Bernie’s Supporters Could Throw Everything Away

The YouTubers are still plying their trade, dwelling on sob-stories, ominous polls, and adding to the general rudeness and confusion any way they can. My concern is that we can be led astray regardless of where we look for our news, so we have to be clear about why we’re supporting our candidate and not be swayed by bad news. I for one, have had enough of the turmoil.

I’m surprised to find that Bernie’s endorsement has had a remarkable effect on my mental state. It’s not what I wanted, but I can see it’s what had to happen. And I also realize that nothing that has taken place in this election should have surprised anyone the way it did.

I saw some positive signs when Hillary spoke at Bernie’s endorsement news conference and I’m hopeful that she and Bernie will be able to work together. However, it occurred to me that Bernie Sanders will have very little influence if Donald Trump is elected. And that’s where we’re headed if we fall for the third party diversion.  The U.S. system was not set up for multiple parties.  A third party vote never works the way their voters hope it will and in this case it will probably lead to a Trump presidency.  While Trump may not end Bernie’s movement, he will set it back. Trump is a big price to pay for a protest vote.

By the way, what do you suppose the odds are that just when we find a miracle-candidate with integrity and know-how, we also find a spare just waiting to save us in case he doesn’t work out–Jill Stein! Unfortunately Stein is a member of the party that gave the presidency to George Bush, back when Ralph Nader ran against him.  Of course they say she wasn’t the reason Bush won, but that’s not exactly a great recommendation for trying it again.

We knew things were bad when Bernie’s campaign started. We knew our democracy was under threat. We didn’t dare to hope he would actually win, but we had to try. Then when it looked like we might succeed we suddenly forgot everything we knew about the forces arrayed against us—forces that have been gathering strength for at least a century. (And so not created by the Clintons.) We forgot for a moment how outrageous our success really was…and still is, and we have yet to fully understand how far we’ve come.

You could refresh your memory by listening to Bernie’s conference call with his delegates.

For a discussion of third parties in America versus reforming the Democratic Party see:  The following is an excerpt from that article dealing with Nader’s motives and errors:

Nader Explains The Nader Campaign

Thanks to a highly detailed post-election book that Nader wrote to chronicle and justify his 2000 presidential campaign as a candidate of the Green Party, it is possible to show how the critique in this document applies to this most recent incarnation of the egalitarians’ quest for their own third party. Although Nader is now irrelevant as far as future elections, his mentality and rationalizations live on in all those leftists who insist on building a third party despite what Nader wrought in the 2000 elections.

Nader’s main claim is that the two parties are increasingly the same, and thus there is a need for a new third party that offers voters a real choice. This claim has two dimensions to it. First, the Democrats are far worse than their liberal supporters imagine. They have been collapsing on major issues since the 1970s, forsaking their “progressive” past, and matters only got worse in the Clinton-Gore years. Nader delivers a detailed indictment of these Democratic failures, including all the rejections of his own efforts by Gore and even the Progressive Caucus in the House.

Second, and even more importantly in terms of justifying a third party, Nader argues that the Republicans are not as dangerous as the liberal Democrats claim. Bush is not exactly “Genghis Khan,” he notes at one point, and then lists the various ways Bush moved to the center in his first year in office. This point was of course laughable by 2005, which is another reason why it is worth reminding everyone of how Nader justified his campaign.

Nader’s lack of concern when contemplating a Republican presidency is very different from the usual egalitarian view of Republicans as their main opponents. It can be appreciated more fully when it is contrasted with right-wing views of the Democrats. Due to their abhorrence of “big government,” labor unions, and/or liberal social values, right wingers generally avoid third parties at all costs because they genuinely fear the Democrats as the worst of all out-groups. A Clinton or a Gore looks tame to left-wing third-party advocates, but not to right wingers, who believe that the Democratic coalition, with Clinton and Gore representing its moderate wing, spells trouble for their worldview. Gore is Genghis Khan to conservatives, but Bush is not Genghis Khan to most left activists, including Nader, and therein lies an important part of the political equation in America. The energy of zealous right-wing activists is used on behalf of the Republicans, thereby uniting all those who are right of center when they step into the political arena, but the great energies and moral fervor of the egalitarians are often used in attacking Democrats as sell-outs, leaving those who are left of center divided among themselves and often demoralized.

But it is not only that the two parties are about the same according to Nader. He also claims that it is useful for the Democrats to lose if activist groups are to be energized enough to realize their goals through nonviolent direct action and lobbying pressure. Democrats take activist groups for granted once the activists endorse them, and the activists tend to sit back when Democrats are in office. The result, says Nader, is disastrous. The Democrats put activists to sleep; they “anesthetize” activists. Thus, he argues that activist groups often do better when the Democrats are not in power.

Furthermore, he continues, it may be good for the Democrats to lose once in a while so that they don’t take the citizen groups and social movements for granted. This is necessary because “The only message politicians understand is losing an election.” This comes fairly close to saying that it was time to sink Gore, especially when read in the context of the many extremely negative things he has to say about Gore on a wide variety of issues, and most pointedly environmental issues. Here Nader’s reasoning is based on the-worse-the-better theory.

The likelihood that Nader wanted to cost Gore the election also can be seen in the fact that he chose to go to Miami to campaign the Saturday before the election. He says that’s because he hadn’t spent much time in Florida, but he did so knowing the race was very close there, and despite the fact that some of his political scientist and sociologist supporters wanted him to draw back in Oregon, Wisconsin, and Florida to assure a Gore victory in those crucial states.

Although Nader never publicly said that punishing Gore was his motive, that’s the impression one disillusioned supporter received when he talked to a leader in the campaign about withdrawing from swing states like Florida, or asking Nader supporters in such states to hold their noses and vote for Gore in exchange for Nader votes by Democrats in safe states. The idea was that such a move would help defeat Bush while increasing the Nader vote in safe states. This would also vividly demonstrate the importance of Nader and his constituency to a Gore Administration and Democrats everywhere, or so some of his supporters reasoned. In response to this suggestion, one of Nader’s top aides abruptly said “We are not going to do that.” When the surprised supporter asked why not, the aide replied, “Because we want to punish the Democrats, we want to hurt them, wound them.”

Thus far, few analysts have closely examined Nader’s motives, but a staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer also reported that Nader wanted to punish Gore and the Democrats. After meeting with Nader in the Spring of 200l, he wrote: “He (Nader) is not coy about his motives. Just as he ran for president to punish Gore and the Democrats for allegedly betraying their progressive traditions and currying favor with global corporate power, now he wants to knock off congressional Democrats who have committed the same sins.” The journalist is referring to Nader’s plan to run 60 or so Greens in the congressional elections in 2002, which failed completely.

Nader also claims there are virtues to third parties. They introduce new issues and they bring out new voters, some of whom vote for Democrats in races where the third party does not have candidates. He claims there were a million new voters in 2000 thanks to his campaign, and takes credit for the victory of Democratic senatorial candidate Maria Cantwell in the state of Washington, where she won by 2,300 votes over the incumbent Republican. He also draws on the relative successes of the third-party presidential campaigns by John Anderson in 1980 and H. Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 to support his brief for third parties.

Nader’s specific arguments about the Democrats and Republicans do not address the structural problem that he understands, but discusses as a mere “obstacle” to be overcome in the slow process of building a movement and a third party. He does not admit that the everyday, short-run interests of the supporters of the Democratic Party, such as low-income workers, women who work outside the home, disadvantaged people of color, and religious liberals, are likely to be ignored as more and more Republicans assume office while the third party is being built. The slant of the Bush tax cuts to favor the top few percent is the most brutal evidence of how shortsighted Nader was on this point.

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