The Reverend Frank Wulf, Pastor, Echo Park United Methodist Church, Los Angeles:
Thoughts Provoked After Watching Bob Avakian Answer the Question:
“Unfortunately, as a Democrat it has long been determined that you vote for the lesser of two evils, right? Either the Dems or the Republicans. But it has gotten to the point where both of them are just as worse—one is cancer and one is HIV. So you don’t want to vote for either one of them… I know the system sucks, but what are you supposed to do in the interim?” (Part 3 of Q&A session)
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I never previously thought about Avakian’s corollary, but I think it’s correct. Trump’s volunteer may have gotten fired for saying that if you’re not succeeding then you’re not doing things right… that you’re not working hard enough. But that’s just the opposite side of the coin from President Obama saying that if you work hard in America and do all the right things then you will be successful. They both say essentially the same thing. It’s just that one says it positively while the other says it negatively… one is spoken with hope while the other is spoken without hope.
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I’ve gone through a process of disillusionment with the Democratic Party. I’ve been a Democrat since I first registered to vote at the age of 18. Still, I’ve become more and more troubled by Democratic politicians pursuing policies that I personally find abhorrent. Obama did not end rendition as he promised when he was elected. His administration maintained the CIA black sites; they continued to torture. Police killings didn’t stop during the Obama years. In fact, they almost seemed to become more frequent and more blatant. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was pushed by the Democrats and the Obama administration, would undoubtedly have meant increased exploitation for workers like the tin miners in Indonesia. And then, there was Obama’s reputation as the deporter-in -chief. Things have gotten worse under Trump, but the truth is that the Obama administration deported more migrants and refugees than any previous administration.
Even before Obama, the Clinton administration pushed what was described as welfare “reform,” which has caused a great deal of harm to poor and mostly ethnic communities. Clinton’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act has proven to be one of the leading underlying causes for today’s crisis of mass incarceration. Even before this, we have what I would call the “Kennedy Synthesis”—in which America made the conscious political decision to embrace the role of policeman for the world—this in spite of Eisenhower’s dire warnings about the emergence of the military-industrial complex.
Too often, we decide to vote for Democrats because they are the lesser of two evils. But, of course, I am left to wonder when we will finally get to vote for people who are not evil—people whose policies and politics we can wholeheartedly endorse. In this sense, Avakian’s advice that we should not vote for the lesser of two evils because it is evil cuts very close to home.
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On the issue of gun control, I think a little differently than some of my colleagues. I understand and agree with the movement to control access to guns… to require real background checks… to ban certain kinds of guns and ammunition. But, I am also deeply troubled by the fact that this society is producing people—especially young men—who are even capable of becoming mass murderers. How did we become a society that glorifies violence in such a way that shootings in schools, theaters, malls, places of worship, and… even become thinkable. Media like NPR tell us that the problem is mental illness, but mental illness is not the issue. The problem is that our society is sick. Our system is sick. The NRA loves to tell us that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” And, they are partly right. It takes a person to pull the trigger. But that doesn’t let gun manufacturers and gun lobbyists off the hook. They feed off of and they feed into the sickness of a society that places its trust in violence rather than community. They are a major part of our society’s deep moral sickness.
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The Democratic Party is deeply rooted in what I would call the sin of white supremacy. It was founded by slave owners like Thomas Jefferson. It was shaped by racists like Andrew Jackson who advocated policies and implemented acts of genocide against Native Americans. During the years following the Civil War and up to the middle of the twentieth century, Democrats were the most outspoken and powerful advocates of segregation and Jim Crow. Things only really began to change during the Johnson administration when Johnson made a practical, political decision to yield to some of the demands of the civil rights movement, which had become increasingly vocal and activist during the years following World War II. But, the party has never totally been able to escape its white supremacist origins. The DNA is still there.