Author Archive

Can A Third Political Party Bring Change in US Foreign Policy?

Saturday, March 6th, 2021

The dissatisfaction with the two establishment parties is substantial, and is hardly a new phenomena. But the establishment of a third political party has not reached a tipping point for several reasons.

by Sam Husseini

A widely-covered Gallup poll in mid-February found support for a third party at a highpoint. This was apparently fueled in substantial part by talk of a “civil war” within the Republican Party following Donald Trump’s second impeachment.

The dissatisfaction with the two establishment parties is substantial, and is hardly a new phenomena, Theodore Lowi wrote The End of the Republican Era in 1995. But it has not reached a tipping point for several reasons, particularly because any typical move toward a third party will be seen as helping one or another of the current establishment parties and is thus resisted. The Democratic and Republican parties get most of their electoral backing because people hate or fear the other.

This has been a regular theme in US politics. When Ralph Nader ran in 2000, for example, he tapped into a great deal of popular sentiment. But his campaign was widely derided as threatening to help get George W. Bush elected. And, among other factors, it may well have helped that eventuality the way his campaign was conducted. This dynamic has continued to be a major factor in hindering the prospect of any party emerging beyond the low single digits from either the left or the right and will in all probability remain so.

A solution I have put forward — never adopted by any candidate — is outlined at VotePact.org: An independent candidate can break out of this “spoiler” dynamic by drawing on support equally from disenchanted Democrats and disenchanted Republicans.

This is not as far fetched as it might first seem, evident in the realm of foreign policy, among others.

Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 with a great deal of media generated excitement largely based on his stated opposition to the invasion of Iraq, overtly backed by Hillary ClintonJohn Kerry and Joe Biden.

Of course, Obama himself gained national prominence by giving the Keynote address at the DNC convention in 2004 which nominated Kerry. He nominated Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, kept Bush’s secretary of defense, Robert Gates, and escalated interventionist policies such as drone killings, war in Libya and more intervention in Syria and elsewhere.

Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 with a great deal of media generated excitement largely based on his stated opposition to the invasion of Iraq, overtly backed by Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Biden.

Similarly, Trump won the presidency in 2016 largely because of massive establishment media coverage. During his campaign he generated excitement by deriding the invasion of Iraq, mocking Jeb Bush and his entire family, promising an “America First” approach and appealing to isolationist sentiments that clearly resonated with many USians. He also had parallel pseudo populist rhetoric, such as taxing hedge funds.

But when he became president, Trump’s major foreign policy accomplishments furthered the goals of the US establishment, often in ways that a more conventional president never could have.

In fairness, as with Obama, there were some shifts in foreign policy with Trump. Chris Woods of airwars.org acknowledged — the day Biden was inaugurated — that Trump had significantly reduced some aspects of US interventionism, noting that Biden would be “inheriting US military actions at a post-9/11 low. The US declared around 1,000 strikes last year across four theatres – down from 13,000 under Obama in 2016.”

But, in toto, Trump can in fact be regarded as the opposable thumb of the Empire: He appears to be opposed to it, but just helps it grab more. For example, Trump derided NATO as antiquated, echoing a sentiment of many more authentic anti-interventionists, but the net result of his “crit” was to compel European states to actually pony up more money to NATO, effectively strengthening — not weakening — the military alliance.

Trump of course brought in hyper interventionists like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Elliott Abrams. While he did not start a new war — a novelty for recent presidents — he facilitated the US as Empire in numerous ways.

Trump escalated devastating sanctions against Iran and Venezuela. His moves regarding Israel and Saudi Arabia, breaking various arms control treaties, making the Space Force a full military “service”, got the US establishment things it clearly wanted but decorum wouldn’t allow.

Thus, Obama, posing from the left, funneled voters toward the establishment while Trump did much the same from the right.

This became apparent at current Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s confirmation hearing. Blinken credited the Trump administration’s “Abraham accords” which strengthened the ties between Israel and various Arab monarchies and delighted in using the Trump administration’s pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal as leverage over the Islamic Republic. Meanwhile, Biden seems set to follow all other recent administrations in refusing to acknowledge Israel’s nuclear capacity, ignore the pleadings of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to acknowledge Israel’s nuclear weapons and use US law to halt funding it.

The role of presumably progressive sectors in the Democratic Party are likely to be marginal. Biden’s re-entering the Paris accords and tepid stepping away from the most brazen aspects of the Saudi attack on Yemen are likely to be high points of accomplishment these factions can claim some credit for — and such moves may well have multiple motives.

The two-party system has effectively portioned out Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” world view, with much of the Republican party, at least selectively, treating Latinos and Muslims as a menace while the Democratic party has gone to great lengths to demonize Russia/Orthodoxy in recent years. Both effectively cast China as a menace.

Sen. Tom Cotton is well positioned with respect to the critical issue of our time: The origin of the pandemic. Much of establishment liberal, and indeed so-called “left wing” opinion has dismissed the possibility of lab origin of the pandemic as a “conspiracy theory” and thus ceded the issue to the xenophobic rightwing. This may well have disastrous consequences in the coming years and decades.

There seem two possible avenues to substantial change in terms of US foreign policy. One is the rise of global movements, perhaps modeled on the Feb. 15, 2003 quasi global protests shortly before the invasion of Iraq.

The other likely challenge to the current paradigm of US establishment global dominance is a re-alignment within the US. If authentic sectors from the left and right can cooperate in a manner that is not delusional — doesn’t pretend that they agree on everything — then there are possibilities for meaningful change.

The left and right often have different reasoning and even language, but largely agree on non-interventionism, lessening the power of corporate trade deals such as NAFTA, civil liberties, the power of transnational corporations as opposed to more “Main Street” businesses. If a steady stream of analysis coming from left and rightwing figures can manifest such agreements it could have several beneficial outcomes.

At minimum, it can help focus on actual policy that affects people’s lives rather than the personality driven media obsession with political personalities. At maximum, it could pave the way for a winning political movement that draws from the left and right and backs candidates representing their shared interests — and politically activates millions who have, with cause, given up on politics accomplishing anything real.

Even the threat of such a possibility would give the electoral bases that the Democratic and Republican parties claim to represent increased leverage against the establishment interests that have helped ensure that US government policy served their ends for so long.

This piece originally appeared at Politics Today on February 23, 2021.

Talking VotePact on Flashpoints

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

Recently did a few interviews on various outlets, including Flashpoints with Dennis Bernstein out of KPFA, the birthplace of listener sponsored radio. On web here — starts at the 19:00 minute mark. (Also, it’s on podcast here. It’s the second segment.)

VotePact Gives You Leverage Over the Duopoly

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

VotePact is a voting strategy that advocates that people vote for their actual preferences by pairing up with someone on the other side of the Democratic-Republican divide. So people can strategically vote for the candidates they most like without fear of helping those they most fear. Instead of effectively cancelling out each other — one for Trump and one for Biden, they can both vote Libertarian or Green or whatever they want.

It is effectively DIY ranked choice voting, which allows voters to list their preferences 1-2-3. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom just vetoed a RCV bill in California and Republicans in Maine are still trying to block voters from using RCV in the presidential election — which is expected to be a historic first.

Such attempts to limit voter choice are endemic to the establishment parties. indeed, much of our political and media system is designed to keep voters in perpetual subjugation to the Democratic and Republican parties: atomized, perpetually triggered by the latest outrage of ‘the other side.’ This effectively makes the establishment parties less and less accountable to the public since ironically, if each of the parties becomes worse, more fear kicks in spurring desperate support for the other. This creates a vicious cycle of fear and hatred and actually strengthens the duopoly. VotePact gives a strategic path out of this — and even modest use of it could give the voting public leverage over the duopoly candidates since their votes can no longer be taken for granted.”

While many establishment Democrats complain constantly that Green Party candidate Jill Stein ‘took votes away’ from Hillary Clinton and handed the 2016 election to Trump, they effectively block RCV reforms which would solve the problem.
But unlike RCV and other institutional reforms, VotePact doesn’t require waiting for governmental sign off that may never come. Anyone can do this right now with someone from the other side of the duopoly.

A related problem is polling. Most polls are phrased something like ‘if the election were held today, which of the following would you vote for: Democrat Joe Biden, Republican Donald Trump, Libertarian Jo Jorgensen or Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate.’ But that just echos the voting bind and doesn’t get at voter preference.

If pollsters cared to measure actual voter preferences, they would ask people to rank candidates 1-2-3, RCV style. Or they can ask: “Biden, Trump, Jorgensen and Hawkins are in a four-way tie. You are the tie-breaker, the deciding vote. Who do you vote for?’ That would get at actual voter opinion.

But voter preference and control are hindered, including by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a creation of the establishment Democrats and Republicans that is sponsoring what should be called a joint televised appearance Thursday night between Trump and Biden. Third party candidates are having their own debate with the group Free and Equal on Saturday. See my letter ‘The Huge Problem with Polls‘ to Frank Newport of Gallup and the CPD.

Some advocate that people voting third party in safe states and ‘lesser evil’ in swing states, which is certainly a positive step, but it obviously restricts voter choice in ‘swing states,’ is likely a recipe for muffling national advocacy of third parties — and it’s not scalable. That is, a third party candidate gaining traction would likely redefine which states are safe states, though that seems unlikely this year. VoteTrumpOut lists these as swing states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, or Wisconsin.

But VotePact can work with two people in any state and it doesn’t advocate for any candidate, it is simply a tool anyone can use to strategically vote for their preferred candidate with the radical act of cooperating with someone from the other side of the partisan divide. If needed, the issue of trust in this election can be overcome by people filling out mail in ballots together. A PAC backing Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson rebranded VotePact as ‘The Balanced Rebellion‘ in 2016, got 37 million views on Facebook with an entertaining video featuring ‘dead Abe Lincoln’ and helped Johnson score the biggest third party success since Ross Perot. However, most third party candidates seem to have no strategy for electoral success, the Greens this year are saying they are largely out to preserve their ballot access.

Full VotePact Segment on Katie Halper Show

Monday, September 21st, 2020

Talking VotePact on Katie Halper Show with Sam Husseini

Sunday, September 20th, 2020

VotePact is an all volunteer effort. Special thanks to Stephanie Welch who both suggested Katie book Sam on and then cut the video. If you’d like to help, please spread the word or drop a line to sam@votepact.org. If you can contribute financially — we’d love to do VotePact-related polling — please drop a line as well.

VotePact is Totally Different from “VoteSwapping”

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

People continue to be confused by voteswapping. This happens every four years in part because major media like the New York Times, NPR and ABC have periodically hyped voteswapping and have continuously ignored VotePact.

Voteswapping involves voters in so-called “swing” states who want to vote for third parties “swap” votes with committed Democrats and Republicans in so-called “safe” states. This was outlined by VotePair.org and VoteTrader.org, both now defunct. So, for example, a true believing Green in say, Ohio, votes for Biden while a Biden believer in New York votes for Howie Hawkins, the Green Party nominee. So, emerging parties don’t grow, their votes are just moved to other states. Voters end up voting for candidates they don’t actually believe in.

In contrast to “swapping,” VotePact is not an attempt to “minimize the damage” of a third party run—it is designed to actually shake up the political spectrum, create a realignment and open the door to actual victory for independents or emerging parties. VotePact liberates a vote from Biden and a vote from Trump so they can go to candidates the voters actually want. Also, VotePact does not result in people voting for candidates they don’t want—it frees people to vote for candidates they do want, but are held back by fear because of the limitations of the voting system. While the Electoral College is central to “vote swapping,” it is not at all central to VotePact, though VotePact does work best if the two voters are in the same state.

Sanders Suspends: What Happened? What Now?

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk commented just as Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign: “Bernie made a number of mistakes that I highlighted and broke down in detail. No excuses. Having said that, you’re out of your fucking mind if you think I’ll forget or look past ‘bloody monday’, aka the day Obama got Pete & Amy to drop & endorse Biden. Saving his campaign.”

In fact, the “Bloody Monday” move — when Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar both endorsed Biden just after his South Carolina win and just before “Super Tuesday” — might be the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the DNC or other establishment forces molded the campaign to producer this outcome.

Consider:

* Kamala Harris and Cory Booker pulled out of the race before South Carolina, paving the way for Biden’s win there. Jim Clyburn of course endorsed Biden just before South Carolina. Tragically, Jesse Jackson only endorsed Sanders after.

* Warren split the progressive ranks throughout and ultimately refused to endorse Sanders.

* Even the choices of the candidates was useful to stopping Sanders. Pete Buttigieg was from Indiana and the net effect of his campaign was to deny Sanders a clear win in not-so-far-away Iowa. Amy Klobuchar was from Minnesota and so the net effect of her campaign was to throw that state to Biden so that Biden won something substantial outside of the south on Super Tuesday, making his rise appear national and therefore plausibly inevitable.

* Ostensibly antiwar candidate Tulsi Gabbard throughout refused to meaningfully criticize the war addicted Biden — even when she had a clear shot to do so during the debates on his Iraq war lies. Meanwhile, Sanders just kept saying Biden voted for the Iraq war while Sanders didn’t. Sanders never meaningfully made the case that Biden played key role in making the Iraq invasion happen and never really tore into his lies.

* Mike Gravel — who might have really tore into Biden — was excluded from the debate stage throughout.

* Julián Castro was marginalized shortly after he attacked Biden.

* Bloomberg coming in had the net effect of Warren going after him — for things she could well have gone after Biden about but didn’t. His demise effectively gave the base a sense of weird relief that Biden is the nominee: “Well, at least we didn’t get stuck with Billionaire Bloomberg”.

You couldn’t have planned it better for Biden if you tried. And lots of forces — from the DNC to the establishment media did try in thousands of ways.

Additionally, the entire “Ukrainegate” obsession — contrary to a slew of deluded progressive commentators at the time — built up Biden as the anti-Trump. Trump was trying to attack him, so he must be the one Trump is afraid of was the obvious logic. That was the net effect of the entire media focus on that including the ultimate impeachment (remember impeachment?).

Indeed, in this incredibly vicious cycle, just as many Republicans likely turned to Trump because they felt they needed a corrupt celebrity to stop Hillary Clinton, many Democrats likely turned to Biden for similar reasons this year.

And at a societal level, the pandemic struck chords of fear in people’s collective psychology. It was like the Y2K story. As January 1, 2000 approached, people were filled with dread and fear, so that what should have been a time for great hope was a time for just hoping to get by. Like now. The pandemic pushed many people to turn to the familiar, to something that they associate with not being a disaster. (This is the opposite of what happened in 1900 — that period was apparently greeted with great embrace.)

Then there’s Sanders’ own role, his incapacity — or more likely, his unwillingness — to mount sharper attacks on Biden, of shedding his imperial presumptions and more deeply taking on the foreign policy establishment. Sanders’ ultimate legacy may be what the late great Bruce Dixon called “Sheepdogging.”

So, now what?

As I outlined last month:

There are two obvious responses:

Burn it Down: The impulsive thing to do would be to want to burn down the Democratic Party. It’s possible that the establishment of the Democratic Party would be OK with this — they seem to fear a President Sanders more than the fear another term of Trump. So, people would stay home or vote for a third party or independent candidate who openly states that they have virtually no chance of winning.

Cave In: Others might insist that no matter how badly the Democratic Party establishment treats its voters, they need to get in line come November and vote for whoever the nominee is. This is euphemistically referred to as “hold your nose and voting.” People have done this for decades and it’s typically resulted in the corporate wing of the Democratic Party becoming more and more powerful.

The first of these will be disastrous because it will help Trump.

The second will be disastrous because it effectively surrenders control of the Democratic Party to the corporate wing, probably for the foreseeable future.

But there is a third choice: The VotePact strategy.

With the VotePact strategy,  in the general election, disenchanted Democratics team up with a disenchanted Republicans. They pair up: spouses and friends and coworkers and neighbors and debating partners and ex-facebook friends. Instead of the two of them voting for candidates they don’t want, they pair up and vote for the third party or independent candidate of their choice.

Given the pandemic, all bets may be off. Things could slide into disaster — or a great new world could be born. One could almost envision the rise of the Stay-At-Home party. People can talk to their loved ones in a way they never have. And they may embrace their neighbors — even if it is at ten feet — as the never have before. Zoom could be filled with hopes and dreams and a path might be found to get there. We might be driven by fear and shallow hate and sectarian thinking — or we might decide to come together as a country and as a world as we never have before.

VotePact takes work. But it’s a path out of the duopoly and toward freedom. Given the tumult before us, it is actually a rather moderate proposal, drawing us to a sane center, away from the disastrous paths of both Biden, which gave birth to Trump — and Trump himself.

If Sanders is Robbed of the Nomination, It’s Time for the VotePact Strategy

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Right now, the entire Democratic Party apparatus and allied corporate media are working to ensure that Sen. Bernie Sanders does not get the Democratic nomination even if he gets a plurality of delegates and votes in the primaries.

The Democratic Party establishment seems to be gearing up for a brokered convention which will anoint an establishment candidate with the nomination.

This risks fracturing the party and effectively paving the way for a second term for Donald Trump.

Obviously progressive forces will try to stop these eventualities, but a plan is needed if they arise.

There are two obvious responses:

Burn it Down: The impulsive thing to do would be to want to burn down the Democratic Party. It’s possible that the establishment of the Democratic Party would be OK with this — they seem to fear a President Sanders more than the fear another term of Trump. So, people would stay home or vote for a third party or independent candidate who openly states that they have virtually no chance of winning.

Cave In: Others might insist that no matter how badly the Democratic Party establishment treats its voters, they need to get in line come November and vote for whoever the nominee is. This is euphemistically referred to as “hold your nose and voting.” People have done this for decades and it’s typically resulted in the corporate wing of the Democratic Party becoming more and more powerful.

The first of these will be disastrous because it will help Trump.

The second will be disastrous because it effectively surrenders control of the Democratic Party to the corporate wing, probably for the foreseeable future.

But there is a third choice: The VotePact strategy.

With the VotePact strategy,  in the general election, disenchanted Democratics team up with a disenchanted Republicans. They pair up: spouses and friends and coworkers and neighbors and debating partners and ex-facebook friends. Instead of the two of them voting for candidates they don’t want, they pair up and vote for the third party or independent candidate of their choice.

If there’s an anti establishment ticket that appeals to both left and right — think something like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul — it could bring together a transpartisan united alliance from across the political spectrum against the establishment candidates. (Yes, Trump is and always has been an establishment candidate, his rhetoric to the contrary.)

Thus a shrewd thing for Sanders supporters to do in the short term is to reach out to anti establishment Republicans: To try to get them to vote for Sanders if he does get the nomination — and to get them to pair up and vote independent with them if he doesn’t.

The great thing about this is that putting it on the table now lessens the chances that it will have to happen. That is, the Democratic establishment, by trying to stop Sanders, is effectively saying to Sanders supporters: You have to vote for the Democratic nominee no matter who it is. Otherwise, you’re helping Trump.

The truth of course is that the Democratic establishment is effectively helping Trump by undermining Sanders in this way.

But having VotePact on the table now makes it clear to all concerned: Sanders supporters do have another path. They don’t have to attack the party or capitulate to its establishment. They can make a VotePact with a Republican and vote in a manner that is both principled and super strategic.

Sam Husseini is the founder of VotePact.org.

How a Would-be Thanksgiving Argument Can Help Birth a Revolution

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019
It’s become something of a cliché: Many people dread Thanksgiving in part because they have to break bread with friends — and especially relatives — who they adamantly disagree with politically.

One is pro-immigration, the other wants to build a bigger wall, etc.
But what if this annoying encounter was actually a blessing?
I don’t identify as either a Democrat or a Republican, but I recognize that there are millions of people who identify as “Democrats” for some good reason and there are lots of people who identify as “Republican” for good reason.
Thing is, those “good reasons” mostly have to do with how bad the other party is.
And a further rub is that many rank and file Democratic voters and Republican voters agree on certain core issues: They are sick of Wall Street and big business domination. They are skeptical of perpetual wars, etc. This is in spite of the fact that the establishment of both the Democratic and Republican parties are deeply tied to Wall Street and back perpetual wars, occasional rhetoric to the contrary.
Indeed, when a somewhat popular figure comes before the base — whether it’s Democratic Obama or Republican Trump — they take the guise of being critical of Wall Street and of war.
But that’s not how they govern.
They back Wall Street.
They back wars, occasionally what speaking against them.
And they get away with it.
Why?
Because if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

The Trump-Media Logrolling

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

Today, hundreds of newspapers, at the initiative of the Boston Globe, are purporting to stand up for a free press against Trump’s rhetoric.

Today also marks exactly one month since I was dragged out of the July 16 Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki and locked up until the middle of the night.

As laid in my cell, I chuckled at the notion that the city was full of billboards proclaiming Finland was the “land of free press“.

So, I’ve grown an especially high sensitivity to both goonish behavior toward journalists trying to ask tough questions — and to those professing they are defending a free press when they are actually engaging in a marketing campaign.

As some have noted, the editorials today will likely help Trump whip up support among his base against a monolithic media. But, just as clearly, the establishment media can draw attention away from their own failures, corruptions and falsehoods simply by focusing on some of Trump’s.

Big media outlets need not actually report news that affects your life and point to serious solutions for social ills. They can just bad mouth Trump. And Trump need not deliver on campaign promises that tapped into populist and isolationist tendencies in the U.S. public that have grown in reaction to years of elite rule. He need only deride the major media.

They are at worst frenemies. More likely, at times, Trump and the establishment media log roll with each other. The major media built up Trump. Trump’s attacks effectively elevate a select few media celebrities.

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