A friend and reader emails:
Your reply on Blogs etc. was your best yet. Very thoughtful.
Re: elections & Nader: Time will tell about if Kerry wins. I expect some very dirty tricks, as the recent list jamming in Florida showed. Too many people think Bush will produce Osama at just the right time, and there is too much evidence that the new electronic voting machines will be spoofed. On the other hand, there are a lot of really pissed people out there, watching. And as you pointed out a couple of months ago, both the DOD and the CIA are also not happy. Or at least some of them.
As for Nader, you may be right. He does have a good history, going way back to "Unsafe at Any Speed." I know people who claim all of his good works are a diversion, but this is nit-picking maybe. Let us just observe, & see what develops. You are in the enviable position to be able to vote for him and not hurt the chances of having Bush lose. Bush out of office is my main concern.
If Kerry does indeed win, there may be hope. This is the good 'ol USA, after all, and nobody that does not make the people feel warm and fuzzy and safe can win. Therefore if elected he may even make some anti-war policies that could actually result in a respected USA, less terrorists, etc. One can only hope.
Thanks for your kind words, they're appreciated.
Re: your concerns about dishonest Republicans: for a couple of months starting about six month ago, I was asking people I got into conversations with if they thought Bush would produce Osama before the election. Not only did everyone say yes, no one hesitated. (Of course I do live in a relatively educated city.) I also figured we'd find Saddam, gas prices would go down, Reagan would die, the Bush machine would cheat in Florida, and in general Diebold would steal a lot of votes everywhere their machines are used. Nevertheless I predicted an easy victory for Kerry. I didn't think Iraq would be as violent as it is now, and I certainly didn't predict Abu Ghraib, which was serious damage to Bush. Notice that you don't see or hear Rumsfeld much these days, though his sing-song delivery used to grace the screen constantly. And I never would have guessed that Kerry would be essentially even with Bush in available cash. That is amazing.
I'm inspired by your belief that Kerry has a shot at being an anti-war President. It is true, I think, that there's a possibility he could turn out to be a great President, really top-flight. He's clearly got some of the stuff one would need. The issue I have with him is not competence, it's policy. And in that area I haven't seen any signs that I can recall of Kerry being anything other than a honorable and courageous and intelligent DLC clone. It's rare to marry into a family of corporate wealth and then attack corporations (and they are after all the problem). And those votes about the Iraq war seem to me to indicate a willingness to relinquish responsibility to the war machine that I find very troubling. If I thought there was a nontrivial chance of him going in the right direction, I would probably vote for him. The thing is, I haven't seen any signs yet.
On the other hand, I admire Nader tremendously, I really think he's a great person. More importantly, in the political sense, I think his understanding of the issues and prescriptions for solutions are mostly right on the money. And I don't see any sign that his actions are motivated by ego; what part of this experience has been an ego boost for him? He gets nothing but shit from people who are his natural friends. True, a lot of his life has been like this. Although he made his original fame, as you said, with Unsafe at Any Speed, his interest in cars doesn't include owning or driving one. Perhaps that's coincidence, or maybe he thinks all cars are unsafe for everyone, not just him. Or maybe he's paranoid. You could see how he might be. But if all his good works are a diversion, Manchurian Candidate-style, he's a great actor in addition to his other skills. (And he'd have to be involved in some pretty nasty stuff to overbalance the good works, in my book.)
The point of which is to say that I think Ralph has a plan. One can surely disgree with it at the level of goals, assumptions, predictions, or execution. But it's hard to imagine a guy this smart, with this sort of background and these policies, engaging in activities like his for the fun of tearing shit up. It appears to me that his actions remain consistent with a plan to get the Democrats to adopt some of the positions that would guarantee them victory, and therefore I think “real” Democrats would want him to succeed. I think the Democratic party of old, the FDR-type Democratic party, is the natural majority in the country. Business has had the party under attack for several decades, as Sidney Blumenthal explained in 1988 in The Rise of the Counter-Establishment. Here's part of a review from Namebase:
Journalist Sidney Blumenthal believes that changes within elite circles, rather than within the electorate at large, explain the dramatic upheavals of U.S. politics in the 80s. No "Republican realignment" has taken place among voters, who still favor progressive domestic policies. But the centrist U.S. political establishment has been outflanked by a conservative "counter-establishment" that operates outside traditional parties. Through its network of magazines, think-tanks, and other institutions, this "counter-establishment" keeps up a permanent blitz in favor of its ideological agenda. It has an "idea," or at least a catch-phrase, for every problem you can think of. Many of these ideas (e.g., supply-side economics, Star Wars, enterprise zones) don't work, but this matters far less than how they play in TV's war of images.
It seems conceivable to me that Kerry might eventually move in the direction that I think would assure him of a landslide victory and a major mandate for change. Kevin Phillips puts the issue cogently, and I highly recommend his article:
John Kerry can win, given George W. Bush's incompetence, and White House strategists realize that. All the Democrats need to do is to peel away some of the Republican "unbase"--the most wobbly members of the GOP coalition. The caveat is that not many Democrats understand that coalition or why it has beaten the Democrats most of the time since 1968. Nor do most understand the convoluted but related role of Bill Clinton in aborting what could have been a 1992-2004 (or 2008) mini-cycle of Democratic White House dominance and in paving the way for George W.
Elements of this shortsightedness are visible in both the party and the Kerry campaign. While attempts to harness "Anybody but Bush" psychologies and to attract voters without saying much that is controversial might win Kerry a narrow victory, this strategy would be unlikely to create a framework for successful four- or eight-year governance. Deconstructing the Republican coalition is a better long-term bet, and could be done. The result, however, might be to uncage serious progressive reform.
If Kerry adopts a couple of Nader's positions, and thus shows a willingness to allow some of this strategy to become his own (as he has to some extent with Edwards), I think he could get Nader's vote, and mine. This is what I think Nader is trying to accomplish. If he does it, Kerry and the country will be better off.
But I'm telling you, Barack Obama is the man to watch. His keynote address this evening was the best speech I've ever heard. I understood him to be calling for universal health care (not insurance, who wants that, I want health care) and universal education. It shouldn't matter what your name is or how much money you have: opportunity should be open to all. This is the kind of theme the Democrats used to champion, and if they would really start doing it again, without the DLC trickle-down scams, it would be as popular as ever.
The Republicans are leading with their few remaining moderates as convention speakers, and the real powers like DeLay won't be speaking at all. The media is talking about how fake that is (which they wouldn't be doing if Bush hadn't screwed them; one more reason to thank George). But the Democrats are not above putting up a façade to placate the left. Bush I tried to put up a Christian-conservative façade, but it collapsed for a variety of reasons centering, I think, on his distaste for the role; he wasn't sufficiently mindless. To me it looks like a couple of Stepford candidates, one mind controlled by corporations and wearing Christian Right colors, the other controlled by corporations and wearing Business Right colors. This is why so few people vote: they don't see either candidate as having their interests in mind.