Friends Like These...
If a surprising number of Left luminaries think it's wise to vote for John Kerry, well, that's their opinion. I disagree and have explained why in several other articles so, don't worry, I'm not going to offer more damning evidence about the two Yale grads. Instead, I'd like to address another unfortunate Campaign 2004 phenomenon: The Comrades for Kerry camp has employed two rather corporate media-like methods to disparage those radicals who have thus far resisted the siren call of the Lesser Evil. Both methods, I feel, build grade-school debate level straw men and should not be allowed to pass without challenge:
Method #1: "If you don't vote for Kerry, you must agree with everything Nader stands for."
Whenever I criticize capitalism, the knee-jerk reaction is typically a variation on this theme: "I suppose you think the Russians had it better." This amateur debating tactic sets up a false dichotomy. If you aren't for A, you must be for B. Similarly, many ABBers begin their boilerplate "hold-your-nose-and-vote-for-Kerry" essays by dutifully rehashing all of Ralph's shortcomings (the identical shortcomings conveniently ignored in 1996 and 2000 by the same progressives who now scorn Nader in 2004). This pre-emptive strike creates the illusion that those lefties who reject Kerry are blinded by Nader's image and thus have chosen to ignore his inadequacies Speaking only for myself, when I urge readers to consider voting for Nader, it's meant as a statement of protest, i.e. let the powers-that-be know that what we want is not on the menu. This is hardly a blanket endorsement of Nader's record (which, not so incidentally, is light years above and beyond John Kerry's wettest progressive dream). However, this is not what the Alternet/MoveOn/Nation crowd hears. Sadly and ironically, for many Bush-haters it's: "You're either with us or against us." Such narrowing of the parameters would make the Wall Street Journal proud. Such flip-flopping is, frankly, embarrassing.
#2: "Kerry will be one-billionth of one percent better than Bush."
Chomsky says: "small differences can translate into large outcomes." This is generally true (assuming that the "small differences" exist, of course). Other lefties are less vague. One well-known commentator, for example, recently explained: "No matter how conservative a Democratic administration would like to be, it still has to respond to some of the party's core constituencies-like environmentalists, African-Americans, feminists, and civil libertarians." This would be a compelling ABB plank...if only it were true. We don't need to deal in hypotheticals here. Eight years of Clinton/Gore was the field study for such optimism...and the results are in:
a) Conservative Democrats give only lip service, at best, to the groups listed above and
b) those groups have not been the "core constituencies" of the Democratic Party for a long, long time. The commentator in question-whose work has informed me for years-is not the only lefty to make such a declaration of this order...yet none have offered any concrete evidence to back up such claims. In fact, many of them have spent the vast majority of their careers exposing America's one-party system...not to mention pointing out when international progressives like Mandela or Lula (or Sonia Gandhi next) talk the talk but don't walk the walk. If Rush or O'Reilly performed such acrobatics, the folks at FAIR would write a book about it (in fact, they have). I have a title for it: "Democrats and the Radicals Who Trust Them." Or perhaps: "Lesser is Moore."
Opinions, as they say, are like assholes. But when progressives utilize tactics like those described above to denigrate colleagues in the name of justifying their choices, it's no longer about differences of opinion. They must be taken to task as swiftly as any corporate media hack would. This is not a personal attack or a blind faith defense of Ralph Nader...it's a question of progressive credibility.
Mickey Z. is the author of two upcoming books: A Gigantic Mistake: Articles and Essays for Your Intellectual Self-Defense (Prime Books) and Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda (Common Courage Press). His most recent book is The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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