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March 12, 2003

Ashes. Yeah, bad weblogger, no biscuit. I’ve been busy, so sue me.

The Guardian is a favorite whipping boy of “warbloggers,” probably because it (the nerve!) actually speaks for a broad swathe of middle-class British opinion. How dare these people disagree with us. Something ineluctably sinister must be going on. Etc., etc.

All that acknowledged, this is striking:

Another Blair miscalculation concerns the nature of the US leadership. Mr Blair had not met George Bush before the president took office. He had perhaps a poor inkling of what the dawning age of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle entailed. He knows better now; we all do. And that is part of today’s problem.
If the hairs on the back of your neck just went up, well, join the club.

“The nature of the US leadership.” Say it clearly. That’s the issue. We are led by knaves, criminals and morons. Bullies, sadists, and fools. Even by the standards of everyday politics, this Administration is made up of notably ghastly and hapless human beings.

There really isn’t a nice way of saying this. The people we are are being led by are stupid, vicious, and crazy. We all want to avoid acknowledging this, and we’re all wrong. The rest of the world can see it perfectly clearly, and they’re increasingly disinclined to be polite about it. Like the Germans of the late 20th century, we will spend the rest of our life explaining to one another how we got here and how we let it happen.

“The nature of the US leadership.”

I’m thinking of my friends who supported Ralph Nader.

I think they should read this editorial from our transatlantic friends.

I hope they choke on it. [12:55 AM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Ashes.:

Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 01:35 AM:

We agree on so many pieces of what you have to say here that it's hard for me to understand the point where we diverge. Yes, our leaders are stupid, vicious and crazy. No, I don't feel the slightest urge to deny it. Yes, we will spend the rest of our lives explaining to each other how we got here, unless His Idiocy gets us blown to pieces first.

But those explanaions will take longer, hurt more, and work less well if we spend our energy blaming each other for principled stances with unexpected effects.

I'm not going to engage here in all the "why it wasn't wrong to vote for Nader" arguments, or even all the "look, Gore was elected anyway" arguments.

I'm just going to say that I voted for Nader. It was a thoughtful principled stance which felt right to me at the time; I'm still not sure it was wrong; If I and my ilk are the best people you can find to blame for the vile and despicable leadership in this country, I personally think you're looking in the wrong direction.

There are people whom I very much would like to see choke on their own vomit because of the state of this country--but most of them voted for Bush ... and some of them didn't vote. And, just to make myself clear, there are people who voted for Bush _and_ people who didn't vote, who did so for thoughtful and principled reasons, and I respect that as well.

Blaming each other in lieu of the enemy has been the downfall of so many progressive movements in this country; I hate to see it happening again.

Alantex ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 01:38 AM:

"We are led by knaves, criminals and morons. Bullies, sadists, and fools. Even by the standards of everyday politics, this Administration is made up of notably ghastly and hapless human beings."

Wow, Patrick, tell us what you __really__ think. I agree completely, of course, but very few put it so succinctly.

Now, why do the latest polls show an increasing percentage of Americans willing to kiss off the UN and the rest of the world and attack Irag all by our lonesome? Among all the people I know, the opinions seem to be changing the other way. What's going on?

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 02:08 AM:

I'm just going to say that I voted for Nader. It was a thoughtful principled stance which felt right to me at the time; I'm still not sure it was wrong; If I and my ilk are the best people you can find to blame for the vile and despicable leadership in this country, I personally think you're looking in the wrong direction.

I keep wondering. It's not hard to see the real situation. Now, I certainly don't think it's ideal, but the cold hard facts of this country's elections are simple, and there are two of them.

1) With the exception of the Electoral College, we run "most votes wins, period" elections. Never mind that you could win with 10% of the votes -- if there are 11 candidates, and you get 10% of the vote, and the rest split evenly, you win. The Electoral College puts a small twist on the end, making smaller states considerably more important, but that's an exception, and, in the long run, it usually doesn't matter. It wouldn't have mattered. But you had principles.

Note that, in the last *three* presidential elections, more people voted against the winner than for him. The last case, where more people voted for one of them over the winner, was even more egregious. But that's the way the system works.

2) There are *two*, count them, *two*, not three, not four, not 100, parties that run for Federal Office and consistenty win. Occasionally, someone squeaks into the Congress, or scores a governership. But, to a percentage that starts with a couple of nines and adds more nines after the decimal, and completely in the case of the Presidency, the winner will have a (D) or (R) after his name. Period. End of Statement.

Given these two facts, the result of your vote is simple.

If you vote for one of the two major candidates, you are supporting them over the other candidate.

If you vote for a third party, you are supporting the candidate you hate most. You can rant about how you didn't want to hold your nose and choose the lesser of two evils. By not doing so, by voting for a canidate that *will not win*, no matter what happens, that cannot gain the office, you are taking votes away from the lesser evil. In our system, this is exactly the same as voting for the greater evil. Period.

So, when you voted for Nader over Gore, you, in effect, voted for Bush. Congratulations. You got the presidency you voted for. Just as those who voted for Perot over Bush and Dole got the president they voted for.

Is this right? No. Is this the way that it is? Yes. Campaign for better voting systems (BTW --there is no perfect voting system that allows more than three people to vote -- this has been proven mathematically, so don't let perfect be the enemy of the good.) I'm all for either Multi-Votes or Single Transferable Voting, but that's neither here nor there.

In this country, you get two choices. If you chose neither, you are supporting the worst of the two. And, by voting for Nader, you've *helped destroy my country.*

Pardon me while I feel upset. Gore wasn't perfect, by any means. I'm desperately upset at having two conservative parties to choose from. But, for fuck's sake, look at what you have brought upon us. You couldn't see a goddamned difference between Bush and Gore? This isn't the difference betwen blue-green and teal we are talking about here. This is the difference between a man who only lukewarmly supports what you believe in, and a man totally opposed to you and everything you beleive in.

And you voted for him. And he's destroying everthing that's good about this country. He's destroying every relationship we've created in the world in the last century. And you voted for him.

Choke on it.

Andy ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 02:24 AM:

Nader voters can moan all they like about how their choice still seems right, though I hope they choke to death on any assertions that there's no difference between Gore and Bush. Their misguided choice is one that just keeps getting worse and worse and I trust they have the intellectual honesty to admit that.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 02:35 AM:

Urm, folks -
It doesn't matter who voted for Nader; they didn't count the votes.

Y'all are still thinking that what you've got is a problem of polictical process, of getting out the vote, of the due process of the mechanisms of the republic.

Those went out a very high window indeed when Mr. Ashcroft began to imprison American citizens without charge, when uncheckable electronic voting schemes were adopted, when it became clear beyond question that your present administration derives its own construction of its legitimacy from things entirely distinct from the Constitution of the Republic.

There is a sense in which such a situation remains a political problem, but that sense is not one in which the primary concern should be the use of the political institutions of the Republic, but rather their reinstatement

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 02:38 AM:

I feel chagrin in contemplating the number of my friends who voted for Nader -- but if I have to blame someone for the ascendency of Bush & Co., I'm afraid that, for me, it still comes down to Al Gore for not running a better campaign.

Gore didn't run a _terrible_ campaign (as, say, George McGovern did). And he was partly scuttled by disingenuous, petty-minded members of the U.S. Press. But in hindsight, I put a lot of the blame on Gore and his team underestimating the capacity of the Republicans to play dirty tricks -- and on Gore's reluctance to challenge more directly all that Bush said and did.

I suppose I could blame myself for watching too many TV shows in 2000 instead of writing letters to newspapers and/or Democratic party leaders. (I don't blame myself, as much, for lack of "get out the vote" telephone work, because in San Francisco, I could skip voting entirely and most of the people I would have chosen would still carry the city and state.)

I could blame myself for not lying my body in front of the Supreme Court offices to protest the decision they made about Florida. That feels a bit more like it.

Maybe we all need to become "freedom riders" in 2004 -- traveling to other states to do "get out the vote" phone work, if we know that our own local regions will probably vote Democrat.

What can we do in the meantime? Try to educate ourselves to write and talk rationally about politics, I guess (with thanks to many of the Blog publishers on the Electrolite sidebar).

My "non-rational" self wants to do what my friend David Gans gets to do -- broadcast Steppenwolf's recording of "Monster" over the radio. More watts, more righteous rock n roll.

Alantex ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 02:39 AM:

Though there was a time when I had a lot of respect for Ralph Nader, I never really considered voting for him given the stakes in 2000, but I felt completely vindicated in my judgement when Ralphie opined that there was "no difference between Bush and Gore".

A statement like that can only mean one of two things: (1) he's lying (that is, saying something which he knows to be a falsehood), and it's a devastating lie, totally negating his pretense of honesty; or (2) he's insane (that is, completely out of touch with reality), thus negating his suitability for any position of responsibility.

That was when I knew that Ralph Nader had lost it and was no longer deserving of anything but pity. And that's pretty much all he gets anymore. He has lost any clout he ever had (and there was a time when he had a fair amount). Now, he can gather a crowd of fools around him to hear him blather, but people who are serious about saving this country will have nothing to do with him.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 02:49 AM:

Deb, I'm glad you said that.

I think there are many principled reasons for voting many different ways. I voted for Gore and a very good friend of mine voted for Bush, and we're both still very good friends, since we voted for the same principles. We both are in strong support of the Bill of Rights. The only difference is, I vote for the candidate who'll do the best for the 1st Amendment and he votes for the one who'll do the best for the 2nd.

I will admit that with Gore, I was less than thrilled for voting for Mr. V-chip and his record-censoring wife. However, with Mr. Prayer-in-School and Amendment-Against-Flag-Burning (aka. "Repeal the 1st Amendment") on the other hand, I was willing to cast my lot with Gore, taking it as a bright sign that the Democrats had been sitting on Tipper since her little censorship spree in the 80s.

Nader? Not an option, even though I register as "Green" to give that party more districting.

Hindsight is always 20/20. My personal thought is to simply blame Bush and have done with it, or blame the Supreme Court for their little bit of partisan politics playing kingmaker.

Christopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 03:16 AM:

> and completely in the case of the Presidency,
> the winner will have a (D) or (R) after his
> name. Period. End of Statement.

Hey, don't be disrespecting Millard Fillmore. I think the Whig party's long overdue for a comeback.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 03:30 AM:

Urm, folks -
It doesn't matter who voted for Nader; they didn't count the vote.

Somewhat true. But what allowed them to steal the election was having the election close enough that one state's Electors would be enough to turn the tide. If Nader's voters had voted for Gore in Florida or New Hampshire, it would have been over before the fighting started. It was when the bad guys realized that they could steal the election that they did so.

Hell, here's the offical results from Florida, using only the top three vote-getters.

Bush, George W. 2,912,790 48.85%

Gore, Al 2,912,253 48.84%

Nader, Ralph 97,488 1.63%

If ONE FUCKING PERCENT of the so-called principled Nader voters had looked at the situation, we wouldn't be here. They couldn't have stolen the election. By letting it get that close, they opened the door.

But they had principles. And, of course, by voting for Nader, we can see just how liberal this country is becoming -- hell, we can see just how liberal the Democratic Party is becoming.

The more I think about this, the more angry I get.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 04:46 AM:

well I lived over twenty years in the U.S, never took citizenship, and live back in my own country now. If you're saying that someone in voting for a person actually votes for the person they don't want to vote for because the first person has no possibility of winning then I guess voting in the U.S doesn't mean shit. Hmm, might be why I never went for citizenship.

Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 04:49 AM:

The selfsame Guardian recently ran an article priasing Palestinian suicide bombers, and long supported the IRA (Irish terrorists - remember them) agenda.

How about the sentiments expressed in the Telegraph which has a readership 3 to 4 times that of the Grauniad.

Scott Martens ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 05:04 AM:

I didn't vote in the last election for the same reason as Bryan - I can't. However, before the election I said exactly the same thing as Nader: there is no meaningful difference on any real issue between Bush and Gore. There was little agenda for meaningful reform on either side, nor were the two terribly far apart on any major issue that I thought they could actually control.

I was wrong. I confess that without hesitation. Bush has been orders of magnitude worse than I imagined. My wife - the life long Democrat - voted for Gore and told me this would happen if Bush got in. I didn't believe her.

However, in November 2000 it was hard to take Bushes "faith-based" rhetoric as any different than his father's. Bush was pandering to the right, and considering the first Bush administration it made a lot of sense to think that what he said while campaigning wasn't going to mean much in office. I took Bush to be the not especially talented son of a patrician family who would basically be led around by his father's clique.

Bush Sr. was hardly the greatest president in American history, but he knew what he could and couldn't get away with. Bush Sr. was not a disaster, and there was quite a lot of continuity between Clinton polices and Bush Sr.'s policies. I took it as a given that the new president, whoever he was, wasn't going to risk rocking the boat or making major changes. They might talk big, but I didn't expect to see action.

I was wrong, but I don't think my conclusions in Fall 2000 were unreasonable or politically irresponsible, and I don't think it's right to blame the Nader voters for having come to the same conclusions.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 05:55 AM:

Voting for minor party candidates has traditionally been a pretty safe thing to do - a simple and viable way of indicating one's preference for an alternative the big parties aren't covering at this point. When elections are settled with margins of five, ten, or twenty percent, then the individual enjoys substantial freedom to do this kind of thing, and a few percent total spread around the alternatives is a good thing.

That's one of the more quietly pernicious consequences of this total lack of concensus we've got. I do not fundamentally agree with either the Democratic or the Republican Parties. But when outcomes continue to rest on fractions of a percent, then I really do feel obligated to engage in some lesser-of-two-evil decision-making. There seems every reason to believe that we're in for some more of it in at least most elections for a while yet, and I think it sucks. I would be obligated to eitehr party if they'd manage to actually swing a significant voting majority so I could go back to exercising the franchise on behalf of *gasp* candidates I'd actually want to see elected.

Jim Henley ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 05:57 AM:

Ptrck, y gnrnt slt. (Pre-vowelectomized!)

I agree with you that our rulers are appalling, but that's as far as it goes. First, there's a huge issue of contingency here. Absent the September massacres, it's doubtful that the Imperial Wing of Bush's party would have had the leverage to sway him so completely to the side of millenarian fantasy. Without the carcasses on which the jackals of the Imperium pounced (Rumsfeld, Cheney and the PNAC crowd), liberals would be complaining chiefly about fiscal policy and cloning - serious policy matters, to be sure, but not issues that implicate the essence of the country in the same way as perpetual war and detentions without charge. You can't blame Nader voters for lack of a crystal ball.

Second, while I no longer believe Gore could have done worse, I'm still far from convinced how much better he would be. The Democratic Party has its own Imperial Wing, and Gore, with his connections to the New Republic, the DLC and the intervention-happy Clinton Administration, was arguably more plugged in, pre-election, than Bush was. He was part of an administration that pursued the policy of poking a caged Saddam Hussein with a sharp stick for twelve years, launching an average of 47,000 sorties a year and maintaining and defending the sanctions regime (and Arabian-based troop deployments) that made business so brisk at the al Qaeda recruitment office. By their fruits ye shall know them, and the fruits of the Administration in which Gore served were an unauthorized (by Congress or the UN) war, sundry other interventions and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

Gore was never much of a civil libertarian, and, his criticisms of the Bush Administration since coming out of his post-election "shell" have not, from what I can see, overly stressed the threat to individual rights. And Gore has his own weakness for "central organizing principle" grandiosity. His Cross is simply Green. And we've established that under Clinton-Gore, the US government was just as willing to render its captives unto foreign torturers.

One can easily imagine a worst-case Gore scenario in which, instead of thinly-veiled attempts to link left wing war protesters to Saddam and Al Qaeda, the White House spin machine hammers tenuous or notional "links" between Al Qaeda and "the radical right," with an eye toward delegitimizing anyone to starboard of Joe Lieberman (akin to the actual practice of the post-OKC Clinton Administration). Ironically, one can also imagine the UN rolling over on Iraq - remember those Imperial connections - and making it EASIER for the (different) administration to immire us in a half-century's morass of occupation and retaliation. As it stands, the very arrogance and incompetence of the Bush, ahem, BRAIN TRUST may yet manage to scuttle the whole adventure - at great cost, sure, but nothing approaching the cost of actually going through with it.

Your jibe at the Nader voters is akin to the certitude of the people who know - for certain - just exactly how well things would have worked out if Chamberlain hadn't signed that document at Munich or Roosevelt had been stiffer at Yalta or GHWB had gone "on to Baghdad!" in 1991. We are facing a much, much bigger issue than the uncertain effects of the Democratic Party's inability to win over two percent of liberal voters three years ago.

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 07:46 AM:

The election was close enough that we could vent the same anger at people who voted for other fringe parties, too, except that the Nader 1.5% is probably usually a vote the Democrats get and that this time they didn't get. Like many others, I think Al Gore and his party deserve at least some of the blame as well--Gore for running a lousy campaign, his party (and its voters) for nominating him in the first place.

The best reason to get angry with a Nader voter isn't that they lost the election for Gore--though that WAS their declared aim--it's that they voted *for* Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader, who quite possibly would have been an even worse president than George Bush, if that's possible. Certainly it is hard to imagine a man less ill-suited tempermentally to lead the United States. R-a-l-p-h N-a-d-e-r. That's all I need to see to think a Nader voter is a ninny. Either they really wanted him as president, and therefore need a serious reality check, or they were trying to deny the Democrats the victory, and therefore are need a serious reality check.

andrew b. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 08:00 AM:

I think it was totally reasonable to vote for Nader IF you come from a state that was unrepentantly Republican. Say, Texas...where I'm from. No need to go through that formal "vote-swap" scheme (which seemed a great idea)...A Gore vote there is wasted, and you can send your message to the dems to grow some glands (either type) and move to the left with the civilized people. And get the underwhelming Nader his 5%, future debate access and matching funds...and we could have been treated to radical, revolutionary rhetoric, on prime time...sounds like - single payer, minimum wage, maybe even, gun control.

BUT, if I lived in a state where it might be close (many of them)...I would have been tempted to still vote Nader, and I would be kicking myself. I feel safe in saying the dems would not take us this far afield in foreign policy (in spite of their me-too-isms in congress)...maybe a limited Afghan adventure, but definitely not this new war. If our next leader apologises and writes a few really large checks, our international relations will recover. But, trainloads of Iraqis will still be dead.

John Owen ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 08:46 AM:

Re Kevin Marks' remarks on the Guardian: I'm a long-time reader of the Guardian, and I have never, ever seen articles praising Palestinian suicide bombers, or supporting the IRA. They've certainly given space for op-eds to people who do support such things, but that's not the same, is it? (It's also a healthy sign of a free press, something you Americans may no longer be readily acquainted with nowadays.)

And the last time I looked, the Daily Torygraph's circulation was falling gently as the Tory party's faithful die off or forget how to read from senility (at around 25, mostly), and is now only 2.5 times more than the rising Grauniad. (And if you want a real buzz, look at the list of which newspaper websites are most visited, and rated most influential? You'll find the Guardian at the top!)

As for Patrick's original piece, from over here, it looks to be right on the money. How on earth can the USA claim any kind of leadership in the world with such incompetents in the White House?

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 09:33 AM:

I think Erik is exactly right—and I respect his passion in argument. I'm from the opposite end of the pol spectrum, but I spent all 8 years of the Clinton Admin wishing death to Perot voters and Buchananites. (Heck, in my worse moments, I still do.)

For what it's worth.

Dennis Howard ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 10:00 AM:

I live in Michigan. It was clear that Gore would carry Michigan. I voted for Nader. I don't see anything wrong with that. I used my vote to make a statement. But I would have voted for Gore if I had thought that Bush might carry the state.

Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 10:22 AM:

"I hope they choke on it."

"Choke on it."

"I hope they choke to death on any assertions that there's no difference between Gore and Bush."

Well, I didn't (and don't) make the last assertion.

Folks, I don't hope any of you choke on anything. I wish you could offer me the same respect.

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 10:23 AM:

Patrick, you had me going until the last bit about Nader. I voted for Nader, and I'm glad I did. I live in New York, and I knew Gore would win my state, and he did. If I had felt the election was close in NY, I would have reluctantly voted for Gore. Yes, of course, it was clear Nader would not win. Mr. Olsen seems to think that Nader (and Buchanan) voters were too stupid to see this. But the role of minority parties in American history has been to have their ideas adopted, or coopted, by the major parties. A win by Gore, which did happen, with a strong showing by Nader, would be more likely to influence the Republicans-in-Democrats'-clothing to move to the left.
I'll just end with this question for all you self-righteous Gore voters: Are you going to vote for Joe Lieberman if he's nominated? Here's a man who whole-heartedly supports Bush's naked aggression. As do so many Democrats. As do so many Americans. The problem is a lot deeper than you want to admit, so you engage in cheap factionalism. I share your horror at what's happening to this country. But it wouldn't be happening without many Democrats' approval.

Bill Altreuter ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 10:55 AM:

The point is not the last election: the point is the election that is coming up: why don't more people recognize that the heads of our government are the worst manifestation of every bad impulse that exists in the American charactor? Is our country populated with such fools?

I have been walking around for months now muttering, "There must have been Germans that felt like this."

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 11:08 AM:

Mr. Olsen (ObCorrection: Olson) seems to think that Nader (and Buchanan) voters were too stupid to see this.

Sorry. But I do think the vast majority of them were. The entire "Gore and Bush are the same" line shows a seriously critical lack of perception. Even a cursory glance would show you *vast* differences in background, temperment, education and beliefs.

But the role of minority parties in American history has been to have their ideas adopted, or coopted, by the major parties.

And the way you do that is from the bottom up, not the top down. You don't hand the prize to the enemy, and then stand up and say, "Well, at least it was principled." The Southern Democrats did that in the 1850s. Worked out just fine for them -- if you don't count the (rightful) destruction of the antebellum South.

Greens, esp., love to forget how intelligent and nuanced Gore really is. Yes, he's a pretty moderate-to-liberal Republican. But he makes mistakes, he fixes them. He cares about his country and the future of it. The Greens and Nader didn't run against Gore. They ran against the GOP's image of Gore. This show a critical lack of thought on Nader supporters.

I'll be the first to agree that there are *serious* problems with the Democratic Party. But they are trivial when compared to the GOP.

kellan ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 11:11 AM:

We are led by knaves, criminals and morons. Bullies, sadists, and fools. Even by the standards of everyday politics, this Administration is made up of notably ghastly and hapless human beings.

While I agree, I think you miss the most interesting part of that statement. Many of the people in positions of power in our current administration have been in power for 20-30 years. They didn't suddenly become knaves at stroke of midnight on Bush Jr.'s inauguration. The world hasn't gone to hell in a mere 2 years. Its taken decards of concerted effort on the part of our government for things to get this bad. And voting for the lesser of 2 evils doesn't make it any better.

Matthew Sturges ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 11:23 AM:

The decision to have supported Nader--it's a complex issue, isn't it? On one side you've got ardent progressives who voted for "their man" in order to send a clear message that the illusion of choice between democrats and republicans was just that: an illusion. On the other side, you've got those who believe, correctly, that if everyone who'd voted for Nader had voted for Gore, Bush would not be president.

Accepting that those Nader supporters ought to have supported Gore, what do we say of the many people who came out to vote specifically for Nader, and who would not have voted otherwise? One assumes that these people added votes to many non-presidential dems' tallies, since the Greens were not on every ticket in 2000. Asking those people to vote for Gore would have been asking them to compromise their principles, since many of them believe that the two-party system is terminally bankrupt (don't ask me to defend that viewpoint; I don't share it).

To further complicate the issue, Gore was not at all the candidate that progressive Democrats wanted. His "me too" performance in the second debate was painful for a lot of us to watch, and his track record as VP and as Senator isn't one that makes a liberal democrat jump up and dance for joy. I think to many liberal democrats, voting for Nader was a message that the party had better learn how to differentiate itself from the GOP, or else prepare to be abandoned by the left. Since Gore and W. appeared to many of us to differ only slightly in temperament and somewhat more in apparent intelligence, the vindictive "let's see what the Dems do after four years of Bush: the Sequel" sentiment was one I heard from a lot of former yellow-dog Democrats.

Either way you look at it, I think that had any of us known just how bad things could get, many more Nader supporters in critical states would have voted Gore, hindsight being 20/20.

Fortunately for me, I was living here in Texas, where my vote was mere symbolism if for Gore, and had the potential to get my candidate matching funds and greater legitimacy (read: an invitation to debates) if I voted for Nader. So for me it was a no-brainer. If we survive until 2004, perhaps cooler heads will prevail on both sides of the progressive fence.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 11:42 AM:

Your pardon, but supporting Nader isn't a complex issue.

It's a very simple, basic issue.

Do you support public policies based on their expected and observed material results, or based on their moral standing?

Everyone who choses the later, whether they voted for Nader or Bush or Gore or anyone else, is in the same camp, and has the same basic belief about the world, irrespective of their differences about what *is* moral.

A construction of principle detached from the consequences of one's principled choices is broken beyond any utility in the world we actually have to inhabit.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 11:56 AM:

I share the passionate anger and despair about what is happening to my country which motivates Erik and Patrick. I loathed Bush Major with every fiber of my being and I could tell, from the beginning, Bush Minor was worse. But I had no idea how much worse.

I'd like to point out that Deb hasn't said what the principles were which motivated her vote. Choosing one and excoriating her for it is futile. Excoriating her for any reason is pretty much futile at this point no matter how good it might feel. It's more of the divisiveness which has helped to put us where we are now. People who voted for Nader, for whatever reason, are probably just as appalled at what the Bushies are doing as those of us who voted for Gore. This makes them our allies. Don't turn on them


Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 12:25 PM:

Ah, so the message was that a vote for Nader was a message to the Democrats that they'd better respect their progressive wing or prepare to be abandoned wholesale by it?

Great! So maybe if the Democrats respectfully move to strongly accomodate their progressive wing, they can manage to lose unambiguously rather than futzing around with these 50/50 results. That would help clarify things, at least.

This is not to say that the current intellectual and ideological muddle among leading Democrats is preferable. There are certain progressive positions that I think could light a real populist fire--and I think a genuinely principled, take-no-prisoners candidate would have real appeal to independents.

But the idea that Ralph Nader is the kind of candidate that progressives ought to prefer and should get if the Democrats would only respect their left wing is bitterly hilarious. Not only would a Nader-like candidate lose a general election to a Republican by a margin that would make George McGovern look like a winner by comparison, Nader himself is one of the least attractive figures to bid for high office in recent memory, a humorless scold whose declared convictions hover between the impractical and the actively stupid.

I wish people who voted for Nader could get their stories straight so we could figure out just which principle it was that they were allegedly standing for.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 12:40 PM:

To the idea that Woody Bush waited for Sept. 11th before revealing his true ideological roots, I note that he reinstated the Mexico City standard, that no international health care organization that even mentioned the possibility of an abortion could receive US funding. He did this on his first day in office.

Now, I'm sure that some libertarians in the audience are happy to see any government policy defunded by any means possible. But some of us believe that if policies are to be defunded, the decision should be based on something other than attempts to force a stupid and anti-human sexual morality down the throats of the rest of the world as a warm-up and proxy for forcing it down the throats of America.

The Wage Slave Journal has a good feature, the Scorecard of Evil, a chronological list of all of the things that the Rove administration has done that offend liberals. It didn't start with Sept. 11th. I'm sure that the reading this comment thread will have a wide range of responses to the scorecard, but it's a good aide de memoire about what was important in early 2001, and how the administration intended to govern for their eight years.

As to the Nader issue: I thought for a while about whether to vote for Nader. Then, the first time he said that there was no difference between Bush and Gore, I realized that he was either insane or lying. I'm not going to make a principled stand in favor of someone who try to convince people to make a principled stand by lying to them.

Janice Dawley ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 12:57 PM:

Greetings to all. This is my first post, though I've been lurking on both Patrick and Teresa's blogs for quite a while. You all are some smart, articulate, people.

What prompted me to write finally is a sincere puzzlement over the motivation to blame Nader for the Shrub disaster. I have observed this in a number of places since the 2000 election, and I just don't understand where the impulse comes from.

To me, the obvious reaction to what happened is to blame Bush and his cronies. They are the ones who threw the election. In my opinion, Bush DID NOT win, even in the electoral college, because the Florida votes should have gone to Gore. The extent of dirty tricks and out-and-out illegal tactics is mind-boggling and a severe breach of democratic principles. To me, this is where the lion's share of blame belongs.

Yet the tone of many Nader bashers is that all the rest of what went wrong in the election is meaningless: he and the people who voted for him are responsible. In some of the comments above, there is also a minor theme of "Gore is responsible". Both of these viewpoints seem to me to be missing the big honking picture in front of them: the criminals currently in the White House are responsible!

Is this just too obvious for most people to mention? Am I such an obvious kind of person that I can't see the point of dumping bile on anyone but the hulking bullies currently bedeviling our country?

What's going on here?

aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 01:16 PM:

Erik - part of the problem is that the two-party system, combined with our voting process, is a self-reinforcing process; nobody is going to support any effort to change the voting system to a more complex, but more representative, one unless there is some evidence that there is a need to; and that evidence would most easily come in the form of third-party candidates who could say that they had substantial political support.

Given that, if you believe that the two-party system is politically wrongheaded, the most effective thing you can do to change it is to vote for third party candidates.

Andy - I will freely admit that my "misguided choice", as you term it, was in part based upon the fact that I am a citizen of California, a state which Gore carried by a landslide and in which Bush had no chance of winning; my vote for Nader was therefore able to serve the ends which I wanted served (promoting the existence of third parties) without being harmful. I do not know whether or not I would have done the same in a close election.

Alantex - the rubric that there is no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is common among people on the margins on both sides of the political spectrum; the idea is that both parties endorse key elements of our economic and political system which are rejected by extremists. From the point of view of many in the Green party, both the Democrats and the Republicans support a political system which is under the influence of corporate money; choosing between them is like choosing between flavors of ice cream when (if you're a Green activist) what you really want is pecan pie.

Jim - you are absolutely correct that we are facing a bigger issue than the Nader voters; the Democratic party seems completely adrift, unsure of its core principles, and unable to promote them effectively. Many of the attacks against Nader supporters that I have seen have struck me as being attempts to deflect scrutiny from the party's problems, in the vein of "it's not our fault."

Timothy - you leave out the possibility that a Nader voter (a) knew that Nader could not win, and (b) lived in a state where Bush could not win, and so therefore found voting for Nader an effective way of promoting the Green party, and third parties in general, independant of the candidate. (For what it's worth, Nader was a horrible representative for the party; he refused to endorse the platform, and seemed to capture the party's nomination by star power, using a mechanism which I did not fully understand). Also, I think the problem you are having with wanting people who voted for Nader to get their stories straight is that different people are telling you different stories, not that any one person's story is changing.

Alex Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 01:24 PM:

So, here're the facts:
*we have an Administration and Congress run by Retrograde Corrupt Fools
*said RCF are stealing elections, own the media, are shredding the Constitution and building a police state
*we need to change this.
Did I get that right?

Well, assuming the electoral system still functions, there is one general guideline worth thinking about: as a general rule, the more people who turn out to vote, the more progressive the results. If we want to change the regime, we need to turn out the voters.

I don't have any One Big Answer that'll fix this mess we're in - indeed, I'm beginning to fear that fixing it is going to take the rest of our lives - but I have been thinking of a small, potentially useful idea.

What if everyone who feels as we do agreed to do this one thing: take election day off, and help get people to the polls. Drive old people. Man phone banks. That sort of thing. And, preferably, do it in swing districts, where a couple hundred voters sometimes means the difference between a D and an R.

The Democratic Party is broken. They can't and won't pull this off. But we and folks we know have a lot of expertise in helping large, distributed groups of people collaborate on projects.

Perhaps those who want to do more could take more days off, say, make a four-day weekend of it. Those who are really steamed could get to work earlier, registering the unregistered and talking to voters about how they feel about the Administration and its policies.

This may sound stupidly basic, and it is. But I've spent a little time around politics, and have always been amazed at how few people are involved at all. In many congressional races, ten volunteers can make a measurable difference. In any congressional race, 100 smart, dedicated volunteers are a force to be reckoned with. I can't imagine but that there are a large number of people who feel like us, but don't know what to do about it. A nationwide effort to encourage taking election day off to get out the vote might really have an impact.

Dumb idea? Worth kicking around? You tell me.

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 01:25 PM:

Erik Olson writes that "If you vote for a third party, you are supporting the candidate you hate most." (He also writes that if 1% of the Nader voters in Florida had voted for Gore, he would have won, which I think shows a severe underestimation of the extent the JBush-KHarris forces would go to manipulate the count.)

To Erik's passionate argument in favor of "lesser of two evil" voting, I would like to offer an epigram which I believe comes from Robert A. Heinlein: "Be careful what you vote for: you may get it."

(On googling the central part of this slogan, I find only two hits: one from a nut who uses it to warn against a totalitarian socialist agenda from the Democrats; the other is from a 2000 letter to the editor arguing that Gore is as indebted to the oil industry as Bush is. That's not a very encouraging total, but I believe there's still a valid point here.)

I heard the "lesser of two evil" argument made in the 1980 election, concerning 3d-party candidate John Anderson. I think most here will agree that Reagan was a terrible president, and did bad things Carter would never have done. Yet Carter was no prize in office (he's been a fine ex-president, but so was Herbert Hoover in some respects), and some of us gave up on him when he promulgated the "Carter Doctrine" and started to sound like Reagan.

Many potential Anderson voters did indeed turn to Carter, for fear of Reagan or other reasons. But here's the thing: even if every single ACTUAL Anderson voter had voted for Carter, Reagan would still have won. Those of us who stuck with Anderson were being asked, by the 1980-era Erik Olsons, to give up their integrity and get nothing in return.

The difference with 2000, of course, is that this time, the Nader vote did make the difference. (Maybe. Even if every single actual Nader voter in Florida had voted for Gore, I wouldn't put it past Bush & Harris to have manipulated the count so that Bush's brother still came out ahead; and I don't know if Nader voters made the difference in other states.)

In both cases, 1980 and 2000, this outcome was no surprise. The polls predicted it.

Erik says that 3d-party candidates can't win. How does he know this ahead of time? Because the polls tell him so. (At one point in the 1980 campaign, if everyone who said they liked Anderson best of the candidates had also said they intended to vote for him, he would have had the lead. But too many didn't intend to vote for him. Why? Because the polls said he couldn't win.) The same polls which said that Anderson couldn't win, also said, by the end, that Carter couldn't win. And they were right.

So I can't take Erik's dictum as an absolute. It depends on circumstances. It's not applicable to 1980. It might have been applicable to 2000 ...

But are we absolutely sure? Nader claimed the differences between Gore and Bush were insignificant: are we sure he wasn't right? We know that Bush has sold out to corporate interests; are we sure Gore wouldn't have done many, if not all, of the same things? We know what Bush did after 9/11; do we have any idea at all what Gore would have done? I don't take his actual speeches as definitive evidence: being President is a very different thing from being not-President. (Remember what Nader said when asked what he would have done about 9/11 if he were President: he said that if he were President, 9/11 wouldn't have happened. A clever debating answer, but I don't believe it.)

Who would have guessed in 1964 what LBJ would do in Vietnam? If Goldwater had somehow won, and had done everything LBJ actually did - which is what we were expecting Goldwater to do - would we be pining for Johnson as we are now pining for Gore?

I may sound like a Nader voter. I wasn't one. I voted for Gore, but not happily. I was partly influenced by the closeness of the polls, and partly by the sense that he was not the lesser of two evils, but the least of three evils, for I gradually came to the conclusion that Nader was nuts.

But for those who admired Nader, and who refused to follow Erik Olson's notions of limited predestination, I cannot blame them now.

Nor can I blame the sorry souls who were deluded into voting for Bush, like the person who wrote this 2000 letter to the editor which I found on the same page as the one I mentioned above:

"Mr. in-your-face Gore told me what he's thinking: It's my way or the highway. He must have said 'I'll fight for you' half a dozen times. We don't need a fighter to lead. We need reconciliation, restoration, mediation and trust. The governor of Texas is that man."

Have you ever seen a sadder misestimation of a man? And don't you put the blame squarely on Mr. Bush himself for the way he lied to the voters?

alan glaze ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 01:38 PM:

What is it about the Naderites? Are you saying they should have voted for Gore, and prevented all of this? Have you fogotten, Gore won the election?

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 01:46 PM:

"Have you ever seen a sadder misestimation of a man?"

Yes. I heard an undecided voter about two days before the 2000 election say that, because he was a farmer, he was leaning towards Bush, because Bush was a businessman who understood how hard life is for small businesses and he would certainly work to support them.

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 01:48 PM:

Timothy Burke (cross-post) ridicules the notion of Nader supporters trying to force the Democratic party to nominate Nader-like candidates.

To that there are two two-word answers, one for each end of the standard political spectrum:

Eugene Debs.

Barry Goldwater.

Each lost overwhelmingly. But each put his political ideas into circulation, and those ideas eventually flourished.

It was often observed that what FDR actually enacted in the 1930s bore a startling resemblance to Debs's platforms of 20 years earlier. And it's a commonplace that Reagan's 1980 election was the culmination of what the Goldwater wing of the Republicans had been working for for nearly 20 years.

It doesn't always work (Bill Clinton was hardly a 20-years-later George McGovern), but never stop trying. Don't let Timothy Burke stop you, whatever your political beliefs.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 01:55 PM:

Blaming each other in lieu of the enemy has been the downfall of so many progressive movements in this country; I hate to see it happening again.

You don't see a certain bitter irony in a Nader voter saying this?

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 02:07 PM:

I've been told that polls indicatee that most Nader voters are folks who wouldn't have voted for anyone had Nader (or perhaps another Green) not been running. I don't know if it makes sense to blame Nader voter more than people who didn't vote at all (and there are lots more of the latter). And, of course, the most blame-worthy are the Bush voters. And Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, and the Supreme Court Five. And Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Bush his own damn self.

Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 02:32 PM:

To Julia:

Me: "Blaming each other in lieu of the enemy has been the downfall of so many progressive movements in this country; I hate to see it happening again."

Julia: "You don't see a certain bitter irony in a Nader voter saying this?"

No, I honestly don't. Can you explain?

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 02:46 PM:

Here's a bit more on the subject, with numbers and everything:


Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 03:05 PM:

Giving Debs credit for American social democracy in the New Deal, which is what I presume you would say Debs deserves credit for, strikes me as being at least a complex claim. Moreover, Debs was frankly a more viable candidate in his time and place than Nader.

Goldwater is the example that reveals just how stupid support for Nader really was, and how much a certain segment of progressives seems to love whistling past the graveyard. Goldwater got his ideas into circulation through his candidacy in two ways: first, because the ideas had a certain kind of philosophical rigor and force to them. Ok, let's grant for the sake of argument that the Naderite left has that. (It doesn't, but ok.) But secondly, Goldwater's political platform tapped into a very substantial demographic of middle-income voters, particularly in the West (Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm is brilliant on this point) and Goldwater's campaign served as a practical basis for building an organization that made that demographic a solid base for future campaigns.

Where's the solid potential base of progressive support? Pull hard enough in any of the directions of the Naderite-Green platform and you fracture the small ragtag coalition that feeds into progressive voting apart, hard. Push certain kinds of electoral and governmental reform hard enough and you can kiss urban labor unions in the Northeast and Midwest good-bye, and probably urban African-American politicians as well; the same goes for the anti-globalization platforms.

Explain to me how Nader's 2000 platform ever garners more than 5% of the vote, or if influential on another party, manages to grow in popularity enough to carry the day rather than flat-out lose an election by its presence. What populations of voters do you imagine would be mobilized by it? Ph.Ds in the Northeast and California? What's the plan here?

In any event, historical differences aside, it also comes down to personalities. And Ralph Nader is no Eugene Debs or Barry Goldwater.

If you want a REAL viable third party in America, I give you the recipe that I think would rip away members from both parties:

1. Strong, unbending civil and cultural libertarianism; strong suspicion of government intervention into free speech or any civil rights, whether it's the Patriot Act or "hate speech" codes in progressive communities. Support for abortion rights, gun ownership, drug legalization, etc.
2. Modest commitment to basic social democracy and "safety nets" coupled with strong commitments to fiscal restraint and suspicion of major new expansions of government responsibility.
3. Strong anti-trust philosophy coupled with major new restraints and oversight on corporate governance coupled with a deep philosophical commitment to free markets at home and abroad
4. Cautious pragmatism on foreign affairs and national security issues; reduction in size and mission of US military coupled with willingness to defend vital interests where necessary.

Essentially, this peels away some Republicans uneasy with the religious right and some neo-liberals uneasy with the cultural left. It's the Bull Moose Party, circa 2003. You want a viable third party, that's the only winning recipe I see out there right now.

alan glaze ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 03:35 PM:

Not to change the subject, but yesterday the Guardian ran an article pointing out that the Gov't has already issued a contract to Halliburton (that texas company Cheney used to run)to rebuild Iraq after the US blows the f**k out of it. Boy, talk about making oportunities for your friends!

The meeting must have gone something like this:

Dick: Hey guys! I really enjoyed working with you, but I have a new job in Washington to go to. Give me a call if I can do anything for you!

the guys: Uh, yeah. Look Dick, uh, you can help. Maybe you could, uh, you know, uh, blow the f**k outa someplace, and we could, uh, you know, go in and fix'er up for you. That'd be cool.

dick: Damn! That' a good idea! But what can we use as a reason?

the guys: Reason? Why would you need a f**king reason? This is the f**king United States, goddamit! Who's gonna stop us?

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 03:37 PM:

"It's the Bull Moose Party, circa 2003."

So, who's up to heading out to Sagamore Hill with a shovel and a resurrection scroll?

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 04:18 PM:

Timothy Burke: I'm not giving Debs credit for the New Deal: that would be too strong; I'm merely observing that ideas he brought into US political discourse were enacted by the New Deal. That was an important, perhaps even essential, step along the way. Perhaps you disagree, but this observation is a mainstream historical commonplace.

I don't know what you mean by saying that Debs was more viable than Nader. He got a higher percentage of the vote; but he still could not possibly have been elected at the time. That would be my definition of viable.

Did Goldwater ride a rising tide? Apparently in retrospect; but that's not how it appeared at the time. The wise and judicious Timothy Burkes of 1964 were busy explaining how Goldwater's shockingly poor vote meant that his brand of politics had a strictly limited appeal even among Republicans; and the course of the 1968 Republican nomination campaign seemed to prove them right.

Is progressivism really as unviable as you say it is? Don't tell the progressives of a century ago. Specific issues have changed greatly, of course; but the principle can be made to appeal.

Your 4-point program seems designed to steer a middle-of-the-road judiciousness, but by that token also has something to offend everybody ... You might peel off some Clinton Democrats with that program but not, I think, very many Republicans, at least not ones I know.

Julia: Your bitter irony was exceedingly obvious to me, even if it wasn't obvious to the Nader voters. Perhaps that's because I'm not one.

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 04:34 PM:


The problem is that your logic could be made to apply to every single existing fringe party in existence. Strike Naderite or Green or progressive from anything you've said and substitute "Libertarian" or "Democratic Socialist" or "Reform Party" and it's equally valid, or invalid. They could all be frogs waiting to be kissed by the princess of majoritarian politics.

As a basic observation, I can't contest it. The future is by its nature unpredictable, and I'm sure that it will surprise us all in many ways. Sure, Nader's ideas could have surprising influence on American politics in the future, but so could Jacques Chirac's or Abimael Guzman's,or space aliens from the outer darkness, for that matter. Anything is possible.

If you want to go beyond that unexceptional observation, you need to explain to me what actually existing populations and structures might be mobilized by some aspect of the Nader platform or by Nader himself, or concretely how his ideas might become part of one of the two major parties in such a way that they would be electorally appealing to a significant plurality of voters. As Perlstein observes, there were many people both inside and outside the Goldwater campaign who saw and understood the sources of its potential long-term success, and who worked steadily towards that goal. It didn't happen immaculately, or to the complete surprise of every observer. The same could be true of social democracy as a response to Debs' socialism: it was hardly unanticipated, though its surfacing in the form of the New Deal was something of a novel surprise in response to crisis.

Who is drawn to some aspect of Nader's ideas besides the 1.8% who voted for him? How will his ideas actually infiltrate a party which now hates his guts with a passion? How will said infiltration not end up costing that party the general election again and again?

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 04:52 PM:

From Simon Shoedecker,

"The difference with 2000, of course, is that this time, the Nader vote did make the difference. (Maybe. Even if every single actual Nader voter in Florida had voted for Gore, I wouldn't put it past Bush & Harris to have manipulated the count so that Bush's brother still came out ahead; and I don't know if Nader voters made the difference in other states.)"

It's a possibility. However, Jeb and Harris and Scalia had to deal with a far smaller margin than they'd have had to deal with otherwise.

Using Erik's figures above, the final margin (with all that Jeb and Harris did) came down to 537 votes, vs 97,488 Nader votes. Even if most of the Nader votes would have abstained in Nader's absence, that's still a lot - tens of 1,000's vs several hundred.

Remember, their power to sway the election was somewhat limited. In the end, it came down to preventing the hand-counting of ballots. A powerful machine would never let it get that far - they'd have an actual large majority, or an initial 'count' that looked so lopsided that recounting would look ridiculous.

Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 05:16 PM:

Just did a quick search on the discussion so far, and got the message: cannot find "blair."

Lost in the discussion about the Greens (where I agree with Patrick) is any about the inherent contradiction in the Guardian's (and thus Patrick's) point. Whether you find it necessary to believe that the Administration is populated by fools, knaves, and criminals is beside the point of whether they may be right about the threat Saddam poses. Blair illustrates that a reasonable human being, presumably privy to somewhat more information than the rest of us, can in fact agree about that threat.

As Mark Kleiman writes,

All of that said, it looks to me as if we have a choice between fighting Iraq before the Iraqis have fully deployed nuclear and biological weapons, or after. And that still looks to me like an easy choice.

nick sweeney ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 05:19 PM:

A couple of points to reflect the British perspective on this.

1. British politics doesn't have an equivalent to the Republicans. No, not even the Tories; the NYTimes noted that its manifesto for 2001 was to the left of the Democrats in its embrace of public services. The extreme-right in the UK is more than tinged with white-English-nationalism (BNP, UKIP) and there's no real religious influence on British political debate. (The secular nature of the state is clearer de facto in the UK than in the US.)

2. Bush managed to conceal the most hawkish elements fairly well from the electorate. I saw through it while watching the campaign, but I was also looking at British media sources which noted the ideological tenets of the Bush team, and didn't engage in the profound silliness so voluminously documented by Bob Somerby's Daily Howler.

So, it's more than credible that Blair didn't really have any idea who or what he was dealing with. We know now just what a vicious horde of paleowarmongers they are.

nick sweeney ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 05:23 PM:

Blair illustrates that a reasonable human being, presumably privy to somewhat more information than the rest of us, can in fact agree about that threat.

Blair is a classic Gladstonian liberal interventionist. Except that Gladstone had direct control of the gunboats and troops to deliver on his sense of moral purpose. Blair has to subcontract his moral vision to the Bush regime, the Pentagon's plan to sell out the Kurds, and the plan to bankroll Halliburton with Iraqi oil revenue. That means he might as well put out his eyes with a hot poker.

To do the wrong thing for the right reasons appears to be Blair's nemesis.

And Gladstone split his party too.

vachon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 05:31 PM:

Trust me, I'm not going to sit around years from now wondering how "we" got here. I live in Florida, voted for Gore and know exactly how "we" got here. The only blame I accept for any of this mess is voting for Senators and Representatives who were either bald-faced liars to begin with or were corruptable at a lower threshold than even I could have imagined.

Scott ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 05:51 PM:

I voted for Gore, thought voting for Nader was a huge mistake at the time, still think so, and yet I too think it would be best to stop dwelling on our resentment at Nader voters. It's not a luxury we can afford ourselves at the time. Save it for later, after we've gotten these arrogant, cruel tyrants out of our government.

Some thoughts:

First, Nader's candidacy is only one of several factors that seem to have led to Bush's appointment. If they'd simply counted all the votes in Florida, Gore would have won handily, Nader or no Nader. If Theresa LaPore had designed a better ballot, ditto. I can come up with eight or ten of these without even breathing hard.

Second, I no longer even feel sure that I can trust the publicized election results. With the recent concerns about electronic voting machines, and with all I've read about the voter fraud in Florida, I don't feel I can trust the numbers I've seen beyond a reasonable doubt. For all I know, Nader's numbers could have been carefully tailored just to encourage us to quarrel among ourselves. (My only doubt is whether the Rove team has the actual power to pull something like this off; I have no doubt now that they are morally capable of having done it, smirking all the while.) I'm not ready to break off all relations with people who in so many other ways I am in agreement with, when I have some serious doubts about the apparent consequences of their votes.

And finally, sheesh, these are terrible times, our real enemy is bigger than any of us, and we have to get our priorities straight here. None of us has led a politically and intellectually spotless life, we were all born ignorant and selfish and none of us overcame our heritage so completely that he or she has never held a misguided political opinion since turning 18. Once you start with the blame-finding, there is no end to it. I still feel voting for Nader was a mistake, but I can also certainly see that few people did it out of spite or meaning deliberately to hurt the country. I don't know of anyone who was paying attention to the PNAC in 2000, and you'd pretty much have to have been aware of things like that to foresee how ghastly the Bush Administration would be. I certainly wasn't. Maybe I can pat myself on the back for having voted for Gore, but I certainly cannot credit myself with having suspected in my wildest nightmares that the Bush Administration would bring us to the brink of Armageddon in just a couple years. So I can hardly blame anyone else for not having seen how enormous the difference between Bush and Gore would turn out to be.

We really really really need to put aside the post-morteming and put all our energies into correcting our immediate situation, which is dire.

Annie ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 06:18 PM:

I knew there was a reason I liked Timothy. So where do I sign up for The Bullmoose Party: TNG?

Mark Gisleson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 06:38 PM:

I voted for Nader (albeit in Minnesota where Gore had a rock solid lead in the polls), and did so recognizing what the worst case scenario was: a Bush victory.

So far, we've gotten exactly what I expected from that scenario: a vile, overreaching and consumately arrogant know-nothing administration that is slowly but surely creating a political sh*tstorm that will ensure no Republican can be elected to the White House in the foreseeable future (pretty much like what Coolidge-Hoover did to the Republicans in the 1920s). The more W wins, the more he discredits the Republican Party and makes it clear that money is all that counts in his America.

The only thing I didn't expect was that the Democrats in Congress would lay down and not fight any of this Republican BS. But then again, that's why I didn't vote for Gore, a man who chose not to fight when it counted in Florida, just as he went along in Congress with the pro-corporate agenda that eventually ruined our economy by touting short-term profits at the expense of long-term planning, social-economic justice, and common sense.

Had Gore been elected, Republican trickery and thievery would have continued unabated, aided by their corrupt Democratic allies in Congress. The most important thing to remember is that our entire Congress has been bought off by corporate campaign donations. Despite some lip service, changing that wasn't part of Gore's agenda, never was, and never would have been.

BTW, like many Nader supporters I know, I'm a former Democratic Party activist who put in literally thousands of volunteer hours in the '70s and '80s. My friends and I didn't vote for Nader out of love of Nader, we voted for Ralph to send a strong signal to the DNC that they could either be Democrats and win, or Faux Republicans, and lose. The party chose the DLC route and sold out the nation. Today there is no major liberal political party in the U.S., and that's a much bigger problem than anything pResident W can do to us in just four years.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 06:44 PM:

At the risk of adding more fuel... The rise to power of the current governing coalition in the USA was the end of a 20-year process. Nader, the Greens, and the people who voted for him were part of it, yes. But not, I think, that big of a part.

The enemy here, I think, is worldwide choking despair, manifesting in different ways in different places. Here in the USA the despair made it seem that a vote for a very conservative leftist and and environmentalist was somehow a lesser evil than the risk of the current lot of reactionary authoritarians. It was easy to find out what these people were--it had been since the Reagan administration. Yet, somehow, the choice of Al Gore who, whatever his faults, would never have done so much damage to US foreign relations or made
the kinds of attacks on civil liberties that this adminstration is undertaking--was seen as more threatening, on both the left and the right, than what we have now. There was, I think, so little hope that many of us--simply didn't take mind. With what results we all know.

I think...I think the despair comes from a vast fear of the changes that will take place in this century. The environment, the vast political and religious conflicts, the global disparities of wealth: I believe we must address these if the freedom we so value, and perhaps civilization itself, is to last. And perhaps there is something else, some shadow that I can't quite name.

There is hope. Remember Gandhi. Remember King. Look to South Africa. But, even before the 2000 election, and then 9/11, I could only say this will be a hard road but one worth travelling. It is still that, even if it does not seem so now.

Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 07:03 PM:

More balanced views from a Grauniad reader I see. Here's the article entitled 'Welsh Pensioner turns freedom fighter:
The Pensioner is quoted as follows:
"I really, really understand the martyrs [suicide bombers]. I am very good friends with the family of the two who went on the mission to Tel Aviv. One saw the other explode, and then he walked away and blew himself up. They are such lovely families and very proud of their sons."

Twenty-three people died in those bombings in Tel Aviv in January, including many poor foreign workers. Was it wrong?

"I agree that it is a strategic mistake but I understand why they do it," she said. "Let's not blame the victims. It's clear who the real terrorists are here."

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 07:03 PM:

er, "Somehow a greater evil". Copyediting rulez.

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 07:24 PM:

If Gore "chose not to fight when it counted in Florida," then Mark Gisleson and I definitely live in different timelines. I recall a 36-day fight which Gore lost because the other side fought dirtier and had control of the refereeing apparatus.

Barry: True, Bush & Harris's ability to manipulate the vote may have been limited. If Gore had received 70% of the vote, they might have had a harder time of it. Maybe they could have disenfranchised more black people. But if Erik's figures show a 537-vote margin, that's because 537 votes was all they needed. Much of the manipulation was done after the election, and was done to the extent needed.

Timothy Burke: There's a middle ground between saying that successful new ideas could come from space aliens, and saying that they could only come from Timothy Burke's 4-point program. It is that middle ground that I seek.

How specifically could Green-progressive ideas get this to happen? It is merely necessary to note that stranger things have happened. The inevitability of the rise of the ideas of Debs and Goldwater is entirely retrospective. It was not at all obvious to the skeptical Timothy Burkes of the time.

But I will add that there are plenty of Democrats who find many Green ideas of great appeal - even Al Gore finds a lot of Green ideas of great appeal, he wrote a whole book about it - and if the Green Party continues to push those ideas, they'll continue to be before the public. And no factual unelectability of Greens, nor personal grudges against Ralph Nader, will prevent them from seeping into Democratic discourse. If they do not, it will be for other reasons.

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 07:57 PM:

Yeah. Because they're wrong.

I mean, geez, even Al Gore was a Green, by your accounting. That's enough to make my head spin: Al Gore, successful example of the ineluctable osmosis of Green ideas into the Democratic Party: so successful that the Green Party and Ralph Nader targeted Al Gore for defeat because of his supposed impermeability to progressive ideas.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 08:04 PM:

Mary Kay Kare: People who voted for Nader, for whatever reason, are probably just as appalled at what the Bushies are doing as those of us who voted for Gore. This makes them our allies. Don't turn on them.

There were members of the Green party *pleading* with Nader to not run in any state where there might be doubt as to the outcome. Nader and his backers ignored that.

They might have been our allies -- but they aren't. Remember. "Gore and Bush are just the same."

Aphrael: Given that, if you believe that the two-party system is politically wrongheaded, the most effective thing you can do to change it is to vote for third party candidates.

Not if the result is to hand the country into tyranny. Furthermore, third-parties in the US do not fly when the two majors are strong, more on that in a moment. They can leverage themselves into major party status, by waiting for one of the majors to collapse -- see "Whigs" for an example.

Simon Shoedecker: Erik says that 3d-party candidates can't win. How does he know this ahead of time? Because the polls tell him so.

No. I know this *long before* the first poll is written, much less published. You don't need the press to tell you this (though the fact that they do, repeatedly, is one of the reasons third parties can't win.)

The entire US election system is strongly anchored around two parties, period. From federal funding, to ballot rules, to press coverage, it is built to explicity support two parties over all the rest.

Third parties get screwed in so many ways, it's hard to even count. Note that the most succesful non major-party candidates are not third party candidates -- they're pure independents, which is acutally easier.

You can argue that Ross Perot was an exception, but the Reform party *was* Ross Perot, and it's collapse into irrelevance shows that. Jesse Ventura ran on the Reform ticket (which, since Perot had done well, let him onto the ballot) but had no connection to the party as a whole.

If you want to build a third party, you cannot do so by winning the Presidency. The traditional way new parties gain the highest office is to wait until on of the old parties disitengrates, merge with some of the remnants, and use that as a leg up. You might be able to do it from the bottom up -- start with your local legislatures, get your candidates known in the state, work your way up. But the system is built to support the Big Two, and keep you down.

So, when faced with an *obvious* threat as Bush, if you chose to support Nader, well, that's fine. You can argue until the FBI takes you away that you made a noble and principled stand.

And, in case you haven't figured this out, the US is 9 Senators away from complete and unfettered Tyranny. The GOP gets cloture, and the game is over, they won, and you have lost. Anyone who doesn't belive that the GOP should be allowed to do this has bascially one choice -- get GOP officeholders out of office. Period.

Who's going to do that? Not the Greens.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 08:06 PM:

Timothy Burke:

I mean, geez, even Al Gore was a Green, by your accounting. That's enough to make my head spin: Al Gore, successful example of the ineluctable osmosis of Green ideas into the Democratic Party: so successful that the Green Party and Ralph Nader targeted Al Gore for defeat because of his supposed impermeability to progressive ideas.

A. O. L.

Mark Gisleson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 08:23 PM:

"I recall a 36-day fight which Gore lost because the other side fought dirtier and had control of the refereeing apparatus."

I recall that time very well, and do not recall a single day that passed without my screaming at my tv "fight back damn you!"

Gore failed that test of leadership on every conceivable level if for no other reason than he and his surrogates refused to state for the record what Bush and his minions were doing. He had the national stage but, like McKinley, chose to campaign from his front porch.

I came out of the ranks of labor and for me the most unforgivable error was Gore telling Miami labor NOT to go to City Hall when the Republicans staged their "bourgeoise" riot. How different history might have been if newspapers had been forced to report that among the many battered and bleeding casualties admitted to the local hospitals that night were innumerable Republican Congressional staffers.

The time has come to hold Republicans accountable. We need to support those isolated Democrats who are trying to make a difference. They didn't all die in a plane crash in northern Minnesota.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 08:24 PM:

Erik, sweets, I didn't say Nader, a man who is no one's friend but his own apparently, but those people who may have voted for him for whatever reason. They are the ones whom we must rally to our side for the next time in order to end this mess. If we can end this mess. I'm not at all sanguine.


Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 08:41 PM:

Timothy Burke: Al Gore is a Green, to just about the same extent that FDR was a Socialist. FDR wasn't really anything of the sort, but he got called it a lot, because many of his policies were Socialist policies from the days of Debs.

Similarly, Gore has what look exactly like Green policies to those who don't hold them. Gore would have implemented the Kyoto accords. You don't think that every Republican in the nation considers that wild-eyed environmentalist radical nonsense? Come on, that's exactly what they were calling Gore throughout the campaign, the same way Republicans called FDR a Socialist.

Of course the Green Party was still unhappy with Gore. Don't you know the fiercest political battles are fratricidal? Isn't there always great anger at someone who comes part of the way with you and no further? And isn't there always a tendency to exaggerate that difference? Most of all, hasn't the main theme of this thread been the argument that Greens and Democrats should have pulled together in the face of GWB, because they have more in common than what separates them?

If you're really laughing at the notion that there's anything Green about Gore, or if the Nader campaign rhetoric convinces you that Gore is impervious to progressivism, then your political naivite exceeds my expectations.

Erik Olson: You're arguing against a lot of things I didn't say, but while it's certainly true that the system is biased towards the major parties, that bias can be overcome, if enough people want it to. I mentioned uptopic that at one point in the 1980 campaign, Anderson actually led in the polls as the preferred presidential candidate, and it was only the belief that "3rd party candidates can't win" that kept him from leading in actual voting intention at the time.

I'm not sure I follow your argument about Ventura. He won: therefore a 3rd-party candidate can win. But you emphasize his lack of connection with the Reform Party apparatus, as if that were an explanation of his winning. So he won because ... he was actually an independent? Is that what you mean? Well, fine: the 2-party bias is no less succeptible to being overcome because of that. What he calls himself, how large his organization is outside of his campaign, doesn't affect the point. (The extent to which you're addressing 3rd parties as continuing organizations, rather than the possibility of winning a single likely election - that's where you're addressing matters I didn't discuss.)

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 08:44 PM:

Mark, you are still describing a different timeline than the one I lived in. In my timeline, Gore and his minions were very active for those 36 days.

Also, in my timeline, bruised and bleeding Republican staffers would only have provided the Republicans with another opportunity to claim falsely that it was the Democrats who were fighting dirty.

Mark Gisleson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 09:02 PM:

No offense, but you sound like a Gore supporter. Everything by the rules and maintain decorum while you're getting mugged. Gore not fighting back legitimized Bush's theft of the election.

But don't get me wrong -- I'm still glad Gore lost. He just wasn't tough enough to keep the Republicans from stealing everything in sight with the cooperation of the Liebermans, Breaux and Kerrys and all the other pro-big business Democrats.

This is about much more than who runs the country. It's about the massive transfer of middle and lower class earnings to the ever greedier ultrarich. And the real crime wasn't/isn't Republican duplicity as much as it is Democratic complicity.

Sorry if that sounds a bit radical for you, but I've got LOTS of stats to back that up. The sad truth is that on the economy Bill Clinton was a middle of the road Republican and it took until the waning days of his administration for the boom to trickle down to the worker bees.

We need a regime change, not just a change in leaders.

Ralph Nader ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 09:21 PM:

I Voted for Nader - I would do so again in a heartbeat. The only way for change to take place in this country is for enough people to agree with me. Once that happens and the Greens get 5% of the vote they get matching funds. once THAT happens there is the possibility that the greens can get in on some of the debates, get media coverage, and possibly win an election. Until enough people agree with me we are stuck with choosing between the facist rebulicrats or the spineless democans. That is no choice at all.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 09:27 PM:

Erik Olson: You're arguing against a lot of things I didn't say, but while it's certainly true that the system is biased towards the major parties, that bias can be overcome, if enough people want it to. I mentioned uptopic that at one point in the 1980 campaign, Anderson actually led in the polls as the preferred presidential candidate, and it was only the belief that "3rd party candidates can't win" that kept him from leading in actual voting intention at the time.

Erik, sweets, I didn't say Nader, a man who is no one's friend but his own apparently, but those people who may have voted for him for whatever reason. They are the ones whom we must rally to our side for the next time in order to end this mess.

Mary Kay, dear, I wasn't talking about Nader. I was talking about the people who apparently think the correct idea is to make it easier for Bush to win by voting for a non-Bush candidate who *cannot* win. This is, at best, sheer ignorance, at worst, the kind of egregiousness best seen in this post:

But don't get me wrong -- I'm still glad Gore lost. He just wasn't tough enough to keep the Republicans from stealing everything in sight with the cooperation of the Liebermans, Breaux and Kerrys and all the other pro-big business Democrats.

So, now, everything in site is being stolen by the GOP businessmen, and the chances of the Greens getting *any* say in what happens to them has gone from slim to none.

This is not an ally. This will not help me save this country. This is a declaration that Bush is, in fact, better than Gore.

That's the Greens. That's Nader voters. At best, they are too stupid to see the huge differences between Gore and Bush, at worst, they don't care -- they just know that Gore should lose.

Well, Gore lost. And, they *revel* in the fact.

These are not allies.

No. The systems isn't merely biased against third parties, it is activley built to prevent them from winning. And, you are citing a "preffered candidate" poll, which are infamous for having nothing to do with who actually wins. It's easy to say "I want Steve Jobs!" when a pollster asks you who'd you prefer, but come election day, rational people realize that Jobs isn't going to win, and vote for someone with a chance of winning.

This is why the hardest, and most worked at, issue in political polling is not finding out who the favorite candidate is -- it's finding out which candidate is going to get voted for.

Cite all the polls you want. Hell, *eliminate polling.* See how far third parties get. See if they even get on the ballot.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 09:36 PM:

Just for the record:

1. I don't want anyone to choke, especially Deb.

2. Gore is green. Nader is not; he is anti-corporate, which is something else.

3. Anyone who couldn't tell that Gore and Bush were vastly different by October of 2000 was not paying attention. I'm sorry, but it was as plain as the nose on my face and I won't be told that they were indistinguishable by someone who couldn't even bother to look.

Mark Gisleson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 09:49 PM:

How's about instead of polls I rely on my direct experience in having worked with 7,000+ resume clients since 1988? I understand first hand how people get jobs and how the compensation system works and how everyone not at the top is getting ripped off. The system has been gamed and both parties are involved in rigging the rules and cutting out the little guys.

Right now I'm worried sick that we're going into Iraq come hell or high water, and that tens of thousands of civilians will die needlessly. If that happens I'll sincerely regret my Nader vote until my dying day.

We're paying a high price with Bush but Ralph Nader was the guy who stood up and talked about how rotten the system was, and that earned my vote, flawed though Nader may have been. Forgive my conceit, but I think my vote is worth quite a lot, and I don't think most of the current crop of Democrats has earned my support. Gore most certainly didn't. And if you think the difference between the two parties is like night and day, then all I can say is, you don't know many people who work behind counters or with their hands, do you?

This isn't about abortion or medicinal marijuana or due process. It's about the right and the ability of people to earn a living wage and live in decent housing with access to affordable health care. On those counts both parties are complete and abject failures. More despicably, neither party even cares.

I didn't leave the party, the party left me. They owe me an apology, but I'll settle for a decent candidate.

Injun Glenn ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 09:58 PM:

My .03 in the kitty: I would venture as far to say that true friends don't hope their friends choke.

I'm certain the vile and open loathing non-Nader voters have for Nader voters is precisely what the Republican party needs. Keep it up, haters.

I know my opinion isn't solicited, but I'll give it because up to this point I agreed with this weblog and what its author had to say. Not after yesterday.

But keep it up, haters. The bitter rancor only makes the cancer spread faster. Only makes the days that much darker.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 10:17 PM:

You know, now that we've all been down this road a million times, could we please consider renouncing the minuet where the Democrat says "You worked to destroy my party and the fallout has severely damaged the country and I'm really pissed off that you did that" and the Nader supporter says "You and your party are regressive and venal and I was virtuous to work to destroy you, even if the country goes straight to hell, because you're no better than the pack of rabid animals I helped to put in office and (more in sorrow than in anger) I have to point out that your hostility is really messing up our relationship"?

Actions have consequences. One of the lesser consequences of choosing a candidate who chased votes in swing states, along than the whole mortally wounded democracy thing and the deficit and the war and kids losing school lunches, is that people aren't happy about what you've helped bequeath to us are really pissed off at what you did.

What did you expect?

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 10:30 PM:

Folks, I'd venture to say that you've all got your heads up your asses.

The thugs and the theocrats made it very plain, when they publically stole an election, and have continued to make it plain, when they appoint convicted criminals to high offices and lie routinely to everyone that they *do not care about democratic processes.*

At all. Not one whit. They're not trying to game the American system; they're trying to destroy it, in favour of one they expect to like better.

They're not going to stop when they lose -- if they can be caused to acknowledge losing, having put in vote counting machinery that produces uncheckable results -- an election.

They're going to stop if and only if their money and power is taken away from them.

Doing that requires, well, it requires the survival of government, the widespread adoption throughout the United States of a model of government recognized as legitimate, the support of real public policy, and the destruction of the legal principle that corporations have civil rights.

Voting isn't going to get you that no matter what you do. (Those spineless Democratic pols? They know that bit about not giving up, very clearly, that the options, the real, long term options, are accession to the rule of thugs and theocrats or civil war. None of them wants to be the first to die, since pols are generally not people with burning ideological fervor, and I doubt many of them are hopeful for eventual good results via either outcome.

General strikes won't do it; putting ten million people on the street won't do it. They don't care what you think and don't recognize the legitimacy of representative democracy.

It's easy to say now, when the cabal Dubya fronts for has fucked up beyond -- if not worst nightmares -- then beyond unreasonable expectation. Back when they were stealing Florida, avoiding civil war might well have seemed like the greater priority to Al Gore; I can't read his mind, and I don't know what he was thinking, but, well, given the information he had then - Bush Pere was bad, but not direly, disastrously bad - avoiding civil war is certainly a defensible choice.

Mark Gisleson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 10:36 PM:

It's easy to be pissed at the wrong people. What's hard is paying attention and looking at who's actually casting the votes that do the most harm.

Objectively, of course the Republicans are worse. They very nearly qualify as evil. But without key Democratic votes things wouldn't be the way they are. Democrats helped pass the tax breaks and passed the Iraq resolution.

I always hate to have to self-qualify my comments but I really did spend a lot of years and a lot of time working for the Democratic Party. I DO believe in the system. But I also believe that the Democratic Party has been corrupted by the business community. Never before in the history of this republic has the gap between rich and poor been so great, or so artificially contrived.

It's NOT ABOUT NADER. It's about resecuring the Democratic Party for the people and working for legislation in the people's interest.

If we don't elect a progressive Democrat in 2004, then Nader will have been a horrible mistake. But as a political strategy the end game's still being played out. Democrats can embrace the left and win, or take the money and lose.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 10:48 PM:

It's NOT ABOUT NADER. It's about resecuring the Democratic Party for the people and working for legislation in the people's interest.

So you hand the government over to a cabal completely uninterested in doing such, and you expect the Democratic Party to fall to it's knees and beg you to come back?

Dream on. You could have worked with us. You chose to work against us. Now you want peace on your terms, and you are threating us with the same tactics.

I refuse. You opted to support the greater evil. This makes you *just* as evil.

I'd argue against Graydon's position, but there is no argument -- Civil War isn't going to work if the Army is with Shrub. If it is that dire (and I think it is) your principled stand killed this country -- there is literally nothing I -- or any of us -- can do. They won.

You helped.

God, it's such a lovely worker's paradise we live in.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 11:53 PM:

Well, if you weren't talking about Nader you shouldn't have named him specificially. I can't tell; are you mad at me over all this?

I just think it's a mistake to demonize people you could maybe get to work with you and whom you may very well need to work with you.


Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 11:59 PM:

When the egregious nature of the current administration began to sink in soon after the inauguration, my sweetie (who voted for Gore but is lefty enough to have gritted his teeth) said, "now I know why the Bolsheviks killed the SRs." Not meaning he wanted to kill anyone, by any means, but that you save a special rage for those friends whose blades you see protruding from your sternum. Whether or not that was the intent, or even the factual truth, I think the reason this discussion gets so heated, and persists so long, has a lot to do with that sense of betrayal.

Because I live in Minnesota, I seriously considered voting for Nader (until Bush's MN poll numbers got scary close to Gore's) to give the Greens major-party status/funding. I even had a lawn sign up for a while. But in hindsight, my vote would have been wasted in that respect too. What did the Greens in MN *do* with that major party status? They ran a pro-war wacko *against Wellstone*, ran an OK gubernatorial candidate who still didn't pull enough votes to keep their major party cred, and didn't put (to my mind) nearly enough effort into statewide IRV.

So what do the Greens in MN have to show for 2000? 2 City Council members in Minneapolis (which has nonpartisan elections). This begs the question: perhaps the Greens should have kept their focus on that local grassroots scale and *built a movement*, and an *apparatus* that would have been ready to deal with statewide success by the time they got to that level. Certainly they blew everything the Nader candidacy got them.

For the record, Guv "The Mind" Ventura had sparse coattails too, consisting entirely of his fit-o-pique Senate appointment and 15 percent of the vote in '02 to the high-profile former Democratic Congressman who ran for governor as the Independence Party candidate.

Mark Gisleson ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:17 AM:

"Dream on. You could have worked with us. You chose to work against us."

John Culver, Tom Miller, Tom Harkin and Ted Kennedy are all Democrats I worked hard for. They were/are all Democrats who stand for something.

I lived through the B.S. of the '60s and real radical politics. The Nader vote wasn't political correctness and it wasn't Ivy League daydreaming. Once the Democratic Party proved itself unable to increase the minimum wage, achieve affordable housing or provide universal heath care of some sort, the whole point of having an opposition party just kinda disappeared.

Bush is demonstrating to the whole country what Republicans are really all about. Now is the time for a REAL Democrat to stand tall and talk about real American values and priorities.

I think some good candidates are making their thoughts known, and now it's up to the voters to start paying attention. We don't have to wait for the next election to stop this madman. All we need are Democrats who are willing to stand up now and loudly say "this is wrong!"

Ralph Nader didn't authorize Bush's attack on Iraq. Ralph Nader didn't pass any tax breaks. Bad Democrats and bad Republicans did. Good Democrats and good Republicans can undo much of the damage. Lately, moderate Senate Republicans have been doing a better job in that regard than some of our presidentially inclined Democratic senators.

Don't mistake me for a bomb throwing anarchist. I'm a rank and file union man, but I will vote Republican if that's what it takes to get an $8/hr. minimum wage and universal health care.

The middle class is hurting right now, and I think that distracts a lot of posters from the fact that the people on the bottom rungs are in truly dire straits, and that they were there long before George W. came along.

lil' hope ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:22 AM:

"I hope they choke on it"

I'm voting for cheeseless Pizza next election as it goes down nicer.

Andy ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 01:53 AM:

I stand my assertion that Nader voters who believe that Gore=Bush should choke to death on such facile and false verbiage. Here in Canada's Left Coast we just had a similar scenario with the NDP and Green Party. Way too many people wasted their votes on the un-electable Green Party and the NDP wound up with 2 out of 75 seats. The ruling Liberal Party won't even let the NDP act as, and this includes matters such as funding and question period time slots, the Official Opposition due to the NDP's not having 5 seats. Both the 2000 presidential election and the most recent B.C. provincial election show that what the Green Party does best is strengthen right-wing administrations. That is why voting Green is a misguided choice for progressives.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 02:36 AM:

"But don't get me wrong -- I'm still glad Gore lost. He just wasn't tough enough to keep the Republicans from stealing everything in sight with the cooperation of the Liebermans, Breaux and Kerrys and all the other pro-big business Democrats."

This statement raises acute doubt, for me, about any credibility in the rest of Mark Gisleson's fantasy -- that punishing the Democratic party will ultimately cause it to reform itself, to the benefit of everyone in the country.

The claim that the Republicans would have been able to do just as much damage to the country with Gore as President as with Bush shows so little acceptance/awareness/acknowledgment of the destructiveness of Bush & Co's recent economic, ecological, and diplomatic moves that it makes me doubt Gisleson's ability to recognize any kind of constructive governmental policy -- and just as happy that he's no longer involved with the Democratic party in any way other than, perhaps, as a fan of the legacy of FDR.

He wants to give us cowpox so that we'll build up an immunity to smallpox. But he hasn't convinced me that he knows how to distinguish between the two diseases.

I'm also a little bit disheartened by Erik's gloomy statement -- that if the Republicans take firm control of all three branches of our government there's *nothing* we can do in response to change it. I certainly agree that we don't want them to do it.

But political and military power aren't the only forces in the world.

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 08:06 AM:

Here's my version of "I hope they choke on it".

I hope the Democrats in 2004 nominate a candidate who meets with the approval of every Nader voter and every person here who fantasizes that all the Democrats need to do is fully listen to and incorporate the vision of the left as it gets enunciated in discussions like this one, which is usually a laundry list of particular political positions rather than a core philosophy. Let's say he stands for the Nader platform in toto. Hell, I'll be generous and throw in an extra-special bonus: let's suppose that this progressive dreamboat is physically attractive and a good public speaker. Let's even suppose that the media gives him absolutely equal coverage and the Democrats have financial parity with the Republicans going into the race.

He's still going to lose, but I'd like to see it happen just as an experiment to see if everyone here grasps that the platform that Nader ran on in 2000 in its entirety is something that the majority of Americans would not support. Not because the evil media has brainwashed them or Dubya holds them at gunpoint or because of hanging chads, but because as people in their right minds and in full possession of their faculties, they disagree with much of its content. There are parts of the Nader platform, and progressive ideology, that I think are definitely winning issues in the national voting booth, and I would love to see a Democrat adopt them. I'd also like to see a Democrat with genuine spirit and fire, because that's a winning attitude. There are other parts of that platform that are losing issues, period, and their mere presence enough to cost an election. I wish you could have your dream candidate in the best of conditions so you could see that.

For Graydon, that's not a problem, since his dream candidate is evidently V.I. Lenin, and he doesn't have to worry about democratic majorities. For the rest of you, it is.

This whole discussion is so painfully like a replay of 1968 and 1972. In 1968, the purists on the left demanded Eugene McCarthy or nothing, saying that there was no difference between Humphrey and Nixon. Looking back, that was clearly wrong. In 1972, the purists got their wish: George McGovern. And they got creamed.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 09:43 AM:

The purists, you may recall, ran that nice Mr. McGaa. Not because they knew him from Adam's off ox, but because they wanted to help take away Senator Wellstone's seat. Not because Mr. McGaa was even acceptable, but because Senator Wellstone was not perfect. Mr. Nader didn't give a damn about lots of your issues, but again, Mr. Gore wasn't perfect.

Run for local office? Get into the grass roots? I'll vote for you in a heartbeat, if you're qualified to get the job done. If you chose to take the easy way out (easy on you, at least) don't ask me or anyone else to accept the damage you do on behalf of your principles if you don't even require your candidates to support them.

Mark Gisleson ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 10:06 AM:

OK, just one more and I'm out of here. Ed McGaa was nominated because the DFL refused to allow the Greens to put Wellstone on the ballot (ballot fusion would end these problems, and that's why the Democrats fight that concept so strenuously -- google the term if you don't know it because you should). In fact, the DFL handled that request so gracelessly that the Greens went with McGaa in a fit of pique. (I voted for Mondale, BTW, and I think most Greens did as well.)

Am I a Green? Not even close. I'm a labor Democrat who's sick and tired of Democratic complicity in the corporate takeover of the USA. I HAVE worked in the party, and frankly, I doubt there's a single poster in this thread who's put in half as many hours organizing as I have. I HAVE worked for candidates who didn't reflect my views, and I have compromised -- too many times it seems.

Nominate a real Democrat and you'll kick little W's smirking ass all the way back to Crawford. Smugly pick another pro-Wall Street whore, and some day you'll wake up and find yourself saluting President for Life Ashcroft.

It was NEVER about Nader; it's always been about the Vichy Democrats voting for Republican bills and screwing their constituencies in the process.

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 10:19 AM:


I'll bite. Name me a "real Democrat" who if nominated will kick W's smirking ass *and* who you are certain will remain a "real Democrat" of the kind you describe and desire in the process.

Janice Dawley ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 10:25 AM:

Erik Olson:
That's the Greens. That's Nader voters. At best, they are too stupid to see the huge differences between Gore and Bush, at worst, they don't care -- they just know that Gore should lose.

Well, Gore lost. And, they *revel* in the fact.

These are not allies.

Erik, haven't you realized that not all Nader voters are identical? That they don't all have the same reasoning for voting for him? You are setting up a straw man here.

I'll restate again what several other people have pointed out: a Nader vote in most states did nothing to affect the outcome of the election. Many Nader voters knew that, but did it a) on principle or b) to get him the magic 5% of the popular vote that would have secured more funding for the next election.

These people did NOT put Bush in office. And calling them "evil" is just as much a false equation as saying Gore is "the same" as Bush.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 10:40 AM:

The lesser of two evils is still less evil. I don't understand why people feel sullied by voting for less evil. By the time you're in the voting booth, it's too late to be overly squeamish. Your realm of meaningful choice has diminished to the names on the ballot.

I'm not being too optimistic, here. I know as well as you do that serious involvement in the party of your choice isn't going to suddenly give you candidates that you can support wholeheartedly. I'm perfectly aware that the process and system are ... well, flawed is an understatement. However, the earlier in the process you get involved, the more influence you have. Probably, it's still not a lot of influence. But you do what you can.

The Democrats give me the heebie-jeebies. Heck, government gives me the heebie-jeebies; I'm an anarcho-syndicalist. But in the mean time, there's also this fine country of mine to rescue. I don't see any other horse going my direction. Too pure an ideological standard leaves me standing all by myself. A single person isn't very powerful, a single vote isn't very meaningful. That's why solidarity is so important.

There is a fine line to walk, god knows. At what point do you stop working for a common good and start compromising your core principles. If you start doing the latter, then what point was the former? I dunno. Still, "First, do no harm." Second, "Don't mourn boys, organize."

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 11:03 AM:

Politics, I remind everyone, is the art of the possible. That means making choices to get as much of what you want as can be accomplished. It also means that one cannot be effective as both a politician and a visionary.

Since "without a vision the people perish," that means we need at least two kinds of people: visionaries to keep the people from perishing, and politicians, to implement enough good policy to, um, keep the people from perishing.

I only blame Nader voters if they were in swing states (that is, states where the polls were close). If your state was sewed up for either major party candidate, vote for Angela Davis for all I care. I wrote in Mickey Mouse once (in a local election where I candidate I detested was running unopposed). That's a reasonable thing to do; it makes a statement.

But if you cast your vote for an effective spoiler candidate, and thus get a result worse than you'd have gotten by voting for the imperfect-but-still-good candidate, you've let the perfect become the enemy of the good, and you're a fool.

If you say that Bush and Gore are equivalent, you are a liar (since I cannot believe that anyone could possibly really believe that). If you say that Gore wasn't good enough, I agree with you, but would still argue that it's better to vote for him. America only does radical change to the right; all change to the left is gradual. That's why we're so far to the right of Europe (also because two-party representative democracy is a contradiction in terms, but never mind).

If you are glad that Gore lost, that's exactly equivalent to being glad that Bush won. This is reality, Greg; if you want miracles, go to Lourdes, not the voting booth. If, directly or indirectly, you are glad today that Bush won, than politically speaking you are my enemy. Why should I work with my enemies? (Sometimes, to build a coalition; but not if the enemy cannot be trusted to live in the real world.)

Finally: adults learn that life is a continuing process of giving up things you want for things you want more. If you wanted, and still want, to teach the Democrats a lesson more than you want to keep crypto-fascists from destroying America, I guess I can respect that. It makes you my enemy, but I respect it. If you thought it was a good idea at the time, but didn't realize how bad Bush would be, and now regret it, then I'll welcome you with open arms.

If you just never thought it out, or keep denying that that's the choice you made, than you're just an idiot. Not an enemy, but working with you isn't worthwhile because you'll be no help.

I do not, however, hope you choke. If you embrace the current state of the country as what we deserve for not electing Nader, I do, and I hope you choke before November 2004.

Mark Gisleson ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 11:04 AM:

OK, I'll bite. Timothy, Dennis Kucinich and Gary Hart are REAL Democrats. Dick Gephardt (Iraq vote notwithstanding), Bob Graham, and Edwards are acceptable Democrats. Mosely-Braun and Sharpton are tainted Democrats, by which I mean that I don't have many problems with their stands, but I do see them as unelectable (Braun because of Nigeria, Sharpton because of Brawley). Dean is OK if you want another Carter, but he's not the liberal he's being touted as, not by a long shot. Kerry and Lieberman are pro-big business and I don't trust them, even though Kerry is attractive as a candidate (but he was in Skull and Bones ferchrissakes). Frankly, Lieberman is the only current candidate as bad as Gore was (worse in fact when you study the actual voting records). Can I guarantee my picks won't change their stripes? Yes, I can. I can because I've worked in politics and have never voted for anyone without doing my due diligence.

And as long as I'm back on my soapbox, let me say how strange I find it to be personally attacked for my views in this thread. I failed to vote for a Democrat ONCE since 1972, and as a consequence I'm pond scum. I post under my own name and link to my weblog where all my personal contact information is posted, but in this thread people who only give their first names engage in name calling, altho I will admit the toughest critics post under their full names and I give them credit for that.

The hard truth is that those on the bottom of our society did not prosper under Clinton, and would not have prospered under Gore, DNC acceptance speech notwithstanding. At some point you draw a line and you don't cross it. That point has finally come for me, but as my first paragraph demonstrates, there are lots of Democrats who could bring me back aboard.

But there's also a huge rightwing smear machine that keeps the DLC and its minions in power. Already weblogs have tried to destroy Kucinich as a racist, and it's almost impossible to find anyone talking about Hart with mentioning the Monkey Business first. Kerry's getting worked over as well, but I'm too familiar with his voting record to worry about the Boston Globe's reprehensible Jew baiting tactics.

The establishment has its candidates. The real question is why would any REAL Democrat support one of these sell outs? I won't be checking this thread again but anyone who wants is welcome to follow up by emailing me. I don't run away from fights, but I do get tired of being blamed for the sins of the world because of one vote of conscience. And, much as I find fault with the Greens, substitute "Jews" for "Greens" in any of the above screeds and the nature of the arguments being made becomes much more obvious. Scapegoat a small group and you'll never have to confront the problems of the larger group.

The problem isn't with the Republicans. They're evil period. The problem is with a Democratic Party that acquiesces in the face of evil. Who was more evil: the Nazis or the Vichy French? I'd argue that at a certain point, the difference becomes moot and resistance is the only ethical option. But unlike the WWII French, we can overthrow our Vichy Democrats IF we have the will and the integrity to do so.

John Owen ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 11:29 AM:

Re Kevin Marks remarks
>More balanced views from a Grauniad reader I >see. Here's the article entitled 'Welsh >Pensioner turns freedom fighter:
>The Pensioner is quoted as follows:
>"I really, really understand the martyrs >[suicide bombers]. I am very good friends with >the family of the two who went on the mission to >Tel Aviv. One saw the other explode, and then he >walked away and blew himself up. They are such >lovely families and very proud of their sons."

So, the supposition is that a quote from someone interviewed about suicide bombers constitutes an article supporting terrorism, does it Kevin? We might as well add Cherie Blair to Mr Ashcroft's list of subversive elements, since she's on record as 'understanding why Palestinian suicide bombers are driven to do what they do'. Oops, they probably reported that in the Telegraph, so that's down as pro-terrorist too, I guess.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 11:38 AM:

It doesn't matter what moral argument you're making. (And if you're dismissing the Republicans as entirely evil, you're certainly making a moral argument!)

Making a moral argument in politics is wrong, becuase you start prefering a world you *don't* have to the one you *do* have.

You might get enough power to start to impose that on others for awhile, but the results of that are always bad.

Utopia is not about the perfect society; it's where Moore wanted to live. Utopian politics tries to create where people want to live without thinking that, you know, everyone else won't want to live there.

Peace requires a desire for the least imposition, not the most rightness.

Pursuing rightness pursues imposition; pursuing peace pursues the enactment of choice.

You can't do that while you're campaigning on evil, because about half your countryfolk don't think it's evil, certainly not strongly enough to change how they would otherwise vote.

You can do that if you start campaigning about specific material results.

Ken ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 11:46 AM:

How did we get here? By having people who, given a list of things our Dear Leader has done to anger the rest of the world, respond thusly:

"I would not forget to thank him for showing us how the United Nations is a
toothless haven for crusty and ineffective bureaucrats.

For showing us the main operations person of one of the largest and most
deadly terrorist networks ever can be captured. And will be brought to
justice. And will have many bad days in between those two events.

For reminding us that some people are just bad, and they should not be

For not being afraid to be POLITICAL -- and campaign for the people who he
thought should win -- a fabulous display of political capital well spent in
November, 2002.

For not backing up Trent Lott. Who got a raw deal anyway but should have
been smarter about what he said and how he said it.

For demonstrating that a decade of ignoring North Korea's nuclear
aspirations was probably not a good idea and certainly not the hallmark of
an administration steeped in the subtle ways of diplomacy and foreign

For arguing that, on medical liability reform, maybe it IS a good thing that
more doctors stay in business... while more lawyers do not.

Oh, yes -- and for showing us, that (along with 60 votes in the Senate),
that we really shouldn't brutally murder our unborn children.

Not a perfect administration, but a number of good steps forward, I think."

In the face of such willful ignorance, what remains to be said? How I wish someone would convince me that what my friend said here was true; that Bill Clinton is the real fiend in human form, not Shrub and his shitheel buddies.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 11:58 AM:

You know, sometimes you know what you're trying to say so well that it becomes the subtext instead of the text. Practical politics: voting strategically is necessary, and responsible. It is not degrading, it is not compromising your principles. It is doing the right thing, even though it hurts. Less evil is still less evil.

One of the most pernicious lies ever told is that "things have to get worse before they get better." Nader specifically argued that. Several other people have done so, as well. This is a calculus that I think is far less principled than voting for a candidate you don't like. It may cost thousands of Iraqis their lives. It may create a situation where North Korea is selling atomic grade material to terrorists. It could tumble us all into WWIII. At home, it is causing people to lose their jobs, creating more homeless people, destroying vital civil rights, causing the persecution of non-whites, and strengthening corporate America's grip. This is worse, all right, that part of the objective is met. Anybody got a plan for getting better?

We don't get to choose our starting point. We only get to go on from here. We're stuck with the political structures and politicians that we've got. We can work to change that, but we also have to minimize the damage already done. People do not become energized by defeat and oppression; they become energized by the possibility of positive change, by victories, and by hope.

I think it is stupid to try to threaten the Democratic leadership. If they are as bad as the Naderites claim, then nothing we can say or do will impress them. If they aren't that bad, threats are still not the ideal tool for communication.

The reactions that the Democratic party has had to the 2002 elections hasn't been the least bit like what the Naderites wanted, has it? It didn't work, and I don't think it will ever work. Established political parties don't want "radicals" if they can avoid it. "Those sorts" are too likely to unbalance the status quo -- a status quo which clearly benefits the two major parties. Under pressure, the Democrats will move _away_ from the radicals, not towards them.

"Work like you were living in the early days of a brand new nation." I don't want to send messages. Making the world better is my job, too. Delegating it to, gods help us all, the Democratic leadership by "sending them a message" and hoping that they'll correctly interpret it and do something constructive doesn't seem like an entirely effective strategy. Delegating it to someone who will never be in a position of power seems even less likely to be useful. Destroying the village in order to save it is the worst strategy of all.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:01 PM:

I am reminded right now, as I so often have been when the question of Gore and Nader came up since the 2000 election, of the scene in The Life of Brian when Brian encounters a number of revolutionaries skulking about the catacombs beneath Jerusalem and squabbling with each other. "Don't you see?" Brian implores them, "We must unite against the common enemy!"

ALL: "The Judean People's Front?"

BRIAN: "No! The Romans!"

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:01 PM:

Just to note that Mark has crossed the Godwin line. What are we supposed to do now?

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:16 PM:

Mark Gisleson,

...the Boston Globe's reprehensible Jew baiting tactics.

Er, can you give an example? Yesterday I read Scott Lehigh having some fun with Kerry's well-known humorlessness, in this case when it comes to the 'confusion' about his heritage.

I haven't seen anything the Globe has endorsed recently that makes me think of Pat Buchanan. But I could be wrong....

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:28 PM:

I am surprised at some of the things some Gore supporters are saying. Avedon, do you really believe that Al Gore, whose politics are substantially to the right of those of Richard Nixon, is truly Green?

I held my nose and voted for Gore because of my belief that the scoundrels, thieves, and hypocrites that comprise the Democratic Party in general do less harm than the Republican Party's scoundrels, thieves, and hypocrites, and because I couldn't bring myself to vote for a homophobic jerk like Nader, even as a protest in the safe state of California.

I was convinced, and am, we would be better off under a Gore administration than that of Bush. I had no idea at the time, though, just how extreme the difference would be.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:33 PM:

Dick Gephardt (Iraq vote notwithstanding), Bob Graham, and Edwards are acceptable Democrats.

On my planet, Rep. Gephardt (D-Monsanto) and Graham (D-Disney) are two the largest corporate New Democrats out there. I won't detail Graham's grovelling, but I live in Dick Gephardt's district. He's no more an old-school democrat than Kit Bond is. Gephardt lives and works for Maritz, A-B, Ford, and Monsanto. He used to live for McDonnell-Douglas as well, but now, he merely genuflects towards Boeing.

His one liberal cred is he generally doesn't try to screw the unions. Then again, his district has a huge union population, and the moment he stopped working with the unions, he'd lose. Lord knows he doesn't go out of the way to help them much, though.

And you cite this person as an acceptible pld-school liberal Democrat? For Ghugle's sake, Gephardt helped create the DLC and the New Democrats (To be fair, Al Gore was also one of the founding members, along with Sam Nunn, Bill Clinton, Chuck Robb, and a few others.) If you want to know who killed you "democrats" -- whatever that means, I'm not sure anymore -- Dick Gephardt is one of the people who built the rifle.

And who did the DLC criticize for running a populist campaign, for rejecting the New Democrat principles, and rejecting "their centrist values."

Washington Times, July 31st, 2002. (Not online, but available in Google's cache)

By Donald Lambro

NEW YORK 97 Al Gore yesterday snubbed the Democratic Leadership Council's conference, in which top leaders continued to criticize his 2000 campaign theme of "powerful versus the people," saying it cost their party centrist votes.

I give up. You have your lovely world, with skies so orange. There's no arguing with that.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:56 PM:

Alan - principled conservatives are also often conservationist as well.

Alex Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:59 PM:

Y'know, Graydon, while I sympathize with the sentiment behind your earlier post, I think you dangerously misstate the dangers here. Civil war? C'mon.

There are brutal, violent, evil elements in our politics. No suprise there. People are violent animals. And the Right in America has more thugs than those of us on the Left sometimes like to admit. Coulter's comments about killing liberals are indicative of a spirit on the Right, one that we ignore at our peril.

But the fact of the matter is that, compared to, say Czechoslovakia or South Africa in 1989, reform here would be a cakewalk. I reject out of hand the idea that we have lost our democracy (yet).

Which brings me to money, which, it seems to me is the missing element in this Dem-Green debate. Bush didn't "win" because he had better ideas. He "won" because he stole an election; because his brother helped suppress voter turnout in a key state; because the media are owned by his allies; but most of all, because he and his allies could spend *a hell of a lot more money* - money the campaign spent, soft money, "issue" money, thinktank money, astroturf campaign money.

Nadar was a sideshow in this process.

And we'll never outspend them. They buy. We vote.

We'd damn well out-vote them next time, by a big margin, and then put everything we've got into getting private money out of politics. That's the only fight that matters, now. This familial bickering gets us nowhere.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 01:57 PM:

> In fact, the DFL handled that request so gracelessly that the Greens went with McGaa in a fit of pique.

It seems hard to credit, but in context it almost seems as if you intended this as a defense.

First of all, it doesn't square with your party's leadership saying that they were going to pick off the Democrats furthest to the left. Wellstone was, I believe, specifically mentioned.

Leaving that aside, do you honestly expect anyone to trust your truly brutal remedies for life's myriad injustices and your pureness of heart when your party explicitly tried to spoil probably the most progressive Senator in the history of this country out of _pique_?

I certainly hope that there are progressives with a national organization moving into entry-level political positions. On a national level, your strategy doesn't work, your tactics are execrable, and you make life-and-death decisions (although probably not for yourself) frivolously.

My mom's basement isn't big enough for me to move back into if the world goes to hell. I have to deal with this world, and now I have to deal with it with a brain-damaged millennialist in the White House.

Do me a favor. Don't help.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 03:18 PM:

Alex -
You lost your democracy when the votes weren't counted and a president was seated.

You lost your democracy when the Attorney General of the United States imprisoned American citizens without charge or trial and held them incommunicado, and most of the people approved.

That should have resulted in a large number of Senators and Representatives informing the executive that this was not acceptable, and was to be corrected; it did not.

If it was not then corrected, the President should have been impeached.

Baring those things, a group of prominent citizens should have arrived in Washington and hung John Ashcroft from a convenient lamp post and then informed their Senators that, should there be the slightest indication of further dereliction of duty, they were next.

That's the tradition of your founders; that's the thing it all comes down to, the willingness of the people to support their rights in arms if they must.

That's very much were this is, if you want your democracy back.

The theocrats will not give up the power they've taken, rather than accepted; they've had a decade to convince not just themselves but many people that surrendering power to the duly elected Bill Clinton was wrong.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 04:03 PM:

Sorry, back, someone just asked for this in e-mail:

from The American Prospect,

The race against Wellstone, in fact, is not an exception to Green strategy, but its quintessence. Already the Greens have tipped congressional races to the Republicans in Michigan and New Mexico, and there was that unfortunate outcome of the presidential race about 18 months ago. In fairness, Ralph Nader warned us then that even a Democrat who brilliantly advanced liberal causes would merit Green opposition. When asked at the June 2000 Green National Convention to name three things he liked about America, for instance, Nader listed Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California as thing number two. But when David Moberg of In These Times interviewed Nader that October, the candidate said that come 2002, he'd unhesitatingly back a Green against Waxman. Nader added, however, that the Greens would focus chiefly on the close races. Where the Democrats "are winning 51 [percent]-to-49 percent," he said, "we're going to go in and beat them with Green votes. They've got to lose people, whether they're good or bad."

Even Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold? Moberg asked. Even Paul Wellstone? "That's the burden they're going to have to pay for letting their party go astray," Nader answered. "It's too bad."

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 04:34 PM:


"Dennis Kucinich and Gary Hart are REAL Democrats."

Gary Hart, real Democrat who will kick W's ass if nominated? I would have to say that your credibility as a judge of ass-kicking potential took a big hit there. I don't have enough of a sense of Kucinich to evaluate him.

"Dick Gephardt (Iraq vote notwithstanding)"

That vote wasn't exactly the only time Gephardt has jumped the fences. I cannot understand how someone who holds the Democrats to the kind of standard that you do could have a kind thing to say about Gephardt. He's certainly just as calculating in his ideological stances as Gore, and as big a corporate whore if the right client comes around to stick a wad of bills in his panties. And you're certain he'd whip W's ass?

"Bob Graham, and Edwards are acceptable Democrats."

Shrug. If you view them as acceptable, I have no idea why you voted for Nader as a rageful rejection of the party which abandoned you. Graham isn't any different than Kerry as far as his friendliness to big business. But you think they'd whip W's ass?

"Mosely-Braun and Sharpton are tainted Democrats, by which I mean that I don't have many problems with their stands, but I do see them as unelectable (Braun because of Nigeria, Sharpton because of Brawley)."

You have no problem with their stands, e.g., Brawley and Nigeria are just unfortunate side issues which tell you nothing about their degree of commitment to being "real" Democrats? If not for those minor ethical lapses, you think they'd whip W's ass?

You confirm the stereotype of the poor political judgement of the Nader-crossover voters, that's for sure. Like I said, I hope you get your wishes for a "real Democrat", though I'm hardly confident that you'd learn a lesson when Gary Hart got nominated and had his ass kicked seven ways to Sunday. I also have to say that this slate of "real Democrats" exposes how much your vote for Nader was surreally arbitrary. Why any of these guys is preferable to Gore, why Gore represents the Whores of Babylon who had to be cast into the Pit by Saint Ralph and Gephardt and Graham represent the guys who dreamed they saw Joe Hill last night, guys who stand by the workin' man, well, you got me.

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 04:50 PM:

I'm trying to figure out what "fighting back" Mark wanted Gore to wage in Florida that he wasn't waging. All those lawyers, all those words. What else, physical fighting? You wanted him to start a civil war over this, the way some people wanted Sam Tilden to start one after he was similarly robbed of the presidency in 1876?

Tilden had the sense to decline. So did Gore ("It's time for me to go"), so do I. Graydon, count me out.

And yes, I know what the illegitimate president seated in 1876 gave us: 90 years of Jim Crow laws. Bad, but starting a civil war to prevent that would have been worse.

(And what of the Civil War of 1861-5? Was starting that worse than the alternative? Ah, but I don't have to answer that question. The North didn't start that war. Lincoln was very careful to make it that way. "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.")

I wonder whom Timothy Burke is referring to when he writes of "every person here who fantasizes that all the Democrats need to do is fully listen to and incorporate the vision of the left as it gets enunciated in discussions like this one, which is usually a laundry list of particular political positions rather than a core philosophy." Certainly not me; my point about Debs was nowhere near that simplistic. In any case, this criticism sounds strange coming from the person who offered a 4-item laundry list of his own.

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 05:29 PM:


You are cheerfully exempted from whatever part of the characterization it is that you feel doesn't apply to you. It's two statements, really:

1. The Democrats will not win if they take on board most or all of the platform Nader ran on in 2000.

2. Progressive politics now mostly consists of a list of positions which do not derive from a consistent philosophical or historical point of origin, some of which are in tension with one another.

On my own laundry list, it isn't necessarily or invariably a party platform I personally crave. It's my judgement of what could win as a third party platform if a third party is what one most desperately craves, as a contrast to the perpetual losses the Nader platform entails. But I also think that the Bull Moose Party II is actually somewhat consistent: it's pretty much what Jonathan Rauch calls the "radical center". It's 19th Century liberalism spruced up for the 21st Century.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 05:51 PM:

Timothy and Simon,

I'm a Minnesotan, and I am one of the people who was responsible for voting Jesse Ventura into office. In the run up to the election, I spent a lot of time listening to call in shows on the local public radio station, as well as reading local newspapers. It is my opinion that the professional pundits and politicians never understood why Jesse was elected. I rather doubt that Jesse did, either.

Jesse's first, most brilliant gift to the election was an authentic voice. He sounded like a real human being. That came back to bite him after he took office, as did a number of other character traits that looked rather more charming on the campaign trail than they did in the governor's mansion.

The second reason that Jesse was elected, though, was that he did, indeed, run on a socially liberal and fiscally conservative platform. As my housemate and fellow Ventura voter said, "When I am I ever going to get the chance to vote for a pro-gun, pro-abortion, pro-gay candidate again?" Of the people I know who voted for Ventura and who were able to articulate why, most said similar things. Out of my bedroom _and_ out of my pocket book, but give the poor a break.

I also think that a fiscally conservative and socially liberal party has a future in this country. By fiscally conservative, though, most people don't actually mean "cut all social spending." They've been taught to believe that cutting social spending is equivalent to balancing the budget and keeping taxes from becoming predatory. As for socially liberal, most people have come to believe that it is impossible to feed the poor, provide medical care at a reasonable cost, and fight for civil rights -- including free speech and free association.

The pro-gun, pro-abortion position is _vital_, in my opinion. I think that Democrats are losing votes that they should not lose by being aggressively gun control proponents. If they want to win, they need to choose one or the other. I want them to choose abortion rights. I think it's more important, and moreover, I think that it is more likely to get them swing voters than the pro-life crowd. Thirdly, I think that the pro-life crowd is dangerous to attract. The gun nuts aren't anywhere near as likely to try to take over the party as the pro-lifers are. I know a lot of pro-gun people who are raging liberals.

Liberal conservatives. The world needs more of them. Wish Ventura had been one of them. But if we could teach our candidates to speak in a human voice, they could win if they did nothing but recite the alphabet, I swear to god.

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 07:38 PM:

Lydia -

Thank you for that view. It reads to me as if the political position you're looking for is libertarian, but not as goddam hard-nosed about it as the libertarians are.

Yeah, there could be a vacuum there. You might be right. The Republicans aren't filling it. The Democrats aren't filling it. The Libertarian Party sure as heck aren't filling it.

When you write of Jesse's "authentic" voice, I think back to John Anderson again. His surprising rise in the polls had as much to do with his plain honest speaking as with his positions.

Unfortunately, once he got that high, he got nervous and started playing it safe - or, more accurately, the conventional political operatives he hired at that point started acting like conventional political operatives.

And when Anderson started speaking like another mealy politican, the people who'd been attracted to him earlier started melting away.

It's a fallacy to think, however, that plain speaking will always win. A lot depends on what you say. Remember Michael Kinsley's definition of a gaffe as "when a politician says what he really thinks." (Trent Lott provides a perfect example.) The last major politician to tell the unvarnished truth on television was Walter Mondale on taxes, and that was considered the greatest gaffe of all time. Even centrist plain-speakers do not always appeal. Perot, now: I wouldn't have voted for him for dogcatcher.

Timothy Burke ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 07:55 PM:

Well, a big round of kumbaya at the end here, because I totally agree with you guys. Take somebody with Ventura's fearlessness and honesty and take away some of his silliness and you have a seriously ass-kicking candidate. If John McCain were a Democrat, he might have won the White House if only he could manage to get the nomination. Plain-speaking helps a lot, but Simon's also right to say it's not sufficient. The candidate also has to sound sane and have some ideas that have deep appeal.

Les Dabney ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 08:47 PM:

The blame Nader crowd is beginning to sound like a broken record. It really is sad when some obviously intelligent people try to pin the loss of the 2000 election on Ralph. Instead if looking at Gore's poor campaign choices i.e. LIEberman and the miriad of mistakes that Gore made during the campaign and the subsequent recount fiasco.
I suppose it makes them feel better but it sure does make them look foolish trying to pin this on Ralph.
I voted for Gore by the way but I feel like I pissed my vote away.

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 08:48 PM:

Sorry, I wouldn't vote for McCain for President. Sure, he has "some ideas that have deep appeal," even to me; but he doesn't pass the "The candidate also has to sound sane" part of Timothy's test. An insane-sounding senator is one thing - might even be a good idea at times - but not for President.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 11:52 PM:

Les: You're not reading very closely if you think that most of the people here blame Nader for the outcome of the 2000 election. They are blaming Nader for deliberately setting out to destroy the Democrats, and for at least partially succeeding, in the apparent belief that it's better to have a horrible Republican president than a decent-but-not-perfect Democratic one.

Joel Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 09:53 AM:

The pro-gun, pro-abortion position is _vital_, in my opinion. I think that Democrats are losing votes that they should not lose by being aggressively gun control proponents. If they want to win, they need to choose one or the other.
That appears to be the case, at least hereabouts. Just about all winning candidates in the recent Minnesota elections took a strong position on gun issues. (Not, by any means, positions that us gun nuts support.) Pretty much everybody who tried to split the difference lost -- from Tim Penny, the Independence Party candidate, to several close House races. (Martha Robertson was the only split-the-difference senator that I can think of to win a seriously contested race.)

There are probably ten outstate DFL state senators, folks generally supportive of the big local hot-button gun issue, who will lose their seat if they're seen to waffle. (Most of them are in safely DFL districts, but they will be in trouble in the caucuses and primaries.)

As to Nader voters, seems to me that it's important for people to distinguish between close races and others. I'm not sure how important it is to put in a protest vote in a state that's clearly going to go one way, but it's a different thing than voting for a candidate who you know won't win when you have a race that could be decided by a very few votes.

quinn ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 02:19 PM:

i'm still annoyed at how it's the people that voted for nader who are to blame for the situation, and not the *roughly* *half* of the population that didn't bother voting at all.

the dems need to take responsibility for getting their people out to the polls on election day, and they need to take responsibility for moving so far to the right that some of their traditional stronghold have fallen off the trailing edge. complaining about the incredibly small number of greens out there while groups like african americans and latinos are staying home in droves during midterm elections just makes them look petty.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 02:57 PM:

Presuming that "quinn" is a Nader supporter, I have to wonder where he or she derives the authority to pronounce on what the Democrats "need to take responsibility" for.

I haven't always voted for Democrats myself. I'm not actually as partisan as some people in this discussion seem to think. The leftist in me really can't stomach Leiberman, and the libertarian in me has very little in common with (for instance) Dianne Feinstein. But by and large, in my lifetime, the [D] has tended to be next to the name of the major-party candidate whose policies and practices were least inimical to my views.

What I do know, though, is that if you oppose a political party full-out, you definitely don't get a say in its policies.

Part of the reason for the post-2000 rancor, I think, is that a lot of Naderites don't get this. They opposed us, they worked against us, and they tried to defeat us, and now they're all hurt and doe-eyed when in the wake of the election, some Democrats react sharply to Naderite lectures on what "we" should do, or what the Democratic party owes the country.

As I think subsequent comments have made clear, I'm not actually in favor of making everyone who voted for Nader "choke" on anything. I have plenty of friends who did and I don't plan to stop liking Debbie Notkin or Robert Legault any time soon. But as a piece of practical political advice, I would say to my friends who are committed Greens: If you want to argue why I should join you, fine, but don't lecture me on what "we" ought to do, as if it's established that you and I are in some larger sense "on the same side." You declared yourself to be in opposition to my "side". Now perhaps that's changed, or perhaps one or the other of us will change our minds, but don't act as if it never happened. You don't get to work for the defeat of liberals and Democrats and simultaneously claim the moral credibility of being some kind of ultra-liberal-Democrat. You're not. You're a declared enemy of liberal Democrats. You may be _right_ -- or you may not -- but you don't get to have it both ways.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 04:09 PM:


I just couldn't let this stand:

Thank you for that view. It reads to me as if the political position you're looking for is libertarian, but not as goddam hard-nosed about it as the libertarians are.

I most certainly am not a libertarian. I think that capitalism is one of the great woes of the world. I believe in the market, but I don't believe that it will bring equality or peace, and I don't think that it can run without substantial balance and intervention from non-market driven forces. Currently, that ought to be government.

I am what I said I was, an anarcho-syndicalist. I am one of the anarchists that thinks that a libertarian anarchist is a contradiction in terms, because libertarian necessarily includes a strong belief of and attachment to the Invisible Hand.

I'm an incrementalist, which some people would insist means that I cannot be an anarchist. I don't believe in "the Revolution." I think that "come the Revolution" has the same sort of semantic and emotional content as "come the Final Judgment."

So, I'm a Democrat. An anarcho-syndicalist Democrat. Yes, some days that makes my head hurt.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 04:51 PM:

Lydia: Hear, hear! And "me too." And like that.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 05:11 PM:

And of course those of us on the libertarian side think that "anarcho-syndicalist" is a contradiction in terms, since the unions (or whatever the worker organizations get called) would end up with precisely the powers of the state that make anarchy desirable in the first place. It'd be neat to get the chance to field-test both theories, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for that, alas.

In the meantime, back at the election...

One of the reasons that I couldn't, in the end, vote for Gore in good conscience was that his VP very specifically targeted friends of mine for government-mandated unemployment. They work in the computer game field, and they work on violent games. And I help make paper-and-pencil games about vampires, mutants, and other undesirable creatures; I feel quite confident that if Lieberman ever learns about my niche of the game business, he'll add it to the list.

Now, sure, this is largely a matter of symbolism. The VP doesn't have that much power, and I think that any effort at an actual wholesale purge of the game business would fail. But words matter too, and the fact that he was willing to point it out as something he thought wrong with the country that the government should stamp out carried a lot of weight with me. On the micro level of where my friends and I live, work, love, try to manage illnesses that curretn medicine deals with poorly, and so on, there really wasn't much to distinguish between the specific tenets offered by the major parties.

Of course, this just gets back to the general desirability of the Democrats having good candidates and good campaigns for them. Certainly at this point it wouldn't take much for me feel that a Democratic candidate would be worth voting for. I wouldn't be looking for much endorsement of the personal liberties of my gang 'n' me, so much as for the absence of any expressed interest in stamping them out.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 05:29 PM:

Lydia: So now I know what a libertarian who wasn't hard-nosed would be: an anarcho-syndicalist Democrat. *shrug* Makes sense, actually.

Bruce Baugh: I do not know what exact statements by Al Gore you are referring to. But I do know that Tipper Gore is often referred to as a would-be censor when she was actually nothing of the sort. There's a small, but hugely important, difference between government using moral pressure to try to affect society, and using law in an attempt to wantonly stamp something out. (As Rocket J. Squirrel observed, that trick never works.)

I withhold any condemnation of Al unless presented with definitive evidence that he stepped squarely over that line. I know that Tipper, in her campaign on lyrics, didn't.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 05:47 PM:

Simon, I referred to Lieberman, not Gore. That's why I also commented about the limited power of the vice presidency. If Gore ever had anything to say about the matter, pro, con, or other, I don't know about it.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 06:54 PM:

Bruce: pardon, my error.

I might still be willing to vote for Lieberman for VP. Just not P. It's a tough call, and ultimately a subjective one.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 09:01 PM:

Quite true - how much and what sort of weight to give the VP's crusades (and those of the First Spouse, and others near the president) is a really tricky sort of thing. I don't think there's usually a single obviously correct matter. It loomed large for me because it's so perilously close to my own job.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 12:06 PM:

I periodically post in defense of Tipper Gore. I think her original impulses behind the PMRC were sincerely decent but politically naive--I believe that she had simply never heard of the concept of "chilling effect", and thought that there was no possible harm which could come from a voluntary ratings system for music. She learned better, and when the PMRC moved towards actual advocation of censorship, she resigned from the organization, and it withered without her.

Note that she became a friend of Frank Zappa late in his life, and remains friends with his family.

I don't like it when people make naive mistakes, but people do deserve credit for recognizing them and making amends.

That said, yeah, Bruce's point about Lieberman's tirades against computer games was more than a little upsetting to me, even though I've never worked on anything more violent than a Diplomacy variant with zombies.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 04:38 PM:

Kevin and Simon, I've heard the same things about Tipper Gore from enough folks I trust that I retired my own criticisms of her, until and unless I ever get the chance to do some more research of my own. (This strikes me as an underrated intellectual category: "I don't know, but sources I find reliable say..." I just don't have time or energy to master everything I'd like to, and trust ought to be good for something.)

quinn ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 02:10 AM:

to clarify.. when i said "need to take responsibility" i didn't really mean for any moral reason, i was stating my views on what the dems need to do to see more success as a political party. (fwiw, the democrats have started more of a get out the vote campaign, so they and i are in at least some agreement.) as such, i don't really need to worry about whether i should be allowed such authority- i don't really want it, it's just a comentary on a situation.

you were right, i'm a nader voter, but i'm not much of a loss to the dems, i've been voting mostly party ticket green for years. i honestly don't think green voters are the democrat's problem of recent years, i think it's unfortunate that some are scapegoating their problems on the greens, because they fail to address the root causes of the problem. on the whole, i suspect that dem rancor is good for my party, seeing as they keep spelling both "green" and "nader" correctly in the media.

middle class women, african americans and other minorities- these are strong hold dem votes, many of which have felt disenfranchised by the shift in their party to capture middle votes. they haven't run off to vote for nader, they've just stayed home. they are the ones to reach out to, and if there's anyone to blame for 2000, it's them.

that said, it's not going to attract anyone back to voting democrat to throw a lot of anger and blame around. and as for shifting so far to the left to capture green voters like me? a very foolish move- that'd alienate a whole swath of people, even i know that. :)