16 October 2012

A frivolous presidential candidate ... for a frivolous election?

Compared to 100 years ago, when socialist candidates for political office got plenty of attention and actually won some elections in the U.S., it's rare to see an avowed socialist candidate get any press coverage in daily news media. Today, however, the Albany Times Union saw fit to report on a local campaign tour by Peta Lindsay the presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. The report instantly discredited Lindsay, but that's not the newspaper's fault. It could only tell the truth: Lindsay is only 28 years old and therefore not of presidential age according to the Constitution. After that, it almost isn't worth noting that her running mate, Yani Osorio, is also ineligible to become President since he was born in Colombia to Colombian parents and is only a naturalized citizen. Lindsay is well aware of her handicap and scoffs at it. Hers is a protest campaign anyway; she doesn't expect to win and doesn't plan to take office -- which is a good thing, since she can't. She suggests, however, that the age requirement for the presidency -- which hasn't changed since the Founding -- not to mention age requirements for Congress, creates an age divide that alienates the people who make decisions for war or peace from the people who'll have to fight when the decision is for war. Lindsay hints at constitutional amendments that might change the age requirements, noting that she would have been doubly ineligible for political office as an black woman if not for previous amendments.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation sees the Lindsay-Osorio campaign as a consciousness-raising exercise rather than an immediate bid for power. The following comes from the PSL campaign website.

The PSL’s entry into the 2012 elections gives workers, students and oppressed people the opportunity to vote for and work with candidates from a party that is already fighting in their interests. The PSL is not a party of professional politicians. We are a party of professional revolutionaries. Our candidates—Lindsay and Osorio—are different because they do not serve the interests of big capital. Quite the contrary, they have spent their lives fighting against it. The PSL’s campaign provides a true alternative for workers. Our program is rooted in fundamental working-class interests: peace, not war; jobs and people’s needs; equal rights for all; and socialism. We want to speak to the tens of millions of working-class and oppressed people who desire real change but will not get it through the capitalist electoral process. We want to fight shoulder to shoulder with our class—the working class—in every struggle against the profit system. We want to be a catalyst to raise working-class consciousness in every arena.  Most importantly, we want to spread the ideas of revolution, of true change. We know that change is possible; we know that it will happen. We also know that it takes an energetic struggle. 

Lindsay is happy to refute the Republican charge that President Obama is a Socialist, blaming him for bailing out the banks and perpetrating "the largest transfer of public wealth into private hands in U.S. history, which is the exact opposite of socialism." Obama himself is probably happy to have candidates to his left show him as a centrist, but as Lindsay is aware, even her hopeless campaign is condemned by die-hard Democrats and self-styled Progressives for breaking the anti-Republican front. The PSL has its answer ready.

[N]early three years into Obama’s presidency—things have not simply stayed the same, they have gotten worse for working and poor people. Millions more working-class people are unemployed, over five million more people lack health insurance this year than in 2008, millions of homes have been foreclosed and union busting is on the rise.
We cannot wait around for the “change” that will never come. As people are occupying Wall Street and cities throughout the country, cries for real change—revolutionary change—are building. The PSL is running to push that hunger for revolutionary change into the forefront of this bourgeois electoral campaign cycle.
Put simply: We want to take away the capitalist candidates’ votes. We want to expose the Democratic and Republican Party leaderships as the frauds, bigots and warmongers that they are. We want to shine a bright light on the criminal character of the system and its political representatives. We aim to recruit more working people to the movement for socialism.

At a moment when some opinionators demand votes for Democrats for no better reason than to minimize suffering (see a future article), Lindsay may seem cynical or even heartless for suggesting that the Great Recession benefits here movement. “Part of the reason that capitalism has been able to maintain its traction, its hold on the public is that working people could always say, ‘My life is very hard, but I know my kid’s life will be better.’" she tells the Albany paper, "But that is coming to an end.” But it has always been a Marxist tenet that there must be a breaking point, that instead of starting another boom-bust business cycle capitalism must finally immiserate or alienate the working class to a point where workers will assert their rightful leadership of humanity. Someone like Lindsay doesn't want the poor to suffer, but expects them to do so under an unjust system until they do something about it. Doing something may itself require risk-taking and sacrifice, by comparison with which a mere appeal to minimize suffering may seem complacent if not cowardly, though it should be noted that Peta Lindsay's activities this fall don't strike me as particularly risky.  A party that can do no better than her as its national standard bearer should not be surprised or offended if it isn't taken seriously, or if Lindsay's is seen as little more than a vanity candidacy. There are other ways to protest against Obama from the left and candidates that can be voted for who can actually take office if elected. Lindsay's constituency would seem to be those who agree with her that not only the Democratic party but the entire electoral process is a sham for which they can show a proper contempt by choosing an ineligible person to leas the nation. Linday wants to create a constituency for revolution rather than reform anyway, and she can't help having a better chance at that than at becoming President.

1 comment:

hobbyfan said...

Three words. Waste of space.