Electoral Pains and Movement Gains: Why the 2004 Election Pretty Much Sucks

- by Joshua Frank

“VOTE, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.”
- Ambrose Bierce

The stench is dizzying. It’s almost too much to bear. Progressive voters are having a more than difficult time justifying their support for the rot we call the Democratic Party -- as the John-John ticket has few redeeming qualities, if any.

Then again this George W. Bush boob is pretty fricken scary, isn't he? He lied, and drove our country into an unnecessary war. He hates minorities and despises gays. He cares little for the environment (unless it can turn him and his pals an oily buck of course). He believes the government has the right to spy on its citizens. He thinks the poor and working class deserve their wretched poverty. And the list goes on.

You would think that in this polluted neocon atmosphere the Democrats would feel invigorated. Ecstatic even. You would think they’d want to differentiate themselves from their Republican rivals by offering an alternative. You would think they’d want to win this election.

You would think.

Instead we have a neoliberal troupe on banal Democrats (the richest ticket in the history of the world mind you) who agree with virtually every major plank of the Republican Party. They overwhelmingly supported Bush’s cowboy invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Attorney General Ashcroft’s Patriot Act. Bush’s (not-so) “healthy” forest plan. The Republican’s prescription drug bill. The tax-cuts for the super rich. The $87 billion occupation funds. You name the crime, and the Democrats are sure to have their fingerprints all over the damn thing.

In steps the trusted Green Party. The standard bearer of social and environmental justice. Or so we thought. They hate Bush as much as anyone and hope this election sends him packing back to his Texas ranch. Despite this, the Greens folded at their convention in June and endorsed a lackluster lawyer named David Cobb. By embracing this Cobb character, the Greens opted to run a “safe-state” strategy that ensures the Green campaign will have no effect on the 2004 election whatsoever. For the Greens are more concerned with “movement building” then electoral gains, and they believe the best way to succeed is to steer clear of that rough battleground territory.

Sounds like a losing approach to me. It’s as if the Greens are asking folks to rally for a team that doesn’t have any players on the roster. But we’ll see how successful they are after November’s contest. Until then we’ll have to sit back and endure the agony of Cobb’s humdrum recital. I know, as if we weren’t already sick to our stomachs from the Democrats’ ghastly show, now this.

So how about the independent candidacy of Ralph Nader? The consumer advocate’s heart is in the right place, no doubt. He’s not afraid of taking on the Beltway fat cats. He said he will run hard in all states and isn’t fazed by the Democrats attempts to exterminate his drive; nor the conservative's ploy to co-opt his camp. He doesn't care much for the Iraq war, and thinks the US is too nice to that brutal Israel.

However, many progressives argue Nader has no vision for what to do after this dismal election season. And that's a big problem. They claim that he has done little to reach out to the Left, and he has no real radical base, and no, the Reform Party doesn't count. He has registered his own “Progressive Party” in certain states, but says he’ll only move forward with the prospect if there is ample support. If Nader isn’t preparing to do something after November, what’s the point of even running? Huh Ralph?

But if Nader does go ahead with his own party, his campaign mate Peter Camejo, a longtime Green, may have to decide if his old Party is worth hanging onto. Will Camejo bail the Green Party and work with Nader to spark a Progressive crusade? Will faithful Camejo enthusiasts desert the Greens and follow his lead? Is Nader’s objective to demolish the Greens altogether?! Indeed it was Nader who put the Greens on the map when he ran as their presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000. So it is likely that quite a few Greens would follow his lead if he does attempt to grow his Progressive Party.

Well, it looks like Nader has some answering to do. Hell, maybe this diatribe is entirely meaningless; he may not even get on enough ballots to make a bit of difference anyway.

All this talk doesn’t leave one feeling so hot about electoral politics. There just isn’t much to get excited about. It’s like these campaigns are asking us to take a chug out of a carton of spoiled milk. Maybe that Mikhail Bakunin cat was onto something when he said we shouldn’t even bother participating in “bourgeois politics.” At least I’m starting to think so.

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