Trusting Democrats: A Familiar Trap
by Mickey Z.

February 24, 2004

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Gadfly is not a word you hear very often...even the New York Times saves it for special occasions. For example, when reviewing a book by cognitive scientist Steven Pinker a few years back, the newspaper of record could not resist taking a cheap shot at Pinker's MIT colleague, Noam Chomsky...calling him a "short-tempered political gadfly."

On February 23, 2004, the Times dusted it off again for use in a headline: "Nader, Gadfly to the Democrats, Will Again Run for President." I guess Ralph has managed to earn a place of honor alongside Chomsky in the Fit-to-Print hall of shame.

Let's get this over with quickly: Ralph Nader's announced bid for the presidency only disturbs me in the sense that he chose to run as an independent. Eschewing the Green Party not only hurts Nader's chances of getting on ballots, it foolishly ignores the importance of cultivating a movement to go along with the theory. We must never look to one person for answers and Nader's shunning of the Greens, I feel, is a tactical error. Having said that, I must say I'm not surprised to witness the venom being launched in Nader's direction from frenzied centrists and lefties alike.

"I think that Ralph Nader is proving that the only master that he serves is his enormous ego," Scott Maddox, chairman of the Democratic Party in Florida, told the Times. "I have nothing nice to say about him."

"The most regrettable thing about Mr. Nader's new candidacy is not how it is likely to affect the election, but how it will affect Mr. Nader's own legacy," declared a New York Times editorial...feigning concern for a gafly.

Calling Nader "The Lone Ranger Of Righteousness," Paul Loeb at Alternet.com pronounces: "The reasons to defeat Bush escalate daily. How can Nader know this and still run?"

"The only reason he's running is either he's an egomaniac or as a Bush contract," answers Al Sharpton, conveniently sidestepping his own allegiance to Republican power broker, Roger Stone. "What's the point?" the good reverend asks. "This is not 2000 when progressives were locked out. I'm going on a national crusade to stop Nader. This is only going to help Bush." Hmm, I wasn't previously aware that "progressives" were not locked out by John Kerry...the man who voted to invade Iraq, repeal welfare, enact NAFTA, and pass the USA PATRIOT Act. Thanks, Rev.

According to John Kerry (Norman Soloman's "pragmatic choice"), the differences between Gore and Bush were like "night and day," and he (Kerry) intends to " speak to all Americans. If people want to beat George Bush badly, and that's what's at stake here, they'll see that I'm speaking to concerns that Ralph Nader and other people have."

What? Kerry, whom Nader said, "has been known to bend before the will of corporatism," is speaking to the concerns that Ralph Nader has?

When announcing his candidacy on "Meet the Press," Nader characterized Washington DC as "corporate-occupied territory" and described the US political system as "two parties ... ferociously competing to see who's going to go to the White House and take orders from their corporate paymasters." Yeah, that sounds just like Senator Pragmatic's campaign speeches.

Nader also called for President (sic) Bush's impeachment: "If there's any better definition of high crimes and misdemeanors in our Constitution than misleading or fabricating the basis for going to war, as the press has documented ad infinitum, I don't know any cause of impeachment that's worse," he told Tim Russert. Has anyone heard Kerry mention that? Not with foreign policy advisors like Richard Morningstar, Rand Beers, and William Perry.

When Russert asked Nader if he thought a President Gore would've invaded Iraq, he replied: "He would have. I think he was a hawk. He may have done it in a different way. He and Clinton got through Congress a regime-change resolution as a pillar of our foreign policy."

Yep, just like Kerry the Lesser (of two evils).

The day after announcing, Nader told the press: "Corporatism has turned federal and state departments and agencies into indentured servants for taxpayer-funded subsidies, budget-busting contracts of great lucrative scope and dwindling law and order against the widely publicized corporate crime wave."

Didn't you hear Senator Pragmatic say something like that the other day?

What about Nader's life work? Is anyone -- besides Kucinich, to some degree-speaking to those concerns? His efforts resulted in such programs as the Freedom of Information Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, defending

African-Americans against bank redlining, seat belt laws, air bags in automobiles, the Community Reinvestment Act for banks, the Center for Woman's Policy Studies, the Safe Water Drinking Act, and the countless ongoing accomplishments of Public Citizen and the 50-odd other Nader-spawned non-profit organizations. We're supposed to believe Kerry, a man who has voted to smash civil liberties and cut off welfare, will give voice to such issues?

"Attacks on Nader for deciding to enter the presidential race are intrinsically anti-democratic," writes Patrick Martin, at the World Socialist Website. "They take as their starting point the preservation of the existing two-party system, which is itself a mechanism for curtailing democratic rights."

This reality doesn't stop "alternative" writers like Loeb from self-defeating rhetoric like this: "Assuming the admittedly flawed John Kerry becomes the Democratic nominee, progressives do not have to support him blindly. We can work to unite historically separated progressive movements and keep raising core issues no matter who's elected in November."

Yeah, just like all the "progressives" lined up to fight Clinton's assaults on international law and social programs. Where were the liberals when Clinton bombed Yugoslavia? Where were the Nazi analogies, Hitler mustaches, and MoveOn.orgs then? Who was "raising core issues" when Clinton abandoned his pledge to consider offering asylum to Haitian refugees, reneged on his promise to "take a firm stand" against the armed forces' ban on gays and lesbians, and backed away from his most high-profile campaign issue: health care? (Kerry has already warned us: "The same people who helped me formulate my health care plan are the people who helped formulate the Clinton budget in the 1990s.") What about when Bill signed NAFTA, increased the Pentagon budget by $25 billion, fired Jocelyn Elders, dumped Lani Guinier, and passed a crime bill that gave us more cops, more prisons, and 58 more offenses punishable by death. Where was Loeb's historical unity as Clinton was delivering a telecommunications bill further narrowing the already laughable parameters of public debate and he was signing the welfare repeal bill and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act?

Did we see an Anyone-But-Bill movement when Clinton perpetrated environmental crimes like the passage of the salvage logging rider, the signing of the Panama Declaration, the continuation of the use of methyl bromide, the weakening of the Endangered Species Act, the lowering of grazing fees on land, subsidizing Florida's sugar industry, weakening the Safe Drinking Water Act, reversing the ban on the production and importation of PCBs, and allowing the export of Alaskan oil?

The reasons to defeat Clinton were escalating daily.

Ralph Nader is far from ideal and certainly is not THE answer, but he's far more principled than the Anyone-But-Bush crowd...who choose to ignore the relevant history of the Democratic Party.

"Being a serious candidate means more than just having an effect on the eventual result," Nader said in 1996. "It's about whether you are serious about broadening the issues of the political debate, nurturing a political  alternative-a progressive mainstream that defends consumers and workers against corporate power."

One last question to the Anyone-But-Bush crowd: If you want regime change and truly don't believe it can come from outside the two-party (sic) system, why weren't you all jumping on the Kucinich bandwagon from the start? The "admittedly flawed" Kucinich has given voice to progressive concerns and could have wielded power with delegates in hand. Instead, the liberal sellout began with Dean...then Clark...and now Kerry. How many times will the professional progressives walks into the same trap and fall for the same ruse?

It's like the Kurds still trusting the US government after decades of lies and betrayal. Kissinger explained that one succinctly: "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."  Eugene Debs has the answer for today's Kerry fans: "I'd rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don't want, and get it."

Mickey Z. is the author of two upcoming books: A Gigantic Mistake: Articles and Essays for Your Intellectual Self-Defense (Prime Books) and Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda (Common Courage Press). His most recent book is The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet. He has been a vegan for nearly nine years and can be reached at mzx2@earthlink.net.

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