By Jesse Crall
There’s an excellent Sidney Lumet film called 12 Angry Men, in which a seemingly open-and-shut trial proves anything but once juror Henry Fonda indulges in his skepticism. Another juror, played by Lee J Cobb, stands out in particular. At the onset, he talks about how he’s a rational man who cares about the facts which to him point to the accused’s guilt. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that his assumptions will soon prove undermined by Fonda’s thoughtful arguments.
Cobb represents a common figure in the American discourse, the self-proclaimed rational man. The free-thinker. The last of the independents. Someone divorced from reaction and emotion in favor of a sober analysis of reality. Like Cobb, the vast majority of the types I’m describing are anything but. It’s not that independent thinkers don’t exist; it’s that they don’t feel compelled to broadcast their supposed rationality to everybody else. I’m inclined to assume that people who generally agree with my analysis think I’m a rational, independent thinker and those who don’t think I’m a brainwashed libtard/commie/leftoid/etc. The same dynamic holds true for anyone with political convictions, left, right and center.
Politico just reported that Andrew Yang plans to announce the formation of a third party, timed for the release of his upcoming book. I welcome this news because as a pro-Israel capitalist who mostly punts on foreign policy and uses cable news, SuperPACs and fundraisers with the financial industry to advance his career, Yang offers something you just can’t get from the two existing parties.
Yang’s big with independent thinkers. Blasting censorship and illiberalism within elite and academic circles while ignoring class conflict offers a reliable pathway to their embrace. When Public Intellectual Bret Weinstein sought a bipartisan, third party ticket, his audience ended up picking Tulsi Gabbard and Dan Crenshaw, the latter of whom is actually to the right of Donald Trump. Some on the left see Weinstein as a figure of danger or even fascism, a ludicrous charge (he supported Bernie Sanders in 2016). He’s just a liberal with a case of Galaxy Brain. Trying to challenge the system with a Gabbard/Crenshaw ticket it is a little like trying to save your marriage by hitting your wife in the face with a banana cream pie. It’s unlikely to help matters and such decisions can only result from some deeper issues going back a ways.
Most self-described liberals are just Democrats, either proudly or reluctantly (“because we have to defeat fascism”). Vote Blue No Matter Who offers a solution to a misdiagnosed problem that’s wrong but simple. If said misdiagnosed problem is that Republicans are Bad, you just have to vote for Democrats. A much smaller number of liberals recognize shades of the problem but can’t come up with anything better. So you get bizarre forays into pretzel logic wherein the misdiagnosed problem becomes “Lack of Unity” or “Illiberalism on college campuses” and the solution is to manufacture a Gabbard/Crenshaw presidential ticket, in which the American public possesses as little interest in as…Gabbard and Crenshaw.
A Marxist analysis allows us to see all these issues (cancel culture, corrupt political parties, intolerance, etc) as symptoms of much bigger material conditions. And they won’t begin to rectify until those conditions change. I get irritated when media mavens continue to whine about cancel culture without supporting an end to, say, at-will employment. Without changes in labor dynamics, “cancel culture” will remain prevalent and most of its cases will involve anonymous workers, not prominent media figures who can leverage dubious examples of persecution into lucrative book deals, Substacks or lateral moves to new and high-paying media outlets.
You won’t see a viable third party emerge unless it comes directly from the constituency most assaulted by the two that already exist: Labor. It’s not that anyone looking to form a third party is “bad” or, a label that really needs to be put on ice for awhile, “a grifter.” If you see problems in this country that remain unchanging, it’s only natural to explore alternatives and a third party will often prove a natural landing spot. But figures like Yang and Weinstein can’t even diagnose the real sickness affecting the U.S. and if they did, it would go against their own material interests. They’re promising rational discourse and independence and free-thinking approaches that lead their audiences back into the very same conventions prevalent among Democrats & Republicans already.
A Los Angeles native, Jesse Crall graduated from UCLA’s English Department before working as a copywriter, script reader and project manager for an engineering firm.