedom” and money.) It’s an argument they make regardless of who the Republican nominee is. Granted, Trump brings a special kind of crazy, but a Cruz, Rubio, or Kasich would be equally problematic in terms of achieving progressive goals. Unfortunately, political campaigns have a desensitizing effect, which prompts greater and greater hysteria to achieve the desired fearfulness.

Which brings me to the biggest con of this whole election: the demand that voters surrender their reason and pay the price for craven leadership and political failures on the part of Democrats and mainstream Lefties. Democrats have had plenty of chances to reform; rigging the system against Sanders, who is meaningfully distinguishable from Republicans unlike Clinton, is but one example of their refusal to do so. The mainstream Left has had plenty of time, particularly since 2000, to form a non-partisan movement that could have pivoted, for example, to the Green Party (which has long promoted a platform intended to address structural inequalities and achieve progress on key issues spanning electoral reform and campaign financing, the environment and health care, and economic relief) in the event of Democratic intransigence. But complacency between elections on the part of party and community leaders has only fueled the desperate, deceptive, and manipulative logic of Lesser Evilism. It shouldn’t be a surprise that some voters are fed up and willing to act against the groupthink.

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