This election season has turned out to be among the most divisive and derisive in my memory. The name-calling, the blame gaming and the Monday morning quarterbacking have fired up a small but extremely vocal band of progressives determined to righteously stake out the higher rhetorical ground and shout from the mountaintops, “its all your fault!” And what is most remarkable about the entire affair is the fact that most of this fighting is occurring inside the broad opposition to Bush and directed at other progressives.
Every apoplectic diatribe written in defense of St. Ralph or against the limpidly criminal electoral shenanigans of the Reps or Dems only makes us sound like the by-and-largely dismissible cry babies we become when we don’t get the attention we feel we deserve. We sound like losers, people. We sound, in fact, minor. Not minor as in representative of a small faction of our country’s electorate, but minor as in insignificant.
And all our infighting, nasty, brutish and short of sight, serves to make us appear even more laughable than we already sound, drawing the contempt of many of our potential supporters who see this and wonder aloud if we even deserve to win. Every time we are seen as tearing each other apart, the potential for truly progressive movement building dies just a little. And every rhetorical bullet wasted on divisive tactics leaves the majority of voters disillusioned with real change.
But look at their choices.
The Republicans have demonstrated that there is no war they are not willing to wage, no worker they are not willing to abuse, no racial stereotype they are not willing to manipulate, and no depths of crypto fascist theology they are not willing to adopt to benefit the tiny oligarchs who control this country and dominate all its media. (And despite all that they now run the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives as well as dominate the Supreme Court!) But perhaps it is that cold-blooded cabal of chicken hawks who ran from war, from the President on down to his neo-con con men advisers, who dominate the Republican Party who deserve our sharpest barbs. The threat they pose to our entire planet is a clear and present danger unlike we may have ever seen and they need to go. All of them.
But the Democratic Party, still carefully maintaining the ugly fiction that they are the “people’s party”, represents the chickenshit way out of moral courage, of fighting the good fight and truly serving the people. Now that they have removed long held planks in their platform for universal health care, refuse to endorse a living wage, retain a subtler but no less dangerous imperial foreign policy and have done next to nothing to expand American democracy by initiating Instant Runoff Voting or Proportional Representation, they have demonstrated yet once again their spineless capitulation to the bankrollers of both major parties and slapped all of us into accepting their crumbs. When will it end?
Their continuing moral cowardice is displayed for example, in Kerry's craven support for Israel's terrorist campaign against the Palestinians, in Kucinich's recent endorsement of Kerry, (he the darling of the so-called left-wing Democrats), in Kerry’s craven chickenshittedness in offering John McCain the VP slot, (thus blatantly revealing how paltry the differences between the major parties are), in Howard Dean’s shameless berating of Ralph Nader, and in the Dems disgusting display of unity (from Al Gore to Jesse Jackson) against Matt Gonzalez for the San Francisco mayoral race. A mayoral race! The examples are plenty and exist at all levels of the Democratic Party.
These people, the leadership of both major parties, no matter how “powerful” and united they are in keeping the mass of workers split apart and the humane message of American progressive history silenced, are slowly losing and they know it. Perhaps it began in Seattle in 1999. Perhaps it started when the Zapatistas rebelled and captured the world’s imagination that a small group of determined people could fight the grandest power on earth and its ugly trade deals that enrich a tiny few while condemning millions around the world to poverty and serfdom. Perhaps it began with Ross Perot’s faux populist bids for the White House which drew tens of thousands of American voters into his arms and Reform Party, or perhaps it began with the millions of people around the world marching against a war whose justifying doctrines had Nazis executed, who knows? But the cracks are showing and they know something is happening.
In fact, they are afraid. They are afraid of the millions of voices who might join together one day to demand justice, they are afraid of the millions of voters who just might decide to take a chance on a really progressive small party and throw the bums out. They are afraid we might see the truth about those countries that have universal health care, higher rates of unionism, proportional representation for elections and a population that feels like a part of the outside world. They know that there is generally greater democracy and greater accountability in those societies and they do not want us to think about it, because they know we would demand the same here.
So what do we do when faced with such an opportunity? We are reduced to divisive name-calling, rumor-mongering, false accusations and unrealistic idol worship. (Just for the record, neither Ralph Nader nor David Cobb will be President this year so what is the problem here?) This should not be about personalities, it should be about increasing the numbers of progressive voters, enfranchising the many who are presently excluded and giving voice to the realistic possibilities of change to our system.
We have some great forces here, but only one has a real long-term chance in my opinion. The three most progressive forces in the American political scene, The Socialist Party, The Labor Party and The Green Party, and as an individual, Ralph Nader, represent the greatest possibilities for progressive ideas to become a reality in the United States today.
Ralph Nader requires no introduction. But his repudiation of the Green standard he first carried in 1996 and more seriously in 2000 makes his independent candidacy this year more about him than about the building of a genuinely progressive movement to carry on a set of ideals well into the future. His quixotic run will leave supporters alone once he leaves the scene. Like Jesse Jackson before him, his legacy will be best remembered for those years before his Presidential runs, when his passion and oratory inspired many to action.
The Socialists, who continue to hold the high moral ground in their proud history and unswerving commitment to a better world are unfortunately considered passé, get little more than a laugh in the mainstream press, and can’t get past their name which most Americans associate with a failed, tyrannical system.
The Labor Party, whose possible constituents represent the most feared and potentially radical collection of voters in the country are continually bashed, marginalized and infiltrated by the “not-yet”ers who are pathologically attached at the hip to the Dems.
The Green Party, however, has the only real chance right now, for they are in place in hundreds of positions already, they are the fastest growing political movement in the US and retain the progressive spirit and commitment the other two have, only they add the now–prescient and universally accepted realization that the environment in its broadest sense must be protected and our economy restructured to ensure all our survival. Green positions are light-years more real and significant than what the “major” parties offer. We offer real labor reform, real environmental protection, real social justice and real foreign policy sanity.
Just take a look at the million Worker March website and look at their demands: they are almost all word for word in the Green Party platform. Look at the Socialist Party’s website and you’ll see the same. Look at what the Labor Party wants and you’ll see it in the Green platform. But the Greens have more. This is a time for us to unite, to stop the circular firing squad progressives have become yet again and get behind the one global force that can crush the multinational hold on our worlds economy, create a decentralized, more democratic society, open up the doors of all political offices to differing viewpoints, end the undemocratic stranglehold money has on our electoral system; embracing a vision that is internationalist, non-imperial and progressive. This is our potential right now and by worrying too much about either the Dems or the Reps we empower them all the more. Particularly their venal leadership. But if we unite right now, in this election cycle and begin the long hard work towards the creation of a more progressive America, then our people and all the people in the world will be the better for our efforts. We have to stop this useless in-fighting and get to work.
Thus, voting for the same crowd of weak-kneed capitulators will not change our system. And voting for a lone prophet without an organized movement or party behind him won’t either. It just won’t happen that way. But we can vote for those who remain part of the Greens and loyally support the vision and promise of the one party able to succeed.
However, it’s remarkable how suddenly some of the same people who spoke so fervently of their commitment to Green values and the Green vision are now spending more time collecting ammunition to fire at that very same group. This is no way to win. Coming up with even one small but realistic goal and uniting to work for it, offers our potential supporters a much better alternative. If we could get 5 representatives, for example (targeting some of the weakest links in that sick evolutionary chain for judicious defeat) into the Congress, then we will be able to get some real attention for the real work that has to follow: electoral reform. Getting one lone Green elected is a recipe for embarrassment for that solitary and probably decent person. But getting 5 elected is a caucus and every day they could speak loudly and strongly for our positions. And this year it’s possible. Thus, ignoring Kerry, firing Bush and voting Green are the only way we can reclaim some dignity and do something positive.
Creatively doing this, or some other strategy like it, is the only way to get out of the cycle of voting for one of two repulsive choices and then beating each other up during the process or after the results are in. This fratricidal madness has got to stop. It's time to win.
Rev. José M. Tirado is a writer, poet and Green activist whose articles have appeared in Counterpunch, Swans Commentary, Dissident Voice, the Gurdjieff Internet Guide, and the Magazine of Green Social Thought, Synthesis/Regeneration. He is also a Shin Buddhist priest teaching in Iceland. He can be contacted through: www.thepathofmyexperience.com.
Other Articles by José M. Tirado