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March 14, 2003

You think I’m grumpy about Nader voters? [09:52 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on You think I'm grumpy:

Chris Andersen ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 10:10 PM:

Ouch! Mr. Taylor woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning that's for sure.

I have a lot of deep-seated resentments against the Naderites as well. But I choose not to engage them because doing so is just counter-productive.

Caveat: I will, however, engage a Naderite who offers me the unsolicited opinion that they didn't do anything wrong. As far as I'm concerneed, any of them that do that is just asking for it.

Andy ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 10:28 PM:

This kinda sums it up:

"You're all so idealistic that you believe a new progressive movement can be built without significant support from African-Americans, women, gays, or organized labor. If that isn't idealism, I'd like to know what is."

I don't know exactly what I'd call it, instead of idealism, though right now the lead is a tie between solipsism and elitism.

William Henderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 10:52 PM:

The author does bring up a good point - namely, that the vast majority of Greens are young, college-educated, white men. The exact type of person who suffers the least when Republicans are in power.

I guess there's a reason they can be so nonchalant about helping to elect Republicans.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 12:13 AM:

Where'd you find the stats on the Greens' M/F ratio? (The only registered Green I know personally is my mother, so i don't have a very large sample.)

Daryl McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 12:19 AM:

I'm past the point of blaming Naderites, or the press, or Gore's lack-luster campaign, or Clinton's scandals, or shenanigans in Florida or at the Supreme Court. But whatever the contributing factors, it seems to me that we (the American people) have gotten ourselves the worst President in living memory. (Not too many people are still alive from the days of Calvin Coolidge...)

Of course, I seem to be in a minority---the majority seem to think Bush is doing pretty well. But I have to credit that to American optimism. Most Americans prefer to note that the glass is 1/10 full, rather than 9/10 empty.

Tom Beshear ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 03:17 AM:

Re: Charles Taylor -- he's right, you know.

If Gore had been elected president, the Republican-controlled Congress would have attempted to impeach him by now. His administration would have been blamed for failing to stop the 9-11 attacks -- the country would have become gridlocked again and practically ungovernable. Instead, the GOP controls all three branches of government, and we're marching to war, hurrah.

Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 08:01 AM:

He left out the part about choosing and unleashing an attorney general who believes he was created in the image of an insane war god.

Cowboy Kahlil ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 10:07 AM:

Working with natural allies can be useful. Fighting about the past serves no useful purpose except further alienation.

The Bush voters committed the rape; all others qualify as victims.

The number of adults eligible to vote, who didn't, outpolled Bush & Gore. What, no critique of them for feeling too alienated to bother? Both major parties have serious problems to address and the energy spent on the blame game would be more useful rebuilding the Democrats into a true majority party like it was before.

All the raw materials are there to make it happen except the commitment to make it happen.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 11:45 AM:

Excuse me, but my 81-year-old grandmother is not a rapist, thank you very much.

If we're victims, we're victims of the administration itself; and actually, the victims I pity most are the moderate Republicans who had no idea what they were letting the country in for.

Emma ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 12:46 PM:

With apologies to Mr. Moles: I am getting seriously tired of people telling me that the "greens" or the "moderate republicans" had no idea of what they were letting the country in for.

Anyone who read the Republican platform for the last two elections knew exactly what the country was being let in for. Anyone who heard the Republican party leaders prea...er...speak knew exactly what they were letting the country in for. Anyone with a serious interest in the future of this country knew that the Republican party had been hijacked, and the loonies were running the assylum.

If you led with your loyalty instead of your reasoning, fine; if you believed that the maniacs could be reined in by a "humble" "moderate" president, fine; if you believed that Republican control would somehow spark a grass-root revolution, fine. But don't tell me you didn't know.

Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 02:07 PM:

The entire debate strikes me as being a waste of time and energy that could better be directed at figuring out how to get America, and the American left, out of the parlous state it's fallen into. The collapse of the Democratic party goes beyond the election of 2000; if that were the only problem, I might agree with the invective directed at Nader voters, and would concede that my vote for Nader (albeit in the 'safe' state of California) was misguided.

But that isn't the only problem. The Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in half a century in 1994; it was able to claw back control of the Senate, but not hold on to it. It lost, whether by means fair or means foul, the election of 2000, and did worse in 2002. It share of governorships has fallen precpipitously, and its failure to control the legislatures of important states resulted in a redistricting which makes its hopes of retaking the House within the next decade virtually nil.

It's possible, I suppose, to view each of these defeats as an isolated incident, explainable entirely through phenomena which are local to that particular election. But after a sufficient number of these locally-explainable defeats stack up, it becomes more reasonable to stand back, and look at the accumulation of evidence, and say 'there is something bigger going on here'; I think the election of 2002 should be taken as a signal that all of these individual losses are in fact the result of a larger problem. To the extent that that's true, all of this quibbling over whether the Nader voters cost Gore the election is ridiculous; it's energy spent on the wrong problem.

It seems to me that the democratic party is in dire straits; its reputation is bruised and battered, it commands little respect outside of its activists, and it is having an increasingly difficult time winning elections. It is possible that this will change, but I see no evidence that such change will come about as a result of anything the party leadership or membership is doing; such change, at the moment, is only possible if the Republicans mess things up so badly that the country recoils in horror.

A lot of the blame lies with the DLC and its efforts to move the party to the right in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It is not moving to the right which was the problem; that was the tactically correct thing to do at the time, and it reflected the increasing conservatism of the country. It was the manner in which the party moved to the right which caused the problem: the people who orchestrated the move completely failed to provide any ideological justification for it, any explanation of how traditional democratic values justified the change, and the policy positions now beind adopted.

This lack of ideological justification had two deleterious side-effects. It caused conservatives, and many moderates, to distrust the party's change of heart; in the view of these people, the party's move to the right was a sham, an attempt to mislead the people into thinking that the party had 'changed its spots'. This is a credible argument because there appeared to be nothing behind the shift than the desire to win elections, and it is a message which conservatives have found it easy to sell to moderate voters.

The other problem caused by the manner in which the party moved rightward was that the absence of a consistent ideological justification for the move gave rise to a disaffected radical wing that came to believe that the party no longer stood for its historic principles, and that, by shifting to the right, the party leadership had caved in to corporate interest groups and abandoned any claim to stand for progressive principles whatsoever. Some of these disaffected leftists walked out of the party to support Nader; others remained within the party, loudly grumbling (and the volume of their grumbling helped lead credence to the claims that the democrats of the 90s were no different than the democrats of the 70s).

Clinton, by virtue of being the most talented politician of our times, was able to get into office despite these problems; Gore, carried largely on the coat-tails of Clinton, was almost able to, as well. But Democrats of all stripes are on the ropes - and, more damningly, it is no longer possible with any assurance to say what the Democrats stand for.

It's relatively easy to point to what the Republicans stand for: getting the government out of the business of social welfare, and making it economically impossible for it ever to get back into that business. Pick a dozen Republicans and ask them; they'll all agree that's their number #1 priority. But what do the Democrats stand for? Pick a dozen Democrats, and ask them, and they'll all have different answers.

On some level, politics is about selling a consistent narrative to the public. The Republicans of today have one; the Democrats of today do not. Without one, the Democrats will at best be able to eke out a continuance of the status quo (and, at worst, will face electoral catastrophe).

Instead of spending our energy arguing over who lost the election of 2000, we should be trying to construct that narrative, and convincing other Democrats to buy into it; we should be having a debate about what, exactly, it is that we stand for. The Republicans went through this debate in the 60s and 70s, when they were in the wilderness politically (Richard Nixon notwithstanding); we need to have that debate now. Until we have that debate, and until we come up with a narrative that we can present to the American people, things aren't going to get any better, unless the Republicans destroy themselves and do great damage to the country in the process.

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

The problem, Mr Hayden, is you can't sort out the "Naderites" -- those who actually voted Green in '00 -- from the larger set of those who agreed with them about everything except whether the risk of a W victory was worth it. I should know; I'm in that larger group.

I'm a lifelong D who's worked electoral campaigns in the Pacific NW. I'm also first and foremost an environmental activist, and thus have a keen understanding of the legitimacy of the sense of betrayal and outrage that moved many of the most passionate Ralph-advocates in '00. Even though my Gore vote counted for nothing in Montana -- which Bush carried easily -- I still nearly voted Nader but just couldn't bring myself to do anything that might, even symbolically, bring W to power. But I was damn close, and don't begrudge my more idealist brethren their anger.

I have to agree strongly w/ C. Kahlil and even more w/ Robert West. Certainly the Democrats are not going to return to full electoral vigor without the energy, the idealism, and the burnin' yearing for change NOW that the Nader campaign captured. Nor should they assume they can get along without the dynamic core of the enviro-political organizers, as mainstream Dems have tried to do for the last twenty years out here in Green-land. (I'm writing from Oregon, just to complicate things.)

One way bitter Ds could bring bitter enviros back into the party would be to start to recognize -- as Mr Taylor utterly fails to do in the article referenced at the top -- that W's regime has been as great a disaster for environmental concerns as for any other issue area. The notion that "Nader voters aren't suffering" under this administration is not just petty-minded and mean, it's stupidly self-defeating.

Rove is pushing for a quarter-billion in Dem-bashing power next round: at this rate, Ds are going to need every voice, every penny, and every keyboard potentially available. It really doesn't matter whether we Ds think we want the Green voters back. We have to have them, and we have to have the larger group that shares their concerns. Thus, Ds must act to embrace their causes.

Luckily, as the NYT has recently pointed out, even the GOP's pollsters recognize the fact that environmental issues are the missing scale on the loathesome worm that is the Bush administration. What remains is for the Democrats to figure out how to thrust the "Naderite" spearhead into that opening.

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

the above ought to be read following PNH's following post. Time-travel again. (I always figured it'd be more fun than that. Life is never what the movies make it.)

and "my more idealistic brethren". And sistren, of course.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 12:34 AM:

"Pi" says "I don't begrudge my more idealist brethren their anger."

I don't begrudge anybody their anger. But I decline to grant Naderites the status of being "more idealist", which they have notably failed to earn. Nor do I think their "anger" excuses their damaging actions. Sorry about that. Actually, not sorry at all.

Their anger is understandable. Unfortunately, so is the content of their character. Now that I know that, I'm unlikely to trust them in the future. Darn that business of how choices matter and options exclude. I'd be defensive and regretful, too. Sucks to be you.

Oh and by the way, "Mr. Hayden" is someone else.

pi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 01:31 AM:

Patrick, then, if I may be so bold:

"(M)ore idealistic" was my way of trying to be nice about what I saw as my Green-voting friends' greatest weakness: their lack of realism.

I still don't see how you're going to sort out all us "good" greens -- who voted Gore, and have your back -- from those who voted Ralph, but are now effectively indistinguishable. Lots of both filled the streets of Portland today, and there's no way to tell the difference that I can see.

What changed in the enviro-Democrat relationship after '00 was that the sense of betrayal has come to cut both ways. If you're going to nurse your Florida resentment so carefully, you at least have to grant that the kids who were radicalized by Clinton's signing the Salvage Rider have some resentments to nurse as well.

But just for a thought-experiment: what if Al Sharpton had gotten the "killer slice" instead of Ralph? Would grassroots Dems now be vindictively snubbing black activists?

The big question ain't about excuses, or the consequences of past actions. It's about winning, and taking our future back. Bashing potential allies by casting differences in judgment as character flaws shows a dangerous lack of political and emotional imagination. I think you can do better than that. I know we, collectively, have to.

Check out orcinus' part 12 on fascism for a pungent slice of what I'm coming from here.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 03:47 AM:

"Working with natural allies can be useful."

As I understand it, "allies" are people who work with you toward a shared goal.

Since the single defining characteristic of Naderites is a (principled, they claim) refusal to work with the broad mass of Americans who were opposed to George W. Bush in 2000, it's hard to see exactly how this group comprises any sort of "natural ally" for any future broad initiative.

Quite the contrary, this would appear to be the last group any sensible coalition of progressives would want to spend energy cultivating "alliance" with.

William Henderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 04:49 AM:

The problems I have with Nader's behavior in the 2000 election was not just what he did, but also with the way he did it. Nader's entire campaign was incredibly dishonest. And he had to have known better - there's simply no way he couldn't have.

I'll give you an example. A few days before the election, Nader was being interviewed on a TV news program (I don't remember which one). The interviewer asked him about the Supreme Court, and whether he was concerned that his campaign might affect its ideological makeup (and this is definitely still a concern - I'm just praying that the four moderates can hold out until Bush is gone so that the court doesn't slip permanently out of our reach). Nader replied that it wasn't an issue, that Bush and Gore would appoint essentially the same types of justices. This was a bald-faced lie, and I was quite frankly shocked that someone with his reputation for integrity would utter such a tremendous falsehood on national televison.

Nader's entire campaign was built around lies like that. And it played perfectly into Bush's moderate rhetoric. With Nader out there saying that Gush=Bore, it made people more likely to believe the Republicans when they said that Bush was not a dangerous right-wing extremist and when they implied that he'd be just like Clinton except with more tax cuts and fewer blowjobs.

Nader lied. And he boosted Bush's campaign by doing it. And he knew full well what he was doing. THAT'S what upsets me the most about his 2000 run.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 07:21 AM:

Gee. When I said the other day that Ralph Nader has a lot to answer for, I wasn't thinking bout the distaster of the GWB presidency at all.

We are on a long car trip: I was thinking about airbags, and how we cannot under any circumstances sit our 5-year-old in the front seat.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 07:39 PM:

Even if you're tired of it, Emma, it's still true. Talk to some of them. Where your argument falls down is in assuming that any significant fraction of voters were seriously interested in the future of the country. I expect most of them were interested in it, but it was pretty far down on the priority list, somewhere below the local university's choice of a new football coach. That is certainly blameworthy in itself, but it's not the same as subscribing to the Republican party platform.

Hell, I don't think I've read even a portion of any Democratic platform in the last ten years. I'm quite sure that (mostly because of the directionlessness that Rob West highlights) there are parts of them I wouldn't subscribe to. I voted for Gore because he wasn't Bush, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who voted for Bush because he wasn't Clinton (and Gore wasn't not-Clinton enough). These are the ones that are now saying things like "Gee, I wanted a Republican in the White House because I didn't want any more 8-year-old girls coming home from school and asking 'Mommy, what's a blow job?', and now I'm wondering what I've gotten us into." -- naive as hell, yes, but heartfelt.

Actually, the Green voters were probably the only ones that did have that serious interest in any great numbers. The problem is, like activists all across the political spectrum, they found more satisfaction in the pure moral righteousness of a lost cause than in the messy real-world compromises that make democracy work.

American democracy needs a few crazy people like that in among the sane majority -- without them we'd probably end up with a Japanese-style narcoleptic bureaucracy. The problem comes when, as you say, the inmates take control of the asylum, or at least one wing of it.

It's certainly moderate Republicans who blew that one. But stupid is not the same thing as evil.

Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 07:41 PM:

Angry democrats, help me out here. You despise Green voters so much that you choose to call us "Naderites." You do not want to try to bring us to your side because we betrayed you by voting for a candidate who was running for the things that we believe will make America a better place. You do not care that Gore won the popular vote in both the U.S. and Florida; you would rather be angry at Greens for taking part in the US's quasi-democratic process than at the Republicans for manipulating that process or at the electoral college system that made it possible for Republicans to manipulate the system or at Gore himself for running a lackluster campaign that targeted the liberal upper class. We Greens are the French, and you would rather eat your freedom fries than question your political course.

Okay, I think I've got that. But here are my questions: How do you hope to win without the left? Do you really want the DLC to move further to the right? 60% of the population feels there's no point in taking part in two-party politics. But instead of trying to bring those people in -- the poor, the workers, the uninsured, the idealistic, the people the Greens court as they try desperately to find a place in a two-party system -- you want to fight with the Republicans for the well-off minority that likes Republican politics?

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 11:04 PM:

Will: I am not myself a Democrat nor of the left, but I think I can offer a response anyway. I have the general impression that a lot of liberal and left Democrats would be glad to deal with the Greens if two things happened:

1. The Green leadership explicitly apologized for the strategy of campaigning in 2000 in swing states and other actions deliberately aimed at undermining the Democrats' own left wing (cf. Wellstone), and preferably fired the people most responsible for that strategy, and

2. The Green Party instead committed itself to running most vigorously precisely where the left wing of the Democratic Party is not heard - whre the Democrats don't run a candidate at all or run one not readily distinguishable from the Republican. That is, the Green Party should reinforce the Democrats where the latter have a candidate of generally left inclination and action, and should stand against the Democrats where the major party has little or nothing to offer liberals, progressives, and others over to that side of the middle of the road.

In practice this would sometimes be a tricky call. But if Green resources were as a matter of policy committed to areas of greatest Democratic failure, then it would probably take a while to get to most of the hard cases.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 11:23 PM:

Again, in Will Shetterly's post, we see the practice of imputing that anyone who criticizes supporting Nader in 2000 must be a "Democrat." Or an "angry Democrat." Or a "loyalist Democrat."

It couldn't be someone who has voted for Democrats, Republicans, and third-party candidates, and who thinks it was specifically and particularly reprehensible to help George W. Bush get elected in 2000.

As I've said elsewhere, if I had been so feckless and irresponsible as to support Ralph Nader in 2000, I'd want to muddy the issue by imputing that my critics are all loyalist Democrats, too. However, I don't respect anyone who actually implements this rhetorical strategy. Because it's dishonest, and they know it, and they should be ashamed. That means you, Will.

As to Will's other claims, like "You do not care that Gore won the popular vote in both the U.S. and Florida" -- well, these assertions are simply beneath contempt.

Will shouldn't respond to my points, though. He should respond to Bruce Baugh's. I await.

Assamite ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 12:17 AM:

And I'm sure you Democrats foresaw Bush's sudden turn to the far right after his inauguration, the recession, 9/11, the Iraq war, and whatever Really Bad Things we're having now back in 2000.

If you, judging from Bush's wishy-washy statements during the debates, couldn't have forseen all this, why should Nader and his voters have?

And by blaming Nader and his voters, you ONLY legitimize Bush's outright THEFT of the election. You know, that fiasco involving black voters being turned back, Katherine Harris, and the Supreme Court. But oh, no, that stuff would never had happened had Nader kept to himself and let Gore get the majority of votes in FL - oh, wait, he DID get the majority of votes in FL! Not to mention the whole country!

Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 02:45 AM:

I addressed Democrats in my last post because the vocal critics of Greens that I've noticed are Gore-supporters; I didn't mean to suggest that only Gore-supporters are unhappy with Greens.

I'll also note that I have hunted for groups that want to end the electoral college, and I fail to find them. I may have to look into creating one. I'd like to think the cause would have cross-party support, but I may be naive. The Democrats have been burned three times by the electoral college, yet they continue to support it because it limits the effectiveness of third parties. I prefer a direct vote so the majority of the people would always choose the President. Hilary Clinton spoke about ending the electoral college, then dropped the idea.

Bruce, should the DLC apologize for courting moderate conservatives while neglecting the left? The Greens and the DLC made mistakes in 2000. There's enough guilt to go around. What's more important is to find out whether the parties can work together, or whether the Democrats can move back to the left to regain those voters. I think there's evidence of that on the Green side; several days before the election, the polls predicted the Greens would make their 5% to get major party status. But, by the election, it became clear that Gore's campaign had not inspired voters, so half of those who had planned to vote Green gave their vote to Gore. Many people who voted for Nader voted for Democrats in other races; had those voters stayed home, the Democrats would've done even worse in 2000.

I hope the Greens will move back to their older model of building slowly and not challenging progressive Democrats. If they don't, I may quit supporting Greens. That's hard to say, though, since the Democrats have been becoming increasingly undemocratic, as shown by their efforts in New Mexico to make it harder for third parties to win major party status. You New Yorkers, who I think still allow cross-party nominations (or at least did until recently), should know that it is possible for small and large parties to work together, both on issues and candidates. But cross-party nomination stays the exception in the US as the two major parties work together to eliminate it state by state.

I am sorry I posted anything tonight. This is a difficult time, and it's nice to be able to rage at someone. Greens and Democrats could rage at each other with equal justification; as Bush prepares for war, I certainly wish Gore and the DLC had either run a campaign that brought in more voters or fought harder for the office that they rightfully won. But what happened, happened. I plan to put my immediate energies into the peace movement. And after that, I'll do what I can about the electoral college.

Patrick, I do understand the impulse to say that I'm dishonest, that I know it, that I should be ashamed, and that my points are beneath contempt. At some other time, I would hope for an apology. But I really don't require one, honest. I'm just sorry I added to your frustration. I won't be discussing Greens or Democrats anymore in your blog.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 03:32 AM:

Will, I honestly don't have much of a clue about what the Democratic Party should do at this point. I am myself an ex-socialist libertarian, which means that I lack any real emotional identification with liberalism - I have more of a feeling for more ideologically thorough groups on the left. Very often we share a sense of what in particular is wrong about current social and economic relations, and in at least some cases we would agree on some, though not all, of the measures to take in response. But when it comes to trying campaign effectively in the two-party game...I really don't know, at the moment. Beyond the blindingly obvious stuff like "Next time try for a candidate who can campaign more effectively."

Assamite: If you go back and look at the rhetoric around the 2000 campaign, you will in fact find a substantial number of Democratic regulars and bystanders alike who portrayed Bush as a monster waiting to happen. There was a lot of strong and harsh language from folks who thought then that his administration would promptly turn the country into the Handmaiden's Tale live-action roleplaying game. While the specifics of the post-9/11 situation are in part a surprise, the broad outline certainly isn't.

Now, a bunch of us thought much of that rhetoric was overdone. For that matter, some of us still do. But if you're looking for a pre-election sense of alarm about Bush, it truly is not hard to find.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 03:36 AM:

As long as I'm noting my own limitations, I should also note that it's hard for me to get a sense of good behavior on the part of very large organizations. By the time an organization gets large enough to have serious faction with broadly incompatible aims, I'm adrift. I only work well within either more anarchic context or within a more tightly focused group. This is one more reason I have a better feeling for the more overtly ideological parties, and extends to the ones I lack the emotional or historical ties to as well as the ones that are now or have been "mine" in some sense.

I have a lot of respect for the people who can accomplish things worth doing in the midst of bigger hullabaloos.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 08:05 AM:

Will says: "I addressed Democrats in my last post because the vocal critics of Greens that I've noticed are Gore-supporters."

For cripes' sake, how difficult is this point? Having supported Gore in 2000 does not make you a "Democrat". Or a "loyalist Democrat," or any of the other variations I've had thrown at me since I raised this issue a few days ago.

I refer to folks who supported Nader as "Naderites" because the issue at hand is having supported Nader in 2000, not being a member of the Green Party. Plenty of people supported Nader without being Greens. Just as lots of people support this or that major-party candidate in any election without being committed to either major party.

I have been struck, though, by the regularity with which Nader defenders respond to criticism of the wisdom of voting for Nader in 2000 by attempting to pin the sins of the Democratic party on their critics. This is not right. It's entirely possible to be as critical as Will of the Democratic Party, and yet think that supporting Nader in 2000 was an irresponsible act.

And finally, yes, I do think that for Will to say to me "You do not care that Gore won the popular vote in both the U.S. and Florida" is dishonest, because (1) I certainly do care and (2) Will Shetterly knows perfectly well that I care; he and I were both part of a long and friendly conversation about that, in Los Angeles in April 2001.

I am very fond of Will, and this is not something over which I would stop being fond of him, but the fact remains that he is making a claim contrary to what he knows is true.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 08:10 AM:

The improbably-named Assamite remarks: "I'm sure you Democrats foresaw Bush's sudden turn to the far right after his inauguration."

Well, I dunno about all those Democrats, but Teresa and I certainly did. George W. Bush's fundamental commitment to the hard right was no secret and no surprise. Indeed, the surprise is people who claim to have been surprised. Do they have newspapers where you live?

William Henderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 11:59 AM:

Will, you talk about the Dems moving left to recapture the Nader voters. That can't happen. The sad fact is, if the Dems move far enough to the left to get Nader's 3%, they would lose AT LEAST 5% from the middle. Probably closer to 10%. 2004 would look like 1984 or 1988 all over again.

The harsh reality that Nader voters have to face is that a majority of voters in America simply WILL NOT SUPPORT all their positions. We've seen what happens when we try to run a liberal candidate in a national election. It isn't pretty. And yet, lots of people out there don't seem to have learned anything from that.

The Naderites are going to have to decide whether they're only going to support candidates who support their entire agenda lock, stock and barrel - thereby consigning themselves and all the causes they claim to care about to political oblivion for the forseeable future - or whether they're willing to compromise with moderates and help get a candidate in office that will be far more friendly to liberal causes than Bush is.

And as for the electoral college, I suspect that no one is willing to come out in support of getting rid of it simply because it will never happen. Ever. The small states will never give up their disproportionate voting power in presidential elections. And there are enough small states that benefit from the electoral college to prevent the necessary constitutional amendment from ever passing.

Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 02:20 PM:

Bruce, I feel very much like a libertarian socialist. I call myself a Green now because I've voted Green and I'm beginning to work with Greens here in Arizona, but I disagree with some Green strategies and goals. I registered as a Green with the state to help the Greens; I'll probably formally join the Green Party for the same reason. I was probably happiest calling myself a member of the Grassroots Party because they were such an eclectic bunch that you could be anything so long as you opposed the drug war.

Patrick, I'm so happy that you said, "I am very fond of Will, and this is not something over which I would stop being fond of him." I love you like a brother. Our friendship has made my life richer. Apologies if that makes you uncomfortable; I'd probably express it in more reserved terms in less turbulent times, but I'd still feel it.

I understand now that you call Green voters "Naderites" to be clear. I had heard it as being belittling. I spoke of "Democrats" instead of "Gorites" because my personal sense of allegiance says that when you vote for a party's candidate, you're part of that party, if only for that day. I hadn't realized how ideosyncratic that was. I'll do my best to stick to "Gore voters" from here on out.

My idiosyncracy led me to addressing "Democrats" in my first post. I wrote those comments after reading some earlier posts in Electrolite and then reading the Salon article. I thought the complaints were coming primarily from Gore voters, so I addressed Democrats.

Speaking brother to brother, I'd like to admit something. I'll happily be called a fool or worse by anyone. But it's hard for me to be called a liar. I often suffer for my honesty--heck, I'm glad to endure the consequences of honesty, because they always seem best in the end.

I remember two inexcusable moments of dishonesty in my life. I was caught drunk in prep school, ran off, denied having been the person the teachers caught, then thought it over when I sobered up and admitted that I was the student they caught. I was expelled; I don't regret drinking or being expelled, but I'll always regret lying. A year later, I took the G.E.D. for someone I considered a friend. I wasn't caught--and, in fact, I discovered how persuasive a liar I could be when I came close to being caught--but the $100 he paid me made me feel like a whore, not a friend, and we quickly drifted apart.

I have no idea how many minor moments of dishonesty there have been in my life, but I always try to hold little lies to the rare times when truth hurts without helping. And even then people shouldn't ask for my opinion of their shirts if they only want praise.

My pride in my honesty is probably a character flaw that comes from insecurity; if I was never tempted to take the easier path, I wouldn't care if anyone thought I had. But when I choose the hard path, I'd like for people to know I did it consciously. It's petty of me, but, hey, I'm human.

So I beg you, in the future, credit me with less cleverness. I know I should be flattered that you think I'm more aware of what I say and do than I am, but I really do just bumble along as best I can and call things as I see them.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 03:22 PM:

Many people have come out in support of abolishing the Electoral College; very few of them have had any leverage. I'm surprised that Will expects this to be a bipartisan issue; it seems to me that most of the small states (which, as noted, get excess clout from the EC) are overloaded with people who haven't figured out this isn't a frontier society anymore. It's certainly not universal -- there's a lot of difference between, say, New Hampshire and Vermont -- but on the balance the EC favors the conservative side.

The disproportionate allocation of Senate seats could be a more effective issue to stand on; it's the calculation basis for the EC imbalance and is a more obvious issue to more people -- the EC meets once in four years while the Senate imbalance is a continuing problem. Mother Jones took this on a year or so ago; I don't know whether they moved anyone to positive action, but they got Alan Simpson to squeal like a stuck pig in response.

Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 04:40 PM:

CHip, didn't mean to say that I expected it to be bipartisan, just that I hoped it would be. Seems to me that you either believe in one person, one vote or, well, the Electoral College. It's odd to hear people arguing state's rights on voting in 2003. I do realize that "one person, one vote" could have a lot of interpretations, too. But I'd like to think the essential principle would appeal to Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, etc.

That's just meant to clarify my opinion, and not to start an Electoral College thread, honest. Just as I've dropped the earlier subject, I'll drop this one for now. I'm busy trying to see what I can do to help the peace movement in Bisbee, AZ.

robert west ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 05:48 PM:

David - I don't think the problem is so much that people weren't seriously interested in the future of the country as it was that people didn't understand that the differences between the possible outcomes of the election could make serious changes in the future of the country. In other words, almost everyone does care about the future of the country, but unless you were (a) extremely well-informed and obsessive about politics, or (b) an activist, it was hard for most people in 2000 to imagine that the election carried the potential to lead to revolutionary outcomes.

In part, that was because the administration of Clinton, in many ways, was effectively a continuation of the administration of Bush, Sr. It is true that they weren't precisely the same; but it is also true that the differences, at least in economic policy, existed largely on the margins. If you thought Gore was going to be a continuation of Clinton, and if you thought Bush, Jr., was going to be just like his father, then it would have been very difficult indeed to get terribly alarmed about the differences between the two.

"Assamite" - I suspect you are missing the main point of the argument put forward by those who disliked the Nader campaign.

An analogy from recent history might make the point more clear. In the early 1990s, activists in the northern coast of California (an area which functions as a rich breeding ground for left-wing radicals), various activists took a disliking to the incumbent Democratic congressman, and launched a campaign against him under the banner of the "Peace and Freedom Party". Their campaign was an enormous success; they garnered slightly more than 15% of the vote, an unheard of percentage for a minor political party in a modern Congressional race.

The Republican candidate won the election. He was the first Republican Congressman from that Congressional district in decades; the Peace and Freedom candidate had siphoned off enough votes from the Democrats to give him the largest plurality.

It seems to me - and, if I'm putting words in his mouth, I hope he'll correct me - that Patrick and the others who are upset with Nader voters are arguing that the Nader votes for President in 2000 had the same effect that the Peace + Freedom votes for Congress did in the earlier election. Moreover, some of them appear to be arguing that Nader and his organization were deliberately having that effect.

To the extent that I have presented a fair summary of the anti-Nader argument, your argument is nonresponsive. Possibly worse, it also seems to me that an argument of "it didn't matter because the election was stolen" implicitly concedes the validity of the point; any argument which is based on proving that other events were more important than the effect imputed by those who are angry at Nader concedes that the effect they are worried about exists.

Bruce - the rhetoric around the 2000 campaign that portrayed Bush as a monster waiting to happen was, to an extent, part of the problem: there was an equal, or greater, amount of invective from the right portraying Gore as a dictator-in-waiting. (I remember one frustrating conversation, in particular, with a colleague who was certain, in late December of 2000, that Clinton and Gore were going to conspire to implement a coup and do away with the legislature). Given obviously irrational invective from the right, and equally loud invective from the left, and an appearance that the two candidates were both "mostly harmless", the rational thing to do would be to dismiss both sets of invective. I'm not sure how the people who saw the Bush administration for what it would be could have effectively disseminated their knowledge, but the vicious rhetoric didn't help with moderate voters because it was so vicious as to lose credibility, and because it was balanced by equally non-credible rhetoric from the right.

robert west ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 06:05 PM:

Patrick - unfortunately, I was one of those who failed to understand exactly how conservative Bush, Jr., was, in 2000. That is true despite the fact that i follow the news, especially political news, more closely than just about anyone I know in real life.

My general impression of the candidates was that Gore was slightly more liberal than Clinton on some of the issues (environment) that are important to me, and significantly more conservative on the social issues (gay rights, censorship of art, equal treatment of single-parent-families and married families, etc) than I was, and that Bush was a slightly more-conservative version of his father.

I was aware, of course, that the party platforms did not bear this out; but the party platforms have been largely irrelevant to the actual conduct of the officeholders for more than a generation. In retrospect, there were warning signs that I should have recognized: I knew Cheney was extremely conservative; I was aware that conservative policy analysts maintained that Bush, Sr., had lost his re-election bid by not being conservative enough; I knew that Bush's rhetoric during the primary had been significantly more conservative than I had expected prior to the election.

Nevertheless, there were also explanations for each of these that seemed to mute their potential downside and enabled me to reconcile them with my preconcieved notions. You said last week that none of us want to acknowledge the nature of our leadership; I think you were correct to say so. The corollary to that, however, is that prior to the election, many of us wanted to avoid acknowledging (or were simply unable to) the nature of the leadership of the Republican party. Of course the Republicans wouldn't nominate knaves and morons; they're a serious political organization. There must be some other explanation for the nagging signs that poke their head out from the shadows.

Standing on the precipice of war, after watching the administration bungle its diplomacy for months, it is obvious that I was wrong then, and that I should have been able to see it then; and it is that error, not voting for Nader, which I will regret for years to come.

The fact that the Bush campaign deliberately attempted to mislead me into believing that he was the second incarnation of his father doesn't make it better; I fell for it. I shouldn't have.