Vote To Renew the Left

  What speaker at the Shadow Convention in Los Angeles said the following: "The big story at the Democratic Convention is really influence buying and peddling"? He went on to say that both the Democratic and Republican conventions "are basically now corporate trade shows for the delegates, while the main show is behind closed doors at big dollar soft money fundraisers which, make no mistake, are setting the agenda for Congress and America as a whole ... the conventions are playing host to what may well be the worst display of fundraising and corruption in the political history of our nation."

  No, it wasn't Ralph Nader. It was the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, Russ Feingold, denouncing the corporate takeover of his own party. While the hapless and stifled delegates from unions and minority communities were feeding on corn dogs at the Santa Monica pier, the fat cats were provided with an official Democratic Convention Passport, which allowed them free entry to four dozen luxurious gobblings at Spago and other watering holes for the wealthy. This ausweiss for the affluent symbolized who really has power in the Clinton/Gore Democratic Party, for the events were paid for by Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Liquor, the high-tech robber barons, the military contractors and Wall Street.

   A vote for Ralph Nader is not a vote for the Republicans, it is a vote against the kind of systemic corruption that the Oil Twins, Gush and Bore, represent. For the first time in living memory, an independent presidential candidate of the left is getting a serious hearing from the voters. Everywhere he goes, Nader's campaign speeches are left-wing civic lessons, dissecting the malevolent effects of corporate power and teaching how to organize against it. Nader has the rumpled charisma of an honest man, which makes a refreshing contrast to the empty, focus-group-driven scripts of his major-party opponents, and the polls show that people are beginning to listen.

   American history teaches us that insiders don't make change, outsiders do. The farmer-labor populist revolt of the late 19th century paved the way for Teddy Roosevelt's trust-busting; the Socialist-Communist-Progressive left of the Great Depression made possible the New Deal's most structure-changing innovations; even Henry Wallace in 1948 permitted Harry Truman to run further to the left than that conservative machine Democrat otherwise would have done.

   Even if you believe that reconstructing a meaningful left-wing inside the Democratic Party is the only way forward, you should be smart enough to cast your vote for Nader. The political classes respond only when electoral pain is inflicted upon them. And in the unlikely event that Gore wins the White House, the corporate-funded, center-right shredders of the FDR/LBJ legacy will use their presidential power to smother the re-emergence of genuinely progressive Democratic Party insurgencies. They'll keep recruiting millionaire candidates for the Senate and Congress, such as Jon Corzine, the union-busting downsizer and former head of Goldman Sachs, who spent nearly $40 million to buy a Senate nomination in New Jersey. The sad collection of mediocrities, trimmers and mendacious sellouts the party foisted on the electorate in the last several election cycles testifies to what the winning-is-everything crowd will offer us in the future.

   The choice of the odious little moralizer Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the DLC, as his running mate gives the lie to Gore's phony populist rhetoric and tells you where he really wants to take his party. Lieberman, who invoked Ronald Reagan in his Los Angeles acceptance speech, is so busy trying to explain away his previous positions
A Ralph Nader Puppet
(for the privatization of Social Security, for school vouchers, against affirmative action) that he's useless against the Republicans. And his pandering to cultural conservatives with his partner-in-censorship Bill Bennett should give pause to anyone who believes in cultural and sexual freedom

   That Nader is doing as well as he is, with only pennies to spend, signifies the powerful appeal of his message to an electorate whose majority makes clear its disgust with our corrupt political system by not voting. You want a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives? Support the Nader campaign, which has the potential to bring back to the voting booths millions of voters unlikely to vote Republican.

   The left abandons its claims to the moral high ground when it supports corrupt corporate whores like Clinton and Gore. A vote for Citizen Ralph is not a vote for George W. - it's a vote to begin the long, arduous process of rebuilding an electoral left, both outside and inside the Democratic Party. And if not now, when?

Now read Joel Bleifuss' response, "Let's Win This One First"