[sixties-l] Fwd: It's your party and you can cry if you want to

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 12/02/00

  • Next message: radman: "[sixties-l] Ralph Nader Keeps Democracy Alive"

    >It's your party and you can cry if you want to
    >Will Gore lose Florida? Who cares. The Democrats are beyond redemption.
    >By Andrew O'Hehir
    >Nov. 22, 2000 | Here's a memo to all the whiny, sore-loser Democrats (or
    >sore-winner Democrats, as the case may be) who are trying to blame Ralph
    >Nader and the Green Party for your predicament: Get over it. I and the
    >2.7 million other Americans who voted for Nader are not your wayward
    >children who stayed out past curfew. We are, by definition, your
    >political opponents. We didn't vote for your party because we think it
    >stinks, and we don't care all that much whether you won or lost. Is that
    >clear enough? Now can we just pick a president by reading the entrails
    >of a pregnant chad or something and move on?
    >Check your civics textbooks and the Constitution; does it say anywhere
    >that the two-party system was ordained by the Creator, or that the
    >Democratic Party has an eternal right to the votes of progressives and
    >leftists, no matter how mealy-mouthed and corrupt the party gets? It's
    >undoubtedly true that many Green voters would prefer Al Gore to George
    >W. Bush, on balance. There's no contradiction involved there; most of
    >Pat Buchanan's voters (outside Palm Beach County, anyway) would
    >presumably prefer Bush to Gore.
    >But Nader voters -- and Buchanan voters, albeit in smaller numbers --
    >made a principled decision. Revolutionary, I know, but stick with me on
    >this. They decided it was more important to try to build a genuinely
    >independent political movement than to participate in the profoundly
    >undemocratic choice between two Ivy League daddy's boys suckled on the
    >soft-money teat, about whom the public seems equally ambivalent.
    >Is building such a movement within the profoundly flawed universe of
    >American electoral politics even possible? Maybe, maybe not. But for
    >many people on the left, the Nader campaign felt like the first genuine
    >injection of positive energy in mainstream politics since Jesse Jackson
    >in the 1980s. We're sick of sitting up late nights like an abandoned
    >wife with a candle in the window, pining for a Democratic Party that ran
    >out on us years ago yet still expects us to show up on Election Day.
    >Clearly, liberals and activists who still see hope for the Democrats
    >will disagree. But the exaggerated anti-Nader venom, such as that found
    >in an entertaining Salon article by my colleague Charles Taylor, strikes
    >me as an advanced case of kill-the-messenger syndrome. The Democratic
    >Party's injuries are self-inflicted; they can't be blamed on a geeky
    >consumer advocate and his tiny, poorly organized third party.
    >First off, let's get rid of one canard. Even if Bush wins, we'll never
    >know whether Nader "cost" Gore the election; exit polls suggest that
    >many Nader voters wouldn't have voted at all in a straight Gush-Bore
    >matchup. (And for whatever it's worth, Bush attracted about twice as
    >many registered Democrats as Nader did.) But Nader's very presence in
    >the race, and the enthusiasm his candidacy generated among students,
    >environmentalists and other progressive activists, indicates that cracks
    >are showing in the politics of fear that have held the amorphous
    >Democratic coalition together in recent years.
    >Ever since the disastrous defeat of George McGovern by Richard Nixon in
    >1972, the Democratic Party has had two unwritten rules for dealing with
    >its own left wing. Rule 1: There is no left. Rule 2: If there is a left,
    >it must be destroyed or at least silenced. As the party slid toward the
    >mushy center, essentially morphing into the Republican Party of the
    >Eisenhower era (while the Republican Party itself was morphing into, I
    >don't know, the Brown Shirts), it left its
    >progressive-environmentalist-feminist wing increasingly homeless. Some
    >people on this wing played along, believing that even the centrist New
    >Democrats were preferable to
    >the post-Reagan GOP; others abandoned electoral politics for academics,
    >community activism or gardening.
    >Let's note an important historical contrast here: In 1964, the
    >Republican Party was transformed by a wave of grass-roots activism, and
    >nominated a true believer (Barry Goldwater) who galvanized the activist
    >core but got slaughtered in the general election by a popular incumbent
    >president. A generation later, these activists conquered not just their
    >own party but the entire country, sweeping Ronald Reagan to power on an
    >unprecedented conservative tide.
    >The McGovern campaign represented a parallel upsurge of activism within
    >the Democratic Party, and produced the same short-term result. But union
    >leaders, big-city mayors, tort lawyers, Southern congressmen and other
    >entrenched forces essentially united to purge the activists, who
    >terrified them politically and threatened their power. In the long run,
    >this created a party without a grass-roots base, whose only electoral
    >strategy was to study the polls and bend with the wind, to "triangulate"
    >(in the loathsome phrase of the loathsome Dick Morris) a middle road
    >between liberals and conservatives.
    >Could the McGovern radicals ever have triumphed on a national scale the
    >way the Goldwater radicals did? I don't know, but that's not the point.
    >The Republican shift to the right was motivated by the personal
    >convictions of millions of party activists; the Democratic shift to the
    >center was motivated not by principle but by Morris-style strategic
    >thinking. Some people, like President Clinton and Gore, may have
    >believed wholeheartedly in this new direction. But its only real purpose
    >was to gain power. From that moment forward the Democratic Party became
    >a reactionary force whose core values were never certain. In short, it
    >sold its
    >Of course, the Democrats could afford to do that because they still had
    >large groups of loyal voters they could take almost entirely for
    >granted, even if they no longer had any activist base outside a few
    >Washington think tanks. African-Americans, Latinos, feminists,
    >environmentalists and the progressive wing of the labor movement had no
    >place else to go, in terms of electoral politics. Many were
    >understandably terrified of the newly energized GOP, which seemed to
    >want to lock women in the kitchen, sell Yellowstone to the highest
    >bidder and get the poor off welfare and into prison.
    >The Republicans, in fact, provided the cudgel the Democratic leadership
    >used to batter renegade movements like Jackson's Rainbow Coalition --
    >which strove to reconnect the party with a multiracial, working-class
    >base -- back into line. If you think we're bad, went the Democratic
    >theme song, wait till you see the other guys. It worked, for a while.
    >During the Clinton years, the party did the minimum necessary to hang on
    >to poor, dark-skinned and liberal voters, while doing the maximum
    >possible to pry affluent suburbanites loose from the Republicans.
    >But the triangulation strategy can only continue to work if no one
    >presents a genuine, grass-roots challenge for those abandoned and
    >dispirited left-leaning voters. Even a marginal (and marginally
    >successful) effort to do so, like that of Nader and the Greens, must be
    >savaged and, if possible, discredited. This horror of being attacked at
    >the Democratic Party's most vulnerable point accounts, I believe, for
    >the near-hysterical pitch of much of the Nader-bashing, which simply
    >repeats the same old tune: We may suck but the Republicans suck worse.
    >This is what I mean by the politics of fear. Democratic loyalists, from
    >Congress to the academy to the editorial page of the New York Times, are
    >trying to terrorize Green voters into repentance with horror stories: We
    >have delivered the country into the hands of Trent Lott and Tom DeLay;
    >we're ensuring that right-wing wacko judges get appointed to the Supreme
    >Court; we're a bunch of effete white intellectuals who won't suffer the
    >likely consequences of our actions. But the real fear at issue here is
    >the fear of
    >the Democratic apparatchiks themselves, at the prospect of their
    >soulless, sclerotic party being undermined by the forces of genuine
    >In the interests of civil discourse, I'm going to skip over the ad
    >hominem, and thoroughly irrelevant, attacks on Nader's personality and
    >manner that form a distinct subset of Nader-bashing. Suffice it to say
    >that Nader is an imperfect candidate on many levels, but he's also a man
    >of real integrity and accomplishment who has worked for the good of
    >American citizens his entire life and never panders to his audience.
    >Besides, anyone who voted for Gore, for any reason, has permanently lost
    >the right to complain about boring, irritating and pedantic politicians.
    >In fact, the relentless negativity and fear-mongering of the
    >Green-baiters only makes it clear that they don't have anything good to
    >say about their own candidate or their own party. This spectacle of
    >intelligent and well-meaning people struggling to defend a crippled
    >institution they don't really like is more than a little sad. Many of
    >them, I am convinced, realize that the difference between Democratic and
    >Republican fiscal policy these days, as Michael M. Thomas of the New
    >York Observer has put it, is mainly the question of which of Alan
    >Greenspan's butt cheeks to lick first.
    >These Democratic loyalists are too smart not to realize that their
    >candidate this year was a smug oligarch only slightly less noxious than
    >the one he opposed. (The streets of hell will be closed for a snow day
    >before either Gore or Bush shuts off the soft-money spigot that has
    >thoroughly corrupted national politics.) Or that Gore's vaunted
    >intelligence consists mostly of half-digested fragments cribbed from New
    >Age management-guru bestsellers. Or that his running mate was an
    >intolerant, sanctimonious prick who would absolutely, positively be a
    >Republican if he didn't adhere to a minority religion.
    >Now that the Republicans have emulated the Democrats and handed back
    >their party's reins from the activist fringe to the corporate center,
    >this year's presidential election will matter slightly less, in the
    >world-historical scheme of things, than the battle between Coke and
    >Pepsi. At least people actually like Coke and Pepsi; this has been more
    >like Dr. Pepper vs. Mr. Pibb. I suppose if I really had to choose
    >between being ruled by law firms and high-tech zillionaires (the
    >Democrats) on one hand and oil and pharmaceutical tycoons (the
    >Republicans) on the other, I'd pick the lawyers. But the Nader campaign,
    >as modest and provisional as it was in the end, was an attempt to argue
    >that the choice doesn't have to be that narrow.
    >All right, the Democratic hit squads say, that's very high-minded. Then
    >they start flogging us with DeLay and Lott again. What about the poor
    >women who'll bleed to death from botched coat-hanger abortions after Roe
    >vs. Wade is overturned, and inner-city schoolchildren who'll go without
    >books and lunches when their budget is vouchered out to suburban
    >religious academies?
    >This is, of course, the politics of fear at its highest and most
    >effective pitch. I don't doubt that the Bush administration (version
    >2.0) will be capable of doing some real harm, and I can't question the
    >motives of anyone who felt they had to vote for Gore on that basis. But
    >if it is Bush who takes office on Jan. 20, he will be one of the most
    >weakened presidents in American history. He's unlikely to try and enact
    >the agenda of the radical right, which feels lukewarm about him in any
    >case. If he does, he's simply gift-wrapping both houses of Congress for
    >the Democrats in 2002.
    >Of course, even a weak president with 51 senators on his side can
    >install some egregious Neanderthal on the Supreme Court for life. Bush
    >won't repeat the mistake his father made with closet liberal David
    >Souter; it's safe to assume any W. appointments will be true-blue
    >conservatives in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. This
    >fear of a Bush court was clearly the Democrats' most potent weapon, and
    >the reason why many potential Nader votes probably went to Gore at the
    >last minute. Those of us who stuck with Ralph believed, however, that
    >the best vote for civil rights and civil liberties was a vote for the
    >long-term rejuvenation of democracy, not another vote for a party that
    >doesn't stand for anything.
    >As for the not-so-subtle charges of elitism and racism against Nader and
    >the Greens, it strikes me that those who have run out of legitimate
    >arguments resort in the end to ugly innuendo. It's true that the Green
    >movement, based in environmentalist and college-activist circles that
    >tend to be mostly white, has done a piss-poor job of reaching people of
    >color. Out of both tradition and pragmatism, minority voters, especially
    >African-Americans, remain as a whole fiercely loyal to the Democrats.
    >But whether the Green Party succeeds or not, how long will blacks and
    >other minorities continue to tolerate the party that has eagerly
    >in the war on drugs, the militarization of the inner city, the
    >tremendous expansion of the prison-industrial complex, the racist
    >application of the death penalty and the evisceration of the welfare
    >The 2000 presidential campaign will end someday, thank God, but the
    >Nader-bashing is essentially the prelude to the next one, in which the
    >Democrats will be desperate to fortify their voter base against further
    >Green erosion. Beneath the Democratic fury at defectors is a clear
    >subtext: If you're really sorry and come home and stay very quiet, this
    >will all be forgiven in time. In Taylor's eloquent, enraged article, he
    >argues that the Democratic Party remains the traditional home for
    >liberals and progressives in American politics, and we should be
    >fighting to reform and renew it, rather than abandoning it.
    >As Nader said repeatedly during the campaign, it wasn't the Greens who
    >abandoned the Democrats but the other way around. The Greens face long
    >and perhaps insuperable odds in trying to build a viable third party.
    >But it feels good, finally, to have done something out of principle. It
    >feels good to be free of the party that now seems unreformable and
    >unrenewable. The party that rolled over for Newt Gingrich on welfare
    >reform, that set back the cause of national healthcare by decades, that
    >sold off the national forests in unprecedented quantities for nickels on
    >the dollar, that waffled fatally on the rights of gays and lesbians,
    >presided over the most unequal economic boom in American history. Maybe
    >we should be grateful for the presidential sex scandal that stopped the
    >government dead for two years.
    >If anything, Nader voters should take heart from the bashing. It means
    >that we made enough of a difference that they're scared of us and want
    >to destroy us. It means we have a chance. It means we've reached the
    >second, and nearly the third, stage in Gandhi's legendary formula for
    >revolutionary change: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you.
    >Then they fight you. Then you win."

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