February 24, 2008

Nader's Run for the White House

At one level, admittedly an idealistic one, I would point out that the words "Republican Party" or "Democratic Party" are not found in the Constitution. The domination of American politics by these two parties results from a de facto monopoly, and their ownership of power in the United States makes it virtually impossible to dislodge them. They have been in power so long that they have changed the rules of the Senate, for example, with the "60 vote" rule, which is not a Constitutional feature, and it is assumed that all committee chairmanships and assignments are done on the basis of only two caucuses. The "independents," such as Lieberman and Sanders, simply choose which of the two main parties they wish to align with.

While we speak of liberals in the Democratic Party as being "left" or even "leftists," in truth the main political scene in this country does not have a Left in the sense that such a term developed in French politics (the designations "gauche et droit" dividing the Parliamentary aisle). In the way that Karl Marx or classical political thinkers would have used the term, Leftist referred to social ownership of the means of production, social services, etc., as opposed to private enterprise. The French still go through occasional spasms where industry or part of it is "socialized," e.g., reflecting the continued vitality of true Leftist thinking in that country. Neither of the two main political parties in the U.S. varies from a capitalist orthodoxy in any significant degree. The Democrats are a center-Right party, and the Republicans, increasingly, are a Far Right phenomenon.

Nothing in the Constitution, which we tend to forget about because of the long domination by only two parties (which we identify now as synonymous with "Government"), prohibits a person unaffiliated with the Republicans or Democrats from running for office. If he can satisfy the entrance requirements, Nader has the right to run. The objections, of course, arise from considerations of Realpolitik; Nader tends to draw votes which would otherwise go to the mainstream Democratic candidate. Nader's impact on the Florida vote count in 2000 was considered decisive in favor of Bush, although he disputes this conclusion with some logical arguments. Operatives in the Democratic Party resent his gate-crashing because he doesn't have a real chance to win, and because it runs the risk of giving us another Bush, this time in the form of the mentally unbalanced John McCain.

There is no way to dismiss the Democratic Party's complaint decisively; they're right, of course. In a tight race, Nader gets in the way of the Democrats. The arguments of the Democrats, of course, would be easier to take if they had used what power they had to block the excesses of the Bush Administration. For example, why didn't they use the 60 vote rule in the Senate to block Bush's tax cuts, which have been fiscally ruinous? Why didn't they use their majority ownership of the House to deny all funding for a continuation of the Iraq War? Why didn't they use the 60-vote rule in the Senate to refuse passage of the Military Commissions Act until habeas corpus was restored, and until the war crimes exonerations were removed? They had the clear, invincible power to do all these things. Their failure to do anything, to play ball with Bush when they didn't have to, validates Nader's central point.

In terms of the present race between Obama and Clinton, why does neither ever argue for a streamlined military which is commensurate with the nature of a true terrorist threat? Where are the calls, for example, for a 25% reduction in military spending? Well, as the Democrats will say, you simply can't do that. We'll look soft on defense. The American electorate isn't smart enough, they're saying with a wink, to figure out matters of detail and nuance. We have to keep spending way too much money just to keep up appearances. Then we look tough and resolved, even if it's a stupid waste of money. Same with the health care issue; it has to remain a business-for-profit in this country; hell, this isn't Denmark, they say.

It sure isn't. Nader does say all these things, of course, and the Democrats claim (correctly?) that he can say them because he can't actually get elected. So we're stuck, permanently, with two ossified parties that cannot react to reality. Is that it? Nader's idealism (not his megalomania, as Democratic operatives have it) impels him to run. He doesn't like accepting that cynical conclusion without a fight. No one has to vote for him, and few people do. But don't attack him for doing what he thinks is right.

No comments:

Post a Comment