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Concerning the Emperor, and his lack of clothes

objectionOne of the important but least relished roles that Greens have in our political debate today is that of the professional killjoy. Those who are derided for being so out of touch and so pie-in-the-sky with their views that they “think they can win” an election look around them at the two-party chicanery and the wild pronouncements of their followers and can only just shake their heads, and in many cases, thank their lucky stars that they remain so “deluded” by the truth.

We’ve all been treated to the spectacle of the GOP’s latest push for votes. Sarah Palin’s “Two Minutes’ Hate” act has frothed the uneducated fearful into a frenzy that not even John McCain himself can control. It’s a blatant appeal to the moronic by means of the Big Lie and the Bigger Lies that threatens to have them fitted for armbands in short order…a natural outgrowth of having one’s own set of realisms. Having one’s own opinion is of course not a problem, unless one can only back it up by having one’s own facts, invented by one’s own elites (AEI, Cato), and projected by one’s own network (Fox) or own reporters (Judith Miller). Sadly, I’ve been subjected to it myself recently: in explaining global climate change to a group of skeptics on an off-topic board, I cited studies by the EPA and internationally constituted boards on the subject under the auspices of the UN and international scientists’ organizations. The responses I received – more than one of them – stated (exactly verbatim) that “that’s why [they] don’t listen to science.”

With the implosion of this strategy, which has, incidentally, been part of the GOP since the 1960s, though ramped up considerably under Reagan, the Obama-led Democrats are in ascendancy, which they take to be a triumph of their superior reasoning at long last. Finally, a leader has stepped forward who can take them to the Promised Land of liberal virtues, and all will be well once again. I’m reminded of the scene in the musical 1776, where Congressmen literally dance in the absence of John Adams from the chamber, while John Hancock, no friend of Adams to begin with, remains dourly seated.

And why not dance? Isn’t this the end of the conservative era? Isn’t the GOP in confused disarray now, fueled only by hate, with their big-business zealots fawning at the feet of a now-broken idol, and their Christian base fleeing back to their Bibles and waiting, perhaps, for The End? After all, Obama will bring Change, the constant buzzword of his candidacy from the beginning. There will be peace at last, as those who carry his signs with the “O” replaced by a peace sign fervently promise. And he’ll solve our financial crisis, as it was created by Republicans. So why not? Dance with us, Greens, for life gets no sweeter than this!

And it’s at this point we remind them that they danced in 2006, when the Democrats took over Congress, convinced then that all would come to fruition. They danced straight to “A Place Called Hope” in 1992, and they celebrated when Reagan got the nomination in 1980, knowing he would mean an easy victory for the incumbent President. Each time, prosperity was just on the corner. Each time, we would establish the true progressive vision for our nation. And each time, it fell short.

The fact is that not only the small Republican faithful, convinced that Obama is a Muslim and we’re becoming a socialist nation, are deluded, but the Democratic faithful are as well. And in this case, it’s a more acute syndrome – patting themselves on the back for not being one of the hateful, drooling Neanderthals of the GOP, they’re even less aware that they’re doing it. They aren’t lost in their own version of reality, nor purposefully uninformed on the ways of science or other objective facts, but they’re no less compromised by fear – of the marching morons of the Right or the faceless giants of global capitalism – and as such, they strain to see things that aren’t there. I recall multiple times during the 2004 election, when I demonstrated to a Maryland Democrat that they personally were closer to David Cobb’s positions than John Kerry’s, the voter in some cases literally wring their hands in front of me and stumble and whine about Bush being within ten points of Kerry in the latest Maryland poll, and…um…um…well, they just couldnnnnn’t!

Matt Gonzalez is Ralph Nader’s running mate in this election, and as such, a former Green, so I’m previously disinclined to listen to his views about things. But he absolutely nailed what Barack Obama was about early in the race, and thus far, the only things I’ve read in response fall into two categories, both equally absurd. The first is the usual spittle-spewing screed that Democrats can somehow muster when a Green speaks the truth but not when a Republican speaks falsehood. I suppose it must seem like more of a betrayal when the votes you’d long ago salted away as “yours” begin to insist on you actually representing them, and not simply be less conservative than the cartoonish GOP leadership, pandering to a middle that exists only on CNN. The second essentially agreed with all the points, but then reasoned that since no one who says those things will win, we need just go with Obama, anyway. One of the unusual self-loathing aspects of progressive Democrats is that they don’t believe their own ideas are actually worthy of being voted for; you’ll find them cowering in the corner of the Democrats’ “big tent”, rarely if ever heard.

Recently I encountered someone on an online forum who claimed I should vote for Obama if I wanted to avoid a depression. It’s a typical position for Democrats – a triumph of hope over reality. Barack Obama can no more stop the coming depression than he can stop an oncoming tsunami. No one, be they Republican, Democrat, Green, or Martian, can.

I could go on. Voters who are in favor of Obama claim to be in favor of peace, universal health care, progressive taxation, and environmental wisdom…and they will not receive these things. Their own candidate, in most cases, has given no solid indication that he would do anything about these things preferring to couch his language in feel-good vagaries. At the end of, say, twelve months or even a full term of an Obama Presidency, we will still be at war, we will not have single-payer, we will not be inplementing Kyoto or curtailing our greenhouse gas output, and we will be in a recession with no easy means of escape. Just as before when Carter or Clinton or various Democratic Congresses vowed to handle these or other issues, they failed to do so.

They failed, not because the Democrats are a progressive party that somehow just hasn’t found its way, but because the Democrats are a centrist party at best, and were built by their interests to be that way – to serve those with the money and access, in the same sense as the Republicans. They failed by design. That’s the unfortunate truth.

And those who believe differently – those who leap from the burning building thinking it’s an escape – those who’ve tasted the Kool-Aid and are lining up for a second or third glass – have no business looking at the benighted Republicans currently attending McCain’s rallies…and thinking themselves any better.


5 Responses

  1. The Green Party arguments throughout history…

    1865 – The GP on Abraham Lincoln: “What a crock… this man is so transparently political. He gets all the credit for emancipating slaves – but he only did it out of political necessity. He said it himself – he didn’t care about the slaves; just the “union.” Well, forget the union… if the uneducated Southern masses want to secede, I say let ’em. So let’s stop all this unwarranted Lincoln worship.”

    1945 – The GP on Franklin Roosevelt: “See? I warned you nothing would change if we elected Roosevelt. All those progressives must be disappointed now… they bought social and economic justice, and they were given just another rich guy who thinks he’s King of America. He’ll be remembered for nothing more than putting U.S. citizens in internment camps, and his court-packing, power-grabbing scheme. Not to mention this illegal war he’s waging in Europe and the Pacific. I tried to warn liberals that this man was hardly the “hero” they thought they were getting when they cast their votes. Nothing ever changes.

    1965 – The GP on Martin Luther King: “So much for ‘champion of the downtrodden.’ He starts to lead a march to Montgomery, but backs off because of a court injunction. So, to save his reputation, every activist who traveled from across the country to come to Alabama now has to sit by and wait for some judge to give the okay. Guess all those King acolytes will have to find a new “leader” for the revolution. What a waste. And don’t even remind me about how he abandoned the Freedom Riders ’cause he was afraid of getting his hands dirty.”

    1968 – The GP on Bobby Kennedy: “Hello! Democrats! Do you not get that your “great savior” used to work for Joe McCarthy? Or that he ordered wiretaps for Martin Luther King’s conversations? Or that he was for the Vietnam war before he was against it? Come on… do you really think a Kennedy Administration would differ in any way from a Nixon Administration? Can you honestly tell me that Bobby Kennedy would end the war? Of course not. But all these starry-eyed Democrats still line the streets and reach out to touch this opportunist… silly Democrats.”

    2002 – the GP on Paul Wellstone: “This is the best progressive can come up with? The man voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, proving he’s at best another calculating pol, and at worst, a bigot. And he voted in favor of the Patriot Act, which will one day be seen as the reason America started its irreversible downward spiral. So, Minnesota, next time you want to send us your liberal champions, REAL progressives should just say ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ Until then, whenever a Democrat starts talking about what a great voice they have in the Senate with Paul Wellstone, we’ll just have to smile, shake our heads, and wish we had a little of their idealistic ignorance.”


    If history was written by Greens, there would be no American heroes. Wait… let me amend. We’d have Eugene Debs or Shirley Chisholm or Dennis Kucinich. Know what they all have in common? It isn’t ideology. It’s the fact that they all ran for President and didn’t stand a chance in hell of winning. That’s the charm of them. It’s not that Greens (or other 3rd party folk) support candidates in spite of them having no chance of winning, it’s that you like them because they have no chance of winning. How safe it must be to never have the accountability of governing anything larger than a small city; no record to dissect; no compromises to second guess. Let me reassure you that if Barack Obama is elected President, you will have plenty of things to criticize. He won’t be perfect. I know that, and my guess is that all the Obama-fans you’re “educating” know it as well.

    Oh, and I happen to really like most of the Democrats’ Class of ’06 – particularly in the Senate. Declaring the 2006 election a “failure” or even a disappointment for progressives is like complaining that the Orioles spent all that money signing Matt Wieters and still finished last in 2008. Patience. It will be several years before we actually know how pivotal that election was.

  2. You know, you must’ve typed something here, but all I heard was “blah, blah, blah…”

    No one who is paying any sort of attention at this point can look at the Democrats and not see them as a hindrance to the changes that need to be made in order for America to progress. And if they somehow don’t, we’ll just need to wait four years. Oh, wait, the half-measures are “progress”, right? The sort of “progress” we got from the Democratic Senate in the past two years – the ones so ineffectual that they themselves admitted they did nothing?

    and my guess is that all the Obama-fans you’re “educating” know it as well.

    Um, no, out in the real world where people live, they decidedly do not. No one who’s out there for Jesus H. Obama Kennedy Ghandi knows that, thankyaverymuch. No one who thinks he’ll solve the financial crisis single-handedly; no one who thinks he’ll bring peace while discussing “redeployment” and “timetables”; no one who thinks Palin is a dingbat for rattling sabres with Pakistan while Obama himself said the same exact thing three months ago.

    Now I think your point, if there was one, was to point out how wise your Democrats were for doing everything by half-measures and making political calculations and such, while we Greens were oh-so-foolish for, say, expecting progress. This of course tells, predictably, half the story. The Democrats do not do these things out of political calculation. They do not strategically retreat in order to fight another day. They strategically retreat in order to retreat for real next time. They retreat because that’s what they’re there for. They are the centrist party, and they can’t get too near the edges, or their raison d’etre – and their corporate backing – vanishes. Believing otherwise causes one to try to draw comparisons between, say, Harry Reid and Abraham Lincoln (not a Democrat, surprisingly!)…between Nancy Pelosi and FDR…between Hillary Clinton and Bobby Kennedy…and yes, between Barack Obama and the man he barely mentioned on the 45th anniversary of one of his most famous, world-changing speeches. After all, we wouldn’t want to affect our chances of winning, now, would we?

    Oh, and remember, that man from 45 years ago wasn’t a patient guy, either. He “found it hard to wait”, as I recall. Not like the real heroes, the ones who know what’s best for us. Not like today’s Democratic Party.

  3. No. You completely missed my point. It had nothing to do with celebrating half-measures or training myself to not expect progress. It’s just a predictable pattern, and I’m sorry to say, a predictable argument.

    Your argument – as best I can gather – is “the Democratic base will always be disappointed that their ‘heroes’ will never measure up to the progressive ideals they articulate. The reason for the failure is the two-party system itself.”

    It’s a fine argument, but it’s kinda the equivalent of a Democrat (say, me) arguing that 3rd party candidates on the Left could take away enough votes to ultimately elect a Republican. An equivalent argument in the way that maybe there’s merit and maybe not, but it’s not exactly an original idea.

    And as much as you wanna get after me for type-casting people (the Teaism crowd, the Bill Maher cynics, etc…) you do quite a bit of it yourself. At this point, you have a couple of assumptions you’re working with: 1) all, or virtually all, Obama supporters believe he’s the Second Coming; and 2) the ignorant jackasses shouting things at McCain rallies are the real “Murricans.”

    But moving beyond the snark, I really don’t know what an Obama Administration will bring. I’m clearly a supporter, and a fairly enthusiastic one at that, but sure… he could disappoint me. Or, he could be the greatest President in U.S. history. We just don’t know at this point.

    Two things I do know: so far, I do like what I hear. He is the most ideologically driven nominee I’ve heard in my lifetime. He spends stump speeches mocking trickle down economic theory. He states that health care is a right. Joe Biden has started adding the line: “Read my lips: We Will End This War” to his stump speeches. It may not be radical thought, but it’s pretty unabashedly Democratic.

    Maybe that says something about the state of the modern Democratic Party that I’ve only heard Democratic ideals spoken defensively, almost apologetically, by previous Democratic candidates. But whatever it is, this is certainly a “big D” Democratic message, and I kinda dig it.

    The other thing I know is that whether President Obama turns out to be another FDR or another Bill Clinton, I’ll be receiving weekly emails from you with a new fact to demonstrate that he’s the latter. I’m not asking that you expect something less than progress. I’m just suggesting that if McKinney or Nader, or Jesus Kennedy Lincoln were elected President, those same emails would go out.

    You started your original post by saying that playing professional killjoy was one of the “least relished” roles of Green Party members. Why do I doubt that?

  4. Actually, you’ve seriously missed almost every point I was making, to the point where I’m guessing it was the only way you could make a point in response.

    First, I didn’t say this was a problem of the two-party system; I said this was a problem with the Democrats. Period. As in yes, if we expect progress, we’re not going to get it – the Democrats are in the way. It might be because of the two-party system that the Dems do this, or not, but it’s real, it’s happened before, it’s happening with the current Congress, and thus far, your response has not been that they don’t do it, but that I’d say that regardless. They do do it, and no, I wouldn’t if they wouldn’t.

    And I am not saying that all Obama supporters are the way I’m describing. I’m not just pulling it out of the air and creating some cartoonish caricature. I’m saying these are people I’ve encountered, and this is what they do. When I said before they were motivated by fear, I was speaking the truth; these were Obama supporters I knew through personal contact or on the Net, and they didn’t mention anything about giving to his campaign until Palin made her speech and Newsweek picked up the story. And besides you, I don’t know any who contributed prior (and I’m not sure when or if you did). When I described them saying Obama would solve the financial crisis just by being elected, that wasn’t much of an exaggeration either…they do literally believe that!

    (As an aside, I think part of the reason why third parties tend to have bigger internal fights and fracture more often is that being in the Republican or Democratic Parties breeds that cognitive dissonance out of you. You’re trained not to see obviousWhen Bill Ayres is a “domestic terrorist” but Todd Palin or Gordon Liddy isn’t…when Barack Obama will “end the war” but said he would invade Pakistan and kill bin Laden…when you lose the popular vote and claim a mandate…or you can elect a collection of ex-Republicans who haven’t changed their views and think you got a majority…when you have to accept everything that happens across the spectrum of your “big tent” and pretend it’s in harmony with your views or even the truth – not to mention the usual drumbeat of the two-partyists, that if you aren’t with them, well, you’re with the “other side” – it’s no wonder you end up “getting along to go along”. And boy, if there’s anything that’s big-D Democratic in nature, it’s that phrase.)

    Now really, I’m with you in that I don’t know what Obama’s about. Could be great, could be a disaster…difficult to know. He’s raised political equivocation to an art form. And, somewhat unfairly, he’s entering with the chips stacked against him thanks to the tremendous illegalities, unethicalities, and incomprehensibilities of George Bush, so you can’t really expect that much.

    What I am saying is that he’s a Democrat, and as such, I’m disinclined to believe he represents any real “chaaaaaange!”, regardless…not because, as you think, I’m making up stuff out of the air – but by soberly looking at the facts of what Democrats do…and not being one of the millions of party member apologists for them.

  5. I guess we’ll see. Hopefully.

    On a sidenote, I think it’s Obama’s personality and not his politics that cause him to “raise political equivocation to an art form.” Actually, in that way, he reminds me of you. If you ran for office, I could see you responding to questions the way he does – “yes and no” type stuff. I don’t read it as being deliberately evasive as much as just a little too thoughtful.

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