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New York Values

by Raoul Duke
Guest Columnist

If the Democratic Party is ever to be destroyed and remade into something useful, today’s the day.

Voters in one of the nation’s most populous states, one with a huge number of registered Democrats, and one which – it’s no coincidence – still conducts a closed primary, could give the Democratic Party the upside-downing it so richly deserves and so desperately needs, if working people are ever again to be represented as vociferously in the halls of power as is Corporate America. New Yorkers could go to the polls and resoundingly refuse to grant Hillary Clinton what she’s convinced so many – including, apparently, herself – she’s entitled to.

But that won’t happen.

More accurately, it can’t.

That’s because closed primaries – despite the fact that everybody’s tax dollars pay for their staging – preserve the partisan status quo by denying thousands of the very taxpayers who foot the bill the freedom to participate. Unless, of course, they also agree to relinquish their independence.

That independence has been the lynchpin of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and (misguided as it may be in his case) of Donald Trump’s as well. Indeed, last time we checked, independence was the principle tenet underpinning this nation’s existence.

But you wouldn’t know it by looking at our electoral process.

Every four years we, the people – if you believe the propaganda – play the primary role (pun intended) in electing our chief executive. But electoral ass-and-elephant shows like today’s in The Empire State put the lie to that lofty claim.

Closed primaries are nothing more than collusions between the subject state and the political powers that be (powers which, thanks to these contests, will continue to be). By limiting the participants and (did we mention?) paying for these circuses with public dollars instead of making the parties themselves foot the bill, these – uh, elections?? – don’t merely distort the notion of Democracy, they destroy it.

The question is this: What can be done about it?

The answer, this election cycle at least, is that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump – candidates who, like John Anderson and Ross Perot and Ralph Nader and Howard Dean before them have energized independents and the dissident members of both major parties – could continue building their “movements.” They could, after Queen Hillary’s coronation, focus on ballot access and push for publicly funded elections, where every candidate gets the same amount of money to spend, and private donations are forbidden.

But that won’t happen, either.

Thank Americans’ unique brand of political ADHD for that.

Voters who care about politics for about three months every four years have no business wondering why things don’t change. Yet those three months – the one leading up to their own states’ primaries, and the two between Labor Day and the general election – are all most Americans seem able to muster. And off-year, let alone municipal elections? You must be joking.

If Bernie or Donald think what they’re doing now is hard work, they should try organizing voters when “meaningful” elections are years away and everyone’s got “better” things to do. Like surf the Internet. Or Netflix and chill. Or play Candy Crush.

In fact, meaningful elections happen every single year. And the last thing the leadership of either major party wants – despite their claims to the contrary – is for you to “get involved!!”

That fact – and the reliability with which voters are herded to “the political process” by the media and just as reliably distracted away from it once the every-four-years Presidential Show is over – is exactly as the major parties like things, and is how they retain the reins of power. It is also what makes “fundamental change” one more empty campaign slogan instead of a vibrant reality.

Most critically, it is why, come November 9, you’ll have heard the last of both Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s “commitment” to making America—well, anything.

Again.

Responses (11)

  1. Sydney Moseley says:

    Must we continue the Clinton-bashing ad nauseam? Should Bernie fight from the bastion of a third party? I’m old enough to remember 2000 AD. Bush/Gore/Nader. Much of the same leftwing that rejected Al for Ralph handed us George Jr. on a platter. Can you BernBabies remember how well that turned out? If not, ask an Iraqi.

    • Anthony Noel says:

      I think Raoul Duke nails it.

      If Mr. Moseley would do some actual research, he’d know the Dem establishment’s line about Nader costing Gore the 2000 election is utter fantasy. Nader actually got more votes from registered Republicans than Dems in FL–and by a wide margin, as several post-election analyses have clearly shown.

      Instead of perpetuating falsehoods for all these years, the Party establishment could have been asking itself whether Gore lost because (a) he had the charisma of a two-by-four, and (b) not enough Dems wanted four more years of triangulation and compromise from yet another Democrat In Name Only who was afraid of the word – let alone of leading like a – Liberal. Instead, it loaded up Obama’s admin with compromisers and (bad) “dealmakers” in the Clinton mold (Rahm Emanuel being just one case in point), whose first act was to climb in (hospital) beds with Big Insurance and Big Pharma. Result: Obamacare, the biggest giveaway of public funds to for-profit industries since the auto industry bailouts… oh wait, that was Obama too. Er, the Wall Street bailouts? Darn, nope…

      Ah, Clinton Democrats. Working hard for working people everywhere. No matter what the real facts show.

  2. Sydney Moseley says:

    Sure, he was a wooden statue masquerading as a pol, and invented the internet but it is a matter of opinion as to why Gore lost Florida, and therefore the election. The numbers are pesky. Some studies since the Supreme Court selection have determined that Nader voters had second-choiced Gore over Bush in Florida by roughly a 60-40 percentage.
    A UCLA study and corresponding paper published in 2006 presents those numbers that stand in contrast to your uncited statistics:

    While it is often presumed that Nader spoiled the 2000 election for Gore by siphoning away votes that would have been cast for him in the absence of a Nader candidacy, we show that this presumption is rather misleading. While Nader voters in 2000 were somewhat pro-Democrat and Buchanan voters correspondingly pro-Republican, both types of voters were surprisingly close to being partisan centrists. Indeed, we show that at least 40% of Nader voters in the key state of Florida would have voted for Bush, as opposed to Gore, had they turned out in a Nader-less election. The other 60% did indeed spoil the 2000 presidential election for Gore but only because of highly idiosyncratic circumstances, namely, Florida’s extreme closeness. Our results are based on studying over 46 million vote choices cast on approximately three million ballots from across Florida in 2000.
    (Herron, Lewis, 2006)

    Bush won by 537 votes, and the Green Party’s Nader corralled over 97,000. Based on second choice stats, that left about nineteen thousand votes that MAY have been Gore’s. Okay, many Greens MAY have sat the election out without Nader on the ticket, and more of them MAY have been Gore secondchoiced, but there’s still a lot of numbers there. Let’s say for example that the 60-40 advantage ran the other way on Green voters sitting out. So without knowing how many voters would have theoretically sat out an incredibly close election because they were denied a chance to vote to the left of Gore we can never be sure. But it seems counterfactual that Bush could still have squeaked past Gore. He just didn’t end up with enough of a lead to suggest that it could have unfolded that way. As for what would have happened if a complete statewide recount had been conducted or just on on the most contested counties that is a “whole ‘nother thing” altogether. Not addressing that scenario it’s difficult to believe that enough of almost 100,000 voters who were selecting an arguably leftwing alternative would have overwhelmingly leapfrogged over the left/centrist Gore for the right/centrist Bush. Personally I don’t really care but that’s just how it seems to me, and this whole debate is hopelessly subjective anyway.
    But forget Florida. What about New Hampshire? 7211 votes separated the frontrunners with Bush winning, Gore and Nader losing and also-rans splitting 7000. Nader’s 22,198 could have broken either way of course, perhaps even to Pat Buchanan but maybe to Gore.
    Add to that the fact that Nader’s campaign rhetoric seemed focused more against Gore than Bush (subjective again, but that’s how this voter recalls the campaign) it appeared that he inflicted more damage to Gore than Bush. This year Sanders is attacking Clinton more than the Republicans. These attacks do not advance agenda, but weaken the party. Nader at least had the decency to attack from the Green Party, Sanders (and Cruz/Kasich on the Republican side) are damaging their parties’ chances with internal warfare. This has always been part of the process and it’s just the way it is. But at some point candidates begin to look like they’re running vanity campaigns that their egos just won’t let them abandon. When they go all third party they don’t split along party lines but ideological ones. With a closely divided electorate that empowers the party on the other side of the philosophical divide. So Nader damaged Gore more than Bush just as Perot damaged George Herbert Walker Bush more than William Jefferson Clinton from a third party in 1992, and Theodore Roosevelt damaged his old friend from his presidential party (Republican) more than the Democrat and eventual winner Woodrow Wilson. Huey Long would be assassinated before his plan to split the 1936 Democratic apart with a presidential run for himself or, as some believe, purposefully throw it to the Republicans with a third party surrogate in preparation for a 1940 Democratic campaign for himself. Long was posthumously effective pulling Franklin Roosevelt to the left and forcing him to abandon the original New Deal in favor of a progressive version, the Second New Deal. We remember FDR for policies forced on him by the threat of a third party challenge from Long’s “Share the Wealth” movement, if not from the populist himself. Many historians believe if not for the bullet that may have been fired by his bodyguard during the assassination the Republicans would have recaptured the White House and FDR would have not been the only four-term president but a one-and-done wonder.
    Gore made an easy target and so does Clinton. Granted, this is only the primary but damage early is still damage to a candidate with high “unfavorables” like Clinton. If Bernie’s supporters really want to feel “Berned” wait till they get President Trump. I spoke to many Nader voters after the Iraq war went south and can’t recall any who did not regret their vote. Fringe candidates do a service by shifting their opponents toward popular opinions when it works that way, but they run the real risk of helping the candidate win that they most oppose politically and philosophically. Life is all about taking risks but consider the consequences of a primary victory that leaves the winner irreparably harmed. Pragmatically speaking, I don’t think the prospect of President Trump or Cruz is worth ANY risk. As much as Sanders has helped shape this election already should he risk empowering the Republicans to push for more leftward movement from Clinton? Every progressive voter and donor has to answer that question for themselves.

    Herron, Michael C., and Jeffrey B. Lewis. “Did Ralph Nader Spoil a Gore Presidency? ABallot-Level Study of Green and Reform Party Voters in the 2000 Presidential Election.” UCLA, 24 Apr. 2006. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. .

    • Anthony Noel says:

      Wow, that’s a lot of data–but in the end, it proves my point: Democrats recite, “Nader cost Gore the 2000 election” as if it is gospel and irrefutable. By your own citations and disclaimers of subjectivity, the truth seems far less clear. Of course, the real culprit was the Supreme Court. You might find this interesting.

      Still, Gore:
      – Couldn’t win his home state
      – Had a double-digit lead nationally in most polls just five weeks before the election
      – Threw in the towel on his court challenge

      But to hear many Clinton Democrats tell it, none of these facts is germane: “It’s all Nader’s fault!”

      Sid, you and I are having a conversation that has been held on the Internet and in other places – without resolution – for over a decade. But when you look past the partisan rhetoric and stop worrying about which party’s evil is the lesser of the two, one fact is undeniable: In 2000, Gore couldn’t close the deal.

      Fast forward to 2009. Barack Obama won the White House and the Democrats won both houses of Congress–yet they “couldn’t” push through the same publicly sponsored protections for medical patients that exist in every other industrialized country on the planet.

      Look down through the past 30 years and you’ll find this has been the party’s M.O. time and again. When they hold the legislative and executive branches, they claim they are unable to enact their platform because of “GOP obstructionism.” And when they don’t hold both branches, well, that’s on the GOP, too. That is double-talk by any standard. Meanwhile, the GOP drives the conversation. How? By doing what Democrats won’t: Drawing stark lines which, if members dare cross them, will get said members drummed out of the party.

      Case in point, from the “health care debate”: The (suddenly) “Independent” Sen. Joe Lieberman, mouthpiece of Big Insurance, from a Big Insurance state. Lieberman was permitted not only to hold single-payer health insurance legislation hostage, but to retain his Senate committee chairmanship while doing so–in the Democrat-controlled Senate! A Republican going against the wishes of his president in the same manner would have been called to the Oval Office and kicked to the curb in a skinny minute. All of which tells me that the Democrats never really had any intention of enacting single-payer, let alone the (much-ballyhooed) “public option.” Why?

      Was it perhaps because there was too much money on the line (for politicians, in the form of campaign contributions, and for Big Insurance, in the form of profits) if they instead required people to buy their health insurance from for-profit companies?

      Even something as simple as EFCA – which would merely allow oppressed workers to unionize on the spot, in order to have some bargaining power with the most ruthless employers – even this, the supposed “party of working people” was “unable” to bring to the floor–despite holding both the House and Senate.

      In these two instances alone lies ample evidence of how, despite its claims to the contrary, the Democratic Party in general – and in the Clinton era in particular – has serially refused to put working people first. Shall we also discuss NAFTA and the TPP?

      So the question becomes: At what point do we stop blaming candidates who are trying to give voters a real alternative? Both major parties have survived by peddling the false notion of a “lesser evil.” Whose fault will it be if we fail to recognize that the lesser of two evils is still evil, and don’t begin demanding better?

      And when will we start doing that? Why not the year – this year – when neither presumptive major-party nominee is viewed favorably by a majority of likely voters?

      I’m enjoying the discussion Sid, and appreciate your participation.

      • Sydney Moseley says:

        Of course Big Al was a flawed candidate. Never an argument about that. As for why he gave in early – doncha think Tipper called that shot? And W was a jogger. He never would have given in until Poppy told him to. Basically they were both puppets with multiple puppeteers. That’s why the Big O was so refreshing. He called his own shots and then picked up the cue and sank ’em!

        • Anthony Noel says:

          He sank ’em all right, Sid: He sank our hopes of single-payer. He sank workers’ hopes of being able to unionize simply, before employers could threaten/fire them. Guantanamo is still open. Meanwhile, the Clintons still control the party and will soon pass it on to Chelsea.

          The more things change, the more they stay the same.

          • Sydney Moseley says:

            Hey the next time absolute perfection disguised as a candidate comes along please wake me up. Make it loud and clear ’cause I’ll be sleeping . . . Six feet down. Idealism is a marvelous concept but reality requires us to settle for less. It can always be worse.

            • Anthony Noel says:

              And I guess that’s the difference between us. You accept the lesser evil. I think doing so ensures that’s exactly what we get–and the lesser of two evils is still evil.

              When you look at this year’s presumptive nominees, neither of whom – for the first time since such info has been gathered – are favored by at least half of likely voters, would you not agree that we are reaping the fruits of the “lesser evilism” you settle for? As a nation, we’ve clearly lowered our expectations to the point where we are about to elect someone, whomever it turns out to be, favored by less than half of us; someone a majority of voters do not actually consider to be a good choice. And if it’s the Democrat, should we take comfort in knowing Charles Koch prefers her?

              We’ve sunk to this level–for what? To perpetuate the illusion that one or the other wing of the CorporateParty (TM) (its “left” wing or its “right” wing) is “better” than the other? Really–this the best we can do?

              Meanwhile, public education gets systematically dismantled; perpetual war is an economic engine; voter ID disenfranchises the very voters who are fast becoming the majority in this nation and might actually turn things around–and here in NC, you just might be asked for your ID when you need to pee.

              Yeah, compromise and Clintonian “pragmatism” is working out just beautifully…

  3. Sydney Moseley says:

    As the 2016 Democratic idiot-synchratic primary drags on, and on, and on like a repeating decimal we get closer, and closer, and closer to the disturbing potentiality of a Trump presidency. If the honorable and idealistic Sanders supporters cannot acknowledge the danger presented by such an outcome will they regret their intransigence, or be gloriously proud of denying a Democrat the chance to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy (and others) on the thread of a principle? Will the victims of impending decisions on issues from reproductive and gender choice to campaign and entitlement financing forgive and forget, or will the progressive non-coalition split apart in an orgy of blame, guilt and internecine acrimony as our republic is remade into a nation of warring factions not unlike the many countries we have failed to rescue from themselves during the countless international interventions both parties have involved us in over the last century? But what does a mere EZU undergrad know about it, compared to those way, way smarter publishers, editors and pro-fessional journalists who continue to insist that the lesser of two evils is, in fact, evil incarnate? As they continue to insist that Selection 2000 was not the fault of a vanity candidacy or a stacked-deck Supreme Court, but in fact the result of a flawed individual who “couldn’t carry his own state” (which had shifted further right/Republican between the 1980s when he was last elected and the new millennium like the rest of the South in the steady realignment that began with civil rights legislation during the early 1960s) other journalists are beginning to believe that the once-incomprehensible outcome of this election just might not go as commonly predicted. Politico recently published a piece that reinforced my personal fears not of a president who lies with impunity and may or may not have been complicit in whatever-the-hell happened to Vince Foster, but of one who . . . well let’s just say has too little political experience to be trusted with the keys to the Chief Executive’s washroom, much less the nuclear codes that could literally destroy all life on earth. Peruse this, if you will, and realize that I am not the only American who believes we and Iraq, Syria, et. al. might be better off today  if not for the righteous indignation of one Ralph Nader. Bill Scher wrote in the May 16, 2016 edition of Politico Magazine an article entitled “Is Sanders 2016 Becoming Nader 2000?” In it he speculates upon my greatest fear. Read it as I weep:

    But even if Sanders isn’t deliberately trying to replicate the electoral trauma inflicted by Nader in 2000—when he probably cost Al Gore the presidency—Bernie’s lingering presence in the Democratic primary threatens to produce a similar result in November: delegitimizing the eventual Democratic nominee in the eyes of the left and sending many critics, if not to Trump, then to the Green Party’s Jill Stein or the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. (Politico, 16 May, 2016)

    • Anthony Noel says:

      You attempt to do what Democrats have done so well for so many years, Syd: marginalize their critics. Which, coming from a self-described “independent,” is certainly disappointing.

      I won’t continue the marginalization. But I will say that your claim that it is Sanders who is “delegitimatizing” Secretary Clinton, coupled with your pre-emptive criticism of those who choose to vote for whomever they wish, smacks of anything but independence.

      If we are to believe the major parties, this election is “the most important of our lifetimes.” Just like the last one. And the one before that. Trouble is, democracy doesn’t fit neatly into four-year increments. People react to the realities of their situations whenever it dawns on them that maybe there’s another way, election cycles – and results – be damned.

      I don’t know who will win this fall. Speaking purely for myself, I stopped caring many, many years ago. Barack Obama lured me back to the process and I worked hard for his election. Then he did what politicians too often do: Abandon the issues important to many of we who elect them. So, like many of those many, I’m done. I’m no Berner, and I’m certainly not a Trumpist. I might support Jill.

      But unlike many other voters – and despite others’ efforts to advocate for what THEY believe, which is THEIR right (just as it is yours)–I’ll be fine with whatever the fallout of whomever I vote for – or don’t vote at all – might be. Because in my opinion, it makes no difference. It’s gotten to the point, in every presidential cycle, where we the people are permitted only to decide between one of two corporatists.

      In this cycle, the choice is between one who proudly and loudly embraces his delusions about what capitalism can achieve, and one who tries to cover the tracks she leaves, between election campaigns, doing the exact same thing.

      • Sydney Moseley says:

        Well Tony, you are sho ’nuff right about “she” covering her tracks, or clumsily attempting to. If Billary had always been honest from the start she could have avoided some of the criticism she’s had to stomach for 25 years. Americans are somewhat forgiving about most indiscretions (see William J. Clinton) but instant obfuscation is not only uncondoned but transparent. The more she hides the more we see. Billary is her own worst political enemy, and I don’t believe she’ll ever be capable of realizing it. Her biggest problem, much like Newt Gingrich (my prediction for Trump’s #2) is thinking every voter in America is dumber than she (or he) is.

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