Have You Been Centerized?


So the great Battle for the Center, with everyone rushing to seem as much like everyone else as humanly possible, has come down to this: By handing them control of the U. S. Senate, voters have given the Republicans a green light to loot the country, with nothing but the occasional filibuster to stand in their way.

Predictably, the Democrats, gearing up to fight the last war and eager to do anything but be perceived as standing in anyone’s way, are already blaming Ralph Nader.

The logic goes something like this: if Nader runs in 2004, it will be his fault the Democrats lost the Senate in 2002. It makes about as much sense as blaming Nader for Gore’s botched candidacy in 2000, when polls showed that voters respected Nader and loathed Gore. The fact that just about everything Nader said in his campaign has been shown to be true, starting with Enron, just rubs salt in the wound.

At least in 2000 voters got to choose among Gore, Bush and Nader. In 2002, in most states, they didn’t really have a choice. It was the Republicans or the No One in Particulars, the Nobodaddies, the Stood-for-Nothing Good-for-Nothings.

In Oregon, a Democrat who never so much as mentioned the environment in his campaign eked out a win over a Republican who almost managed to look and sound like everyone else but couldn’t quite get it right. Had the Republicans nominated anyone but a real Republican, they’d have coasted to victory.

Elsewhere, the symbol of all things Republican was Jeb Bush, who looked put-upon at having to campaign against a guy so clueless you’d be disappointed to have him as your waiter, much less your governor. The Democrats, meanwhile, could find no more telling symbol than Walter Mondale, who seemed genuinely surprised to learn he was still alive.

Dick Gephardt woke up to find his presidential aspirations “comatoast,” as a friend of mine would say.

Nancy Pelosi, the new Dick Gephardt, had no sooner pledged her undying support of Bush’s war effort in Iraq than she was attacked by other Democrats for being too far to the Left, out of touch with the mainstream, etc. (With Democrats like Tenn. Rep. Harold Ford, who needs Republicans?)

Now the Democrats are in disarray, convinced that it would be suicidal to attack Bush and all clamoring to see who can sound more supportive of him than the others. It may soon be the core Republican base’s time to start feeling betrayed. It will be Clintonism in reverse. The right nominated these people but the center elected them. Holding onto power is likely to be far more attractive than delivering on promises, especially in the social agenda.

Here is the real question for history: who, in the long run, will prove more successful at “centerizing” his party, Clinton or Bush? Clinton centerized his own party and radicalized the opposition. However, he didn’t energize it to the extent that they were willing to nominate “one of their own.” Instead, they looked for someone “who can win” and got Bush.

That appears to be the emerging new Democratic strategy: not find someone who stands for something, but find someone who “can win.” But Bush is counting on co-opting his opposition, as he did in Texas, rather than radicalizing (and energizing) it.

The late George Wallace of Alabama used to like to say that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties. In Alabama this year, .23 of one per cent of the vote separated the two gubernatorial candidates.

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He is a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs.

He can be reached at: davidvest@springmail.com

Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com


More articles by:

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It