FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Part 3: Why the Dems Deserve Nader

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Always partial to monopolies, the Democrats think they should hold the exclusive concession on any electoral challenge to Bush and the Republicans. The Nader campaign prompts them to hysterical tirades. Republicans are more relaxed. Ross Perot and his Reform Party actually cost George Bush Sr his reelection in 1992, yet Perot never drew a tenth of the abuse for his presumption that Nader does now.

Of course the Democrats richly deserve the challenge. Through the Clinton years the Democratic Party remained “united” in fealty to corporate corruption and right-wing class viciousness, and so inevitably and appropriately, the Nader-centered independent challenge was born, modestly in 1996, strongly in 2000 and now again in 2004. The rationale for Nader’s challenge was as sound as it was for Henry Wallace half a century earlier. I quote from The Third Party , a little pamphlet by Adam Lapin published in 1948 in support of Wallace and his Progressive Party, found in a box of left literature sent to me in June 2004 by my friend Honey Williams of Carmel Highlands, cleaning house after the death of her uncle Dick Criley. She’d promised me some crab apple scions for grafting, and I was a mite put out to find souvenirs of Dick’s political llibrary, such as Plekhanov and Lenin, lurking in the box instead.

“Every scheme of the lobbyists to fleece the public became law in the 80th Congress. And every constructive proposal to benefit the common people gathered dust in committee pigeonholes The bi-partisan bloc, the Republocratic cabal which ruled Congress and made a mockery of President Roosevelt’s economic bill of rights, also wrecked the Roosevelt foreign policy. A new foreign policy was developed. This policy was still gilded with the good words of democracy. But its Holy Grail was oil.

“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. Of course the roles are sometimes interchangeable. It was President Truman who broke the 1946 railroad strike, asked for legislation to conscript strikers and initiated the heavy fines against the miners’ union.

“On occasion President Truman still likes to lay an occasional verbal wreath on the grave of the New Deal. But the hard facts of roll call votes show that Democrats are voting more and more like Republicans. If the Republican Taft-Hartley bill became law over the President’s veto, it was because many of the Democrats allied themselves to the Republicans. Only 71 House Democrats voted to sustain the Prersident’s veto while 106 voted to override it. In the Senate 20 Democrats voted to override the veto and 22 voted to sustain it.”

There you have it: the law that was to enable capital to destroy organized labor when it became convenient was passed by a bipartisan vote (and with more than just Southern Democrats), something you will never learn from the AFL-CIO, or from a thousand hoarse throats at Democratic rallies when the candidate is whoring for the labor vote. In the Clinton years, union membership as a percentage of the work force dropped, as well it might, because he did nothing to try to change laws or to intervene in disputes.

Clinton presided over passage of NAFTA, insulting labor further with the farce of side agreements on labor rights that would never be enforced. End result: half the companies involved in organizing drives in the US intimidate workers by saying that a union vote will force the company to leave town; 30 percent of them fire the union activists (about 20,000 workers a year); only one in seven organizing drives has a chance of going to a vote, and of those that do result in a yes vote for the union, less than one in five has any success in getting a contract.

Polls suggest that 60 percent of non-unionized workers say they would join a union if they had a chance. The Democrats have produced no laws, indeed have campaigned against laws -that would make that attainable. John Kerry’s proposal on the minimum wage in 2004 would raise it to $7 an hour by 2007, which would bring a full-time worker up to two-thirds of the poverty level.

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 for any 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. Carter was torn apart by the press for his OMB director nominee, Bert Lance; Clinton, for gays in the military.

As a candidate in 1984 Mondale advanced the schedule of surrender to the period of his doomed candidacy, filing to change his political identity to that of Ronald Reagan by September of that campaign year. Reagan claimed that Nicaragua was exporting revolution to the rest of Latin America and so did Mondale. Reagan said Nicaragua should be “pressured” till it mended its ways, and so did Mondale. Reagan said he would invade Nicaragua if it bought 28-year-old Soviet MIG-21s and so did Mondale. Reagan blamed the missile crisis in Europe on the Russians and so did Mondale. Reagan wanted to hike the military budget and so did Mondale. Reagan was bad on the Middle East, and Mondale was worse. Mondale promised to raised taxes and cut social spending. Four years later, battered by charges he was a closet liberal, Dukakis swiftly collapsed.

By the end of April 1993, Clinton had sold out the Haitian refugees, handed Africa policy to a Bush appointee, Herman Cohen, thus giving Jonas Savimbi the green light in Angola to butcher thousands ; 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 from 1950 onward; increased secret intelligence spending; maintained full DEA funding; put Wall Street in charge of national economic strategy; sold out on grazing and mineral rights on public lands; pushed NAFTA forward; plunged into the “managed care” disaster offered by him and Hillary Rodham Clinton as “health reform”.

By the end of May 1993, as any kind of progressive challenge to business-as-usual, the Clinton presidency had failed, even by the measure of its own timid promises. The recruitment of the old Nixon/Reagan/Bush hand David Gergen as the president’s new public relations man signaled the surrender.

One useful way of estimating how little separates the Democratic and Republican parties, and particularly their presidential nominees, is to tot up 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, beyond pro forma sloganeering: the role of the Federal Reserve, trade policy, economic redistribution, the role and budget of the CIA and other intelligence agencies (almost all military), 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, crime, punishment and the prison explosion, the war on drugs, corporate welfare, energy policy, forest policy, the destruction of small farmers and ranchers, Israel, the corruption of the political system.

In the face of this conspiracy of silence, the more third party challenges the better. Nader is doing his duty.

This is an excerpt from CounterPunch’s forthcoming book on the 2004 elections, Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils.

Tomorrow: Candidate Kerry

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail