Hillary is not as bad as Trump but it is still OK not to support her!

by Peter Bohmer, August 7, 2016

note: This is a letter I sent to long-term friends, Michael Albert and Steven Shalom on July 31st, 2016. They printed their revised question and answer commentary on August 4, 2016, https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/thinking-about-the-election/    We still have some disagreements,  although less  in their  final version of August 4, 2016 than in their earlier draft, the one my letter below refers to.  Their published version of August 4th is  an important contribution to an important discussion.

Dear Michael and Steve,                                                                                                                           July 31, 2016

I read your proposed Question and Answer analysis of the upcoming 2016 Presidential Election pamphlet and while I think the tone is more respectful of those on the left who feel they can’t vote for Clinton than earlier writing by Michael Albert, I still have problems with it.

1) I think maybe because you want to highlight Clinton’s differences with Trump, which are real and  significant, you are less critical of her than I am, e.g.,  her strong support for fracking, the Trans Pacific Partner, the TPP (in the past) without now  saying she was wrong, her close connections to AIPAC and her  intense anti BDS position, her connections to  Goldman-Sachs and Wall Street, her positions along with Obama on Latin America, e.g.,  Honduras and Venezuela, her public support for the 1996 “Welfare Deform Act” and the 1994, 1996 crime bills, etc.  You should not demonize Clinton   but  show a little more outrage at her  and most of the Democratic Party’s imperialism and militarism.

2) Note how Bernie Sanders, Michael Eric Dyson, etc., in coming out in support of  Clinton and Kaine also feel compelled to praise them.   While not a logical necessity, there is pressure both from the pro Clinton people and in order to  justify one’s position and to make one’s support meaningful to downplay criticism and even faintly praise Clinton.

 

3) I think we are in  a period of danger (Trump, growth of  white supremacy connected to Trump’s candidacy, climate change, etc.) but also a period of renewed interest in activism and political engagement, socialism, Black Lives Matter, etc.  This period of potential growth of activism and social movement growth may be very short-lived. Your strategy of asking people to vote strategically contributes unintentionally to demobilizing people who are beginning to become very engaged. For example, although I have been quite critical of the Green Party in the past for their lack of grassroots organizing and their whiteness, I think there is a real possibility now of a significant  growth in membership, in building chapters, and in votes for Jill Stein. Saying the Greens should wait until after November is likely to miss the moment. For example in Olympia some younger activists just formed a second Green Party organization as an alternative to the existing one which has good people in it, but has not been all that active  or grown.

 

4)  There is a difference which you ignore between asking individuals to vote for the lesser of two evils in swing states and asking that organizations, social movements follow this rule. It makes a lot more sense for an individual to do that. However, I question this strategy far more for a radical organization like Black Lives Matter or the Green Party as it is likely to be seen as a compromise with a pro-corporate and neoliberal militarist, Hillary Clinton and the mainstream of the Democratic Party, and furthers the skepticism people have for political engagement and for a new and radical politics.

 

5) I originally wrote Michael Albert many months ago that my  position and many people I know is that we should simultaneously strongly and totally oppose Trump while building organizations, social movements that deal with the key issues of the day–a two pronged strategy. With regards to Clinton and the November  presidential  elections, we should not focus on Hillary Clinton and her campaign  but of course say, she and the Democrats are not as bad as Trump and the Republicans, and leave it up to people whether they vote for her or not. I also expressed this in a commentary I put on Znet about a month ago which I am including here. It stresses being respectful to those, especially people new to activism and younger people, who are into rejecting Clinton and the Democrats. You may want to skip the following  if you already read it.

“July 14, 2016

What I find missing from my friend, Michael Albert’s commentary in the Left Unity section of Znet, https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/we-need-a-united-left/ is an acknowledgement and a validation of the moral outrage felt by many people, mainly but not only young people, that they are being told to choose between  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Michael Albert is  right that Hillary Clinton will do less harm than a Trump presidency but the harm of her militaristic, imperialist  and neoliberal administration will  be major to people inside the United States, and probably even worse for  those living in other countries.

So I think people who say they cannot in good conscience vote for Hillary Clinton, even in contested states such as Florida, Ohio, etc. should not be criticized nor pressured to change their mind.  I know many, many people in this category and when I ask them what they are likely to do in November, besides talking about their anger at the mainstream media promotion of Clinton and the marginalization of Bernie, and the daily and massive  coverage of Trump;  almost all of them also tell me  they will either not  vote or vote for Jill Stein and the Greens.  I do not criticize this decision although if they ask me what I believe, I say that voting for Hillary Clinton in states where it is not clear who will win, also makes some sense and is defensible.

Reducing voting to a strategic decision leaves out the moral dilemma felt by so many newly politicized and radicalized people, who are a natural base for the growth of an anti-capitalist transformational politics.  My point is not so much that I totally disagree with the analysis that Michael Albert and others put forward; I disagree with the way they are presenting it.. This is important because it makes building social movements and anti-capitalist organizations that include both those who are making a tactical decision to vote for Hillary Clinton in some states and those who absolutely refuse to vote for her, more difficult, now and after the November, 2016 elections.”

In solidarity, Peter Bohmer

 

 

 

 

 

College is a Right for All, Testimony to Olympia City Council, July 12 2016

Testimony by Peter Bohmer to Olympia City Council, July 12, 2016 in favor of Opportunity for Olympia Proposal!

Olympia has a chance to stand up and take a step towards the right to education for all, paid for by those who have benefited by the obscene growth of the inequality of income and wealth. Almost  all of the gains in income since the supposed  end of the great recession in 2009 have gone to the top 3%, approximately the percentage of  households  who would pay this tax.

In fall, 1987, I moved to Olympia to teach Economics and public administration at The Evergreen State College. Tuition and fees that year were $1272 for in-state students.  For the coming year, 2016-2017, tuition and fees at Evergreen are $7500 a year, six times more than 1987.  Tuition has risen many more times than wages. The minimum wage was $3.35/hr in 1987; in 2016 it is $9.47 an hour. The minimum wage has gone up by 180% since 1987while tuition has grown at almost three times the rate of the minimum wage. This increase in tuition is true for all of higher education. Students are being priced out of higher education. Passing this proposal will begin to reverse this growing lack of affordability.

The right to college is a necessity today, not a luxury. High school became a necessity for most jobs, 100 years ago, as college is today. Having more people being able to attend college is not only a question of fairness but will also increase their productivity and incomes which will decrease poverty and increase spending and employment here.  Increasing access to higher education will also make for more informed citizens and a better Olympia. College education is a basic right today, as higher education became that in the past and was free.

The cost of this proposed tax to the top 3% of the income ladder is minimal Any household making up to $200,000 will not pay any additional taxes. For example, a household making $250,000 a year will pay a 1.5% income tax, only on their income above $200,000, or 1.5% of $50,000 = $750 a year. That is not much of a burden; much less than their gains in income over the last seven years.

I urge you to pass this modest proposal of a 1.5% tax on incomes over $200,000 to fund students going past high school.  Rather than waiting for change at the federal or even state level, let us support this Opportunity for Olympia proposal, maybe with the small change of  using federal income tax returns to measure income. We can and should take an important step here in Olympia for fairness and increased access to higher education. This will be leading by example, which is likely to spread to others places in Washington State and then nationally.  We need this type of change at the national level but tactically, we are more likely to be successful by starting locally. Be courageous! It is urgent that you take a stand, a step towards education for all, paid for by a fairer tax system. Let us start with the Olympia City Council. Thank you!

Postscript-The Olympia City Council, taking the side of the wealthy, voted on July 12, 2016 against supporting this proposal or passing an alternative proposal that would have taxed higher income people to support students who want to go to college.  Let us actively support this Opportunity for Olympia proposal and vote for it in the November 2016 election!

Voting in 2016 is both a strategic and a moral decision!

July 14, 2016

What I find missing from my friend, Michael Albert’s commentary in the Left Unity section of Znet, https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/we-need-a-united-left/ is an acknowledgement and a validation of the moral outrage felt by many people, mainly but not only young people, that they are being told to choose between  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Michael Albert is  right that Hillary Clinton will do less harm than a Trump presidency but the harm of her militaristic, imperialist  and neoliberal administration will  be major to people inside the United States, and probably even worse for  those living in other countries.

So I think people who say they cannot in good conscience vote for Hillary Clinton, even in contested states such as Florida, Ohio, etc. should not be criticized nor pressured to change their mind.  I know many, many people in this category and when I ask them what they are likely to do in November, besides talking about their anger at the mainstream media promotion of Clinton and the marginalization of Bernie, and the daily and massive  coverage of Trump;  almost all of them also tell me  they will either not  vote or vote for Jill Stein and the Greens.  I do not criticize this decision although if they ask me what I believe, I say that voting for Hillary Clinton in states where it is not clear who will win, also makes some sense and is defensible.

Reducing voting to a strategic decision leaves out the moral dilemma felt by so many newly politicized and radicalized people, who are a natural base for the growth of an anti-capitalist transformational politics.  My point is not so much that I totally disagree with the analysis that Michael Albert and others put forward; I disagree with the way they are presenting it.. This is important because it makes building social movements and anti-capitalist organizations that include both those who are making a tactical decision to vote for Hillary Clinton in some states and those who absolutely refuse to vote for her, more difficult, now and after the November, 2016 elections.

 

Let’s Learn From the Past and Welcome Syrian Refugees!

Talk at Forum at The Evergreen State College: After Paris: Responding to Islamophobia and the Refugee Crisis

by Peter Bohmer, December 2, 2015

Let Us Learn from Our Past and Welcome Syrians to the United States!

First, a little first about my parents and grandparents! My family is from central Europe; my parents were born and grew up in Vienna, Austria as assimilated Jews. In March 1938, the Austrian government welcomed the invasion of Nazi Germany although there was some popular resistance. Germany immediately annexed Austria. My dad who was 22 years old was arrested and imprisoned in late March 1938 for being active in the Jewish community. He was also beaten by the guards but was released in August 1938. My father and mother immediately fled Austria for France which let in many Jews in although they also limited entry; e.g., from Poland which had the largest Jewish population in Europe…

Read more:
Let’s Learn From the Past and Welcome Syrian Refugees (.docx)