Saturday, March 10, 2007

L8r N8r H8rz

Ordinarily sensible and erudite SF Chron movie critic Mick LaSalle just can't help himself when it comes to Ralph Nader, apparently. It's not just him, of course; many people still can't. I just didn't expect this sort of thing in, you know, 2007:

First of all, I find all the ways that people defend Nader's actions in 2000 to be bogus. One thing they say, for example, is, "No one knew Bush would be quite this bad." You didn't? I knew. All you had to do was pay attention. He lied about McCain in the primaries, and he lied through the general election. It was clear that he had character problems and was intellectually limited. So it's not exactly like Nader threw the election to Bob Dole, who might have made a decent president. Nader went on an ego trip, got cheered at by a lot of idealistic (and curiously all white) college students. Hung out with movie stars. And gave us the Iraq war. Good going Ralph. And you think we're supposed to remember you for what? Seat belts?

Okay, full disclosure here. First of all, I voted for Nader in 2000, which I will elaborate on. Second, I am "Tek Jansen" in the comments of LaSalle's post, if you can't already tell by the overgrown hedges of angry clauses there.

Now, as to LaSalle's comments about how he "knew" that Bush would be "this bad" because he "paid attention". Well, I paid attention as well. I saw and read up on all the rotten shit Bush pulled on McCain in the South Carolina primary. The portion of history that was on the record was problematic enough; the parts that were only hinted at bespoke even worse character flaws. It was pretty obvious, as LaSalle says, that Bush was intellectually and temperamentally unsuitable for the job. No shit -- he was unsuitable to be even a nominee of an ostensibly serious political party. And yet, there he was, in full stammering glory, as dumb as the day is long.

But can you extrapolate from that that he would subsequently: enable a catastrophic energy crisis forced on the nation's largest state by a bunch of Texas bunco artists; ignore detailed warnings of imminent terrorist attacks; leave incomplete a necessary military action to initiate an unnecessary invasion and occupation; squander hundreds of thousands of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars, and the heretofore sacrosanct civil rights of American citizens and the principles of the Geneva Convention; and so many other, endlessly enumerated atrocities? No, I honestly don't think you can.

Speaking for myself, I rather naïvely assumed that enough people would have enough goddamned sense to see a fool when he was staring them in the face, and not vote for him. Stupid me; I had briefly forgotten my Mencken and presumed that at least enough of my fella 'merkins had their wits about them. I have certainly not made that mistake since. I did not, however, instantly ascribe some sort of transcendent level of malice or indifference to the guy because he was a demonstrably stupid legacy thug. The world is full of such people; 99% of them do not do the things George W. Bush does and did. Usually they just snicker when they take up that second parking space or cut you off in traffic. So it's a fallacious assumption.

Nader may be indirectly responsible for something besides the Iraq war. Just a question: If the CIA director came to a President Al Gore in August of 2001 saying that bin Laden planned to attack targets in the United States, do you think Al would have ignored him? Do you think he would have had a worthless National Security Adviser who would have let him ignore it? Of course, even if Gore got on the case, he might not have been able to prevent the 911 attacks. But we'll never know. Anyway, great airbags, Ralph. Thanks for your magnificent contribution to history. And please run again in 2008, so you can get even fewer votes than you got in 2004.

I find this particularly galling. Nader -- and in turn, the people who voted for him -- may be indirectly responsible for 9/11 and the Iraq War, not to mention the recent untimely passing of America's Rose, Anna Nicole Smith. I do agree with LaSalle's assertion, a rather common one over the past several years, that a Gore presidency and NSA would have taken the "Bin Laden Plans To Strike With Hijacked Planes In The U.S." reports quite seriously, vacation or no.

But I went through all this in the chat fora back in 2000. I heard time and fucking again how I owed my vote to Gore. I never heard them say any of this to their fellow Democrats who had defected in much larger numbers to vote for Bush, mind you. That was apparently just fucking jake. After all, Bush, simpleton or no, was the standard-bearer for one of the accepted Parties; therefore, he had been vetted by the hallowed process. The people had spoken, God damn them.

But after all is said and done, Nader's original point for running was and is still essentially correct -- corporate underwriting of the legislative process has taken governance further away from the interests of an already-dwindling middle class. And corporate underwriting of both the campaign finance process and the endless media campaign-industrial complex has perverted and corrupted the very essence of the system itself, to where even basic points of dialogue and debate are incontrovertibly altered.

In 2000, that translated into the effervescent media Heathers cooing and grunting at utterly meaningless things -- Gore's chick advisor told him to wear earth tones; Gore sighed at the debate; Gore moved awkwardly at another debate; Gore thinks he's soooo fucking smart -- smarter than you, Joe Lunchpail, who let yourself be bamboozled by "family values" nonsense not once, but twice, to vote directly against your own self-interest.

I ask again -- how is this all Nader's fault? The only reason someone like George W. Bush gets anywhere near the White House in the first place is because of the systematic dumbassification of Americans. A country with a lick of common sense would know better than to give him any more responsibility than a junior-varsity towel-boy.

We can go round and round on the 583-votes-in-Florida issue all damned day; bottom line is that thousands of Floridians who had voted for Clinton went for Bush, and thousands more were "accidentally" disenfranchised by Jeb!s political ChoicePoint allies. And when the Republican rent-a-mobs harassed the recounts (which probably would have ended in Gore's favor, had they been allowed to complete), and when Jim Baker slithered over there to "help", did Gore's team step up and counter any of these overly provocative actions? Fuck no. They took the high road straight home.

And fuck Florida anyway. Gore didn't need Florida. All he had to do was carry his own goddamned home state. Jesus H. Christ, he couldn't even pull that off. Once again, why is this Nader's fault? Why is this my fucking problem? Why are a candidate's manifest shortcomings projected onto a "spoiler" who refused to recognize his diminished place in a supposedly free political system, and thence to that spoiler candidate's principled, if disaffected constituency?

It is always a political candidate's job to convince the voter why he or she is a good choice. I listened to Gore's sales pitch. I came very close to voting for him. And he has absolutely acquitted himself extremely well since then. But I was also pissed at the needlessly squandered brilliance of Clinton, countless possibilities splashed across that intern's tonsils. And Gore seemed woefully unprepared for dealing with the slime machine he was up against. These people are sore winners; they couldn't even resist making up the "Clenis' team stole all the w's" story. What kind of losers do you think they'd have been, especially with an intact Republican congress?

Having said all that, I will also say this about Nader, that both as a person and as a politician, he is too dogmatically rigid to ever be truly effective in an arena that requires daily compromise. He would be a terrible president, and his appearance in 2004 was little more than a cruel joke. His time in the political spotlight is done, and his recent Daily Show appearance did nothing to sway me on that opinion. At this point, he seems to take pride in being a jerk; he has to know that he could be far more effective and meaningful finding subsets of Democratic groups he could help empower and enfranchise in the debate, instead of increasingly coming off like a lone crank.

But 2000 was a different time; we had eight years of relative peace and prosperity; economic indicators were high; foreign policy looked strong and just; and the opportunity to refocus one small part of the debate on something other than a smooth corporate agenda seemed apt. We forget that in our presumptions about Nader and the people who voted for him; it barely merits saying that had we known then what we know now, that not only was Bush a retard, but an irretrievably dangerous one, we would have played it safe, stuck our idealism back up our asses and voted for Gore.

My question to the people who can't seem to give up the Nader hate is this -- have they ever gotten (or even tried to get) any similar concession out of the people who voted for Bush/Cheney, not once, but twice and were proud of that shit? No? Well then, climb out of our asses already, because you have about 10-12 times as many people who "owed" their sacred vote to Gore and gave it to Bush. And until you resolve that little conundrum, this other shit's a waste of time.

Can't wait till next year, when the Democrats carefully try to calibrate their outflanking measures, as always dependent on what the opposition's tack is, and we have to listen once again to the godawful notion that their pathetic overtures to people that would just as soon gut them as vote for them is something for us to fucking rally behind.


Anonymous said...

Damn, dude, tell your wife I'm mancrushing on you now!

No, but seriously - you may have noticed me in a few comment sections trying to talk sense about this shit in recent months, and it really drives me to despair to see fellow liberals so blinkered and unreachable on this topic.

The point I keep hammering on, in addition to all the good ones you raised, is this: how the fuck does anyone know that the people who voted for Nader would have voted for Gore otherwise if Nader hadn't been on the ballot?

What I mean is that, given my own experience among the farther-left, I think it's highly more likely that the vast majority of those Nader voters were only there voting in the first place because of him. They weren't originally Gore fans who somehow got swayed into thinking that Ralph had a chance. Idealists that they were/are, they wanted to start building a viable third party; otherwise, they would have probably joined the 60% or so of the electorate that stayed home that year.

I haven't yet gotten a serious answer on this. Most of the time the unexamined premise just gets restated again, some form of "Well, Nader got X amount of votes in such-and-such a location!", and once again, it gets taken completely for granted that they would have voted for Gore otherwise. It's really maddening to keep having this experience of talking to a brick wall with people who shouldn't be that dense.

Plus, the last time I saw this come up, at Crooks and Liars, I saw some commenters providing stats that showed large numbers of registered Democrats voting for Bush in Florida, which I hadn't known about before (and I see you caught that as well). Seriously, if flagellating apostates is so much fun, why don't those fucksticks come in for any of this treatment?

Heywood J. said...

"Mancrush". Cool. I feel like Keith Hernandez on Seinfeld now. I definitely agree with your point that many Nader voters are falsely assumed to have been potential Gore voters. Several people I personally knew would not have voted at all if Nader hadn't been running. There's a good chance I wouldn't have. I was completely disgusted by the politics of triangulation, and Gore's weaselly, puling answers in regard to serious questions about fundraising ethical violations did not help.

Saying that he'd have been a better president than George W. Bush means nothing. The flock of wild turkeys that roams through my back yard every few days fits that description as well.

I really have been all over this issue since the late stages and aftermath of the 2000 election. I recall seeing those numbers back at the time, that something like 12 times as many Democratic voters had gone for Bush as had gone for Nader.

And all the good little Gore voters marched in lockstep and told be what a prick I was (even though I lived in California and thus had zero effect on the outcome; in fact, I live in a county that went 70% Bush in 2004).

At first I just told them to go fuck themselves, that it was Gore's job to convince me, and not my duty to protect him from a bunch of addled retards getting all mooney-eyed over Bush's wafer-thin personality.

And the way voters and media studiously ignored Nader's preening idiocy in the '04 campaign, you'da thunk that would be that. That made it pretty clear that we idealists had indeed learned our lesson, and would never again trust that enough Americans had the marginal intelligence required to see George W. Bush for exactly what he was.

But the fact that the meme is still out there is simply unhealthy; it resolves and edifies absolutely nothing. It lets Gore off the hook for running an utterly inept campaign and losing to a gibbering buffoon. It lets the media off the hook for their fucking parlor games that warp and transform the debate from substantive issues to that of tie color and occasional body language tics.

Most of all, it lets the Democratic Party itself off the hook for all they've done since 9/11 to enable the Bush/Cheney machine. They didn't find their sack until post-Katrina, and even then, used it sparingly, even though Bush has never been above 39% in any poll since September of 2005. Shit, they haven't been able to slap Bush's cock out of Lieberman's mouth for two years running. What kind of fucking Mickey Mouse shit is that?

And now they smugly assert that, "see, we told you so, they're not really the same". No, they're not. But they are much more similar than they are different, in that they are in thrall to corporate interests, and hopelessly leveraged by small but potent special interest groups, one of which is the corporate media itself. None of that has changed; if anything, it's gotten worse.

It's an insidious beast, and Gore was no more likely to stand up to it than Bush would. The difference is that the Republicans have learned how to work with the beast, mostly by questioning their opponents' (and, by implication, the media weasels') masculinity and competence.

Even though every closet case turns out to be a Republican, even though the lists of draft dodgers and chickenhawks overwhelmingly redound to them, because they are bereft of even basic concepts of shame, they run with that play and it keeps working, because it amplifies the similar projected anxieties of their base.

My real point -- and I do have one -- is that as long as Nader continues to serve as a convenient scapegoat, a handy vessel for all of the Democrats' individual and collective mistakes in strategy and execution, nothing will change. Because it allows them to avoid confronting their own ineptitude, which is really what got us to this point. I understood that in January of 2001; I cannot figure out why they still do not understand such a basic fact.