WHEN THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD

7 03 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I was commenting in a discussion thread on Facebook that had started with a local, politically active friend bemoaning the abysmally low turnout in the last election.  Here in Tennessee, only 29.1 percent of the electorate bothered to show up at the polls, the second lowest turnout in the country.  This enabled the sixteen percent of Tennessee voters who actually support banning abortion and income taxes, and who approve of the mean-spirited program of the Republican Party, to feel as if they had swept like a mighty tide over the state.

Well, I pointed out, the Democrat Party hasn’t really put up much of a fight.  Their leadership is inextricably tied to the national DP leadership, which is, truth be told, “progressive” only in its rhetoric, and then only when it needs to attempt to motivate “progressives” to vote for Democrats.  The progressive rhetoric, which is never truly radical, certainly not anti-corporate, and absolutely never questions capitalism, is quickly cast aside once the election’s over, and, if they win, the Dems go back to being the same old imperialist, corporatist, center-right party they’ve always been.  So, I said to the folks in the thread, why don’t all you progressives come over to the Green Party?

stein_chanceResponse? He was shocked, absolutely shocked.  “When Greens run, Democrats lose,” wrote my friend.  Another commenter chimed in, “Nader cost Gore the 2000 election.  Look what that got us.”

It was late at night, I was feeling ill, and I was short on temper and brains. “You guys have drunk too much Democrat kool-aid,” I fumed, and quit the group in disgust.  It didn’t take me long to regret my grumpiness and haste, but they declined to let me back in the group. I had had a chance to unmask some of my friends’ illusions, and I had blown it.  What I am telling you today is for my own benefit as well as for the benefit of the many people who would have echoed their words, reminding me to be patient with those who have fallen for the Big Lie about Nader, and the many other big lies that, er, underlie our sociopolitical fabric. Read the rest of this entry »





THE GREAT RIGHT HOPE

6 10 2005

The rising star of the Democratic Party in Tennessee, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis, showed his true colors again when he voted for the revisions to the Endangered Species Act, revisions introduced and avidly pushed by the Bush junta and its fascist supporters in Congress. I have a certain sympathy with the property-rights question that this new bill allegedly addresses—as one advocate pointed out, the government pays you when it takes your land for a highway, so why shouldn’t it pay you when it takes your land for a bird?–but the law as passed is wide open for abuse–”I was just about to put a fifty-million dollar resort hotel on this previously barren, worthless stretch of prairie, but now that the golden-crested whatzit has been discovered nesting here, I can’t do that, so please pay me fifty million dollars instead of the ten thou the land is worth without a hotel on it.”

Other provisions of the act are even less consciensable—the end of critical habitat designation, allowing pesticide spraying in endangered species’ habitats (which is what almost killed off the bald eagle), and designating the politically-appointed secretary of the Interior as the person who decides what science to follow, rather than leaving it to—duh—scientists.

Ford, who is angling to replace Bill Frist in the Senate, is doubtless trying to position himself sufficiently to the right to attract Tennessee voters, many of whom find “property rights” a hot-button issue. Too bad animals can’t vote or own property, eh?

Ford’s record is mixed, at best. While he voted against CAFTA, he voted for the Bush administration’s bankruptcy reform bill, which makes it much harder for individuals to get out from under overwhelming debt—which, as I have pointed out before, is frequently generated by the shortcomings of our economic/social system, and was certainly not a vote that helped his predominantly poor constituents.

Ford has also been a strong supporter of the invasion of Poland—excuse me, Iraq, and has been supportive enough of Bush’s attempt to destroy Social Security that, when Bush came to Memphis to try and raise support for “privatization,” he gave Ford 100 tickets to the event to distribute and hailed Ford from the stage. And this is the guy the Democrats are going to run?

To be fair, I’ll have to tell you that when Harold Ford realized how unpopular Bush’s plan was, he lost interest in it—demonstrating that he’s either a realist or an opportunist, depending on how you look at it.

CBC monitor, an internet site that styles itself “the watchdog of the Congressional Black Caucus,” gave Ford the lowest rating of any caucus member—by their lights, he voted in the best interests of black Americas only 5% of the time, in contrast to the likes of John Lewis, Cynthia McKinney, Barbara Lee, and John Conyers, who all earned scores of 100%. But hey, if you’re a black man angling for statewide office in the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan (you knew that about Tennessee, didn’t you?) then politically it may pay off not to be too black.

This little story about Harold Ford illustrates why I’m working to build a strong Green Party here in Tennessee—it’s too hard to tell the Democrats from the Republicans. I like having a party that’s based on principles, not just on a strong desire for power and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get it.








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