Candidate Dem and Citizen Green

We’re getting close enough to the 2004 race to smell the grease that moves it, and the issue of the Greens is starting to be raised. Looking back the question is did they or didn’t they? Looking forward the question is should they or shouldn’t they? Should the Greens run a Presidential candidate in 2004?

Commentators are beginning to weigh in. For example, Steve Perry of BushWars, a popular Internet weblog, recently took a poll of his readers on the “should they” question and found the responses, at least to him, surprising. In analyzing the results, he makes two points worth discussing:

“The shocking thing, to me at least, is that so many people seem to want the Greens to run someone despite the threat of inadvertently helping Bush. Right here, right now, I find that stunning. I don’t think there is any overestimating the disgust that Americans from across the political spectrum have for the Democratic party.”


“The modern Democratic party is a wretched and cynical Republican-Lite beast. I have never once bought or sold the lesser evil shibboleth. But for once, “wretched and cynical” probably is a genuinely lesser evil.”

About the first point — while he’s right about the disgust many people feel toward the Dems, it’s important to put that on a rational basis (as opposed to an emotional one). Are these people disgusted at the Democrat’s failure to mount an effective opposition? Or is the problem the underlying reason for this failure?

One could easily argue that the Dems do most of the same damage that the Repubs do; it’s just done more covertly, under cover of a few media-spotlighted leftish victories.

Clinton, for example, saved more trees than Reagan or Bush, but he also gave us the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act, the beta bill that prepared the way for Patriot 1.0. (Clinton in its defense: “We can’t be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans.”) That bill creates, among other things, an un-Constitutional national police force. Clinton also fathered the Telecommunications Reform Act, which set the stage in radio for the coming consolidation of all media. And of course, big western ranchers got the same sweet deal under Clinton for grazing on federal land as they always get — but because he dines with the Sierra Club, these and a host of similar questions never come up. (Dining with the Sierras buys a lot of forget-and-forgive.)

And then there’s NAFTA. That’s Clinton, the supposed not-Bush.

In fact, it almost doesn’t matter who the president is, so this argument goes. Ford and Kissinger gave Sukarno the go-ahead in East Timor and Carter carried through. Carter supported the Shah of Iran, and got his hat handed to him by the Ayatollah. But that hat could have gone to any of his recent predecessors. Kennedy was involved in the assassination of Diem, our installed president of “South Vietnam,” the state illegally created by Eisenhower. (Jackie was later famously dissed by Diem’s widow when her own husband was assassinated.)

And Truman dropped the bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945, even though the Japanese had been trying to surrender since May. His goal — to send a “message” to Stalin, if Gore Vidal is to be believed. Message received, at least at Ground Zero.

So I would guess that the Greens are asking themselves, what do I get when I get a Democrat? It’s a serious question for many of them, I suspect, one that isn’t well captured by the easy phrases “Republican-Lite” and “disgust.” Nothing Lite about what gets done under the Dems. And calling the reaction “disgust” glosses over the underlying serious arguments.

Which brings me to the second point, the “lesser of two evils.” It could easily be argued that the Dems may be the greater evil.

Look at it this way — the Repubs are “out there” — really and truly out there. And it will be very hard for them to pull back, to pretend they aren’t the party of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, DeLay and Robertson, O’Reilly and Coulter, attack and control. Horrid people to be sure, vicious people (their admirers admit the same); but their great virtue is that they are undisguised horrid people, naked vicious people. The Repubs have their cards on the table, and those cards must now be played.

This serves two purposes:

1. It creates a world-wide public discussion about the role of the U.S. relative to other nations, and also relative to its proclaimed defense of real democracy, at home and abroad. The world has needed such a discussion since Truman gave us the National Security Act of 1947 and provoked Stalin into blockading Berlin.

Under the Dems, that discussion will never be had, since left-minded people will be so pleased with this saved forest and that stalled pipeline that they’ll never notice the crushing defeats, like the constant political wasteland we maintain in Latin America under all administrations.

In this view, the only way to avert the next world war (we’re watching the pre-game now) is for the U.S. finally to understand itself and become the shining force it wishes it were, but isn’t. Only a world-wide public debate can do that; only the world can bring that understanding — domestic discussion has failed.

The alternative to that understanding is a world like the Terminator future, a global fourth-generation war, in William Lind’s phrasing, that pits third world, then second, then first world man against Pentagon killing machine. It’s a war that no one can win, and will be hard to stop once fully started. To have that world-wide discussion, we need the Repubs to create it, says this argument; the Dems will simmer the pot well short of boiling, still cooking the meat.

(One could argue, by the way, that Big Money really blew it when it backed Bush. With Gore they could have had all the damage Clinton would have given, and in the bargain a president who defends against charges of “softness.” Talk about misdirection — a PR maestro’s dream. In that sense, the culture war is Big Money’s Achilles heel; they can’t stay out of it even if it hurts them.)

2. Bush in 2004 serves as a referendum, not on the candidates, but on the American people. Who are we? What are our goals? Yes we’re diverse, but not that diverse. Every non-vote is a vote for the winner, and that will matter much this time. By that measure, a vote for any Dem but Kucinich (who seems to understand these things) says “I want to pretend I don’t know what’s happening; please hide it better next time.” A non-vote says “I’ll take Bush again.”

By this logic, Bush didn’t win in 2000 by a slim margin (5-4), but by a whopping lead (again, every non-vote is a vote for the winner). If Bush wins again, the people will have spoken and the world will get its discussion in rather clear terms. (And if the big war comes, a horrid un-hoped-for possibility, it will be fought on our shores as well as theirs, and the people can’t say they didn’t choose it.)

On this basis, Citizen Green might say that Candidate Dem (unless it’s Kucinich) is not the lesser evil, but the greater one, wrapped in a delightful chocolate sauce.

And as for Bush again, if you could ask the disappeared of Chile, the dead of East Timor, the soon-to-be homeless of any American town, the virtuous working poor, if they prefer the Discussion to the Disguise, the answer might be both surprising … and obvious.

Your correspondent,


PUBLIUS is a writer living in the United States. He can be reached at gaius_