Thursday, February 28, 2008

Katha Comes A Cropper

Oh, dear. I knew that liberal/progressive Democrats’ heads would explode when Nader declared his candidacy once again. I shouldn’t have been surprised when declared Obama partisan Katha Pollitt splattered her brains all over the page in the latest issue of The Nation, but still, it doesn’t make me feel any better to know that I could have predicted it.

Ralph Nader has a perfect right to run for President. And anyway it's hard to imagine that he will have the same effect in 2008 he had in 2000--which, he told Tim Russert, was very little, because the Republicans stole the election, which Gore rightfully won. Be that as it may, we've all had a seven-year crash course in just how much difference there can be between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

I’ve heard this line before. If Al Gore had taken the oath of office on January 20, 2001, there would have been no terrorist attacks on September 11, global warming would have been abolished, the economy would have blossomed and poverty would be no more, Republicans would have seen the error of their ways and become Democrats, the Israel/Palestine conflict would have ended in peace and brotherhood, Saddam Hussein would have resigned and petitioned for Iraq to become our 51st state, there would be freedom and equality for everybody, and the New Jerusalem would have descended from Heaven to establish itself in Washington D.C. In addition, we would meet a tall, dark stranger and go on a long trip in the coming year.

Nobody knows what would have happened if Gore had become President. But we do know what Clinton-Gore gave us during their tenure: NAFTA (which Pollitt, for some reason, dismisses as a concern of Left Coast elitists, instead of the ordinary citizens who gave Congress to the Republicans in 1994 as payback), DOMA, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (followed by greatly increased numbers of queers ejected from the military), welfare “reform,” the erosion of abortion rights, the blocking of the Kyoto Treaty, the gutting of the National Labor Relations Board, the Telecommunications Decency Act (fortunately overturned by the courts), the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (which increased domestic spying and wiretaps), more prisons, the terror bombing (twice) of Baghdad, the terror campaign in Serbia/Kosovo, a million Iraqis killed by sanctions (but "we think the price is worth it"), thousands more East Timorese killed by Clinton’s continued support for the Indonesian invasion, torture in Latin America and elsewhere, and a vast financial bubble which primarily benefited the already rich while most Americans slogged along, and which popped just in time for Clinton's successor to deal with it. The Clinton/Gore years were not good for most of us, or for the world. Since 2001, the Democrats in Congress have mostly been all too willing to go along with Bush’s worst, and the new day that was supposed to begin after the 2006 elections somehow never dawned, because the Dems were afraid the Republicans would call them bad names if they did anything with the mandate they’d been given.

Pollitt knows all this – she wrote some strong columns criticizing Clinton in the day – but now she seems to have forgotten it. Well, seven years of Dubya have been hard on Democratic brain cells. In the current column she’s making much of the differences between McCain and her guy Obama, which are real enough, but she’s a partisan now, which means she can’t be trusted to admit, or even recognize, her guy’s limitations. I’m worried by his evasive statements on Iraq, his bellicose noises toward Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, his desire to expand the US military. Is his health plan any good? Probably not; remember how badly the Clintons’ health plan, which was essentially a public subsidy for the HMOs, went down in 1993. If Obama has anything better in mind, it will be shot down even more handily, Democratic Congress or not; and if his plan is no better, then we don’t need it.

As for Nader, I’m not a fan or an apologist, and I concede the justice of some of Pollitt’s critique. I don't think Nader will make a dime's worth of difference in 2008, but I may vote for him in November anyway; or maybe I simply won’t vote for President at all -- there are other offices on the ballot, remember. Here in Indiana, it probably will make no difference, the electoral votes will go to McCain. I wish there were a real alternative, but I don’t see one.

P.S. A good piece, saying much the same thing but with less snark, at Counterpunch. Matt Gonzalez, Nader's running mate, weighs in at the same place.

P.P.S. Supporting Obama is already having an effect on Pollitt’s principles, it seems. Was a time when she took down pundits who made fun of (especially older) political women’s appearance, but if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: “Besides, McCain's not so old that he couldn't get himself a much younger trophy wife, and even if Cindy McCain looks brittle and unhappy and like she hasn't eaten in a decade, she is always there by his side, a visual reminder of his manly prowess.” Before you know it, she’ll be talking about Hillary’s wattles and her unevolved heavy lower body. Well, all’s fair in love and elections.