All That Glitters Is Not Feingold
Hans Johnson writes that John Ashcroft's nomination for attorney
general posed a challenge for progressives ("Ashcroft's
Acid Test," February 19). But it clearly was a challenge not
everyone was up for.
Some in California had started to talk about Sen.
Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin) as a potential presidential candidate
in 2004. But with national stature go national responsibilities.
In explaining his vote in support of Ashcroft's appointment, Feingold
said that he "offered an olive branch, not a white flag." That is
incorrect. He offered a white flag. Feingold's vote in committee
gave cover to other Democratic senators to vote for Ashcroft--a
vote that brought Feingold's support here down with a resounding
Feingold also helped give George W. Bush an indication of the Democrats'
mettle. If the Democrats could not even unite to block this most
provocative and unsuitable appointment, it's clear they will be
paper tigers--and he will ride roughshod over them.
There are a lot of people in Tennessee who would respond to the
issues James Weinstein discusses in "Let's
Crash the Party" (February 19). Unfortunately, in the very same
issue in which you call for moving away from the fringe, your back
the 'Story' Could Talk") was guaranteed to offend anyone here
in Greene County you might have been able to talk to about issues.
People here are aware of vaginas. We even laugh about them among
our friends of the same sex. We just don't see the need to bare
them to the world. If the left wants to reach a majority of people
in the United States, it cannot carry on with in-your-face sexual
Jim and Dianne May
And Now for Something Completely Different
As a Nader voter, I have to commend James Weinstein for his excellent
Crash the Party" (February 19). The 2000 campaign certainly
has made me re-evaluate my views toward third-party politics. It
was sickening to see liberal states like Oregon, Wisconsin and Minnesota
almost go to Bush because good progressives voted for Ralph Nader.
I voted for Ralph Nader last November, not because I was totally
enamored of the candidate nor because I thought the Green Party
had truly become a viable institution, but because I wanted to do
my part to destroy the two major parties by any means necessary.
Unlike Robert McChesney, I don't really give a damn what Joel Bleifuss
(or John Conyers or Eric Alterman) thinks about that, because I
consider them the enemy to the extent that they help sustain the
Democratic Party. At this point in my life (as a middle-ager, not
a crazed youth), I am more interested in performing nihilistic acts
that seek to tear down the Washington consensus on economics, military,
society and the global free market., than I am in attempting to
do small and ultimately useless constructive acts within existing
institutions. Help the Democratic Party, James Weinstein? I'd rather
Ralph Nader didn't steal my vote--I chose to vote for Nader. I
just ended up getting sick of being triangulated against. Instead
of demonizing Nader for stealing voters from the Democrats, ask
what the Democrats did to drive so many people away. The answers
are near at hand. Immediately after the election, with nothing political
at stake, Clinton's people single-handedly sabotaged the agreement
on global warming. I hope to vote for a Democratic presidential
candidate in 2004. But it's up to the Democrats to convince me.
I truly don't get it. Why do progressives feel betrayed by Bill
Clinton and Al Gore? I mean, they helped found the Democratic Leadership
Council, which was explicitly designed to push the Democratic Party
rightward. They acted just as leftists should have expected them
to act. Why the hurt feelings?
Brooklyn, New York
Ralph Nader simply should have run as a Democrat. The only argument
I have heard against this strategy is that it takes too much money
to run within the Democratic party. I think a vigorous Nader candidacy
against Al Gore and Bill Bradley could easily have garnered 25 percent
of the Democratic primary vote.
This kind of primary run certainly could have, in the words of
Doug Ireland, "inject[ed] a radical, systemic critique into the
national discourse," "mobilized and trained tens of thousands of
younger, single-issue militants in electoral politics," and accomplished
the other gains that Nader's supporters claim in the results of
this year's election ("The
Blame Game," December 25).
The same logic will apply in 2004 even more powerfully. I strongly
disagree with Nader's faith that the election of George W. Bush
will move the Democratic Party and its voters to the left. But if
that argument is true, then it would surely be perverse to reward
that movement by once again running a third party candidacy whose
net effect is to make Bush's re-election more likely.
If it's not true, and if the message the Democrats draw from this
year's Nader run is that they really need to figure out how to get
at border state voters by being more conservative on cultural issues
like guns, then another Nader run will simply further weaken the
progressive leverage over the Democratic Party. So whatever the
impact of this year's election, it seems to me that what is called
for in 2004 is a strong progressive challenge within the Democratic
But the Greens as a party are, of course, subject to the same kind
of Darwinian political logic that afflicts the Republicans and Democrats.
They are genetically constructed to go after votes, even if this
hurts their issues. In addition to a seat in New Jersey, the Greens
cost the Democrats a House seat in Lansing, Michigan; ran against
Mark Udall in Colorado, making his race much closer; and competed
strongly in several New Mexico swing districts. They ran in these
districts not because the Democrats were Republican copycats, but
because these districts are where most of their supporters live.
While Ireland argues that this ought to "have the Democratic high
command worried," it also ought to worry all of us who have to live
with the results of a House controlled, even narrowly, by Tom DeLay
and his allies. We need voices like Udall's and Rush Holt's to provide
leadership against the more corporate-oriented members of the Democratic
The Sierra Club
Oy! the Yiddish words were misspelled in the illustration for "If
the 'Story' Could Talk" (February 19). The correct spelling