Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Hey, I'm back. I'm still catching up -- what'd I miss?

Nader. Feh.

I gather it was a front-page story, even though it was no surprise -- he's been teasing us with trial balloons for months. You want a real news flash? Not only is he running this year, he's running four years from now. You read it here first. He'll do it every four years until he physically can't. I think he craves the abuse. It makes him feel he's right.

Nader supporters and I have differing views about the purpose of elections. They tend to describe voting in terms of themselves: "I've been burned by the Democrats too many times before." "The Democrats think I owe them my vote." Now me, I think elections are about, y'know, who gets to hold a particular office. In 2000 that meant: Did you want Bush, and thus a federal government with all three branches controlled by the GOP's far right wing, or didn't you?

The most important thing that needs to be done in American politics is to break the grip of Reaganism. I made that word up -- you can call it what you want: Limbaughism, Gingrichism, Norquistism, Coulterism, Bushism. Reaganism has controlled American politics virtually nonstop for a generation. That's the sucking chest wound. That's what the patient is going to flatline from.

Reaganism could have been in at least some trouble if a Democrat had reached the White House for the third straight election cycle -- three straight losses might have made the GOP's leadership wonder whether it's such a great idea to have the party's national message crafted exclusively by the religious right and far-right think tanks. But we missed that chance, didn't we?

Some Nader supporters, of course, still think the two major parties are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. And I'm sure some of you are planning to e-mail me laundry lists of issues on which the parties are indistinguishable. Look -- I know, I know. But spare me your lists. I also know that Al Gore would not have concocted an Iraq war out of whole cloth. I know that his attorney general would have been significantly to the left of John Ashcroft. I know his judicial appointments would be far to the left of William Pryor and Charles Pickering. For chrissakes, isn't that enough? It was obvious well before election day 2000 that Bush was no moderate. The religious right and far-right opinion elite were just fine with Bush. Bush made it clear that he was their boy when he wouldn't even put his good buddy Tom Ridge on the ticket, just because Ridge is pro-choice. What more did you need to know?

Now, let's talk about 2004. Nader says he has to run to bring up issues the major parties won't. But what is Dennis Kucinich -- chopped liver? What is Nader going to bring up that Kucinich isn't bringing up now? And whether we like it or not, Kucinich isn't winning votes. At a certain point, you just have to say: Well, bravo for, say, single payer, but if the voters aren't voting for single payer candidates, and if this is a democracy, then maybe we can't just instantly tip the balance in favor of single payer in one election.

I don't get Nader. He doesn't lead demonstrations or hold rallies or call for huge e-mail campaigns on the eve of critical congressional votes, and his supporters say, well, yeah, he's not really that kind of popular leader. And then every four years he runs for president -- he goes out and tries to become just that kind of popular leader. If he's willing to trudge from city to city rallying the faithful, why not do it to defeat the Patriot Act or the resolution that led us to the Iraq War -- or, say, to rally grassroots support for single payer? Why not be an agitator all the time instead of a politician running futile campaigns every four years?

OK, I've ranted enough about this. I will say this: I oppose any anti-Nader activity that's anti-democratic (with a small d). I'm not going to deface Nader petitions. And when I read that the Democrats are going to challenge Nader's ballot status in court, I just want to shout, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TERRY, DON'T DO IT. Please, Democrats -- don't stir up the very anger that could hand Nader votes in the states where his petitions do manage to go through, because even those votes could be enough to hand Bush yet another term. Let the man get on the damn ballots if he can manage it, then compete with him fair and square.

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