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October 27, 2008


Thanks, Terry, for presenting the more nuanced version of this. I was sent an email by an Obama shill that just claimed, "Chomsky and Zinn say they'll vote for Obama", which in Chomsky's case is a fabrication. (He does not live in a swing state, and he quite rightly frames the issue as a choice between alternatives. He said pretty much the same thing four years ago, by the way, concluding that he would vote for Nader, but that he recommended that those in swing states vote for Kerry.) Neither Chomsky nor Zinn support Obama.

The problem with lesser evil arguments is that they create inertia in the direction of evil. Each new permutation leads further from progressivism. So, for example, what if Obama and McCain were to announce that they were forming a bipartisan commission for the creation of concentration camps for dissidents, or that they planned to nuke Iran if elected? Wouldn't Obama still be "less evil", since he wants more bike paths or he would give more tax breaks to the "middle class"? Isn't it always then a race to the right, always with a dime's worth of difference?

"And there's no reason, other than the will to believe, to expect that Obama would be any better [than McCain], and it's entirely likely that in some ways - including those bearing on racial justice - he'll be worse, again by moving the boundaries of thinkable liberalism that much farther to the right. There is nothing in his record, much less his recent courting of some of the worst tendencies of the right, to reassure us on this front. The argument that he has to give away everything in order to get elected is substantively only an argument that we have no reason to elect him...

But here's the catch-22: The left version of the lesser evilist argument stresses that it's unrealistic and maybe unfair to expect anything of the Dems in the absence of a movement that could push them, and no such movement exists. True enough, but where is such a movement to come from if we accept the premise that the horizon of our political expectation has to be whatever the Dems are willing to do because demanding more will only put/keep the other guys in power, and they're worse?...

what makes the Dems every four years 'better' is always something that the hacks and yuppies are likely to imagine getting if they win, and their disgusting moralizing about the imperative to vote for their 'lesser evil'...means 'I may get what's important for me, but you have to recognize that what you need is naïve or impractical' -- is all about bullying the rest of us into believing we have an obligation to vote for what's good for them."
---(Adolph Reed, Jr., Where Obamaism Seems to be Going)

Oh my, there Harry goes again.

Previously, Harry had advised me to read Chomsky and Zinn (I actually had, previously), to educate myself as to why I should waste my vote on Nader. Now, guess what, both Chomsky and Zinn say it's OK to vote for Obama.

OK, Chomsky is himself not voting for Obama. But Chomsky has always been a walking advertisement for cognitive dissonance (his true intellectual field.) He is a "libertarian-socialist," an oxymoron if ever there was one. He is an anarchist and says power is "inherently illegitimate," (unless "justified" howevever he, Chomsky defines justified), but he supports the use of government to achieve the objectives he favors. He sometimes praises the U.S., but refuses to recognize that the genius of the U.S. government is based on limiting the "power" of government through a separation of "powers" (ooh, that, dirty word "power") through the three branches of government, through federalism, through civil society, through free speech, through freedom of assembly, etc. Chomsky is against the killing of civilians in war, whether intended or otherwise, but supports Hezbollah, which regularly targets civilians. He supports the right of free speech of those who deny the Holocaust as if facts don't matter.

Harry says neither Chomsky nor Zinn "support" Obama even though both say it's OK to vote for him and Zinn says thay he, in fact, intends to vote for him. I guess in Harry's cognitive world, voting for someone is not supporting him.

Oh, and by the way, both Chomsky and Zinn live in Massachusetts, hardly a swing state.

Zinn, who has always been far less self-contradictory than Chomsky, has it right when he says he is voting for Obama because Obama "creates an opening for a possibility of change." Zinn, who is a political scientist, not a cognitive dissonant, didn't need to spell out what he is implying -- that a vote for Nader opens no possibility for change.

I am all for mass movements and other manifestations of civil society to hold Obama's feet to the fire once he is elected. But I'm voting for the possibility of change, not the certainty of no change.

In response to Harry Kershner:

Your appraisal of Chomsky as "self-contradictory" is inaccurate.

Libertarian Socialism is not a contradiction. The term stems directly from the anarchist-leftist tradition, with roots in the labor movement. This version of libertarianism is quite different than the current right-wing based version. Also,I believe you are confusing socialism with communist authoritarianism, or at the very least, you are confusing the views of specific factions of these parties with the greater philosophical meanings of these concepts.

Noam Chomsky does not support Hezbollah. He supports equal recognition and equal diplomatic treatment for Hezbollah, since they are basically the only thing close to a government that is defending the semetic peoples from the state of Israel's terrorism. He does not support immorality or terrorism, he supports equal and fair treatment for similar groups. You are misrepresenting his viewpoint.

Your view that Chomsky's criticism of U.S. policy somehow contradicts his praise of U.S. freedom is illogical. He is critical of the U.S. because the U.S. is capable of doing wrong even if it is a free country. We should not accept injustice from even the best country in the world. This is not contradictory; it is logical.

The fact that you seem to want to argue these points in response to an article about Chomsky advocating voting for Obama is strange to me. You do not seem to have any grasp of the facts that you felt needed to be brought up. In fact, this is not a contradictory viewpoint either, because he does not advocate Obama's platform; rather he is specifically speaking against McCain's. So he is consistent. He said basically the same thing in 2004.

Oops, I meant to be responding to Craig, not Harry. I actually very much agree with what Hary Kershner said. My mistake.

Also, I just read that Zinn changed his mind and now says that he will vote for Nader, although he still encourages those in battleground states to vote for Obama. (pretty much the same position as Chomsky)

Thanks to David DeVries for his elegant rebuttal of Craig's ignorant diatribe. From the Nader campaign:

Howard Zinn now says he's voting for Nader.

The famous historian lives in Massachusetts, where Obama is ahead by 20 points.

Zinn created a stir earlier when he said he was voting for Obama.

He legitimately took some heat for supporting the corporate Obama.

But late last night, Zinn admitted in an e-mail to our campaign that he made a mistake and now says he will vote for Nader.

And Zinn urges all people of conscience to vote for the true progressive in slam dunk states.

Of which there are now many.

(Zinn says that in non slam dunk states, he urges people to vote for Obama. We obviously disagree with that bit of advice.)

Or as Ralph Nader put it today:

"A vote for Nader/Gonzalez on November, rather than being wasted by piling onto an Obama landslide or McCain implosion, will produce a stronger hammer and watchdog for what millions of Americans want -- including public Medicare for all with private delivery and a living wage for the one in three workers who don't make one."

Those of you who have misled about Chomsky need to correct your errors and to add the new information about Zinn. A vote for Obama in Oregon is a wasted vote, one that will lose whatever leverage progressives hope to have over an Obama administration.

Incidentally, Craig, you have a real problem reading and interpreting Chomsky.

Power is illegitimate by assumption, if it's a relation of authority among human beings which places some above others. Legitimate power, therefore, is democratic power, or some other type of power which can be justified, e.g., the restraining of a child by an adult. If you don't understand that, you don't understand anything about Chomsky. Furthermore, that he supports the right of free speech even to those who hold views that repulse him, e.g., holocaust denial, is a mark of intellectual courage and integrity that you should emulate.

One thing more: as a former social psychologist, I understand the concept of cognitive dissonance better than you. Read Leon Festinger first if you must use the term.

Earth to Terry, Harry, and David:

Nader can't win.

Over and out.

Hey Harry -- I got a number for you -- 0.5% -- that's 1/2 of one percent.

How's the hammer? Does it feel more like a feather?

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