You can't seem to go more than a few days without being reminded that this is the most interesting American primary season in recent memory. Despite not having been alive at the time, I feel that the last primary of this calibre was 1968 after Johnson decided not to pursue a second term. The theatrics of the contests are a true spectacle, for better or for worse, but one gets the feeling that never before has so much been on the line. To get a better sense of what exactly is happening, I decided to talk to one of my friends, Andrew, a southerner and a communist.
Andrew is a committed communist, identifying as a Marxist-Leninist. He has never voted for the Republicans, nor the Democrats. His stances against imperialism and private property shape his perceptions on many key American policies. In general he tends to support the Party of Socialism and Liberation. I asked him about what voting means to him.
"True workers' power can never be won through the ballot box" he told me. He explains that his values are based on idealism, conceding that you have to "go where the masses are" quoting Lenin. For Andrew, this kind of pragmatism is necessary in politics, but he levels an accusation at Sanders, calling him a sell-out.
I enquired as to what, then, would force a committed PSL supporter to vote for a mainstream candidate. Was it that Sanders is a progressive choice, or was it to do with the threat from the Republican side.
Andrew pointed out that one of Sanders true victories is that he has taken away the power of the word "socialism" as a scary word. To have made it socially acceptable to be a socialist in the United States is an accomplishment, but we talked about what exactly constitutes his brand of socialism.
"It doesn't go far enough". He comments on Sanders' support for imperialist endeavours, including troops in the middle east, is something he staunchy opposes. Morever, Sanders' brand of socialism is misleading as it has little to do with public ownership beyond the expansion of universal health care. Progressive taxation, Andrew points out, is not socialism.
It was, then, the idea that the Republican front-runner could do so much damage that motivates Andrew to vote Democrat. So much so, in fact, that he would vote for Clinton in November. We didn't talk much about Clinton, to be fair. It is fair to say that for a communist like Andrew and a democratic socialist like me that Clinton (a corporate candidate with years of experience waging war in the Middle East) is an unsavoury choice. But there is merely too much on the line.
I have thought a lot about how terrible a president Trump would be merely in terms of being the face of Washington. However, Andrew pointed out to me that one of the most serious problems would be that nothing would get done with Trump in the White House. During Obama's administration Congress was obstructionist because public opinion allowed it. Andrew sees that there is simply no way that Trump would't be even more polarising in that role.