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"West, Williamson, or RFK": The return of Warnieism
Instead of rallying around the socialist, opponents of Biden divide themselves among capitalists running as "progressives". Sound familiar?
Joe Biden is an unpopular candidate for president, but he is still running well ahead of the opposition. Fortunately, there is a socialist running against him who may be able to consolidate the anti-Biden vote and pose a serious challenge to his candidacy much like Bernie Sanders did to Hillary Clinton in 2016. There is every reason to believe that he can do this if opponents of capitalism rally around his campaign and work to bring the rest of Biden’s opposition into the fold. Unfortunately, however, our socialist candidate faces multiple capitalist challengers who are trying to compete for the socialist vote by positioning themselves as vague radicals — and an ostensibly radical network of online activists and media figures who are willing to play along and unwilling to adopt an adversarial position against his opponents.
This, of course, is the problem that leftists faced throughout the 2020 Democratic primaries. Bernie Sanders, a self-identified socialist, was from the day he announced the logical rallying point for a left-flank challenge — not just to Biden, but to the entire capitalist system. But Sanders was swarmed by a liberal opponents like Elizabeth Warren who positioned themselves as radicals and prevented his campaign from building the early momentum it needed to get over the establishment’s Super Tuesday speedbump at the end. And those candidates were abetted, of course, by a whole constellation of activists and pundits (like Sean McElwee, for example) who argued against rallying around Sanders and against a competitive, critical stance towards his opponents.
If there’s one lesson socialists should have taken from 2020, it’s that hedging our bets with progressive capitalist candidates is a guaranteed lose. And yet that is exactly what ostensibly Marianne Williamson and RFK Jr. are us to do by running against actual socialist candidate Cornel West. West’s campaign had such a terrible launch in its association with the reactionary People’s Party Nick Brana front group that the overwhelming majority of socialists, including yours truly, rightly rejected it. But almost immediately, West left Brana’s group and declared his candidacy for the Green Party’s nomination instead. If you are an opponent of capitalism, the obvious thing to do at this point is to rally around the candidate who also opposes capitalism and treat Williamson and RFK as the capitalist Democrats that they are. Look, it’s so easy I’ll even make a flowchart:
That any of this has to be spelled out after what was, for socialists, one of the most vivid and catastrophic learning experiences in modern electoral history tempts me to spend a lot more time gaming and a lot less time doing whatever this is. As far as I can tell there are only two reasons you could possibly object to this.
First, because you think that, in the arena of presidential politics, the Democratic Party is the only possible vehicle for progress. This is a popular strategic position, albeit one I disagree with. It’s shared by everyone from Joe Biden to AOC to Bernie Sanders. It is, however, a funny rationale to hear from Williamson / RFK supporters who have long at pains to distance themselves from Democratic entryists and reformists, and who have abandoned principled opposition to capitalism for some vague opposition to “the establishment” or “the system” or whatever. If you won’t stand up to capitalism or the duopoly what then what exactly is this system you have a problem with?
Second: because you don’t oppose capitalism. This is a popular position too! Elizabeth Warren was a capitalist who positioned herself as a radical proponent of “big structural change”, and her supporters spent a good year positioning themselves as deluded deadenders for one of the more embarrassing campaigns in recent history. Hell, Joe Biden also loves capitalism. So is this a Communists for Hickenlooper deal where we’re supposed to back a liberal Democrat because he’s taken a decent position on one or two issues to try to distinguish himself from the pack?
Socialists have a fight ahead of us. It’s going to be hard for West to recover from a bad campaign launch. It’s going to be hard to prevent The People’s Party from using him to further their own ambitions. It’s going to be hard to prevent Williamson and RFK from shepherding opposition to Biden back into capitalist Democratic politics. And it’s going to be hard, as always, to overcome Democratic loyalism and lesser-evilism out among people who are rightly worried about a Republican win. There’s still time for better candidates to announce, and if we get a better socialist I think there’ll be plenty of room to revisit our support. But for now, Cornel West’s run with the Green Party is the only game in town.
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