In a move that surprised absolutely no one, Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden announced Senator Kamala Harris of California as his vice presidential running mate yesterday. This news caused liberals to rejoice and conservatives to sneer. President Donald Trump has gone so far as to deriding this move as an embrace of the so-called “radical left” by the Democratic Party. Liberals were quick to fawn over a candidate who failed to excite them less than a year ago to the point that she had to drop out of the primaries before a single vote was cast. Socialists, some of us at least, find this all to be rather typical.
The common refrain that we can expect to hear (and already are) is that Biden/Harris is the most progressive campaign in the entirety of American history. It says more about the bankruptcy of using the term “progressive” to describe one’s politics than it does about anything else. It’s a statement that isn’t even really true with regards to the Democratic Party and is patently false compared to the visionary campaigns of socialists, both past and present. We, the people, are expected not only to believe this but to uphold it as though it were an absolute truth. Salvation has supposedly been visited upon us, and we will be delivered from evil once and for all if only we could be so bold as to vote for our self-anointed saviors unquestioningly.
These events are all so typical. What’s worse is that a considerable amount of socialists may even buy into such a way of thinking if they haven’t already done so. With long-tenured leftists like Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis making the socialist case for Biden/Harris, it’s to be expected. With many leftists suggesting that Joe Biden will snatch the National Labor Relations Board from the jaws of capitalism, it was only a matter of time before many of us would believe such a claim. Socialists were primed and ready for it.
Democrats will never cast a vote for socialism, but it’s the socialists who continually vote for capitalism. As Eugene Debs said 119 years ago:
“Now, it is a curious thing to me that a great many workingmen will vote for a thing that will do them no good, a thing that they do not want, because they are dead sure of getting it; and they will vote against the thing they need, against the thing they want, because they reason that if they all vote for it they might get it. Every workingman in every community should assert himself on election day, totally regardless of what others do. Suppose you are the only Socialist in the community. Now, that might require a little more courage on your part, and if you lack it we cannot win. But if you have a little more courage and if you cast a Socialist vote, you will give some evidence of the final redemption of your community. If you cast that vote, someday you and your children will be proud of it; you will make a beginning and you will soon have company. Now, I would rather vote my convictions and vote alone than to vote against my convictions and be with the majority. What good is it to be with the majority of cowards, anyway? As a matter of fact, in the history of great principles, men everywhere have been wrong outside the minority. All of these great changes depend upon minorities, and in the march of time a minority becomes a majority and everyone applauds.”
The hard and sober truth is that socialists still find themselves among the minority and suggest otherwise for us to be dishonest with ourselves. That does not mean we can’t do anything about it. We should continue educating, agitating, and organizing. These activities remain at the core, essential to the potential growth of a real socialist movement or even better, a mass socialist party. But rather than doing all of that only to hold our noses and vote to give Democrats power that they will misuse and abuse as they always have, we should instead cast a vote for socialism.
When the Socialist Party nominated Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker as its respective candidates for president and vice president, it was so that socialists would be able to vote for socialism on election day. When the Green Party followed suit, it affirmed that for the first time in decades, the working class would have socialists on their ballots in most states. Thanks to the work of these two parties socialists throughout the country will have the opportunity to assert themselves once again on election day.
By now, the crimes and misdeeds of Biden and Harris have been well documented. Everyone knows their records. They either react appropriately in disgust or willingly ignores it outright in their quest for access to capitalist power. Biden believes the police require more funding, while Hawkins thinks we should heed the Black Panthers’ wisdom and establish community control over the police. While Biden was telling Wall Street that “nothing will fundamentally change,” Hawkins has been vociferous in his support of public ownership of the means of production. Kamala Harris may have been California’s top cop, but it was Angela Walker who decided to run against Milwaukee’s top cop, Sheriff David Clarke (who was both a Democrat and a Trump supporter, incidentally).
While the “harm reductionists,” as I’ve taken to calling them, will tout Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the logical lesser of the evils, we must make the case for Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker as socialists. As socialists, we don’t traffic in the politics of lesser-evilism but rather in what should be considered the greater good. We do not find one of the architects of mass incarceration and one of its fiercest lieutenants capable of or willing to reduce harm in any way meaningfully. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are very clearly functionaries and proponents of the maintenance of the repressive capitalist state. Howie Hawkins, a retired rank and file Teamster, and Angela Walker, a former bus driver, legislative director with the Amalgamated Transit Union, and current truck driver, have spent their lives being in, of, and for the working class.
The answer, if there ever was a question, is clear. We vote for Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker. We vote for two socialists.
We vote for socialism.
John Palmucci is the Executive Editor of The Socialist and State Chair of the Socialist Party of New Jersey.