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The data is clear: Progressives should boycott Biden

Ted Rall on

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.

Which is better for the progressive movement: fall into the two-party trap and vote for Biden, or refuse to be co-opted and possibly increase Trump's reelection chances?

My new book, "Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party," documents the last half-century of struggle between the party's left-leaning voters and its right-leaning leadership class. History is clear. When progressive voters compromised their values by supporting corporatist candidates, they were ignored after the election. Only when they boycotted a general election did the DNC start to take them seriously.

Throughout the 1980s, party bigwigs manipulated the primaries in favor of establishment corporatist candidates over insurgent progressives: Jimmy Carter over Ted Kennedy in 1980, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis over Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. Democrats were united but unenthused; all three lost.

Carter won once, and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama each won two terms, all three with progressive support. Democratic victories didn't help progressives.

Most people have forgotten that Carter was the first of a string of conservative Democratic presidents. He brought back draft registration. The "Reagan" defense buildup actually began under Carter, as Ronald Reagan himself acknowledged. Carter provoked the Tehran hostage crisis by admitting the despotic shah to the U.S., boycotted the Moscow Olympics and armed the Afghan mujahideen, who morphed into al-Qaida.

 

Carter became the first president since Franklin Roosevelt not to propose an anti-poverty program. Instead, he pushed a right-wing idea, "workfare."

Progressives got nothing in return for their votes for Jimmy Carter.

Like Carter, Clinton and Obama governed as foreign policy hawks while ignoring pressing domestic issues like rising income and wealth inequality. Clinton pushed through the now-disgraced 1994 crime bill that accelerated mass incarceration of people of color; signed the North American Free Trade Agreement that gutted the Rust Belt and sent hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas; and ended "welfare as we know it," massively increasing homelessness. Obama bailed out Wall Street while ignoring Main Street, smashed the Occupy Wall Street movement and supported al-Qaida affiliates that destroyed Libya and Syria.

There was only one arguably progressive policy achievement over those 16 years: the Affordable Care Act, which originated in the bowels of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

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