The political left is defined by an ideology with no chance of being accepted by the majority of voters. Leftist ideology is devised and maintained by a secular elite from the expensive universities. At least their paw prints are all over it. Far from the common folk and with only technical training to guide them, the elite have a myopic view of the world and their ideology is too narrow for a mainstream audience.
Regarding anti-capitalism, for example, common sense would say that capitalism and socialism are only systems. Economic systems take on character from the everyday choices of millions of people, not from a few CEOs, and not from any built-in tendencies. Sensible folk can imagine a capitalism of fair trade and social responsibility as easily as imagine a socialism in which hard work is fairly rewarded. Almost any system can be made to serve almost any purpose, but it takes work and study, the very mention of which sends chills down the ideologue's spine. Moreover, the elite maintain a status quo from which they derive their power, and calls for work and study don't sell too many magazines. The sensible course for the elite, then, is to shift attention onto an abstraction like capitalism while scapegoating rival elites, all of which provides the audience with plenty of excuses to do nothing.
Scapegoating is an old move, and the ideologue spends a lot of time on other people's faults. Major pundits who do little more than trash others enjoy quite lucrative careers on the left. By contrast, anyone with genuine religious training considers that a waste of time. The spiritual approach is first to correct our own weaknesses, then build the personal strength and knowledge to act more responsibly. It's called letting your light shine, or setting an example, and it pays off in more ways than one. Good work reduces suffering in the world and brings the chance that others will see the work and follow suit. It also would bring the moral authority to speak about issues on which the left is now justly ignored.
The ideologue may be frustrated at being ignored but takes it as proof that America is not a democracy. In any real democracy, his exalted moral insights would be instantly obeyed. He doesn't know that he's part of a minor voting block. He also doesn't get the winner-take-all rule in American politics but waits for the day when by magic-wand-power proportional representation is a reality. Since there's no democracy anyway, there's no need to form coalitions, and voting is reserved for putting a kindergartner into the White House.
Such bothersome realities are nicely taken care of by another point of ideology. The line is that independent action is futile, and organizing is the only way to bring about social change. The benefits of this dogma to the elite are obvious enough, but the top-down approach blinds people to uncomfortable facts. No one notices that leftist organizations produce few and questionable results, that our service to the poor is virtually non-existent, and that social action means personally fulfilling and useless adventures with Earth First! or Greenpeace. Certainly no one admits that left journalism is an echo chamber in which policy is reserved for the elite and dissent allowed on trivial matters only.
Untroubled by mere events, the ideologue marches on, with no interest in the vault of common wisdom (too complicated), and less need to speak with his allies. Well-fed on the pabulum served by woefully educated technicians, he drafts one of them, Ralph Nader, to present his ideology to the public. If the public sees through it like a glass of water, the entertainment value of having his views aired is worth any consequences. And consequences will soon be felt, not by the elite or their admirers, but in the environment and by those too weak to defend themselves.
The ideologue counters that he is building for the future, serenely unaware that, like the Reform Party, the Greens have been taken over already, by Leninists who control opinion, careerists pandering to ignorant youth by selling out the peace movement, and by every splinter group from PETA to The United Weed Smokers Of America. The ideologue lost the WTO battle by breaking ranks with labor. He now has lost us the presidency by breaking from all of his allies among the Democrats.
Clinton and Gore re-made the Democrats into a winning coalition by moving the party middleward. Yet always aware of the relative strengths of competing factions, Bill Clinton could be counted on to move policy as far as possible in the liberal direction. Like his boss, Al Gore would have used federal power to shield minorities from the worst abuses of the right, and he would have begun the sustainable re-design of industry. But when Alaska is open for drilling, let Mr. Nader and friends explain again that there is no difference between the parties.
The holier-than-thou set have re-made the Democrats into a losing coalition, yet in spite of the present disaster, a lot could still be done. Leftists might begin taking responsibility for their strategic mistakes and either reform their institutions or leave them in favor of reality-based groups. There is a world of organizations that serve the weak and improve the environment, and in the dark days ahead the poor will need help and minorities of every stripe will need encouragement. There also is a world of potential allies, from religion to liberalism to labor. That is if anyone will listen. After seeing ideology at work in 2000, who now will want to speak with the left? Moreover, slow progress is for adults, and alliances mean concessions, and the ideologue is happy with his 3%.
Back around 1930 when I was a kid, comic strip Andy Gump's favorite expression of dismay was "Such crust!" -- which is my response to the millions of Nader supporters who voted for Gore at the mean-spirited urging of the status-quo Democrats.
The status-quo Democrats kept chanting that Gore was "better than Bush" but never used the classic phrase "lesser of two evils."
The status-quo Democrats boasted that they had a solid core of 80 progressive congressional members but avoided admitting that the core violated their principles by rolling over for Gore -- the most disappointing being Barney Frank.
The status-quo Democrats dismissed the Nader followers as being mostly young and idealistic but must have forgotten that the younger generations have historically been in the first assault wave against regressive tradition and bad government policy. How could they ignore the deaths of the young in the struggle for equal civil rights in America and the tragic victims of the "disappeared" in Central and South America?
Finally, the status-quo Democrats asserted that the Nader people who voted for Gore were wise and pragmatic. Not so; they simply panicked.
Guffin Bay NY
[Re: "What Went Wrong for Ralph?" by Micah Sifry, 1/1-15/01 PP] Well, first off he confused the Greens with a traditional political party. Then he compounded the confusion by treating Ralph Nader as a political wannabe. From that base there was no way to get it right. As a result Mr. Sifry made an analysis of the presumed problems with the Green/Nader campaign and suggested the kind of solutions that would be standard for the current Democratic Party. Start early. Get lots of money and spend it on TV ads. Hire professional campaign aides. Focus your message on the center and under NO circumstances make any public statements that would offend a key constituency, no matter how principled the statement.
Not only are the Greens not a traditional party, many in the party were concerned about playing in a process so thoroughly corrupted with money and political careerists. The Greens are a movement as well as a party and we only became a party in 1997. We wanted to make a statement that it was possible to run a campaign without spending millions on TV. I spent about 45 hours a week on the campaign so I am speaking from life in the streets. Those campaign aides who were hired were a mixed bag. Some assumed that there was almost no local presence and that it was up to them to run the show with their own recently recruited volunteers. Some of us were quite surprised that the campaign raised $8 million.
The goals of the campaign as far as I knew them were: Raise up new volunteers. Turn a spotlight on the Greens [in '96 most voters didn't know we existed]. Bring out the major contradictions in society and in the political process [corporate control of our lives -- money control of politics]. Demonstrate the need of "deep democracy" [citizen participation and control of the process]. Getting 5% of the vote and hence public dollars was the icing on the cake. For most pundits this was the cake.
Here are some of the problems I saw. We never expected much from the mainstream media and so we were not disappointed. What we were NOT prepared for was the massive assault on our campaign from magazines like In These Times who made a cause of trashing Nader and even writers in The Nation. Some of these writers started early and kept it up. A notable exception was The Progressive Populist and writers like Jim Hightower and Alex Cockburn. Al Gore ran a weak campaign but he had one notable success. He called out his liberal stable of pundits and drove away at least half of our supporters in the last 2 to 3 weeks of the campaign. A howling banshee wail went up --"a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush." I once said at a meeting that the first serious reaction to a Green campaign would be fear. I underestimated. It was sheer terror! The professional feminists, the mainstream environmentalists, the liberal Democratic pols, the whole dreary bunch. Without that "traison de clercs" I am sure we would have made at least the 5%. The entire political process was finally exposed for the mess we knew it to be but in spite of it all, expect us back.
Green Party of New Jersey
George Bush's claim of victory ... saddens me, less by the actual claim than by the process which brought him to it. Was it payback time for the Nixon loss in 1960, just as the Clinton impeachment appeared to be our punishment for the sins of JFK? Why was Bush not just as concerned as Gore about a fair and accurate count of the votes? -- something we have certainly not had thus far and probably never will have. Why did he and his people sink to the level they did in contesting a hand recount of the ballots? Is there a feeling that former President Bush and some of the Reagan people still need protection from information that might still come out on the October Surprise and Iran-Contra? (Reagan would not be touched because media, GOP, and Clinton canonization has put him beyond reach for the foreseeable future.)
Anyway, Bush and his people have become indistinguishable from the likes of Tom DeLay, Dan Burton, Robert Barr, James Rogan, and Robert Dornan. Bush himself has conducted himself in such a way as to richly deserve the appellation he placed on Adam Clymer. Major league.
I will be even more saddened when he finally takes office.
THOMAS C. McCLOUD
Why do people who already have enough wealth to buy assorted Rolls Royces, yachts, private jet aircraft, and summer and winter mansions for each day of the week continue to grasp for more and more wealth, piling fortune upon fortune. What's it all about, greed? No not greed, lust for power that's what it's all about. The power to dominate, to bend others to ones will, to bully and intimidate lesser mortals with the "financial clout" of enormous wealth -- that's how those people "get their kicks".
There are, however, certain obstacles to such financial bullying. Obstacles such as good-paying union jobs with good benefits guarded by a strong labor contract. Unemployment compensation, good retirement pensions, Medicare, Social Security, etc. People with these sorts of benefits tend to feel secure and secure persons tend to become "uppity" and fail to show proper respect for their betters.
Obviously these Communist-inspired, un-American giveaways to American peasants must be rooted out of the American economic system. After all, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world ..." and not be able to hire and fire as he pleases. We must return to those pleasant days when a stern: "What's the matter, don't you like your job!" could bring a complaining employee to his knees, groveling and cringing lest he be instantly fired and blacklisted by the Employers Union as a "troublemaker".
Hence I marvel how American progressives continue to delude themselves with the laughable notion that people who fund death squads all over the world can be induced by the "democratic process" to accept substantive reforms of the American politico-economic system.
Richmond Heights, Ohio
America's proudest boast has always been that we conduct HONEST elections. Alas, we now have not a president-elect but a "president-by-theft." George (Dubya) Bush STOLE the US presidency in the year 2000. Using a recently-corrupted US judiciary, he stopped the COUNTING of the votes. Overall -- in the citizen vote -- Gore beat him by some [539,000] votes. In the electoral college, Dubya "won" by a margin of 1 vote -- AFTER his brother (governor of Florida) stole that state's 25 votes for him.
Even in America, then, democracy can be "rigged" to favor the rich. Dubya applauds monopolies. So Microsoft, for example, is now even more home-free. A new US Attorney-General (pro-monopoly) will either ask the courts to dismiss the Microsoft case outright OR offer Bill Gates a "settlement" proposal that will give him everything he wants -- monopoly forever. Monopoly is now the OFFICIAL US policy.
The US Supreme Court has not just shamed itself. It's shamed America. Even the proudest democracy can be bought -- if you have enough dollars. Dubya Bush should be condemned and rejected around the world -- like all the 130 or so primitive Third world leaders who've butchered the democratic rules to seize power over their citizens.
CHARLES MUELLER, Editor
Antitrust Law & Economics Review
Vero Beach, Fla.
In 1968 I was a good Republican and voted for Richard Nixon and was glad when he became our new president. By 1972 I had made my determination that Nixon was a crook. His opponent was perceived to be a kook. So I got to thinking that we do not have a dictatorship and if a kook from the Oval proposed something kooky the Congress would laugh him out of the room. Additionally Pierre Trudeau was really a kook and he was one of the best prime ministers that Canada ever had. So I decided that an honest kook was better than a crook so I voted for the kook. For this I was branded a leper. In 1974 [Washington Post publisher] Katherine Graham tarred and feathered the president of the United States and rode him out of town on a rail. When that happened the rest of the world caught up with me and realized that he was indeed a crook. Years later Lady Graham admitted that she had enough evidence to do likewise with Bonzo but she was just too old and tired to go through all that again.
Nearly half of the American people hate Bill Clinton. When you ask them why, they say because he lies. Whether we like it or not all of our presidents have lied to us. The important thing is what is the result of their lies. In the case of FDR he led us to victory in WWII. In the case of Clinton he gave the puritans something to squawk about. This they needed. In the case of the rest of us he protected us from the irresponsible Republican Congress. This we needed.
It seems reasonable to suppose that the IQs of Bonzo Clown, Jesse Helms, and Fluffy Shrub are about equal to their body temperature. For a long time I thought that Bonzo Clown was lying to me. Now I am about to decide that with all that play acting he was unable to distinguish between fact and fiction. He probably thought he really was the Gipper. His one saving grace was that he was a good story teller. And Irish storytellers are not prone to let the truth detract from the story. In the case of Jesse Helms he is locked in mortal conflict with Phil Gramm for the title of the biggest a*****e in the US Senate. Lyndon Johnson was a crook but he did give us the Civil Rights legislation when no one else could have done so. Can anyone think of any possible saving grace for Fluffy Shrub ?
Election 2000 could turn out to be the shock needed to fix our attention on changes that must be made in a deeply flawed system. It's time to have done with endless talk and proceed with action.
Start with the primaries. Schedule them to be held on the same day in all states, with the hours staggered so they all end at the same time to eliminate the influence of exit polls.
Eliminate the grossly undemocratic practice of the naming of the vice presidential candidate by the presidential nominee. Instead, use the primaries for nomination to that office with ballots clearly marked ___ for president and ___ for vice president. This would indicate the will of the voters and provide a guide for party endorsement of the vice presidential candidate.
In both primaries and final elections, use nationally uniform ballots, designed for clarity.
In both elections, make the method of counting uniform nationally. A commission should be established NOW to make an in-depth study to report what kind of ballot produces the most countable results, for both hand counting and machine counting. Also report on which counting method is the most reliable.
Then try out what the report recommends, with any improvements added by Congress in 2004 with the expectation that any flaws emerging be corrected in 2008.
These initial steps could make an enormous difference, and would not be as difficult to enact as eliminating the electoral college, which could take years to do, and might never be achieved.
Am I being overly paranoid or is there another conspiracy afoot here?
In reading the last issue, with continuing news of Frankenfood, as well as the news that the maximum radiation dose for irradiating food has been eliminated, I see, once again, the dangers falling on the "common man." Even if we were to get so lucky as to have food products properly labeled, most of us wouldn't be able to afford alternative brands. Even where organic produce is available it is only the minority that can afford the higher prices.
Seems to me as the only answer is to be very wealthy, or a homesteader!
Road Forks, N.M.
PO Box 150517
Austin TX 78715-0517
Please keep them brief.