On Third Parties Vs Lesser Evils

Dick Gregory in Birmingham Alabama 1963

Which Pose the Greater Danger?

This morning I received a video clip of Dick Gregory speaking on behalf of the Freedom Party, a third party movement organized by black activists here in New York City. Despite my great respect for the organizers of this political formation; I am highly suspect of the viability of third party movements in general – since they always seem to end up like Jack the Bear, making tracks but not getting nowhere!  The Republicans have embraced the Tea Party fanatics, but I believe it was a Faustian bargain they shall soon come to regret.

Yet I decided to give Dick’s video a listen anyway, despite the fact that I have announced repeatedly that I am a Yellow Dog Democrat.  It’s even posted on my face book page!  Furthermore I thought after publishing 100 commentaries about President Obama on my blog, many of which were aired on WBAI FM in New York City, the station to which all the radicals and progressives listen, everyone would know that I am an avid fan of President Obama.

The missive from Dick Gregory failed to convince me that the Freedom Party will be much different from those that have gone before – from the Bull Moose Party of Teddy Roosevelt, to the Communist Party, to the Freedom Now! party.   I have always admired Dick Gregory as a Comedian, entreprenuer and committed Civil rights activist – he walked with Dr. King in the shadow of death – but I have never been impressed with his skills as a political analyst. The video monologue did nothing to change that long held opinion alas.

I first heard Mr. Gregory in the role of political analyst when I was a Professor at the University of Massachusetts.  I attended the speech with Professors Mike Thelwell and William J. Wilson. Thelwell was an organizer of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and ran the lobbying effort in Washington that nearly unseated the regular Congressional delegation from Mississippi at the Democratic National Convention.  Dr. William Julius Wilson was beginning to emerge as an important sociologist studying the relation between race, class and poverty.  He has since become a world renowned authority on the subject, and enjoys an endowed chair in social science at Harvard.  I also had a long history of struggle even then. We all arrived independently at the same conclusion: Most of what Dick Gregory says about race relations is mumbo jumbo…simple minded prattle!

The blather Dick spouts on the newly released video is no exception to that rule, as he admonishes us not to accept the “lesser evil” in the coming elections.  This is the kind of pious prattle one expects to hear from preachers and philosophers, people to whom the limitations of real life are viewed as mere illusions that are either unfathomable mysteries, or can surely be overcome by faith.  People like the Pope and Dr. Cornell West.

Yet choosing the lesser evil is a fact of life if one wishes to be successful in competitive participatory politics in America.  I am constantly astonished at the inability of otherwise intelligent and purpose driven people to grasp this simple point. It’s easy enough to understand; no rocket science here. Politics is the art of the possible! Hence there is no place for absolutes in political work. Politics is about creating and shaping relationships that result in the exercise of power.  Because power will enable you to get the most and the best of whatever there is to get!  And that means getting the best deal you can get without betraying your core principles. I thought after the Black Panther fiasco, black radicals had rejected the concept of “revolutionary suicide.”

Suicide is never revolutionary, and ignoring the fact that success at politics in our two party system often requires compromise to get anything done is like cutting your throat. We are facing an imminent disaster if the Republicans gain control of Congress.  With racist fanatics like Mitch McConnell in the Senate and John Boehner in control of the House, we will go from a democratic capitalist society to a plutocracy!  That is to say we will be transformed from a society where the rich are merely privileged, to a society where they dictate every sphere of American life.

This means that there will be no hope for poor and working class people, and the much reduced and increasingly insecure middle class will dwell on the brink of disaster.   This is the principle issue in the coming election; it’s literally a question of the quality of life those among us who are not rich –which is the overwhelming majority of us – will enjoy in the future.  This question is being decided by the policies we adopt now. The Democrats represent progress and the Republicans represent reaction.

Hence any suggestion that we should reject the option of choosing the lesser evil in the coming election in search of a perfect option is not only useless as political advice: It is downright dangerous!!!!!!    We have only to look back at the election of George Bush, who was appointed President by the US Supreme Court because the progressives in Florida decided to vote for Ralph Nader and made the election so close it was safe for the Republicans to steal it.   George Santayana was right alas: Those who refuse to learn from history are bound to repeat its mistakes!





Playthell Benjamin

Commentaries On The Times

Harlem New York

October 26, 2010



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