The raging argument on the left between progressives who argue for radical change and centrists who advocate for incrementalism is hardly new. Nearly a century ago, progressive titan and Wisconsin Gov. Robert La Follette and then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt were often at loggerheads over the same question.
"In his first rally since losing the election last month, President Trump continued to spout conspiracy theories about voter fraud, falsely claiming that he had defeated President-elect Joe Biden." That was the lede of a news story in the Dec. 5 Washington Post.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a crisis tailor-made for a xenophobe like Donald Trump. The coronavirus provided an ideal opportunity to turn the president's biggest liability -- the nativist bigotry that went so far as to lock children in cages and then lose hundreds of their parents, which elicited disgust even among some of his supporters -- into a strength in early 2020. Trump's explicable failure to knock this easy pitch out of the ballpark is my biggest explanation for why he lost the election to a singularly lackluster opponent.
Progressives and other leftists promise/threaten to pressure/take to the streets to make demands of President-elect Joe Biden if/when he falls short of our expectations. We on the left don't want to be one of those bad bosses who tells you your work isn't good enough but never says what they expect from you in the first place, so you're reduced to fumbling around in the dark.
Why, Democrats have been asking, do so many poor white people vote for a Republican Party that doesn't care about or do anything for them? The most common reply is: Democrats are snobby coastal elites who talk down to them. Classic example courtesy of former President Barack Obama, who said of voters in the Rust Belt: "They get bitter. They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations."
Joe Biden enjoys a double-digit lead over incumbent President Donald Trump because he promises a return to normalcy -- not the platonic ideal of objective normalcy in a country that doesn't torture or spy on its citizens or let them starve because their coding chops are a few years out of date. Americans desperately want to resume "normal" political life as Americans knew it before the last four years of manic presidential tweetstorms, authoritarian strongman antics and pandemic pandemonium. As Michigan voter Katybeth Davis told the Guardian, "I just want it to be over with. I really do."
Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, but there are few more reliable ways to predict what comes next than to examine the historical record, because, most of the time, history really does repeat itself.
What kind of president would Joe Biden be? His centrist supporters assure progressives that he will be one of them, pushing an aggressive legislative agenda reminiscent of FDR's New Deal. His Republican opponents portray him as a socialist. But Biden hasn't actually promised anything ambitious.
It would be a stretch to say that Joe Biden is in trouble. He is ahead in the polls, including in states where Donald Trump won last time. Unlike Trump, whose campaign is apparently nearly broke, Biden's campaign is raking in corporate donations.
Front and center in the raging debate between liberals and progressives over whether they should support Joe Biden or opt out of the two-party trap by voting third party or not at all is the assumption that Biden would do less harm both to the world and to American leftism than Donald Trump.
"Jesus, Ted. All you ever do," some people tell me, "is complain. We get it -- you hate both the Republicans and the Democrats. We don't like them either. But those are the only two parties that have a chance of winning an election. Stop telling us what not to do. Tell us what you think we should do instead."
Republicans will vote for President Donald Trump no matter what. Democrats will vote for Joe Biden no matter what. This column is for progressives weighing the pros and cons of succumbing to the two-party trap and voting for Biden.
The stock response to President Donald Trump's suggestion that the general election might be delayed because voting during a pandemic would involve a record number of mail-in ballots, a format he argues is unreliable and susceptible to fraud, is that he doesn't have that power.
Pollsters have observed a consistent enthusiasm gap between supporters of President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Any factor that dampens Democratic turnout could contribute to a second come-from-behind victory for the GOP.
1. My vote is a personal endorsement. It says, "I, citizen Ted Rall, approve of Joe Biden's career in public office." I do not. Voting for Biden would be a retroactive endorsement of his vote to invade Iraq, which killed over 1 million innocent people. Voting for Biden would be a retroactive endorsement of his long history of racism, beginning with his disgusting opposition to court-ordered busing.
Once again, the Democratic Party is asking progressives to vote for a presidential nominee who says he disagrees with it about every major issue. This is presented as an offer it cannot refuse. If it casts a protest vote for a third-party candidate like the unionist and environmentalist Howie Hawkins of the Green Party or stays home on that key Tuesday in November, Donald Trump will win a second term -- which would be worse than Biden's first.
COVID-19 has created the ideal medium for a summer of continuous protest.
Political protests and demonstrations used to be weekend affairs during which angry leftists shouted at empty government offices before shuffling home Sunday afternoon to gear up for the workweek. With 1 out of 4 workers having filed for unemployment and many more working from home, tens of millions of Americans have free time to march in the streets. Sporting events, movie theaters, retail stores and even houses of worship are closed due to the coronavirus lockdown.