Thursday, July 22, 2004

Alexander Cockburn has a piece in today's Los Angeles Times that is sure to boil the blood of all liberals.
Always partial to monopolies, the Democrats think they should hold the exclusive concession on any electoral challenge to George W. Bush and the Republicans. The Ralph Nader campaign prompts them to hysterical tirades. Republicans are more relaxed about such things. Ross Perot and his Reform Party actually cost George H.W. Bush his reelection in 1992, yet Perot never drew a tenth of the abuse that Nader does now.

Of course, the Democrats richly deserve the challenge. . . .

The rationale for his challenges has been as sound as that of Henry Wallace was half a century earlier. I quote from "The Third Party," a pamphlet by Adam Lapin published in 1948 in support of Wallace and his Progressive Party. "The Democratic administration carries the ball for Wall Street's foreign policy. And the Republican Party carries the ball for Wall Street's domestic policy . . ."
How little has changed in 55 years! But I digress.
Let us suppose that a Democratic candidate arrives in the White House, at least rhetorically committed to reform, as happened with Jimmy Carter in 1977 and Clinton in 1993. Both had Democratic majorities in Congress. Battered from their first weeks over unorthodox nominees and for any deviation from Wall Street's agenda in their first budgets, both had effectively lost any innovative purchase on the system by the end of their first six months, and there was no pressure from the left to hold them to their pledges. By the end of April 1993, Clinton had sold out the Haitian refugees, put Israel's lobbyists in charge of Mideast policy, bolstered the arms industry with a budget in which projected spending for 1993-94 was higher in constant dollars than average spending in the Cold War, put Wall Street in charge of national economic strategy, sold out on grazing and mineral rights on public lands and plunged into the "managed care" disaster.

One useful way of estimating how little separates the parties, and particularly their presidential nominees, is to tote up some of the issues on which there is tacit agreement, either as a matter of principle or with an expedient nod and wink that these are not matters suitable to be discussed in any public forum: the role of the Federal Reserve; trade policy; economic redistribution; the role and budget of the CIA and other intelligence agencies; nuclear disarmament; allocation of military procurement; reduction of the military budget; the roles and policies of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and kindred multilateral agencies; the war on drugs; corporate welfare; energy policy; the destruction of small farmers and ranchers; Israel.

In the face of this conspiracy of silence, the more independent challenges the better. Nader is doing his duty.
Now I wouldn't go as far as Cockburn does, but do note that there is not a whit's worth of difference between the foreign policies of Bush and Kerry. The Republicans are downright scary on domestic issues, with the budget, tax cuts and labor policy being at the top of my list, but Kerry is only marginally better.

Is "marginally better" on domestic policy worth connecting the arrows for Kerry on November 2, knowing that his foreign policy might actually be worse than Bush's? I'll let you decide that for yourselves.


At 12:34 PM, Blogger Chibi said...

I hear where you're coming from as I've been disappointed time and time again by Democrats, but I would take Kerry over Bush in a heartbeat. If you want to be entirely cynical about it all, you can say which corporations do you want controlling the government and then read their list of donors.

As far as judging Kerry on his platform, I have seen enough elections to not pay too much attention to that. I look at other things like past performance. Kerry went to Vietnam and served honorably. Not only that he took a courageous stand against a bad war when he got back. Bush got his dad to set him up in some Air Reserve unit, couldn't pass his physical, and quite likely went awol, but those records have been, in some kind of amazing coincidence, destroyed.

Bush's business record is just as awful. Arbusto, Spectrum 7, Harkin... He dumps stock right before his company tanks illegally, but gets off clean because his dad is president. He turn a small investment in a baseball team into a multi-million dollar fortune somehow. He executed a lot of people. The Bush family ties to the Saudis are well documented and maybe not the kind of influence we want in the White House. Cheney's ties to Halliburton might not be what we want in the White House. The GOP (and to be fair conservative democrats) and GW's parents in particular seem to have no problem hanging out with folks like Rev. Moon. And so on.

After Vietnam, Kerry took on the mob in Boston as a public prosecutor. In Congress, he was a key player on the good side in the Ollie North shenanigans. He's demonstrated a willingness to go against his party. He's been a delegate at the Earth Summit in '92, Kyoto in '97 and the Hague Conference on climate change in 2000.

The choice is yours. But I just can't see the two as more or less the same thing.

At 12:06 AM, Blogger James R MacLean said...

I just added your site to my "weblogs of distinction," General, but I think if you want to retain credentials as a social scientist, you do need to be a bit more realistic. Alleging that there's not a whit's difference between Bush's foreign policy and Kerry's is absurd. Yes, both are more hawkish than I would like; but Bush is committed to ideological validation; Kerry is fact-based.

Perot did receive ferocious attacks from the Dole Campaign; that's why he withdrew from the campaign twice in '96. Cockburn's crusade against Gore and Clinton has blinkered his memory. The attacks on Nader are coming from an amorphous group of activists terrified by the Bush campaign.

Seriously, if you're going to plump for Nader, I really advise you to look at the history of electoral politics since 1972. The political continuum has moved rightward because the American left deserts the political process entirely. As a social scientist, General, you ought to understand that. He (and Mr St. Claire) attacked the Greens in 1999 in an editorial for discouraging violence by Seattle demonstrators; St Claire felt the time for a violent revolution had come. Seriously.

Incidentally, I'm familiar with electoral politics in other countries. Incumbent executives run on their records; challengers temporize, or else they lose. Check it out. Even Lula da Silva in Brazil; even the Mexican left, or candidates in the Philippines; hell, compare Roh Moo-hyun as a candidate to the same man as president. It'll make your head explode.


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