Last Thursday, MSNBC’s self-avowed ‘European-style Socialist’ Lawrence O’Donnell gave what seemed like a full-throated pitch for third parties. It was surprisingly blunt – on the surface anyway – with O’Donnell averring that the media is ‘feeding you a drug called the two-party system.’ He cited silence on The Drug War and the NDAA as particularly egregious examples of the mainstream debates’ calculated emptiness. He showed footage of third party candidates passionately discussing both issues at their non-televised debate of the previous evening. He went on to say
The two-party system and the electoral college have conspired to make most voters feel irrelevant to the outcome of the presidential election. The major party candidates ignore most states. And they ignore most voters most of the time.
He later disclosed that –
Having spent my lifetime in states irrelevant to the electoral
college, I have mostly, in fact, voted for third-party candidates for
Pretty good, right? Well, no, not really, both for what else he said and what he didn’t. First of all, let’s look at the excuse he makes for the media’s studied obliviousness to third parties:
Big media does not have the resources or the interest or the intellectual capacity to cover something more complicated than the two-party system.
Putting aside the preposterous notion that third parties complicate things, this is largely true of course, at least the bit about Big Media’s ‘interest’ and ‘intellectual capacity.’ But O’Donnell makes this seem as inescapably natural as gravity, rather than the intended consequence of corporate-owned media’s brutally efficient self-regulation.
Of course O’Donnell is no dummy and has probably read Chomsky, but he is also a generously compensated, non-unionized worker. As an employee of NBC, he is literally half-owned by media giant Comcast and half-owned by weapons maker GE. Either by force of habit or careerist calculation, he certainly won’t probe too deeply on the question of ‘why?’. Later he says
If, like most Americans, you live in one of the states where the outcome is predetermined, you should feel absolutely free to take a good, long look at third-party candidates and pick one whose ideas you want to encourage…
The bad news about living in a state like California is that you`re
completely ignored in the presidential campaigns. The good news is you can consider voting for a third party candidate without any worry that your vote might tip the balance the wrong way in the electoral college.
Hear that kids? The GOOD NEWS about living in an uncontested state is that voting in line with your principles will have absolutely no impact on outcomes. For viewers in swing states who find that uninspiring, Lawrence takes a sterner tone, offering the obligatory swipe at Nader voters and a warning:
If you live in a battleground state, voting for a third-party candidate can be a lot dicier. Just ask the people who voted for Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000.
If you`re lucky enough to live in a state that the presidential candidates care about, then your vote really does count in the way most people want it to. Then you really should think about who you want to see take the Oath of Office when you cast your vote, because your vote matters much, much more than mine.
So let’s review: The two-party system and electoral college are fucked up. The mainstream media is fucked up. Ergo, vote your conscience where your vote doesn’t count. Vote for a duopolist where it does. O’Donnell of course doesn’t even hint that this abhorrent state of affairs should or could occasion any resistance more militant than a safe state protest vote.In other words, it’s one more endorsement of duopoly couched in anti-duopoly rhetoric.
The Stockholm Syndrome that afflicts what passes for a left in the US is never more apparent than when the mainstream media throws it a bone. So it should be no surprise that after O’Donnell threw this one, the more gullible factions of the Tweetbook left lit up approvingly, with loose talk of O’Donnell ‘going rogue.’ Popular leftist comedian and podcaster Jamie Kilstein succinctly embodied the mood when he tweeted:
And that was the last we heard from [Lawrence]
Oy, where to begin with these suckers! How about we start with Safe State California resident O’Donnell’s actual vote, which he helpfully, and somewhat weirdly, cast on television only two days after his third party spiel. Spoiler Alert: He voted for Obama! The full segment is embedded below. It’s well worth watching but here’s a summary:
He whines about California’s numerous ballot initiatives (‘I’m not a legislator! I shouldn’t be allowed to change the Constitution!’); rejects a candidate for not being ‘a team player’; casts an enthusiastic vote for war profiteer Dianne Feinstein; and, perhaps most tellingly, happily heeds voting recommendations from his creepy, arrogant chaperone, former California governor Gray Davis.
Teleplay writer that he is, he cannily saves the Obama vote for last and when he gets there, all the earlier pearl-clutching about the Drug War and the NDAA is in silent abeyance. The only third party candidate he even considers is Roseanne Barr, and then only facetiously.
If this is European-style socialism, God help Europe. Of course, it’s not socialism or anything remotely connected to actual principles. It’s heat vampire liberalism, a matter I intend to take up at length in a later post. The short version is that heat vampire liberalism counsels compliance with the status quo after authenticating itself with superficial dissidence at the margins. Heat vampires are effectively role models of obedience, who helpfully demonstrate the easy reconciliation of apparent principles with a thoroughly corrupt status quo. Taken as a whole, O’Donnell’s impassioned third party speech and his subsequent supplication before a white-haired career Democrat who, more than once, tells him who to vote for, are a hideous object study.