31 January 2008

How should we then live?

The liberals are already reaching for the Nader Panic button, which can only mean one thing; the Democrats are about to nominate another pro-war, pro-corporate jelly-legged mud golem for the presidency, and someone's going to have to take the rap for another underwhelming performance in November. And with John Edwards folding his tent on Wednesday, that's the "choice" you have left.

Perhaps the only people more delirious than old Ralph's retinue of diehard supporters are the liberals who think he's still a factor in elections. Leaving the long arguments about 2000, it's indisputable that Nader was a total non-factor in 2004, when the Democrats were facing an unpopular incumbent in conditions where none had ever survived and still flubbed it, spending seemingly more energy on legal challenges to Nader's ballot status than fighting the smears about their own candidate. Yet still they cry "No Nader, No Bush!" and this is their absolution.*

Which is not to say I'm among Ralph's holdouts. There's good reason to believe backing Nader has done significant damage to the Green Party, to the extent that the party is now sharply divided between those who think the Green's should endorse his "independent" run and those who want him to just go away at any cost. Nader's political usefulness is shot; he's too much of a lighting rod for liberal angst to be of much value anymore.

It's time to get a fresh face or two, someone who'll hit the donkey party and its liberal lackeys on their weak link--serious electoral reform. Sane liberals will admit to you that following Democrats to hill and dale will usually result in supporting the lesser of two evils but, they insist, you must vote with the system you have, not the system you wish you had. What the dishonest party hacks won't tell you is that they're perfectly happy with the system they have, and don't have any plans to change it.

Nader is actually cogent on this point, although his solutions come up short as we'll see. Liberals often argue that people seeking to move the Democrats to the left should work from within the party through the primary season. But no progressive campaign is going to have the resources to compete against the corporate-funded Dems in the current Money Primary system , the follies of which I detailed here last week. Progressives should watch the Huckabee campaign (and the social conservative movement in general) and take heed; the party is happy to have your loyalty, but strike out on your own and you'll be crushed. They'll outspend you five-to-one and call it a mandate to dismiss your concerns.

Tony Benn is fond of saying that democracy is such a radical idea because it takes power away from the ruling class and gives it to everyone equally regardless of wealth, which makes it easy to see why we haven't got very much real democracy anymore. So you'll be hopelessly outspent inside the party, but there is one powerful option available to you--your vote. But even here, there are few possible positive outcomes. You can, as Nader has argued, withhold your vote from the Democrats in the general elections, hoping that forcing losses on the donkeys will make them more receptive to your ideas in the future.

In practice, however, this is completely ineffectual, as the last seven years have shown. The liberals will blame you for every bad Republican policy that congressional Democrats capitulate on, and the party itself doesn't care. The DLC/Hilbama/Muddy Middle vanguard of the Dem establishment fulfills its duty to the rancid system by being the liberal wing of the business party. They do their service to the Empire by keeping the levers of power out of the hands of dirty hippies and anyone else challenging the birthright hegemony of Yankee Capital. Sure, they may boost the good social liberal causes like abortion and gay marriage but, like their Republican colleagues have done for the opposite side, they are not much invested in the outcome beyond fostering the illusion that you have a real choice. So you can abstain from voting for Clinton or Obama if you wish, but its a wasted non-effort. They are beyond the point where you can meaningfully punish them.

I haven't yet gone over to complete despair yet; it's much too early in my life to begin that sequence. The way out is through serious electoral reform; public campaign financing, preferential/transferable voting, open debates, and more just primary system. (Proportional representation as well, but let's not get carried away here). This ought to be on top of the agenda for the Greens or any other minor party's presidential ticket. Neither of the monopoly parties will accede willingly, of course, but if enough outside factions could be arrayed together, perhaps some of the more honest party hacks will take notice and even some sympathy. From there, who knows?

*"No Bush, No Bush" works just as well. See how much easier a one-party state can be?