The Democratic Party is dying a slow death. It was inevitable.
From the 2000 Presidential election/selection through 2006, Democrats were relatively united. While there were very real divisions between the "Dean wing" and the "DLC wing" back in 2004, the ugliness was kept in check as most Democrats rallied behind the Kerry candidacy as part of an "Anybody But Bush" (ABB) crusade. It's important to note the reasons Democrats were able to unify in 2004. Was it Kerry himself? Absolutely not. Was it a "take one for the team" party spirit? Absolutely not. Party unity was achieved by two key factors: George W. Bush and the war/occupation in Iraq. Is unity among Democrats possible this year? Absolutely not. It's almost incredible to see it playing out but Democrats are well on their way to losing this year's Presidential election. The occupation is still in full force; the economy is in almost total collapse; mega-corporate corruption is headline news almost everyday, and still, Democratic chances are rapidly waning. The problem, of course, is that, unlike the Republicans, the Democratic Party really doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up.
The party meekly hints at elements of socialism but is afraid to confront capitalism head on. The party parades out its laundry list of issues (many of which are valid issues) but is unable to fund them because of its undying support for virtually unlimited military spending. The party highlights a litany of social injustices but refuses to confront the failed institutions that allow them to remain in force.
"But we're better than the other guys" is hardly the kind of motto one would embroider on a flag or imprint on one's currency. Better does not mean good. Better does not inspire. Better does not gain and hold power. And so it will be with this year's Democrats. The Clintons and the DLC are like a cancer in the party but they are not the whole story. Even mainstream Democrats and self-described liberal Democrats buy into the "we're better than the other guys" myth. This is not to argue there is no difference between the parties but rather that "better than the other guys" is an unacceptable, setting-the-bar-too-low standard. We, the American people should demand real answers to real problems. If we don't hear the issues being addressed and we don't hear credible solutions to the great problems we face, the worst thing we can do is to continue to endorse a broken political system with our votes.
Many online articles have focused on the internet as the "new American soapbox" and have cited how progressives are now able to compete with the narrow, corporate views espoused by the so-called mainstream media. But perhaps this frame, itself, is too narrow. While online blogging clearly has forced the TV networks and the giant newspapers to compete for American hearts and minds, the hypocrisy embodied in the Democratic Party has also come under much closer scrutiny and much more regular and extensive criticism. While in 2004, Democrats may have believed the internet gave them a tiny voice to strike back at the right-wing stranglehold on the mass media, today, on many websites, the Democratic Party itself has become a popular target of progressives. The earliest progressive voices on the web struck at the lowest hanging fruit. That target was Bush, the neo-cons and the insanity of the US abuse of the Iraqi people. With Bush leaving office and the Democrats' unbelievable failure to put an end to the occupation or even to promise to end it with any sense of immediacy, the Democrats are clearly in trouble with progressives. Some Democrats, and some independents as well, see McCain as a benign, grandfatherly, calm and mature alternative to the sniping Democratic candidates. McCain is not benign. He got where he is by selling his soul to the neo-cons and to the Bush family. No one should have any misconceptions about that.
For some time now, it has appeared that neither the Green Party nor Ralph Nader was going to get any traction whatsoever during this election cycle. The Democrats approached this election with "big mo." At one time, it seemed that even moderate Democrats could count on the support of many progressives because alienated progressives really had no place to go if they wanted to push a dagger deep into the back of the neo-con immorality. Nader and the Green Party appeared to be a non-issue. How could anyone vote for Nader or the Greens when we needed to elect Democrats to put an end to the madness in Iraq? But the Democrats didn't do it and it sure looks like they do not intend to do it.
Well, to quote the always insightful Gomer Pyle: "surprise, surprise, surprise." A just released Zogby poll shows Nader making a much stronger showing than anyone anticipated. All the talk about Nader's ego did not seem to convince those who are supporting him. All the talk from Democrats about "Nader costing Gore the election" is not selling. All the talk about Nader being funded by Republicans is falling on ears that reject this Democratic Party script.
With virtually no media coverage, Nader is polling between 5 and 6 percent. This isn't a way-off-the-radar one percent. In fact, if you compare Nader's current percentages to such other Democratic notables as Biden, Dodd and Richardson at the peak of their candidacies, he's doing incredibly well. The former Democratic candidates just mentioned had the added benefit of at least some media coverage in addition to their participation in nationally televised debates. Nader has been rendered the invisible man. To coin a phrase, "there's something rotten in Denmark." Democrats will blame Nader, his supporters and third parties. That just might be a huge mistake.
Nader supporters are the enemies of corporatism, imperialism, capitalism, globalism, militarism and free trade and any system of governance that puts profits, and greed, before people. Nader supporters understand that any government or party that puts corporate welfare ahead of human welfare cannot and will not bring about social justice. Let me repeat that: "any government or party that puts corporate welfare ahead of human welfare cannot and will not bring about social justice." As an aside, the brand of "identity politics" practiced by many Green Party advocates defines the right "ends" without defining the right "means" to achieve the objective. If we lead with racial inequality or gender inequality, we fail to define the enemy that deprives us all of our common wealth. This is a rift on the left end of the political spectrum that has not yet sought or identified a sufficient compromise for the sake of unity. Nader supporters see corporate exploitation as a greedy, undemocratic force that "steals the whole pie" before we can even make sense out of focusing on the reality that some are unfairly served a smaller piece than others. Without disposing of our common enemy, an enemy that will steal everything there is to steal until there is nothing left to divide, focusing on the important injustices that Greens and others raise is a bit of a distraction from the task that lies ahead. Restore power to the people and then we can address all these critically important inequities. But I digress; the focus of this article was not to address differences between Nader supporters and Greens. Rather, it is to speak directly to Democrats.
I've heard all the arguments. Voting for Nader is like voting for Republicans. Voting for Nader will put more conservative justices on the Supreme Court. Voting for Nader will "insert your favorite argument here." I was once of you. I voted for Gore in 2000. In fact, until fairly recently, I was a card carrying member of the DNC. Now, I'm not. Fearing political fallout, the Democratic Party has stripped progressives of their right to be heard. No voice; no representation; no point in sticking around.
There are certain critical issues, urgent issues, that I just don't hear being addressed by Democrats in any meaningful way. These issues have become so critical that "politically safe" solutions are no longer acceptable. What is needed are radical changes. The most critical issues are global warming, dependence on oil, US imperialism and the abusive stranglehold mega-corporations have on our government. Do I expect Obama or Clinton to solve all these problems overnight? Of course not. The problem is, they're barely talking about these issues. It's not clear most of these issues even exist on the Democratic Party's radar. Sure, Democrats talk about global warming. The "solutions" they propose are timid and inadequate. It's time to throw everything we have at the problem. It's time to call for some restrictions on auto use. Will that be politically popular? Of course not ... at least not initially. It's time to call for a massive funding transfer from the military budget into alternative energy research. With a $1.1 trillion annual military budget, Obama has called for a piddily $15 billion a year for alternative energy research. That's an outlay of roughly 1.36 percent of the current military budget.
Does that seem to provide a proper allocation of resources given the relative risks involved?
Has either Obama or Clinton spoken out against the bloated US military budget or are they too afraid that would be seen as being "soft on defense?" No rational person, be they left, right or center should advocate a less than adequate defense. To spend blindly on military items, however, as we're currently doing, does not make the country stronger; it makes the country weaker. Are Democrats willing to acknowledge that? I'm afraid they are not.
The convergence of problems, i.e. global warming, oil dependence, fiscal collapse and excessive militarism, cries out for bold solutions; not the band-aid incrementalism and politically safe ideas Democrats have proposed. In all probability, Democrats, regardless of nominee, are going to lose this year's Presidential election. Democrats have failed, yet again, to get beyond politics. Democrats have failed, yet again, to reach out to Greens and other third party supporters. Democrats have failed, yet again, to allow minor candidates like Kucinich and Gravel to have a real voice for themselves and the progressives they represent. Democrats have failed, yet again, to propose the kind of bold solutions to the very real problems we face. My Democratic Party friends will whine and whine about Nader and those who support him. Sadly, when pressed on the critical issues we face as a nation, their answers, the few who even have answers, are sadly lacking. Their incredulity at those who have left the Democratic Party seemingly makes them blind to the reality that many have. With Nader polling above five percent, perhaps it's time they reexamined their positions. Democrats will inevitably blame Nader and his supporters for McCain's victory this year; perhaps a wee bit more introspection will help them in future elections.