Election 2012

Walking Away from The Election Is Not An Option

My Tuesday column questions the strategy of progressives who have decided to stay home on Election Day.

Over the weekend, actor and activist John Cusack posted an interview he conducted with George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley. You might recall seeing Turley on Countdown with Keith Olbermann over the years, and you probably know who John Cusack is. They're both extraordinarily bright guys and they have some very strong arguments in support of their positions against the Obama administration, mostly from a far-left point of view.

That said, Turley and Cusack, like Glenn Greenwald and others, are known for what I would consider to be an absolutist posture regarding the president. Specifically, their "Rubicon line" as Cusack calls it (a reference to Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon River, an unprecedented act of insurrection) is the president's record on civil liberties and foreign policy -- his signing of the NDAA, his inability to close Guantanamo, his use of drones and, primarily, the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda terrorist who was born in the United States. Cusack also cites the continuance of the war in Afghanistan as a deal breaker, erroneously noting that candidate Obama opposed that war. Obama, like all of the Democratic frontrunners in the previous two elections supported "finishing the job" in Afghanistan. Consequently, neither Turley nor Cusack will support the president for re-election, and they consider him to be "worse than George W. Bush" in several of these areas.

Okay, okay. I know. Admittedly, this topic of progressive factional debate is one I've covered quite a bit over the last four years. But the angle I intend to cover today is one that's considerably important for the future of the progressive movement and, subsequently, for a long-sought shift towards more progressive legislation at the state and federal level. Near the end of the interview, Turley and Cusack discussed the conundrum that many similarly-minded liberals face. If they agree with the anti-Obama left on these foreign policy and civil liberties issues -- that the president's trespasses are unforgivable -- should they vote for his re-election? Continue reading here.

  • D_C_Wilson

    Cusack is a fine actor. I’ve enjoyed many of his movies going all the way back to Better Off Dead.

    But he doesn’t know dick about political reality.

  • Victor_the_Crab

    Who’s up for giving these whinny obnoxious firebagging emo progs a boiler room beatdown?

  • muselet

    The ProLeft/EmoProg/FireBagger long-term plan is actually four steps, not three:

    1) Stay home election day.
    2) Republican gets elected, destroys everything he touches.
    3) Public realizes how awful Rs are.
    4) Progressivism!

    Which ignores the fact that the public spend three years and fifty weeks out of every four years actively ignoring national politics and government. But the people who preach the “stay home” message don’t seem to realize that (all their friends are aware and engaged, after all).

    I’ve been banging this drum for years (go back through comments threads, you’ll find out for yourself, and apologies to everyone who’s read this rant before), but the Republican Party wasn’t monolithically conservative until relatively recently. The Right gained absolute control of the GOP by getting every Righty to vote in every election that came along.

    Every. Single. One. For the thick end of forty years.

    They’d reliably vote in primaries for the most conservative Republican candidate and—even if their preferred candidate didn’t win—then for whomever the R was in the general even if they had to hold their noses as they did so. Righties became the most reliable Republican voters and thereby made themselves indispensible for Republican electoral success. Once they’d done that, Righties could pretty much dictate the terms of their continued support; demands numbers 1–1000 were to move the party to the Right.

    That is how to get a political party to pay attention to you. Fling yourself on the floor and kick your feet, scream and cry, hold your breath until you turn blue, or worst of all stay home on election day, and the political party you’re trying to influence will run a mile to keep from being associated with you.

    How bleeding hard is that to understand?


  • Chachizel

    This shit is ridiculous. Obama can only go as far left as Congress will let him….which as we all know, is not very much. This president is only the first steps, which to me is why the right fears him so much. They know the country is changing. Browning, and more urbanized. Not just a rich white Christian nation anymore. Walking away from this election is simply not an option. If Repubs win, we will be set back a generation. That’s why they’ve been trying so hard to turn the clock back, because they know that this could be their last chance. Turley is a douche….and now it seems that Cusack is too. Do NOT ignore this election!! Btw, I too have disagreed with Pres Obama on a number of things, but the alternative is too crazy to even consider

    • incredulous72

      I hate to break it to these assholes (Repubs), but it was never a “white christian nation”. They just ignored and in some cases annihilated the rest of those not like them.

  • http://www.dlancystreet.com reginahny

    Great column, and I don’t think you can write too much about this debate. In addition to the baggers I also come across a swath of people I’ll call professional cynics who “just won’t vote” because they don’t feel it makes a difference. They aren’t falling on swords over specific issues like baggers, they just have a cynical worldview. Oh the eunni, grow up and vote!

    • missliberties

      Pepsi or coke, what’s the difference?

      Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, workers rights. Let’s just start with that.

      How can people have freedom if they have no rights?

  • GeneralLerong

    “cynical quitters.” Nailed it.

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    People like John Cusack and Turley have no dog in this fight that matters.

    They won’t suffer when the middle class joins the poor. Or when the social safety net is totally dismantled. Or when women are back to using coathangers in bathtubs. Or when the elderly are eating catfood or sleeping on the streets. Or when children are hungry and food stamps have gone the way of taxes on the very wealthy. Or when the uninsured can no longer even receive emergency medical care in a hospital emergency room. Or when the American dream becomes the worst nightmare you can imagine.

    They should seriously consider keeping their dilettante, naive asses out of the political discourse.

    • JoyP

      Thank you! It amazes me that the people who are deciding the fate of Medicare and Social Security are exactly the same people who won’t have to worry about it should they manage to get rid of it. They won’t have to worry about placing their parents in nursing homes (or not) and whether a poor, young, handicapped child can have the care and support she needs while not bankrupting her family. I cannot fathom handing an elderly person a voucher and telling them to go find medical care. I help the elderly figure out their Medicare supplement insurance every year and it’s scary and confusing for them.

      Thanks to idiots like Moore and Cusack, we now have an abundance of Teabaggers in statewide offices and you can definitely see how that’s working out. Elections have consequences and I don’t mean not getting your pony.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    To me this was the most trenchant part of Bob’s essay:

    …if we either vote our conscience for a third party candidate or stay home entirely, the system will collapse on its fainting couch, crying for us to come back. … I call these people “Goodby Cruel World” attention whores: disgruntled or humiliated commenters who write an extended missive — a virtual suicide manifesto — about how they’re leaving and never coming back. They storm off the boards in a big dramatic snit, expecting everyone else to beg them to return.

    I’ve written about this “engraved apology fantasy” before. Some of these folks truly imagine ex-president Obama sitting at home in Chicago after losing the election, saying to Michelle, “Boy, I really should have done what [insert name here] wanted” and writing the person a personal letter of apology begging him/her to vote for the Democrat in 2016, and promising that he’ll do everything in his (whatever he has left) power to make sure that the Democratic Party starts legislating and governing in accordance with that person’s wishes.

    The problem is not so much the witholding of votes, an act of petulance that can only be counter-productive, as the egomaniacal belief that somehow “the system” wants them (individually) and will miss them so badly that it will feel compelled to conform to their wishes.

    • http://mdblanche.myopenid.com/ mdblanche

      If they ever need tips on where to get stationary, I know who they can ask.

  • rob black

    I would only add that in this election, unlike the 2000 debacle, we may never get another chance to rectify the outcome because of Citizens United.
    Simply put, there are only two sources of the kind of money it takes to swing national elections: Corporations and Unions. Corporations have done a tremendous job, not just in destroying union membership, but in convincing the public that unions are bad. They spent several decades destroying private sector unions, and now they are going after the public sector. Of the top ten institutional donors in this election, only two are unions and they are at the bottom of that 10.
    If they win this election, there simply will not be enough money to defeat them the next time, no matter what horrors they visit upon us.
    I am 50 years old, and because of this, and all the other implications their victory will have that you listed, this is easily the most important election of my lifetime. It is the difference between living in an admittedly flawed democracy, and a full on plutocracy. This election is about nothing short of the complete corporate takeover of our country.
    If you think the republican platform is built on a tower of lies this time, and they win this one, the next one will look like nothing short of “1984”.
    If Turley, Cussack and the other ivory tower theorists want to worry about something…they better start worrying about that.

  • drsquid

    The alternative is to simply make a strong, persuasive case on the ground. Convince voters and politicians alike that progressive ideas work.

    Why do that? The money is in going to the national media now.

  • zirgar

    Firebagging morons like John Cusack and the rest are just as devoid of reality as the Teabaggers. Myopic, selfish bastards, every last one of them. We’re in a battle for the soul of this country, and they say, “You’re not doing everything we want, and what you are doing you’re not doing within the totally unreasonable time frame we demand you do it, so instead of helping you, we’re going to undermine you,” or more like, ‘Waaaa, I didn’t get what I wanted, so I’m gonna take my toys and go home. Waaaa.” How is that even remotely sensible? We need to stop this insane infighting, and direct our focus on the real enemy: regressive idiots who want this country to slide back into the 18th century. When Republicans circle the wagons, they shoot outward. When the Democrats circle the wagons, they always shoot inward. We need to stop.

    Plus, John Cusack sucks as an actor. I never liked him, and his stupid political wankery just makes me all the more smug for disliking him to begin with.

    • Brutlyhonest

      Hey, I liked “Grosse Point Blank.” Or at least I did the first few times (of the hundreds) it ran on the ship’s CCTV while I was deployed protecting firebagging (and teabagging) asshats’ rights to be, well, asshats.

    • incredulous72

      “When Republicans circle the wagons, they shoot outward. When the Democrats circle the wagons, they always shoot inward. We need to stop.”

      I’m sick to death of it. I just finished listening to WBAI in which some idiots are actually throwing their vote behind the Green Party candidate this election. Do you know who the Green Party candidate is? I CAN’T REMEMBER HER NAME EITHER! I had to go look it up again. Jill Stein.


      I’m a damn progressive and if I can’t remember the Green Party’s presidential nominee, how many damn people out there that don’t even pay attention to their 6 o’clock local news are going to know who the Green Party candidate is?!

      In the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, the Communist and Socialist parties in this country were much stronger than they are today and they understood that in order to get their agenda across they needed to unite with the party that was more closely associated with their agenda; that party was the Democratic party. The reforms of the New Deal came from many of the ideas within those two movements. When the New Deal passed (and it was not the “purist” ideal of either of the aforementioned parties) you didn’t hear these parties throwing hissy fits that they didn’t get all they wanted and they weren’t going to give their support to the Democrats any more. They continued to work with the party to institute more progressive policies that were to the betterment of this country.

      These assholes (YES I SAID IT!) like Turley, Greenwald, Cusack (REALLY?!) and Hamsher are a part of the “privileged class”. The consequences of a Romney administration will not affect their daily lives not one iota, so I find their stance to be very disrespectful; not only for the past generations that fought and died for the right to vote, but also for the present generations that are under the boot of the “privileged class” and the corporate agenda now running this country.

  • Username1016

    In my perfect world, Obama would be the CONSERVATIVE candidate. Cuz then I’d have a liberal candidate to vote for who’d be well to the left of him — but at the same time, if the conservative won, the world as we know it would continue, with well-meaning attempts to solve the problems facing us.

    How can any left-leaning person even CONSIDER staying home, when that could tip us to a Romney victory? Say goodbye to consumer protections, the middle class, reproductive rights, marriage equality, environmental controls, equal pay, anti-discrimination laws — the hard-won progress of the last half-century — just to go pout in a big self-righteous snit? Are you kidding me???

    • Scopedog

      “How can any left-leaning person even CONSIDER staying home, when that could tip us to a Romney victory? Say goodbye to consumer protections, the middle class, reproductive rights, marriage equality, environmental controls, equal pay, anti-discrimination laws — the hard-won progress of the last half-century — just to go pout in a big self-righteous snit? Are you kidding me???”

      That was the question in 2000 and 2010. Their answer: We don’t give a damn, because it’s all about us throwing a shit-fit because we didn’t get our ponies.

      Honestly, though–if they feel that sacrificing all the hard-fought gains of the last five to six decades is going to make Americans get out there and stage the Revolution, they’ve got another thought coming. It’s not just these achievements that are at stake, but lives as well.

      Fuck ‘em. They’re acting like spoiled brats, and they need to be called out on it.

      • missliberties

        It’s a time for hard truths.


        Sorry for shouting.

        These liberal purists have been holding progress back for decades now. Literally. I despise them more than I do the tea party people, because for chrissake, they should know better. It is never all or nothing. Progress comes one hard fought step at a time.

        I didn’t realize that I agree some some righties that hard left liberals are just plain idiots. They give the rest of us common sense liberals a bad name, and they need to be called on their bs.

        They are stroking their intellectual egos, touting their principles while looking down their nose at the rest of us while looking at the prospect of a Romney victory??????? Are they really liberals? I think not.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RJAH6AJNHFHDO5LBH3YPMZPYYQ Beth

    Neither of these yahoos will suffer for one moment from the policies enacted by the Republicans they helped elect. They won’t ever wonder how to pay for medical care, food or a safe place for their elderly parent. My cat food will taste so much better knowing I’m eating it to uphold John Cusak’s principles.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    Both the Tea- and Fire-baggers will get exactly what they deserve.

  • agrazingmoose

    I’ll take their voting rights and put them to good use. The lazy bastards…

  • JoyP

    I don’t usually get up in the morning and think to myself, I wonder what John Cusack , Jonathan Turley, Jane Hamsher, Michael Moore, Matt Damon, etc. are thinking about today? Because of their fame and wealth they have a larger platform than the average person, but their opinions definitely don’t weigh any greater with me. It just gives Huff Post a few more clicks.

    • missliberties

      And if we respond, then they get more attention. Hello, Ralph Nader is that you?

  • http://twitter.com/JimmyAbra Jimmy Abraham

    I though this was an interesting article on “how to protest without throwing away your vote”


  • ranger11

    I think Turley is a Libertarian. My favorite Turley remains the one who pitched for the Yankees during the 1950’s. Kinda think that Obama is more liberal than Clinton and Carter. Dunno the difference between those two though. Screw it, I keep adding to this, changed my mind they’re not Libertarians, they’re fucking Nihilists. The Dude does not fucking approve!

    • missliberties

      Nihilists is the correct answer.

      It is because of the screeching nihilists that I no longer belong to dKos. I loathe them.

      • villemar

        Anarcho-Nihilist Hipster Douchebags, to be even more specific.

  • Scopedog

    Screw ‘em.

    The irony of this bullshit mentality is that around the world–specifically in the Middle East–people are fighting and dying for their right to cast a vote in free and fair elections.

    As a person of color, it’s also insulting to hear this crap about “walking away” and not voting. Excuse me, but a lot of people in this country fought for my right to cast a ballot without fear of poll taxes or worse because of my skin color. I’m not about to waste it because of some absolutist bull-puckey.

    To Greenwald, Turley, and others–thanks for spitting on the graves of Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner (remember those three?). How ironic that you tell us to walk away, when right now, in the US, we face a phalanx of laws that are there to _prevent_ people from voting.

    There’s no conundrum for me. I might not agree with everything this President has done in foreign affairs, but I’m not about to let this entire nation be thrown over the fence and given the business by the GOP if Romney gets in. If the far Left is comfortable with the GOP in charge, they have no business claiming that they stand for the 99%. We’ve seen how this “stay home and pout” game works–it leads to a helluva lot more hardship for the country.

    And Turley was for Clinton’s impeachment and Citizens United; Greenwald spent time licking the backside of Ron Paul. I should trust them? No way.

    • Nefercat

      This: “-people are fighting and dying for their right to cast a vote in free and fair elections”

      This: ” it’s also insulting to hear this crap about “walking away” and not voting. Excuse me, but a lot of people in this country fought for my right to cast a ballot without fear of poll taxes or worse because of my skin color.”

      This: “To Greenwald, Turley, and others–thanks for spitting on the graves of Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner (remember those three?). How ironic that you tell us to walk away, when right now, in the US, we face a phalanx of laws that are there to _prevent_ people from voting.”

      Your comment is so fantastic. Truly, truly, to just walk away from the right to cast a vote? Just a few years ago, your first paragraph applied to the United States! If they cannot describe how staying home will materially improve the chances of incremental progress in achieving liberal goals, then in my view, all of their fine words are nothing more than than the spoiled posturings of people who themselves have never lived in fear of their lives because of the color of their skin, nor do they anticipate ever having to choose whether to chance the electric being cut off versus putting food on the table.

      If they believe in tipping millions of people over the edge who are now balanced on it, out of principle, then I also say they are hypocrites. If they believe that the complete destruction of worker rights and the consumer protections of safe food, water, and air are okay, which is what will happen if Romney is elected, then every word they write is meaningless.

      If they believe Romney being elected will show people they must vote in future for a heretofore considered unelectable pure progressive candidate, they are fools, because the new and improved voting rights and processes will only allow voting that produces the desired outcome (Romney 2, etc).

      If that is their goal, to have the only remaining option, a bloody revolution, killing millions and harming more, then they are what they claim to hate.

    • http://mdblanche.myopenid.com/ mdblanche

      I’ve heard more than a few fringe nuts claim the Arab Spring is secretly a CIA operation. Just so you know who we’re dealing with.

    • nathkatun7

      Brave Scopedog! Thank you so much for saying so well everything I wanted to say. Turley, Greenwald, Hamsher, Cusik and the rest of the holier than thou progressive pundits, unlike the vast majority of Americans, would still thrive if the right wingers take over government.