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I guess there’s just something in the air that makes me want to revisit propaganda filmstrips. Recently, I had occasion to watch "The Red Nightmare", a 1962 short about a Caucasian gentleman who dreamt about living in a Sovietized America where folks were gunned down after mock trials for deviationism and the like. Produced under the auspices of the Department of Defense, the movie comprised a small part of the Kennedy Administration’s efforts to combat the monolithic Communist conspiracy; it featured the oracular Jack Webb as on-screen narrator.
The America of the Red Nightmare was not a friendly place. It featured soldiers standing sentry on downtown street corners. Entering private homes without consent, to make searches likewise without invitation or sanction. A militaristic mien amongst the unarmed citizenry, always looking to report any outward expression of sedition to the proper authorities. The Amerika of our hero’s troubled sleep bears something of a resemblance to today’s United States — we expect that our emails will be read, our keystrokes monitored, our conversations overheard. If one proposes to his fiancée in the K-MART parking lot, he can feel secure in the knowledge that video documentation of that special invitation exists. We buy into the idea that governmental surveillance is beneficial to our lives, with a hope that we are being protected from someone.
But exactly who are we being protected from? Our "fellow Americans", strung out on simple sugars and complex problem-sets, driven mad by living in a land locked in thrall to fake teats and real guns? "Islamic Fundamentalists" such as those thanked in the credits of RAMBO III — PIPELINE TO FREEDOM? Lost in the relentless bleating in the mass media that "everything is different since 9/11" is the central fact that the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, and other related product-lines are rooted in the federal government’s own Sovietized dedication to overreach.
Perhaps the central government really isn’t best equipped to address what once were community concerns. Whatever one’s feelings were on, say, Opium Dens or personal misuse of laudanum, it was once assumed that Washington had no salient interest in monitoring acts of individual consumption. Similarly, it was not expected that the Armed Forces were intended to police oil rigs off the coast of Africa. It is unavoidable that the exponential rise of the federal government’s role in the lives of Americans is concurrent with an expansionist foreign policy, an expansionist prison policy, and the purposeful undermining of social structures.
Never mind all that negativity, though. The Democrats have a solution to these problems who very well could be ready to grace us once more with his presence in 2004. If you believe THE NATION, it’s time to get behind a candidate who is every bit as personable and principled as he is electable. Yes, that bulwark of acceptable progressivism has yet again joined the NEW REPUBLIC in getting on the Al Gore bandwagon. As William Greider puts it, the "winter book has Gore as odds-on favorite for the ’04 nomination and the recent refurbishings look like a smart play."
Oh, don’t laugh. You thought of voting for him once, maybe. Perhaps you entered the booth but were too hopped up on painkillers to punch the card correctly. In any case, THE NATION seems bound and determined to ensure you get a second opportunity to check the box next to the jackass. Two recent articles perhaps best illustrate the magazine’s dedication to Candidate Gore and his quest for the presidency.
Ronnie Dugger, who delicately describes himself as "having played a role" in the political ascension of Ralph Nader, was able to secure print clearance for something called "Ralph, Don’t Run". Undoubtedly, this is just one of a series of pieces THE NATION will run in the next two years; impassioned pleas to various people to step aside and let a Democrat take a dive in a two-man race, as God apparently intended.
Dugger makes the expected arguments for his Judas kiss. What Bush has done in the course of his Terror War, essentially, is "dramatically worse in degree and kind" than what Gore may have done. Despite the incumbent party’s "empty campaign" in 2000, when it was running against someone who was actually making populist arguments, Nader supporters from that bygone era should argue against their own experience and work within the Democratic Party, on the proposition that the Dems will fight for their core convictions this time. Even as their nominee fought against those same convictions last time, and so many times before that.
Of course, it’s not for Ronnie Dugger to bring up those minor points of history. Not when he’s telling us that "progressives, and Senator John McCain as well–know and say that both parties have sold the people and the government to the highest bidder" as a prelude to telling us that "we don’t have the right" to support Nader "knowing it will help elect Bush". Talk about your monolithic conspiracies! Never mind that there are Nader supporters who wouldn’t vote for Gore or his ilk under any circumstances; apparently, those people don’t exist in Ronnie Dugger’s political calculus.
Of course, Mr. Dugger would see all kinds of nifty visions if he had a toke of what his colleague William Greider was smoking when he wrote "Gore Story". Apparently, Mr. Greider finds it "promising" that Candidate Gore has vowed to "speak from the heart and let the chips fall where they may". In the face of what Ronnie Dugger represents as an "emergency that has materialized as if in a nightmare", progressives are to turn their attention to ensuring that single-payer health insurance is part of the Democratic platform in 2004. Even as Greider himself concedes that the party’s "platforms are empty because they belong entirely to the insiders."
Left unaddressed by both authors are numerous key points. Like why anyone should bust his ass for a Democratic Party that will sell him out, inescapably, for the interest of one corporate donor or another. Or why we should expect the current version of Al Gore to be replete with the heart, conviction, and moral fiber previous versions lacked. Those questions are not for such as Dugger and Greider — or even Eric Alterman — to consider. The role of such journalists is a time-honored one. To ask those of us with political consciousness to blind our eyes for one more election cycle. So that we can trust their candidates to tell us the truth about what "our" government is doing to us, one more time, only to find that trust betrayed so often that the betrayal finally cannot be forgiven. For every Kucinich in the Democratic Party, there is a Lieberman, a Bob Graham, or a John Breaux; a shadowy figure of the center much more willing to start wars than to end them. It is time for us to break with this Democratic Party, once and for all, leaving it to its fate. Just as it has left us.
ANTHONY GANCARSKI, a regular contributor to CounterPunch, recently had his work recognized in Utne Reader’s "Web Watch". Email him at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com.