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I totally agree and congratulate Russell Mokhiber for his rebuttal to the Nader baiting of the Democratic fear machine. However, I would like to suggest a sort of codicil that makes his rebuke more robust.
I personally find post-modernism useful when it is coherent and progressive in aim. At its more incoherent stage, which seems to be the one highly valued by various humanities departments, it is reactionary drivel that strives to invalidate the laws of Marxist political economy and class warfare. From it I would offer a media critique of the entire Nader baiter trend, which provides a coherent narrative that explains the reason Al Gore lost the 2000 election in a way that alleviates the Clinton administration of its neoliberal sins. This is roughly akin also, by the way, to the structure of the Red baiter narrative a generation before, the Democratic Party was able to suggest a coherent narrative that said Joseph McCarthy was a wild animal run rabid in the halls of power who destroyed the lives of good people while conveniently leaving out the fact that the post-World War II Red Scare was actually begun by Harry Truman, who was opposed to integration, gay rights, and ending militarism.
The reason the Old Left lost that one is because they failed to articulate a counter until their red diaper babies in the New Left began to seek redemption, at which point it was too late. I would not want to see that continue here and so would offer a counter-narrative.
Let’s go back to the 1970’s, when Ralph Nader and his Raiders were the most successful party of democratic socialists this country ever saw, a cadre that accomplished more than either political epochs of the Left ever could. Because Nader was apolitical, he posed a genuine threat to capital. At one point, there even was an effort to unionize one of his offices, which should be scrutinized when you understand how hard the auto industry had previously tried to scuttle his efforts based on sexual libels and slanders. Could that organization effort have been linked to elements in the AFL-CIO or one of its auto industry subsidiaries? Who knows, the point is to construct a narrative that puts those elements on the defensive rather than offensive. This is a basic element of class warfare.
Nader built a successful movement that was a threat to the Establishment. This included bringing attention to ecological issues and the largesse of neoclassical economic policy efforts, including the effort through investor rights treaties (aka free trade agreements like NAFTA) to abolish national sovereignty so to actualize, as David Korten titled it, When Corporations Rule the World. He was like the pillar of a dock in a storm, while the sands of party politics were shifting to the right under Clinton, he did not move away from the true center. As such, his campaign was a monumental threat.
Did Gore lose votes to Nader in Florida?
The real question is actually ‘Did Gore do anything to deserve those votes?’
And the answer is a monumental no, he ran a right wing campaign, took on a war hawk vice president, and barred a significant portion of his own base from voting through his support of the destruction of Welfare and passage of the Crime Omnibus Bill. Was Nader the one who cut so many black and brown voters out of the rolls by building the Prison Industrial Complex? Was Nader the one who further criminalized poverty and condemned millions more to it by cutting off benefits to the most vulnerable in our society? No, Al Gore did that and he got what he deserved.
Now of course comes the whole point about the Patriot Act and the wars on the Levant. And again we can say those are both Democratic Party sins, not Nader’s. Clinton and Gore spent eight years murdering women and children in Iraq via the sanctions/no-fly zone reign of terror that George W. Bush merely stepped up to the next level. The Patriot Act was sitting in a drawer that Bill Clinton had left unlocked at the White House when he left, all those idiot neocons did was slap the word ‘terrorism’ on a Democratic bill. Homeland Security was built up by Democrats the same way, all the Bush White House did was use the 9-11 attacks to pass Clinton bills.
The war on Yugoslavia likewise was a preliminary set-up for Afghanistan, which was attacked over fossil fuel pipeline routes rather than because of the awful social policies of the Taliban or our former CIA asset Osama bin Laden, who had also gained his sponsorship not from Reagan but his Democratic predecessor, Jimmy Carter. Bush’s efforts to ban same-sex marriage via the Constitution found their legislative precedent in the Defense of Marriage Act that Clinton signed. The current war on a woman’s right to choose stems from eight years of Obama refusing to make abortion a Constitutional right even though surveys show it would pass.
Many years ago, when Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair were premiering their book about the 1999 Seattle protests simultaneous with the Florida vote recount debacle, Cockburn offered a comment that is of great value now, saying that the reason Gore lost was in no small part due to the free trade protests that he had fostered along with Clinton the year before, that a good number of Democratic voters had gone to Nader because Gore was so awful. Ergo, the Democratic Party tried to sell their base out and got exactly what it had coming to it, the abandonment of the Party by its working class base. Be careful what you wish for, neoliberals, you might just get it. The Nader vote, just like the Stein vote now, has to do with the fact Democrats are failing to be what they say they are.
Joe Biden ended up being the useful idiot when he famously and falsely blamed the Bush victory on Nader. This was because the Democratic Party had finally found that, if they started a whisper campaign from that instance, it would sufficiently hinder the Nader Raider efforts to fight neoliberal Democratic Party abuses of the base. Blaming Nader for 2000 is actually about blaming the entire 99% for refusing to bow down to neoclassical capital abuses. Class warfare at its finest.
The Democratic Party is not a leftist party, it is a reactionary, racist, imperial party that has always pretended to be on the left while trying to scuttle and bait true Leftist movements. This goes back to the start of last century when Wilson’s Democratic Party enacted a Red Scare in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, if not earlier. Recently there was a bizarre and rambling nonsense document posted online called We Are The Left that said identity politics trumps class politics and that all opponents of empire are awful people (https://medium.com/@We_Are_The_Left/an-open-letter-on-identity-politics-to-and-from-the-left-b927fe66d3a4#.c52ygue0v). While these authors cite issues that are worthy of genuine discussion in a mature venue, they are in reality using them for self-serving and ultimately reactionary reasons. The line that made me chortle the most was this:
We call upon progressives to acknowledge that all politics are identity politics.
This is idiotic. Identity, whether race, gender, or sexuality, has always been a construct that is used by capital to divide the working class. Noel Ignatiev put this best when he said “Abolish the white race”. That does not mean commit genocide, it means that one mush abolish the identity of whiteness. Whiteness as an identity has been used for centuries by masters and then bosses to create wage tranches based on ethnicity, meaning a white gets higher pay than a black purely based on phenotype. This can be extended to any other form of identity. This in turn shows that class politics are the only genuine politics and that identities are just one of many ideological state apparatuses created to hinder unity.
My identity and narrative is as a Green voter because I am part of the 99%. If the Democratic Party wants my vote, do something to earn it rather than baiting me with scare tactics. If they lose because they fail to earn my vote, it is their own damned fault and they will be blamed by me for the abuses of President Trump, as will Clinton supporters who try to argue against racism with the most ghastly racist to ever wear a pants suit.
Deal with it.