(Article in Response to The Truth is Always Concrete by David McReynolds)
As David is fond of telling the audience at campaign stops -- often waking me from my restful repose to add a few words of balance -- we disagree on the issue of the 2004 Presidential election and the lesser-of-two-evils. While David may be tired of hearing that the lesser-of-two-evils is still evil, it unfortunately is still true
And there is little that Kerry offers that I would view as reflective of the green vision of the world.
His environmental record, which draws high marks from the big 10 DC-based national groups, is reflective of the agenda of trying to reduce the level of pollution, not of creating a sustainable environmental-economic system that does not use up our planet's resources faster than we can replace him. And I hear no urgent call from him to end human impact on global warming.
David has agreed that he will read the Avocado Declaration by Peter Camejo that provides an historical overview of the similarity of the two major parties over the last 130 years. Unfortunately, David has not had time to read it before the election.
David does trot out the bogeyman of the Supreme Court nominations. I do remind him that Clinton's appointments to the federal bench were generally similar in political and judicial philosophy to those of Reagan and Bush. The one main difference being on economic issues, in which Clinton's judicial appointments were more conservative.
I think judicial appointments are reflective of the different orientation of the two major parties. Democrats tend to appoint judges, especially Supreme Court judges, that they believe will be acceptable to the most reactionary members of the Republican Senate (e.g, for decades, Strom Thurmond). The Republicans tend to nominate judges that are more reflective of their own beliefs. I do remind David that bad Supreme Court nominees - and indeed, any bad policies at all - can not be approved without Democratic agreement, since 60 votes are needed to break a filibuster in the Senate and that the bad ones were all approved with Democratic votes.
(And if it was pro-life, boy would I be annoyed about how the Republicans have crassly manipulated this issue for the last twenty years to get my vote but have done so little to reverse it despite having swept to power nationally.)
I think we also see the difference on the issue of impeachment. The Republicans gleefully welcomed the opportunity to impeach Clinton over lying about oral sex. The Democrats refused to push impeachment when Bush lied about the invasion of Iraq; they apparently didn't want to look too partisan or extreme. Of course, the national Democratic party leadership supports war and the military-industrial complex, so they wouldn't want to be seen as opposing war.
I always cite an op ed by David Brower that appeared in my local corporate paper in 1996. Brower is considered by many the grandfather of the environmental movement. Brower, in endorsing Nader, pointed out that Clinton and Gore in their first four years had managed to do more damage to the environment (e.g., NAFTA, salvage timber ride, Everglades destruction) than Reagan and Bush had managed to inflict in twelve. Now Reagan and Bush wanted to do more damage. Clinton and Gore did it more to reward their corporate campaign contributors. The other big difference was the while the big national environmental groups used Reagan and Watts to drive their direct mail fundraising operations, they were unwilling to attack the worse policies of Clinton due to the desire not to "reduce their access" to the Clinton cocktail parties.
In case you missed it, the Democrats long ago stopped talking about the poor (read, people of color) as a core constituency. As someone who has spent thirty years as an anti-poverty organizer, I am quite aware -- as are our members -- that we are no longer part of the democratic call to arms. We now have Working Families instead (and the Dems don't define raising children as work). Clinton of course ended welfare as we know it -- getting rid of the principal child anti-poverty New Deal program. Income inequality has increased in our country regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is President. It was actually very striking how much even Jesse Jackson dropped the poor in his second run for president.
Yes, it it is true that many important constituencies and groups reside in the Democratic Party. That is perhaps the biggest difference within the two parties - who they make a show of consulting before deciding to do what their corporate backers want. But the corporate backers always win - the difference mainly being what crumbs they dispense to their alleged followers.
There is a course also some difference between the two parties on foreign policy. The Republicans believe that America has the right to unilaterally use our economic and military power to impose their vision of a corporate American global empire. The Democrats believe that we should consult Europe and Japan in implementing the corporate American global empire.
The differences are not worth my vote.
Mark Dunlea is a cofounder and former chair of the Green Party of New York State. He is the author of Madame President: The Unauthorized Biography of the First Green Party President (http://nys.greens.org/rachel)
Some Highlights of the
The Green Party is at a crossroads. The 2004 elections place before us a clear and unavoidable choice. On one side, we can continue on the path of political independence, building a party of, by and for the people by running our own campaign for President of the United States. The other choice is the well-trodden path of lesser-evil politics, sacrificing our own voice and independence to support whoever the Democrats nominate in order, we are told, to defeat Bush.
The difference is not over whether to "defeat Bush" - understanding that to mean the program of corporate globalization and the wars and trampling of the Constitution that come with it - but rather how to do it. We do not believe it is possible to defeat the "greater" evil by supporting a shamefaced version of the same evil. We believe it is precisely by openly and sharply confronting the two major parties that the policies of the corporate interests these parties represent can be set back and defeated.
ORIGINS OF THE PRESENT TWO-PARTY SYSTEM
History shows that the Democrats and Republicans are not two counterpoised forces, but rather complementary halves of a single two-party system: "one animal with two heads that feed from the same trough," as Chicano leader Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez explained.
Since the Civil War a peculiar two-party political system has dominated the United States. Prior to the Civil War a two-party system existed which reflected opposing economic platforms. Since the Civil War a shift occurred. A two-party system remained in place but no longer had differing economic orientation. Since the Civil War the two parties show differences in their image, role, social base and some policies but in the last analysis, they both support essentially similar economic platforms.
This development can be clearly dated to the split in the Republican Party of 1872 where one wing merged with the "New Departure" Democrats that had already shifted towards the Republican platform, which was pro-finance and industrial business. Prior to the Civil War, the Democratic Party, controlled by the slaveocracy, favored agricultural business interests and developed an alliance with small farmers in conflict with industrial and some commercial interests. That division ended with the Civil War. Both parties supported financial and industrial business as the core of their programmatic outlook.
For over 130 years the two major parties have been extremely effective in preventing the emergence of any mass political formations that could challenge their political monopoly. Most attempts to build political alternatives have been efforts to represent the interests of the average person, the working people. These efforts have been unable to develop. Both major parties have been dominated by moneyed interests and today reflect the historic period of corporate rule.
In this sense United States history has been different from that of any other advanced industrial nation. In all other countries multi-party systems have appeared and to one degree or another these countries have more democratic electoral laws and better political representation. In most other countries, there exist political parties ostensibly based on or promoting the interest of non-corporate sectors such as working people.
STRUGGLES FOR DEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
In spite of this pro-corporate political monopoly, mass struggles for social progress, struggles to expand democracy and civil rights have periodically exploded throughout United States history.
Every major gain in our history, even pre-Civil War struggles --such as the battles for the Bill of Rights, to end slavery, and to establish free public education-- as well as those after the Civil War have been the product of direct action by movements independent of the two major parties and in opposition to them.
Since the Civil War, without exception, the Democratic Party has opposed all mass struggles for democracy and social justice. These include the struggle for ballot reform, for the right of African Americans to vote and against American apartheid ("Jim Crow"), for the right to form unions, for the right of women to vote, against the war in Vietnam, the struggle to make lynching illegal, the fight against the death penalty, the struggle for universal health care, the fight for gay and lesbian rights, and endless others. Many of these struggles were initiated by or helped by the existence of small third parties.
DIVISION OF WORK
When social justice, peace or civil rights movements become massive in scale, and threaten to become uncontrollable and begin to win over large numbers of people, the Democratic Party begins to shift and presents itself as a supposed ally. Its goal is always to co-opt the movement, demobilize its forces and block its development into an alternative, independent political force.
The Republican Party has historically acted as the open advocate for a platform which benefits the rule of wealth and corporate domination. They argue ideologically for policies benefiting the corporate rulers. The Republicans seek to convince the middle classes and labor to support the rule of the wealthy with the argument that "What's good for General Motors is good for the country," that what benefits corporations is also going to benefit regular people.
The Democratic Party is different. They act as a "broker" negotiating and selling influence among broad layers of the people to support the objectives of corporate rule. The Democratic Party's core group of elected officials is rooted in careerists seeking self-promotion by offering to the corporate rulers their ability to control and deliver mass support. And to the people they offer some concessions, modifications on the platform of the Republican Party. One important value of the Democratic Party to the corporate world is that it makes the Republican Party possible through the maintenance of the stability that is essential for "business as usual." It does this by preventing a genuine mass opposition from developing. Together the two parties offer one of the best frameworks possible with which to rule a people that otherwise would begin to move society towards the rule of the people (i.e. democracy).
An example of this process is our minimum-wage laws. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage has been gradually declining for years. Every now and then the Democrats pass a small upward adjustment that allows the downward trend to continue, but gives the appearance that they are on the side of the poor.
(Note: In NY, the Governor
has the power to raise the minimum wage without legislative approval. The
great liberal, Mario Cuomo, refused to do it for his twelve years in office.