Of Dreamers and Sleepwalkers

“Most men are not wicked. They are sleepwalkers, not evildoers.”
~ Franz Kafka

Lesser evil voting is mostly knee jerk groupthink, not rational decision-making and strategic thinking. If it was rational and strategic, Sanders would be guaranteed the nomination.

Sanders is the only candidate that the polling data has regularly shown to have any chance to defeat any of the Republican candidates. And he is the only candidate with both high popular support and low negative public opinion. On top of that, he is the only candidate of either political party whose politics aren’t some combination of neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

It’s about the narrative, the frame of how people think and what they can imagine. Lesser evil voting tends to mean backing the establishment and the status quo, no matter what. Some people use lesser voting strategically as a tactic, but these people are probably such a tiny fraction of a percentage of the voters as to be insignificant for elections. For most, lesser evil voting is simply about fear of the alternatives, even when their actions make the feared alternatives more likely.

Besides, so much of the argument seems pointless. Hillary Clinton has won most of the delegates even in states that have a majority supporting Sanders. The same happens in elections. What most Americans want is irrelevant to the system, especially considering how constrained is the election process, how controlled and manipulated and undermined is the pseudo-democracy. In a fully functioning democracy, neither Clinton nor Trump would make it very far in the process—both offering oppressive authoritarianism. Candidates like that don’t represent what most Americans support, as polls show. Despite how the MSM dismisses Sanders, he actually represents what is majority opinion.

None of this is charade is rational. It doesn’t matter what is proven to be true in polls, political records, released e-mails, historical documents, etc. It’s not about the issues. It’s not about what the American public supports and wants. This isn’t an actual democracy we live in. This is an open secret. Social science research has gone into this in great detail. It’s a favorite topic on the internet. Even the mainstream (corporate) media every so often throws up a piece on either asserting or questioning whether the US is still a democracy; and if not, what is it—military-industrial complex, banana republic, shadow government, deep state, inverted totalitarianism, corporatism/fascism, plutocracy, dark money, police state, or what exactly? The only place you don’t hear this kind of thing is in mainstream (corporatist) politics.

Yet everything goes on as if normal. We live in this dissociated state. We know it all is a charade or at least have strong suspicions. But we can’t bring ourselves to fully acknowledge this and act rationally in response to it. Rationality seems impotent when confronted by such horrific possibilities. Thinking along these lines would lead to radical notions and questions, and so we expunge them from our consciousness. It’s best not to think too much about it all. One might start feeling unacceptable impulses toward protesting in the streets, marching on the capitol, or God Forbid! starting a revolution. All of a sudden, the choice between Coke and Pepsi might be understood as meaningless as it always was. Such thoughts make people unhappy. If you confront people with this, they will get upset and angry. You can lose friends that way.

It’s understandable. There was something I think Franz Kafka said that has stuck with me—to paraphrase: Don’t destroy someone’s world, unless you have something better to offer them. That’s a tough standard to hold oneself to. It’s hard to imagine something new until the old has been cleared away. It might not be a matter of destroying someone’s world when they are acting self-destructively toward their own world.

In this situation, do you wait for full destruction to be complete before suggesting the consideration of alternatives? Why do we wait for problems to almost be past the point of any solution before even trying to figure out what those problems are?

None of this was inevitable. It was a series of choices made, the results accumulating over time.

Imagine if we had taken a different path. Imagine decades or even generations of greater good voting. Imagine for the past century that elected presidents included the likes of Eugene V. Debs, McGovern, Nader, Sanders, Jill Stein, etc. We wouldn’t even be facing the problems we now face. It’s not just about the lesser evil of this or that election, but endless kneejerk groupthink and fearmongering defense of the status quo.

Pointing this all out to people just irritates them. They have no way to make sense of it. The old narratives no longer explain much of anything and yet there is no compelling narrative to take their place. To imagine something new and different, people need to be told a story that draws them in and suspends their disbelief. One moment of envisioning an alternative could lift the cloud of cynicism and apathy.

That is one hell of a challenge. But maybe it doesn’t need to be as daunting as we make it. By nature, humans are talented at imagination. We are all dreamers. The trick is to learn how to dream while awake. Maybe this is not unlike, as Douglas Adams suggested, learning to fly by throwing yourself at the ground and missing. So, let’s throw ourselves at the dystopian fears before us and hope we miss.

* * *

The Logic of Lesser Evilism
by Andrew Levine, CounterPunch

The Reflective Voter’s Fear
by Andrew Levine, CounterPunch

75% in U.S. See Widespread Government Corruption

Banana Republic Level of Inequality Is Undermining America’s Geopolitical Power
by Washingtons Blog

America the Banana Republic
by Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair

10 ways America has come to resemble a banana republic
by Alex Henderson, Alternet

Our Banana Republic
by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

The Permanent Militarization of America
by Aaron B. O’Connell, The New York Times

The Danger of American Fascism
by Henry A. Wallace, New York Times

When Fascism Was American
by Joe Allen, Jacobin

Have The American People Accepted Corporate State Fascism?
by Ray Pensador, Daily Kos

Deep state in the United States
from Wikipedia

Deep State America
by Philip Giraldi, The American Conservative

The Deep State
by Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal

The War on Democracy: The Deep State
by Bob Burnett, Huffington Post

The Quiet Coup: No, Not Egypt. Here.
by John Tirman, Huffington Post

Controlled by shadow government: Mike Lofgren reveals how top U.S. officials are at the mercy of the “deep state”
by Elias Isquith, Salon

“Every president has been manipulated by national security officials”: David Talbot exposes America’s “deep state”
Liam O’Donoghue, Salon

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.
by Jordan Michael Smith, Boston Globe

National Security and Double Government
by Michael J. Glennon, Harvard National Security Journal

Examining Who Runs the United States
by Anand Giridharadas, The New York Times

Sheldon Wolin and Inverted Totalitarianism
by Chris Hedges, Truthdig

Inverted Totalitarianism
by Sheldon Wolin, The Nation

Nick Hanauer: Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming
TED Talk video

How Gilded Ages End
by Paul Starr, The American Prospect

The Political Roots of Widening Inequality
by Robert Reich, The American Prospect

Plutocrats Against Democracy
by Paul Krugman, The New York Times

America slouches toward plutocracy
by Sean McElwee, Al Jazeera America

A Study in Plutocracy: Rich Americans Wield Political Influence, the Rest of Us Don’t
by John Light, Moyers & Company

We are Becoming a Plutocracy No Matter What Obama Proposes Tomorrow
by Robert Lenzner, Forbes

5 signs America is devolving into a plutocracy
by Tom Engelhardt, Salon

16 thoughts on “Of Dreamers and Sleepwalkers

  1. what about Trumpism is neo-liberal? And it has a tendency towards paleo-conservativism more than neo-, although his Jimgoism does flirt with elements. What is telling is that you aren’t mentioning the demographics that are voting the way they are here: older gen X and boomers, and minority groups have swung things for Hillary Clinton. What caused that? Lesser evilism can’t be said to be the only cause.

    • I don’t think lesser evilism is much of a cause at all, frankly. I think there are basically two forces driving voters in to Clinton and away from Sanders.
      1) Rightly or wrongly, Hilary is strongly associated with her husband’s presidency. Those on the American left do this when they want to boost the case for her neo-liberalism, for example, and I would bet mainstream voters do this as well. Well, Bill Clinton had what was seen by many as the last really successful presidential term. So I would bet the Boomers and older Gen Xers remember that and are hoping Hilary can bring some of that same magic Bill did.
      2) I do not think minority voters engage in lesser evilism. I think they feel the Republican Party is the White Party, and therefore above all else want to block them from power. The only Doomsday scenario is a member of the White Party getting power. So, forgetting the polls for a second (since normal people don’t care about head-to-head polls and whatnot), who would you guess has the best chance of beating the White Party? Bernie Sanders, an elderly man who looks like a librarian, hails from Vermont, and who few people had even heard of a year ago? Or Hilary Clinton, friend of the President, Senator from New York, Secretary of State, a woman with money, power, and a name?

      It’s a pretty easy decision, actually.

    • Thanks for pointing that out. You are correct. I was writing that late last night. My mind was a bit sleepy and so I wasn’t thinking as clearly.

      In that particular sentence, I was more thinking about Sanders compared to Clinton. It somehow slipped past my thought process to detail what makes Trump unique.

      I’m glad you brought this up. I was reading some articles the other day that got me thinking about what Trump represents, most specifically the first article below:


      I’ve thought that most people misunderstand what Trump’s popularity is all about. The racism aspect is not unimportant, but focusing on it can be misleading. What is important is what is fueling the antagonism toward perceived outsiders.

      As for demographics, I’ve seen at least some of the demographics. Maybe you’ve seen some of the demographics I haven’t seen, though. I’ve been wanting to see a full demographic breakdown of all the candidates, but all I’ve been able to find so far are bits and pieces around the web.

      Anyway, lesser evil voting has been going on for longer than I’ve been alive. I don’t think it is motivated by specific demographics, even though it gets expressed through specific demographics.

      I also see the entire process as highly manipulated. More Americans trust and like Sanders, while mistrusting and disliking Clinton. Elections are about controlling the party machine, controlling the party hacks, controlling the party base, and controlling the mainstream media. It’s not about which candidate is most popular or any such thing. So, I don’t really think anyone is swinging support toward Clinton other than her power as part of the establishment.

      The question then is why have some fallen out of love with the establishment, while others out of fear and groupmindedness cling to the establishment. Lesser evilism isn’t the cause. It’s the result and as such it points toward many other things going on, not that the average American is self-aware enough to understand what is motivating their behavior. Most people are simply reacting to events/spectacles and media-filtered perception of the world.

      • I see Trump as the white working class collective “fuck you”vote honestly. Some of it is xenophobia, but some of it is just “a clown couldn’t be worse”

        • There is that. I don’t deny that plays a role.

          I completely sympathize with the desire to declare “fuck you” to the powers that be. But of course Trump is part of the establishment, born into wealth and power, schmoozing with the political elite his entire life. It’s not a very effective and rational way to say “fuck you,” not that such things follow any logical strategy.

          Beyond that, I still think there is more going on. There is a reason that what Trump says resonates. It couldn’t be just any random clown who could pull this off.

          • The Southern States have an enriched city based political elite that is dominant in the African American community. It may not reflect the option of African Americans as a whole because about 50% of black men can’t vote due to felon and prior felon exclusion laws in those states.

  2. I do think lesser evilism is a central issue. It represents a larger attitude about politics, a submissive groupthink. There is a mindlessness about it. But in other ways it isn’t real at all. It’s just a rationalization.

    Few Americans are capable of having thoughts outside of what the mainstream media says. I don’t entirely blame them. People live busy lives. They don’t have the time to endlessly research the issues and data. I’m unmarried and work a part-time job, and so I have a ton of time to obsess over such things.

    I wish didn’t have a mainstream media that was so biased, deceptive, and manipulative. But that isn’t the world we live in.

    I’ve been trying to make sense of this all lately. I won’t claim to have it figured out. It just seems like the reasons people give often don’t make much sense. All that is clear to me is that American society is dominated by fear. Here are some of my recent thoughts on the matter:

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