Malcolm X and Voting for the “Lesser Evil” in the 2020 Presidential Election

This November, Americans will once again head to the polls in order to vote for one of two “viable” choices for president. Like every other election year, voters will get to chose between two neoliberal candidates: Donald Trump representing the right, and, presumably, Joe Biden standing in for the “left.” Of course, as often happens, we hear panic-stricken voices calling for leftists to do the “moral” thing and vote for the “lesser evil,” i.e. the Democrat. Such thinking, sadly, has a long history in US politics.

In fact, the 1964 presidential election between the Democrat Lyndon Johnson and the Republican Barry Goldwater bore a lot of the same markings as the current race. To many Americans at the time, Goldwater represented both racism and warmongering, and because of this President Johnson, despite his many failings, received unconditional support from most of the left. However, not quite everyone was willing to blindly support the “lesser evil.” After Johnson retained the presidency in a landslide, and millions of Americans were breathing a sigh of relief, Malcolm X had a different perspective. In an interview with the magazine Présence Africaine, the civil rights leader said:

If Johnson had been running all by himself, he would not have been acceptable to anyone. The only thing that made him acceptable to the world was that the shrewd capitalists, the shrewd imperialists, knew that the only way people would run toward the fox would be if you showed them a wolf. So they created a ghastly alternative. And it had the whole world—including people who call themselves Marxists—hoping that Johnson would beat Goldwater.

I have to say this: Those who claim to be enemies of the system were on their hands and knees waiting for Johnson to get elected—because he is supposed to be a man of peace. And at that moment he had troops invading the Congo and South Vietnam! He even has troops in areas where other imperialists have already withdrawn. Peace Corps to Nigeria, mercenaries to the Congo!

Clearly, Malcolm X had seen right through the ruling class’s ploy. Simply put, the system had propped up two corrupt candidates, with one being potentially worse, and used fear to get people to choose the “lesser evil.” In reality, since Johnson was currently involved in committing war crimes in Asia and Africa, a vote for him was still a vote for white supremacy and warmongering. But few were paying attention to that. It is no wonder, then, that Malcolm X had said before the election that he would prefer Goldwater over Johnson, since people, specifically Black Americans, would at least be conscious of the Republican’s predatory nature.

Of course, the choice between a “fox” and a “wolf” is what Americans are experiencing yet again with Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Further, leftists are being told that it is their duty to vote for the “fox”—Biden—because Trump is supposedly the exception to an otherwise long succession of morally upright US presidents. While this sort of rhetoric is to be expected from those who are a part of the establishment, e.g. DNC officials, celebrities, members of the mainstream media etc., we are also hearing the same thing from some other quarters as well.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden shaking hands at the former’s inauguration

For instance, Mehdi Hasan, a well-known journalist, has been lashing out at leftists who are unwilling to vote for Joe Biden, who he believes is the “lesser of two evils.” While it may be argued that Hasan is an establishment figure, since he works for Al Jazeera—a news network funded by the oppressive Qatari monarchy—he, at least until recently, has enjoyed a fair degree of respect from the left. Hence why many were taken aback by his attempt to use the example of Trump’s Islamophobic policies and rhetoric in order to shame leftists into supporting the presumptive Democratic nominee. Consequently, Hasan received a great deal of criticism from the left. In the hopes of silencing his detractors, he then scrambled to interview Noam Chomsky on the subject. The legendary dissident did indeed end up agreeing wholeheartedly with Hasan’s position, and even stated that “failure to vote for Biden in a swing state amounts to voting for Trump.”

But how can someone as radical and intelligent as Noam Chomsky encourage citizens to continue to validate a never-ending cycle of atrocious corporate candidates by voting for Biden? Especially since he has convincingly argued on a number of occasions that every post-WWII American president could be convicted under the Nuremberg principles. So why help uphold such an evil system by voting for one of its foremost representatives? Is such an approach not the reason as to why the US currently has two accused rapists running for its highest office?

Well, if we stick with Malcolm X’s metaphor, Chomsky and others are simply running to the “fox” out of fear. But, of course, doing so has never solved anything in the long term. This is why Malcolm X’s appraisal of an election that took place over half a century ago is applicable to the current US election. The reality is that whether Biden or Trump wins in November, the same aggressive foreign policy will continue, and innocent people in the Middle East and elsewhere will still be dying at the hands of the US military, its proxy soldiers, and its economic sanctions. Further, millions of Americans will continue to be unable to afford healthcare, go to college, or escape being essentially indentured to corporations because of the capitalist system.

The truth is that a person who votes for Joe Biden is performing just as much of a disservice to humanity as one who votes for Donald Trump. If genuine leftists in the US hope to have any success in changing the system, then they need to stop being manipulated by “shrewd capitalists” into putting aside their principles and voting for the “lesser evil.” The sole way forward is to only support politicians, parties, and movements that support the people, no matter how many “wolves” the ruling class shows you.

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