by Benn Ray
(for Nolen & Rob)
It's the end of the second consecutive term of a Democratic president so unpopular with the Right that the mere mention of his name around a conservative Republican will send them into a spittle spouting, apoplectic fit of incomprehensible hatred and bile.
Gun sales, militias, right wing extremism - all indicators of the increasing irrationality of a fearful right informed solely by a right wing noise machine profiting from stoking and exploiting these irrational fears - are on the rise.
The American Presidential election has two presumptive candidates from the two mainstream parties. The Republicans have surprisingly and petulantly selected a national embarrassment - a buffoon whose election will almost certainly lead to a number of American disasters but whose rhetoric has appealed to a nasty, fearful, old, and white right wing.
And the Democrats have a mainstream candidate who is generally perceived by most, at best, as a centrist (but is considered by the Left as being right of center) and is also seen by many as little more than an extension of Bill Clinton's Administration.
For the Left and the Right, the concept of "political correctness" has been a flashpoint. While the Right has been focused on Political Correctness as the symbol of the central flaw of everything that's gone wrong with America - a meaningless phrase (like "family values") for them to rally against, the Left has been fighting itself over what (and who) is and isn't Politically Correct, attacking and devouring its own.
All the while the American Right has been solidifying, rallying and unifying despite the supposed wisdom of the "inside the Beltway" pundits that says the Republican Party might be damaged irreparably by their primary season, the American Left has been pulling itself apart.
Frustrated at being taken for granted (at best) or outright shunned (at worst) by the Democratic political establishment, the Left has been rallying behind an anti-establishment candidate - an old, white man who has outperformed his supposed limited appeal - limited in that he has not done adequate outreach to minority voters and the platform of his candidacy seems to be based largely on one large plank - fiscal disparity.
But the Left, in their frustration and fanatical zeal, has also begun attacking the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee instead of the Republican, saying the Democratic candidate is no different than the Republican candidate. Saying that the Democratic candidate is corrupt and that the only pure vote is for the old, white guy they all like. They are once again complaining about the two-party system, even though they (and their candidate) have done little-to-nothing in the preceding years to help establish a legitimate 3rd party for the Left.
And more pragmatic people are beginning to worry that the "let's just burn the whole thing down" rhetoric of the Left is beginning to have an effect on the popularity of the Democratic candidate - a candidate who is not necessarily anyone's ideal, but is realistically the only person who can prevent the Republican candidate from becoming president and subsequently humiliating an entire nation before he drives it into a ditch (which is also what his Republican supporters want - their own kind of "burn the whole thing down" mentality similar to the one on the Left).
While I'm clearly referring to where we are now in the 2016 election, where the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee is Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee is Donald Trump and possible Democratic spoiler is Bernie Sanders, I'm also referring to the Summer of 2000, when the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee was Al Gore, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee was George W. Bush, and the Democratic spoiler was Ralph Nader.
Back in 2000, the American Left argued that there was essentially no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush - that both took corporate money, that both parties represented the same corruption and that if you voted for one, you may as well vote for the other (sound familiar?) and that the only real vote that would matter would be for Ralph Nader - a candidate who would, in his next run for President in 2004, take money from the Republican Party to help finance his campaign as a spoiler to Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry.
Of course, in retrospect, "the Democrat and Republican are the same candidate" argument is easy to dismantle.
- Do you really think Al Gore would have ignored the Presidential Daily Briefing that Bush ignored in August of 2001, the one entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S.", and that 9/11 would have happened under President Gore? Well, maybe, maybe not.
- Do you really think Al Gore would have loaded his cabinet with Neo-Conservatives who, after 9/11, immediately began making plans and fixing facts to invade Iraq, and thereby destabilizing the Middle East (and subsequently lead to the creation of ISIS)? Do you really think Gore would have invaded Iraq? No and no.
- Do you really think Al Gore would have endorsed the American torture of prisoners of war? No.
- Do you really think Al Gore would have spent the majority of the 8 years of the two terms of his presidency wasting precious time arguing that Global Climate Change did not exist when he could have been instituting policies that would help minimize the effects? Of course fucking not.
- Do you really think Al Gore would have let New Orleans drown? No.
- Would Al Gore REALLY have been the same President than George W. Bush? Well, no.
And just as President Al Gore would have been dramatically different than President George W. Bush, despite what Nader supporters argued, President Hillary Clinton will be dramatically different than President Donald Trump, despite what the Bernie-or-Busters argue.
It is a foolish argument based on ignorance that serves only to dampen voter interest in Clinton (or Gore), instead of inspiring interest in Sanders (or Nader). And that means it helps Trump (or Bush).
Of course, I can also hear the Naderites arguing they didn't "really" help Bush get elected because their vote didn't matter because their state went to Gore or that the exit polls in Florida suggested an equal number of Nader voters would have voted for Bush as Gore. First, people can say anything in an exit poll, that doesn't necessarily make it true. Second, Gore needed to win either Florida OR New Hampshire. Ever wonder why Nader supporters only cite the Florida exit polls and not New Hampshire? Because it is pretty clear that Gore would have taken New Hampshire (and won the Presidency) without Nader on the ticket. But I'm not even arguing that, I'm arguing that it was the loud arguments and attacks from the Left that Gore was the same as Bush set in and actually dampened voter support for Gore.
While the American Left thinks there needs to be a legitimate third party challenge to the status quo of the American two party dominated electoral system, we've done nothing in the past 8 years (or 16 even) to work to establish a viable third party aside from simply showing up and voting for Bernie and making a lot of bad arguments much in the same way the Left simply showed up and voted for Nader and made a lot of bad arguments that helped Bush take the presidency.
I understand the frustration. I voted for Bernie too. But when it comes to the general election, we have a greater task at hand - and that is to make sure Donald Trump - who obviously would be a far more disastrous Republican President than George W. Bush was - does not get elected.
Look at it pragmatically (I know, it can be difficult for those who have had the privilege of never having to compromise before), who do you think is more likely to respond positively to pressures from the Left, Clinton or Trump? If you claim to not know this, then you are being disingenuous.
And maybe, just maybe, over the next 4 years, we should organize and work on establishing a viable third party system from the bottom up (instead of the lazy, quick, and easy fix that we can just vote for someone from the fringe to come in and fix everything from the top down). That is if we can maybe stop fighting each other over political correctness long enough to actually accomplish anything.
We've already seen what a "burn it all down" presidency looks like. We had that with Bush. And it took 8 years of a Democratic President just to recover from that.
Plus, there is an inherently conservative principle being served by the "burn it all down" mentality - which is simply this, if we are busy burning things down and rebuilding, we'll be too busy repeating this cycle instead of making the actual progress that Progressives want. After burning things down, progress is simply getting back to a baseline, not actually moving forward.
Historically, I'm not sure how likely this is last part is, since it seems like the 2016 election at this point sure looks a lot like the 2000 election, but, look at how insane the American Right has become after two consecutive terms of a Democratic President. Can you imagine how fucking unhinged they'll become after a third consecutive term of a Democratic President? I can't either (as I've never seen it in my lifetime), but I'm hoping that those of us on the Left can get our shit together just long enough to find out.