The Vote “For”?

In its endorsement of Letitia James for attorney general of New York, the New York Times made a revealing assertion.

As public advocate since 2014, she has sometimes been overzealous in her use of lawsuits to address what she sees as inequities in government. Still, her efforts have aimed at using the true power of her office — the bully pulpit — for good, especially when it comes to tenants’ rights and the needs of vulnerable children.

Or, to remove the gloss, James was a vexatious litigant who abused her office in frivolous suits to push her personal and progressive agenda.

In the Democratic primary, we picked Zephyr Teachout over Ms. James. Ms. Teachout is an evangelist for ethics, and rooting out corruption is a central challenge for the next state attorney general. In her primary campaign, Ms. James presented herself as part of Mr. Cuomo’s team and accepted his fund-raising, acts that raised doubts about her independence.

James wanted to win, so she hitched her wagon to Cuomo because Cynthia Nixon had no chance. But Zephyr Teachout was, without question, a person of integrity, even if you didn’t agree with her politics. Then again, this is the attorney general position, not governor, so her politics aren’t really the point. The AG isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a particularly political position, but James wants to make it more political.

But Ms. James has promised to push for a law that would allow her to pursue prosecutions without first getting approval from the governor and the Legislature. This would be important if the office is to be truly independent in fighting corruption.

This would also be important if she wanted to use the power of the state to silence her enemies and force her agenda on others. As for fighting corruption, holding Cuomo’s hand doesn’t suggest she’s about to forsake the money she took to run her campaign. Still, she’s a black woman, a Democrat, and she’s going to win the election. The abhorrence of Trump in New York will be more than sufficient to do the trick. It’s not that James deserves the vote.

In the New York Post, Karol Markowitz raises a similar problem with the Women’s March. I remember my sister, along with my nieces, going to the Women’s March. When I asked my sister why, she gave me a generic response about feminism, equality and “girl power.” It was adorable, but of dubious merit. It never occurred to her that this march wasn’t about her reasons. Her participation may have been, but not the march itself. She was just a face in the crowd, believing one thing in a march serving some other mission.

She had no clue about Linda Sarsour.

Linda Sarsour is one of the leaders. Articles soon sprung up about terrible comments she made: She supported the radical Muslim Brotherhood. She praised Sharia Law, which, among other things, includes second-class status for women. She was open about her fandom of Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam.

Or Tamika Mallory, for that matter.

Then there’s Women’s March Co-President Tamika Mallory. In a February 2018 speech, Farrakhan said “Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out, turning men into women and women into men. White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew, and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.”

Mallory attended the speech. She once posted a picture of herself embraced by Farrakhan, referring to him as “the GOAT” (Greatest Of All Time.) So when she pointedly refused to condemn Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT comments after being asked, it was no surprise.

Certainly, my sister didn’t endorse Farrakhan, the anti-termite. Her reasons were hers, and she took no issue with the official platform of the Women’s March.

What’s the point of a march run by leaders who effectively condone comments like Farrakhan’s? One of the March’s “Unity Principles” is: “We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.” Yet when faced with someone pushing a vile stereotype, Mallory & Co. do nothing.

And as with James, the march creates a conflict. The words say one thing, while the people, the practice, say something very different. To vote and march against the Republicans, both against Trump and against the party’s support of him, is entirely understandable.

But who are you voting for? Do you actually support Tish James? Do you support Sarsour and Mallory, and through them Farrakhan? If there’s any doubt that this matters, remember when Jewish lesbians were told to leave the Chicago Dyke March for carrying a rainbow flag with a Jewish star? They may love gays, but they hate Jews more.

For many, the last presidential election was a choice between the lesser of two evils. We’re now looking at a midterm election carrying the weight of vindication, a chance to show the Republicans, to show Trump, that they have no mandate, they are not the party of the majority of Americans. And that’s a legitimate reason to vote against the party of Trump.

But there remains a problem lurking behind this vote. How can you vote against Trump without electing Letitia James, without the takeaway being a mandate for her to abuse her office in pursuit of her agenda?

Markowitz raises the same question with the Women’s March: How do you march for the rights of women without supporting Sarsour’s and Mallory’s adoration of Farrakhan and anti-Semitism?

Sure, protest Donald Trump, if you like. Free expression is vital. But don’t do it under the Women’s March umbrella. Start another march, join with friends, do something different. It’s November, you have more than two months to think and plan.

But don’t prop up people whose values are so corrupt. Don’t march in the Women’s March. It’s too late to plead ignorance. They can’t say they don’t know. And neither can you.

How do you register your disapproval of one without suggesting your approval of the other? And how will the Democrats, the Sarsours and Mallorys know that your vote doesn’t mean you approve of them, but only your disapproval of the other?

Sometimes we vote with a ballot. Sometimes we vote with our feet. Sometimes we vote against something, not because there’s anything to vote for. How do we let the people in power know what our vote means? No matter what message we mean to send, it may not be the message heard, and so our vote may tell one side of our disapproval, but what about when we disapprove of both, only one more than the other? There’s no vote for that.

15 thoughts on “The Vote “For”?

  1. Nigel Declan

    For all the virtues of a representative democracy, and they are legion, when it comes to deciding how to deal with complex and nuanced policy matters, a vote is a remarkably blunt instrument.

  2. Guitardave

    ..i am not a fan of anarchy ( if that is actually what would happen if no one voted)…but no matter the measure, i ain’t voting for evil. Trouble is, the no-choice choice is really just nothing…no one knows or cares about your ‘protesting non-vote’…..the only thing it can really ‘do’ is to give the narcissistic non-voter that superior “I don’t vote cause I know things you don’t” attitude…..kinda like, well…mine. 🙂

  3. Hunting Guy

    Robert Heinlein.

    “If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for … but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.”

  4. B. McLeod

    So, the NYT is against Donald Trump using lawsuits as a means to “bully” people, but is in favor of Letitia James doing exactly the same thing. More “ends-justify-the-means” folderol that highlights the NYT’s absence of ethics and integrity.

    1. SHG Post author

      They weren’t so much in favor of it, as not sufficiently opposed to let it stand in the way of endorsing her for AG, where she could use the power of her office to further her vexatious litigation.

      1. MarkL

        I hadn’t seen or heard that. I had a mild suspicion that the apparent typo wasn’t a typo or auto correct error, so first did (an obviously inadequate) search before posting.

        So my slight attempt at a typo-joke is a joke on me.

        I do learn things from reading this blog!


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