Trashing the Party

Nader is now in the race as an independent…once again proving that it is all about himself and not about the Green Party or any kind of movement. With him is Matt Gonzalez, who has apparently forgotten that the GP from many states descended on San Francisco to get him elected, and only the fact that the Republicans and Democrats worked together kept him out of a most prestigious office; to Matt, it was strictly the Ralph Nader Drum ‘n’ Bugle Corps.

The vast majority of leftists who think about something other than the Democratic Party – a significant though not great number – support Ralph, simply because he gets his own press and nobody else knows any other names as a result. The Nader Party within the Greens takes this as solid proof that their strategy of latching onto a big name and magically wishing it into a nation-changing revolution, just like they heard on their Rage Against the Machine CDs, is perfectly valid. In actuality, they are simply using the largest club they can against the Democratic Party, wishing to “spoil” as much as they can – and if it goes to McCain in November, so much the better, for this will – somehow – bring about the end of the two-party system or at least the Democratic Party, such that the people’s “true” “revolution” may gain a foothold amidst the chaos. In some fashion, at least…the actual logic is quite hard to follow. What is certain to them, however, is that anything short of the political version of Pickett’s Charge is utter lapdog capitulation to the Democratic Party. (The epithet is usually “Demo-Greens”, spat contemptuously, though other, more virulent names are often used, as these folks are nothing if not creative, very bitter, and lacking in basic manners.)

The anger is not directed at the Greens who are actually attempting to build and operate a political party because of ideological differences – there really aren’t any, and we are no closer to the Democrats than they are. No, the reason we are such villains is because we actually practice politics. We try to get votes and to get elected, we search for strategies that will serve us best, we attempt to fundraise, we take small steps to gain larger victories, we concentrate on being good administrators in the offices we gain, and we talk to Republicans and Democrats and try to make the deals necessary to govern. This is such an anathema to the Nader Greens that one famously announced, concerning David Cobb’s campaign, that he never wished to hear another Green use the word “nuance”.

In a way, this sort of dichotomy is inevitable, as, in a very general sense, those who believe that they can be progressive and achieve goals politically are in the Democratic Party, trying to do so (even if the structure is rotten, they at least don’t have to build it themselves); those too angry or radical or “un-nuanced” go to the Green Party and demand that we all support Nader, regardless of how impractical his ideas are, fling ourselves angrily against the barricades just for the sake of doing so, and die in the attempt every election, in a perceived try at nobility. This comparison breaks down, however: most aware Democrats were equally as impotent as the Greens over the Bush administration and arguably all the way back to Reagan and before. And there are indeed Greens who, well, wish to have an actual Green Party, similar to those overseas. A progressive, independent, and professional political voice, unbeholden to corporate interests, operating on a system of beliefs and values rather than being reliant on pressure and identity groups to shame or force them into action, is very obviously and desperately needed in Washington – and at your local City Hall.

Thus far, we’ve been successful at keeping the Green Party together and moving slowly forward – no small feat in a system that David Cobb correctly observed is constructed to deny not only our success, but our existence. And in the sense of future focus, a Green value, the latest Nader sortie is more a spot shower than a gathering storm. 2008 will likely be his last hurrah, and if the last election is any indication, his supporters will fall like puppets without strings afterwards. (Such is expected when most are self-proclaimed Socialists who’ve never really met an American worker.)

And sadly, it doesn’t have to be like this. There’s no reason that the shouters at the barricades can’t coexist in the Green Party with the besuited strategists who actually wonder how they’ll get this firebrand they have running for office to walk into a Waffle House outside of Indianapolis and ask for votes. In fact, it’s much better if we are together; the heart of the independent progressive movement should be united with the mind. There will be give and take; neither side will be entirely happy with the result…but the GP would progress, united. Where we did not win, we would be closer, and we would grow wiser and stronger, and maintain a passionate resolve. But with his petulant insistence that all must ride the bomb down with him, or he’ll just take his bat and ball and go home, Nader is damaging that whole idea – possibly, though not probably, for good. The loss of the shouting über-radical to the People’s Democratic Worker’s Socialist Collective Party Tendency (or whateverthehell they split into last week) will damage the Greens very, very little overall, as good people who’ll do work will no longer be driven away by dogmatic bipolars who mistake volume and vehemence for “freedom-fighting”. The loss of the leftist icon from the media will be much more damaging, as even negative Democratic blather against Nader at least causes our name to appear in the paper.

It will be a difficult year. The Nader forces will realize it’s his last hurrah. They will bend the Green Party into the One-Last-Shot Nader Party or they will die in the attempt. Already, they’ve taken cheap shots at McKinney, bent the rules to place Nader on primary ballots, and are starting to organize the whining session against any delegate scheme that doesn’t give them enough votes outright. (Their “analysis” paper, still cited as the Holy Grail of how the Greens should really “fairly” do things, gave Wisconsin 2 delegates and California, which contained much of Nader’s apparatus, upwards of 390 out of about 800.) Actually having Ralph campaign for the nomination is seen as an unspeakable affront – so much so that Ralph refuses to accept the nomination.

In 2004, a fairly quiet insistence that the Party should go on was enough; it may need to be more vigorously defended this time. Very difficult to do while still running for the offices we can achieve…but then, no different than defending ourselves against the Democrats and Republicans.

What lies afterwards is a matter of considerable debate and introspection…which can’t be performed or even guessed at now.

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17 Responses

  1. We’ll just have to find other ways to get press attention, and keep building for next cycle… :/

  2. You know I agree with you on most of this, but I still think that you could — and should — have some kind of strategy for your candidates that does more than just “build for the future.” Part of me almost thinks you need to somehow build your own Nader — as bad as that idea sounds. By that, I mean that every movement needs a leader, someone for the media to focus on and not-as-connected voters to identify with. The civil rights movement ultimately collapsed in large part because SNCC became more radicalized and wanted to do away with the whole idea of a leader (ousting John Lewis), and believed that ALL change had to come from the bottom-up.

    In my mind, if the rest of the Party can settle on one face/name to put forward, eventually the media would catch on, and start to pay more attention. You and I have talked many times before about the kind of attributes that person should have, and I’m not entirely convinced that you have found it yet. One thing’s for sure… if you keep looking at the dichotomy as the “radicals” vs. the “besuited,” you won’t find it. Stick with the Waffle House strategy. That’s much more appealing than just the low-key-guy-in-a-suit.

    And by the way, to my liking, you make Nader sound like Grover Cleveland in 1896 with the whole indignity of campaigning thing. Now I wonder what kind of candidate should run against him…

  3. Edit: McKinley, not Cleveland.

  4. @”Mary”: I’m not sure how you’re arriving at this. Settling on one name and putting them forward isn’t going to wake the media up. Hell, Chris Matthews, a preening schmuck if there ever was one, still bludgeons Nader with 2000. An eight-year-old story is all the idiot knows. He hasn’t paid attention since and doesn’t want to; he has his story.

    It reminds me a lot of the soccer fans who try to get the sport on TV in the US. Never mind that it’s a popular sport – in some cases more popular than hockey or basketball, though in easily ignored immigrant communities, and in many cases as popular as in other countries who place the sport among the tops in media coverage. One US Soccer official spoke anonymously during the World Cup, and shook his head at all the various ideas while he said it best: “What’s going to have to happen is that these media gatekeepers we have now are going to have to die and get replaced by people who get it.” Matthews is Exhibit A. Soccer is a silly, foreign sport that real ‘Murricans don’t play, the Green Party is Nader and a bunch of spoilers, and let’s go to commercial.

  5. As for the dichotomy thing, it’s not just how I see it – it’s basically how it is. The German Greens have words for it: “fundi” and “realo”. You can guess which is which.

    Having a strong leader (or more to the point, “face”) is fine, but that can’t be all you have. I have a feeling that Nader is trying to groom Gonzalez for that role, but it’ll be Nader’s version: the ruler by fiat. We need to have these wings of the party cooperating. It’s fine for the Dems to have only one wing because their mission has been clear from the beginning: establishment trumps the grassroots every time. (Yeah, yeah, more indignance about how you’re “taking the party back”…the actual history of the Democrats, viewed through something other than “hope”-colored glasses, tells a different and very consistent story.) Not the Greens. We can’t have John Conyers-like Greens in office, too petrified to do the right thing unless you “do it smart”, in his words, or you’re forced into it, in more realistic terms.

  6. Wow — don’t quite know where to start.

    1. First of all, you kind of contradicted your own point with the whole notion that Matthews still talks about Nader in 2000. If it takes eight years to “get known,” then you should pick someone and start now.

    2. The U.S. media ignores soccer because it’s boring. Baseball is the true ‘Murcan sport and with good reason. And the Orioles are the only true team. If we embrace soccer, we might as well start speaking French.

    3. The “dichotomy” thing doesn’t have to be that narrow, and you sell yourself short thinking of it that way. I don’t think Cobb fit either description four years ago. It really doesn’t have to be sanity vs. staidness (did I just coin a word?)

    4. Your “history” of the Democratic Party always amuses me. Establishment candidates won the nomination in 2004, 2000, 1988, 1984, 1968. Insurgents won in 1992, 1976, 1972, 1960. I didn’t count incumbent Presidents (Clinton, Carter or Johnson). I only went back there until 1960, but going back further you get people like Al Smith, WJB (3 time nominee) and FDR. So, yeah, I’d like to take the party back from the Clintonites, but unlike you, I don’t exactly see it as taking a party back from its entire history.

    5. I didn’t suggest a “face” as opposed to party organization. I just think if you spend too much time trying to be the anti-Nader of the Party (they have a strong leader, so we’re going to exist absent leadership), you’re setting yourself up for failure. You don’t need the kind of leader who will strong-arm the rest of the Party, just someone who generally represents the Party well — both in terms of core values, and personal likability. Get them out in front, and have everyone else working to build the Party at the infrastructural level.

    6. Did your head explode over my soccer comment?

  7. Just as in 2000… and we saw who we got then!!!

    A vote for Nader was a vote for Bush.

    And now:
    A vote for Nader is a vote for McCain!

    DON’T VOTE NADER!!!

    If ya like going to war in the wrong country vote McCain.

    Uhhh…lemme see… terrorists from Saudi Arabia flew planes into buildings on the direction of another Saudi in Afghanistan…. soooo….OBVIOUSLY… we should invade Iraq.

    Yep! Lemme have some more of that logic…. Maybe Bush can run as Vice-President…. Is that allowed? Because he and his staff are real geniuses.

    Remember folks, the ONLY reason Bush got the White House was because of Nader. Thus Nader can be blamed for: The Iraq War, The economy, The price of oil, and possibly even 9-11.(one can only guess on that last one)

  8. Hah, boy. Well, the Brothers Grimm have lasted for hundreds of years…I suppose it’s nothing for this fairy tale to have lasted for eight.

    Yes, I’m sure that Gore losing his home state because he was a lousy candidate, or Jews voting for Buchanan thanks to Kathleen Harris had nothing to do with Bush winning. Only us.

    Just like in 2004, right? Nader was the cause of that, too? Oh, wait, no, the Greens (not Nader) were the ones that actually recounted Ohio for you…as the Dems were too chickenshit to do so. And found irregularities, as your party didn’t in 2000…and got convictions out of it. But alas, Chris Matthews doesn’t remember that, so it never happened, right? Tell me, what color is the sky on your planet? I might like to visit sometime, after I’m finished trying to save this one. (For the record, you apparently don’t exist, according to my sister, who says nobody thinks like you. Right up there with moderates, or independents, or the Easter Bunny, or Democrats who take responsibility for themselves.)

    Edumacate yourself. A vote for the Democrats has been a vote for the war, for illegal wiretapping, and against universal health care. It was even a vote for Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, neither of whom are seated without Democratic votes.

    Do us all a favor and never mention “logic”, particularly faulty logic, ever again. Kthxbye.

  9. @ “Mary”: Was that last one yours? I think so…

    I have a limited amount of time and you got a whole bunch wrong, so I’ll just try to hit the high points, here:

    1. I never said we shouldn’t develop leaders. That’s essential. What we need to do is develop them, internally, not be led around by them from outside.

    2. Thank you for mentioning the O’s, the Green Party of the American League. You’ll of course be cheering for the Red Sox this year – wouldn’t want to waste your vote, right?

    3. And btw, your attempt to grok my point on that looked like Daniel Cabrera trying to hit the strike zone.

    4. Most “insurgents” in the Dem Party were abandoned by the establishment (McGovern) or set up for failure by the same bunch (Carter). And how exactly did Kennedy get elected in 1960? Might Daley have had something to do with it? They may have been the best available at times, but they’ve never been good, and they’ve always been true to their roots: machine politics, political bosses, and the few deciding for the many.

    5. There’s no problem with getting a leader out in front of the GP; the problem is that whomever they are, and whatever they espouse, the media will ignore them because they don’t know from Green, and the electorate will follow suit, because we don’t have the $$$ to do Romney-style media blitzes. There are several instances of Greens who get sick of beating their heads into the wall, go Democrat, and suddenly people sit and listen to their speeches. Nothing to do with substance; everything to do with duopoly.

    6. If there’s one thing worse than a bass-ackwards un-edumacated hick talking politics – or soccer, it’s a wannabe bass-ackwards hick who’s too edumacated and lives in the city. The ability to see past your own mailbox is a Good Thing. ‘Member that.

  10. Alright, now we’s getting into it…

    1. So, what are we arguing about? I never said you shouldn’t develop leaders internally. Just wondering when you plan on getting around to doing it.

    2. Only in your dreams are the Orioles the Green Party. We play in the majors. We have just underperformed for a decade or so. Come to think of it, that would make us the perfect metaphor for the Democrats. You guys? You can be the Albuquerque Isotopes — or, if you prefer — the Richmond Roosters.

    3. Only a Red Sox fan would take a shot at Cabrera in March. What, didn’t have the heart to make a Lanigan Wakefield comment?

    4. It’s always fun to watch people rationalize away dissonance. So, when “insurgents” win, there’s an establishment working against them, and the establishment remains the same, no matter the political context or national political leaders. As for the roots being machine politics and party bosses, that must’ve been news to Harry Truman who was shunned by the Washington Establishment because he was the product of machine politics. And, if you want to keep up the history, there’s a long track record of leaders (insurgent or otherwise) remaking the Party in their image. Don’t want me to go the WJB route? OK, how about Clinton? Hard to argue that he didn’t remake the Party.

    5. Yeah, and there’s also a record of kooky Democrats going Green to play big fish/small pond, and becoming Presidential front-runners.

    6. Take your shots at me, but it don’t make soccer entertaining.

  11. Wow. Does it hurt being this wrong all the time, or are you kinda used to it by now?

    1. Your assertion, and I quote: “…if the rest of the Party can settle on one face/name to put forward, eventually the media would catch on, and start to pay more attention.” Um, no, they won’t, for the reasons given. It doesn’t matter who it is – 30% of the population minimum would choose Adolf Hitler (D) over Jesus of Nazareth (G), because of the letters in parentheses.

    2. Your basic hop-skip-and-jump from “Why are the Orioles even fielding a team this year? Aren’t they hurting the Red Sox’s chances to beat the Yankees? (Or is that Yanks beating Red Sox? They’re kinda similar.) You Orioles are just a bunch of spoilers!”

    3. “Rationalizing away dissonance” is a good way of putting it when one looks at Clinton, Kerry, the Al Gore that ran for President (as opposed to the rest of the Al Gores), and many of the current and recent glee club and saying witha straight face that they are “the party of the people”.

    4. To put it another way, since sentences don’t seem to be getting through: Democrats = Establishment. Progressive politics has gone to the Democratic Party to die for decades, and Obama’s recent “well, sure, we’d keep the troops in, if…” and similar pronouncements are a pretty good indication that the primary’s over and he’s ready to pander like a good Dem now.

    The fact that you have to go back to Truman, and that you cite a single Dem who went to the Greens after getting repeatedly excoriated by her party as “a record” pretty much proves that point, so…time to head back to your corner of the Big Tent and hush up now. See you in two years.

    5. You watch Chris Matthews and Democratic debates as “entertainment”, and therefore have lost the right to declare what is and isn’t entertainment for the rest of your natural life. Now, hush again. The game’s on.

  12. Please excuse my slightly garbled comments yesterday. I had a double epidural and was still a bit groggy.
    But the general idea was correct. Of course Nader wasn’t the ONLY reason for a Bush win in 2000. Just like the Supreme Court wasn’t the only reason, and Jeb being the governor wasn’t the only reason.
    I cannot believe that there was not a greater amount of discussion about our outdated electoral process. Let’s face it, we now live in an educated and connected society that has a right to have their individual votes count.
    It is high time for us to look at this process and possibly declare winners on a percentage of the popular vote and hve a runoff if there is no mandate of 50% or more. I believe this would make the third and even fourth party candidates more realistic and disable the process by which they just become spoilers for one party or the other. I am not a raving liberal by any stretch. I just was sure Bush was a terrible choice and, as we have seen, has turned out to be the worst president in the history of this country.
    Our credibility is ruined, the Constitution is shrinking, our economy is trashed, and our young men are being killed and maimed for no good reason.
    Thankfully and regretfully this is what it takes to wake up a country…. A Really Shitty President!!!
    Oh yeah!
    DO NOT VOTE FOR NADER!!!!

  13. @ dune23 – Have you read the post or comments, no one who has yet posted or commented on this blog entry is at all likely to vote for Nader – not because it might ‘spoil’ the eminent domain of the Democrats, but because he’s not a good candidate.

    EDIT – (slow double take) a double epidural? Oh my.

    I gather congratulations are in order, and best wishes to you and yours! Try to get lots and lots of rest, because the tiredness sneaks up on you. 🙂

  14. Ahh… here I go again…

    Alright Steve, let me “explain” it to you the way I would have to explain something to an average American.

    1. Nader is on The Daily Show tomorrow. The media does catch on.

    2. Save the whole spoiler card for someone who argues it.

    3. See? I make a point about the history of the Democratic Party and again, you go to Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. You must’ve done worse in history than I did in muscle control.

    4. Democrats = Establishment? Is this an extension of your Izod theory? If everyone else is doing it, it must be bad. If by establishment, you mean established political party, I guess I plead guilty. We have an actual track record of governing. And I don’t mean on the school board or in some city hall.

    5. Are we still on simple parallels rather than sentences? Okay — Chris Matthews = goldfish; soccer match = empty fishbowl.

  15. *sigh*

    1. Nader was not on The Daily Show because he was a candidate. He was on because he was Ralph Nader. And his appearance won’t translate into a single vote.

    2. Yeah, yeah, I know; you give up. The O’s are the AL’s Greens. Point proven.

    3. Ah, my mistake. Apparently Clinton, Gore, and Kerry are in fact not Democrats. Can I wish away Nader that way too?

    4. If I were you, I wouldn’t call the Dems “record of governing” to anyone’s attention to make your point. It’s like saying Dale Earnhardt’s driving proves he was the best race car driver ever – er, if you ignore his fatal crash.

    That’s NASCAR, btw. You should be familiar with it.

    5. One parallel too many, thanks. You remind me of those chumps who say baseball is “sooooo boring!”

  16. @both – OK, kids, that’s enough now. Do I have to send you to your rooms?

  17. Ehh… it’s like boxing a glacier…

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