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by Shava Nerad

Nader's raiders -- come home!

Friday, December 12, 2003 5:17 PM  
[modified from a post I made 8/17/03 to a list I'm on -- brought to mind by Nader's exploratory committee, who posted a survey asking people if they thought he should run, and what they'd do for him if they support him. I answered the survey asking him PLEASE not to run.]

I love you all, and [friend] is opinionated, but it's hard not to be frustrated. I have been working on this post for three days now...

First thing I have to say is that we have one group that we should be primarily blaming for the Bush victory -- and that is the 48.whatever% of the electorate that voted for Bush. Without them, it never would have been a close enough race for any controversy.

The second thing I have to say is that the DLC is largely to blame for Gore's defeat. Gore is a liberal pragmatic smart man, who was assigned handlers who told him to say "me too" a lot, so as not to "lose the center." He lost the left and that's essentially why he lost.

Frankly, I had my own reservations then about having Lieberman one bullet away from the presidency, not because he's Jewish but because he's a Zionist chauvinist hawk and a republican in drag.

So, that said...if you feel it would make you offended to hear why I think the Greens as a party are engaging in denial and magical thinking, or why so many Dems are so passionately anti-Greeen, hit delete now. But I intend to list a bunch of events and stats with my own analysis and experience of events mixed in.

I don't think it's useful to be mad at individual Greens, except when they are idiots. But that maps pretty well to my feelings about individual Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Socialists, or whatever.

I had bad feelings about the Nader campaign early. I was really disturbed that he was so obviously setting up a campaign that was playing to win, when what he should have been doing was playing for 5%+. If anyone cares, I'll elaborate on that, but it would have been the pragmatic thing to do in a first major Green entry into the presidential race. That he was talking like he meant to win, vs. building his party, indicated both egotism and possible malice to the Dems to me. One thing Joseph's father taught me is that unconscious ill deeds and malice with intent are both things you want to avoid, and so far as it is possible, you should remove yourself from situations where you *can't* tell them apart.

I couldn't tell it apart in Nader's case. I found his campaign to seem intentionally highly manipulative of what seems to me still to be a profoundly politically naive constituency. That's not a condemnation of the Greens, any more than saying someone is ignorant of the facts implies that they are idiots. The Greens, as a whole, do not have the savvy to make local elections, far less a national campaign, and that's just a natural issue of their nascent state.

In outcome...Jim, at least, will remember my conflict over the Nader campaign -- in that I thought it was wrong to diss the Green's platform or enthusiasm or a strong third party, but I thought that the campaign had potential for disaster in key states.

At 01:28 AM 8/16/2003, [same friend] wrote:
The "there's no difference between the two
parties" argument never held any water with me.

I think part of what most Greens don't understand is that this is the heart of the matter to many of us Democrats, and the prime cause of the vitriol over the loss in 2000, and a lot of our ongoing troubles. But let's address the vote thing first.

I do believe that Nader split the vote enough to lose the election. If you take it state by state, he changed the electoral college enough to make the difference. Gore *WON* the popular vote. That doesn't count for crap. Only the electoral college counts, winner takes all, state by state.

But you don't have to prove that he changed the electoral vote anywhere but Florida to show that he spoiled the election. People will claim NH and FL were clearly spoiled, but I won't even waste my time on the NH case. Only Florida is necessary of itself.

Some of that record has clearly been unnecessarily exaggerated.

Read this: Particularly the bit at the bottom, below the stats:
If no third party existed and one makes assumption ALL GRN vote D, ALL REF/LBT vote R (a convenient, not a valid, assumption) then Gore wins FL and NH, bringing his electoral vote total to a winning of 295. GRN is thus the primary spoiler affecting outcome.
However, IF GRN exists, but REF/LBT do not and ALL REF/LBT vote R, Bush picks up IA, NM, OR, and WI for a total of 301 electoral votes. REF and LBT did not change the outcome of the election, but did influence the electoral vote.

Greens reject this argument, and rightly so.

It's questionable that all Greens would have voted Democrat. However, the rejection of this speculative argument is often taken, by Greens, as a way of claiming that the Nader spoiler vote is a myth.

That's not true either.

According to the Supreme Court, if only 548 of the 97,488 of the Green votes in Florida had voted for Gore, Gore would have won and avoided an incredibly corrupted process that did lasting damage to our credibility among our own people, and overseas.

Florida's voter registration fraud and the Supremes were to blame for a lot. (read a bit of for more info).

But if one percent of the green votes in Florida had gone to Gore, it's just clear that Gore would have won the election. The numbers just don't lie. They did everything they could in Florida to ensure a Bush victory, and barely squeaked by on the basis of 550 votes. Now to give you an idea of how many people that is, that's the average attendance of two Episcopal church services in SW Florida, not that the Episcopalians are a huge church in SW Florida.

We wouldn't be in Iraq today, I swear to Goddess, if there were a Democrat in the White House. Maybe not even if Gore had been shot, because Lieberman would have understood the potential mire of reconstruction.

548 out of 97,488 votes. That's .005621% of the Florida votes for Nader.

That sucks. That is the sort of thing that campaign workers still, no doubt, wake up in cold sweats over in the middle of the night to this day.

So, all us Democrats have a hard case of PTSD when it comes to Nader and a Green candidate of any sort.

On the other hand, there's more pervasive and subtle damage. I believe that the Greens (and specifically Nader, or his strategists) made it the *heart* of their campaign to drive a wedge between Democrats and independent progressive voters. They made it a perfect accepted truth, common wisdom, and FASHION to believe that there is no difference -- zip -- between the dems and the republicans.

This wasn't a NEW idea. But no one on the left had ever worked so successfully to make it so fashionable, so permanent. Those of us dems who protested sounded shrill (to borrow a term from feminism...).

Now, personally, I hate the DLC (the smug centrist neoliberal forces in the Dems) with a passion, but the DLC is a passing fad in the history of Democratic politics. Every 20 years, there's some new flavor of sure-fire snake-oil strategy that the Democratic Party elevates to infallability, and then as they ossify and as the years pass, they leave their cake out in the rain, and some new flavor rises.

Centrism isn't permanent, but it's got the DP cowed pretty bad at the moment. Because, you know, the last election convinced them that they have lost the left entirely.

Greens and progressives and various whiny independent liberals don't vote, traditionally. They tend to be more postmodernly cynical about the system. They tend to be younger, hipper, and too cool to play the games the system requires. Or too damned ignorant. And I genuinely believe that those nonvoters were the majority of the green votes in most states.

So these neogreenies look at the funding situation, and they say, "Republicrats!" and they vote with their feet. Or they don't vote. Or they vote for a third party. It never occurs to them to subvert from within -- which is what democracies are designed for.

They vilify folks who are trying to turn things around pragmatically, and would have called us collaborators and quislings if they'd studied any political history. But instead folks like me got accused of being "not really left" "posers" "sell-outs" and a number of things I can't recall because I don't like holding on to really distasteful memories. Including, at least once, just being *hissed* at and stonewalled in the middle of a restaurant, in the middle of dinner, with six friends. I was NEVER as rude to a Green before the election as any number of Greens were rude to me. They consistently hip-ly and coolly and cynically opined that there's no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats -- and that made me the enemy.

I still staunchly believe that taking over the Democrats with traditional Democratic values has more potential than forming a third party. But I defend these guys' right to form a new party and run with it.

People who really participate in the political game see it as just that -- a competitive, sometimes ikky game among often unpredictable forces, using tools that are often more art than science. It's incredibly complex, and folks like Jim and Viv and Julie/Jim and me in my spare time...we're working the system with a depth of knowledge that has scars to go with every lesson learned. Sometimes the cost of a mistake in the political world really *is* that people die, even if it's because you feel you failed to save them. It takes guts, and literacy in history/law/strategy/tactics/..., and a huge understanding of the human condition.

If forming a new party and just fixing everything overnight were possible, by god we would have done it a long time ago if we could have figured it out. And I don't think the Greens have anything new to offer in that context.

So these folks emerge from nowhere, often enough, and decide to participate and do something new. Because it has to be new or else it won't work, or would have already worked...

So when they finally decide to participate, they don't stage a popular insurgency and revitalize their local Democrats, because that would sully their values. No. They are too cool. They are too idealistic, and think that if people only had a choice that was radically different, that somehow that would build a third party, magically, from 3% up. Unlike people like me, they will not sell out. They will not compromise. They don't have to make deals with anyone.

Or do they?

Here is a clue. We do not live in a parliamentary system. The only way a new political party has ever risen in the US was by displacing a party that was falling apart.

Here's a piece of history for you:

That's what happened to the Progressive Party (a splinter of the Republicans, btw).

For more perspective, try this more lengthy piece:
which says in part
Unlike many other countries, the United States has a two-party system. Third parties have developed, but a balance of more than two strong parties has never lasted.... And the Green Party has formed as an outgrowth of the environmental movement. Like earlier third parties, these groups have helped focus attention on important social and political issues.

Now, if the Greens had been satisfied to split off 5% the vote and raise issues for the Dems and Republicans to have to react to, that would have been lovely. But to my mind, the thing they did that was worst was to sour an already suspicious American public to the democratic process entirely.

By stating that:
......(a) Republicrats. No differences.
......(b) We can't win, we can't place, but we can sure enough show.

...the Greens left a lot of progressives with this message: The Democratic Party are a monolithic bunch of neoliberals from root to leaf, and you shouldn't even try to talk to them. However, if we yell loud enough, the world will get better by magic.

The reason the Greens were often not invited to debates was because the established parties saw that they had no stake in the system, and therefore no restraint on their attacks. Face it, if a Republican savages a Democrat too badly, his or her party is going to face just a bit more uphill the next time they need something from the other side of the aisle. The Greens had no stake, and therefore were almost guaranteed to be less civilized, even, than traditional negative campaigning would lead one to expect.

Nader did not disappoint in this aspect. He oversimplified complex issues, and knew he'd never have to worry about implementation of any of his glib proposals. Of course he looked like Alexander with a Damoclean wit coming down on a snarl in DC like a fury. And of course, his solutions seemed so much more acceptable to a naive and unseasoned left.

I believe he used the political naivety of the previously unparticipating left, every bit as manipulatively as Bush jerks the Christian Right.

Daydream: If the voters who the Greens claim had never voted who came out for Nader had walked into their local DP central committees and said, "We care about leftist issues, and we're willing to work for change, and screw the centrists. We can get the traditional progressive base to register and get them to VOTE."

Well, then it would have been an insurgency, of a sort which the party is designed to absorb and internalize. And all politics is local. You change the city councils and you change the state legislatures. And you learn about real politics that involves compromises and deals and finding liveable middle ground. But every year you elect a few more real goddam progressive green-minded people to the dominant party of the left. And you turn out more and more voters who'll vote for these more left people. And you start moving the party left.

That's what I would have loved to have seen.

But you know what? It's ALWAYS going to be easier to bitch about the system from the outside, and then complain that you're disenfranchised. It's always going to be easier to organize a semi-spontaneous march via indymedia than it is to organize all the complicated aspects of Hempfest, or to elect a pro-medical-MJ legislator.

And you know what? It's always going to be of less effect and less lasting benefit, doing the easy thing. Sad to say, if time is money, a peace march's energy is like stacking up a million dollars of passionate time, and burning it. It might make us feel warm, and like we found a place for our passion, but it probably doesn't change much of anything outside of the immediate reach of the flames. Maybe the smoke smells sweet to some gods somewhere up there, and they will grant us peace.

It does expend a lot of energy, and it does give people the impression that they are working for change. So then, they don't do something else. It plays into the Republicans' hands.

Oh, sure, it raises a few issues. Like Nader. He educated a lot of folks in the Green Party about the threats of globalization and various things. But you know what? He'll never get to do anything about it now.

And Gore, for all his acquiescing to his handlers and pandering to funders, would have done something about some subset of issues that W has blown to shit entirely.

And Gore wouldn't have sent us to Iraq.

In the Clinton years, our reputation improved dramatically overseas. The neoliberals may have been capitalist pigs, but they are not imperialists on the battlefield. They believe in cultural coups, and are admittedly not shy enough from exploitation. But they're reluctant to intervene militarily, and they're a bit lighter on covert ops too.

Just to remind y'all, Clinton's second administration was marked by two active areas of military engagement. He moved in a bit late to stem the genocide in the former Yugoslavia, and he flew patrols in the no-fly zone over Iraq.
In defense of Clinton adminstration funding levels, which have dropped significantly in terms of gross domestic product, Bacon said, "Our spending now is a little less than $300 billion a year. It's.. as I say, there are always ways to spend more money, or to spend it faster. There are always demands to modernize."

"It's required sharp increases in pay and benefits, and I think those have been appropriate, particularly in light of the recruiting problems that we were having a year ago, and the quality of life problems that have been eliminated. And I think that we've worked -- that Secretary (William) Cohen and President Clinton have worked very hard to increase defense investment, as I said, by 40 percent, from $43 billion to $60 billion a year", Bacon said. "That, also, has been justified, and will help us be as strong and dominant in the 21st century as we are now."

During W's administration, we're spending $3.9B every MONTH on just trying to keep the Iraqis from killing us too quickly. So, that means since 3/20, when we first started bombing, we've spent twice as much money just in Iraq than Clinton spent in a full year of military spending at home and overseas.

But no, there's no difference because when he was spending probably less than 25% of W's military budget a year, we still weren't funding schools.

But wait! Not only are we not funding schools, but we're DIVERTING funding from education to testing programs of questionable value.

But wait! Let's talk about jobs. No, let's not. It's too depressing. Oh, let's let the UAW talk about it:

But wait! Let's talk about the Patriot Act. Does anyone here believe for a moment, as much trouble as you might have seen from Janet Reno ( for example) can you really compare her to Ashcroft?

Skim through these six pages of article abstracts on Ashcroft's records on civil liberties, just from the Village Voice, and tell me Janet Reno would have even conceived of this crap, even after 9/11:

Tack onto that any prospect of health care reform, significant labor issue improvement, and so on.

NAFTA? Globalization? Listen, there isn't even any *dialog* in DC about these issues anymore.

When I look at tripe like this:
I just boil. It compares Nader's opinions -- a man who never held elected office in his life, or had to work out a compromise in committee -- with the theoretically monolithic opinions of the Republicans and Democrats. Now, let me tell you, when you are a party of one, it's easy to have consistent positions on issues. But not even all the Republicans views match the views listed for them. The Democrats are far more divided. And even the Greens, if you go to individuals, are divided on some of these issues.

And the issues are simplified or distorted. For example:
Clinton and Gore deleted plans for universal health care from the Democratic platform.

Um. Alrighty then. Who was it that was the only standing US president to nearly have his first term sabotaged by the reaction to his standing up for gay rights and universal health care? And what party was it that threw that monkey wrench? Could it have been because progressive voters were staying away from the polls in droves during Congressional elections that there wasn't enough support in DC to get the Clintons' health care plan passed in the first place?

You know what? In DC, you can't get SHIT done if you piss off either party. They are just looking for weaknesses, and it's vicious. So you work on winnable issues.

Or, alternatively, you could decide we need a revolution. Like the Eugene BCAYs, perhaps you believe that utopia will naturally rise from the ashes...looking a lot like Lenin.

I'm committed to changing the system from within. I'm pretty left, and pretty progressive. But I'm a polite witty debater of centrists, and I show every sign of confidence that my views belong in the Democratic Party. And everyone else there seems to think so too. I'm a precinct worker and -- much to my shock -- up for district leader (a role that, in Massachusetts, someone would have to be buried for me to get, and then only after 20 years of party work...;).

I'm going to continue to work for Dean, and continue to pray that he wakes up the progressive majority in this country -- to work together. The people who believe in good schools, and sane foreign policy, and policies that create and keep good jobs, and programs that reduce suffering. The people who won't just vote for less taxes if they know that someone with guts will go to bat to make their life better in other ways that won't cost them more than what we all gain.

People like you. And a lot of people who don't vote, or don't vote where it counts.

If you want to change the direction of the ship of state, *please* start working where it counts. The Democratic Party is no greater than the sum of its parts, really. On an ultimate basis, shoe leather and committee time matter fully as much as money -- but people don't put time in. Like a battleship, the turning radius is enormous -- it can take years.

So, that means we have to start working on this problem four years ago, at least.


The best thing -- perhaps the only good thing -- about W? It's that he's gone so far over the edge that he's made it clear that for all their faults, even the centrist Democrats aren't fucking fascist fundie lunatics bent on emmanatizing the echaton (bringing on Judgement Day -- but I just *love* that phrase...;).

I am not a Republicrat. If you think you aren't a Democrat, maybe you aren't liberal enough in your thinking. ;) Getting rid of Bush won't save us. He's a puppet to the neoconservative cabal. We need to accept being ashamed of so many of our government's deeds, and then understand that this is, still, a government of the people, and that we can change it to something to be proud of.

We need to wake folks up. We need to teach folks to be self organizing. We need to, each one of us, work to take our country back. Because only cultural change will get rid of a good slice of that 48% who voted for Bush last time.

If you want to work for change, if you want to work for peace, then identify yourself as a Democrat and get active in the party and start changing the party, your local government, our country, and the world.

If every one of us goddam old hippies walked into the Dems and said, "I'm here to work." Well, we'd have a green and truly liberal Democratic Party in about three election cycles.

Best time to start would be today. I invite every one of the Greens to work with us in this election cycle, and I'll set every bit of my frustration aside, and pull with you as hard as I can.

After all, the most important thing is to work together for our common goals, and right now that has got to be to remove the neoconservatives from power in order to salvage our constitutional rights.

And when we have your help, and we can get all the Dems to understand that from here on the Green-minded people control a significant swing vote (which is, most places, how you build a third party, guys...) we'll have to let you influence mainstream party decisions in Congress and in the executive branch, because we know that your ideals control a significant slice of voters.

And that, I believe, is the best bet to integrate the Green ideals into our political system. So please, try selling out, and if we don't do good by you, then tell me how full of shit I am in January 2005...

Thanks for listening...

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