During the recent national political campaign, filmmaker Michael Moore got down on his knees during Bill Maher's nationally televised program of political commentary, and begged Ralph Nader not to run for the presidency. This was part of the "Anybody But Bush" effort to ensure the election of the Democratic Party's nominee, whoever that might prove to be.
It wasn't just Michael Moore who was groveling: erstwhile progressives with more experience and political savvy than he, similarly crawled, limped, or leapt into the money-rich embrace of the corporate cutout chosen to oppose the nation's corporate president in the White House. Medea Benjamin, Green Party member and mover behind organized opposition to the war against the Iraqis, was similarly on board the Limousine Express. Norman Solomon provided another voice of warning to those risking the fall to electoral outer darkness by straying from the Mother Church, adding his voice to the genre previously perfected by Todd Gitlin.
Self-touted "revolutionaries" and "anarchists" could be found supporting the Kerry version of power to a certain select few, albeit with obligatory sighs and even an occasional shaken fist. One must keep up appearances, after all--the fact that support brought nothing in return, was compelling reason enough to huff and puff a bit, just to show that well, you know, we could go elsewhere, if...
But what, one wonders, is this "if" floating, as it seems, disembodied and free of all earthly connections? What would have prompted progressives--sometimes dubbed "pwogwessives," in their ABB mode--to have left the warm bosom of the pro-war, pro-globalization, dealmaker par excellence, chosen to bear the banner of The Party That Fights for the Common People? There was presumably some threshold, some imaginary line beyond which even they were not prepared to go in pressing the cash-rich flesh of the ABB crowd. What, one wonders, could this limit have been?
It is instructive that it's so hard to imagine what it would have taken to dissuade acknowledged progressives from signing on to the campaign by Senator Cash and his running mate, the equally pro-war charmer. That so many progressives were on their knees to the dealmaker par excellence, hoping and begging that this proven servant of business as usual would prove to be somehow "better," says much about the level to which the political waters had fallen. Perhaps this was a sort of lobotomized populism--seeing a rush to the doors of the ABB storefront, otherwise sober progressives moved to join with the crowd, regardless of the actual politics involved.
If this were the case, there was nothing either new or uplifting in the genuflect at the corporate altar. To go along in hopes of getting some elbow contact with the prols and plebs in the trench, is a common affliction of those who often toil over the hard earth of real opposition. It's a kind of burn-out, a need to at least be able to imagine what it would be like if the stampede were towards political parties and campaigns that actually do work for reversing the assault on our nation's freedoms and standard of living.
Still, we don't know that's what explains this wish to unite with the supporters of a lesser evil that promised to give us more war, with all that war requires of a nation. So far as this writer knows, no one has stepped forward to explain how these fevers were contracted in the swamps of electoral malaria--a delirium during which, as if by hallucinatory transubstantiation, servants of corporations became champions of the common people. None of the progressives who should have known better have expressed regret, instead persisting in the delusion that a Kerry administration would have given us a smarter war. Oh, that would have been quite an improvement--just ask the Iraqis dying under the bombs and in the torture cells of the World's Moral Leader. Oh yes, smarter; that's what was needed.
Despite this unexplained leave of progressive senses, generosity should now prevail. As before, we will need to help each other along the challenging trail we face. Wherever a sore patella may bear the marks of a knee previously bent to political con artists, let it now be dusted off and our shared efforts resumed in the politics of peace and social justice. No one is immune from wrong judgments, and no one can be assured of not making a mistake again.
Whatever else happens, please do get off your knees--that's not the place for a progressive to be. At the minimum, getting up will put more distance between you and the next batch of dog's droppings the misnamed Democrats produce when they come looking for fear to rule us yet again.
Dan Raphael has been an activist since the Vietnam war was heating up. He recently joined the Green Party of the United States.
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