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Anybody but Hillary (even a Republican)

By Michael J. Smith on Tuesday February 14, 2006 12:33 PM

Bulletin: Since this post was written, back in February '06, anti-war stalwart Howie Hawkins has received the Green Party nomination for Senate in New York, and so we now have a real choice. I urge my fellow New Yorkers to show a little backbone in November, reject the Ogress, and vote for what they believe in. -- MJS, May '06

There's a lot of unhappiness out there, among leftish Democrats, about the Republican-lite politics of people like Hillary Clinton. Joe Lieberman, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi... hey, the list goes on and on, doesn't it?

Naturally, this discontent has given rise to some primary challenges to the Hillarys and Feinsteins, by well-meaning people like Steven Greenfield and Jonathan Tasini in New York. The latest may be the admirable Cindy Sheehan, who seems to be considering a primary run against Feinstein in California.

Now I hate to be a Grinch, but this strategy is doomed to failure. The evildoers will get their party's nomination -- Pelosi might be the one truly vulnerable one, if anybody took her on -- because they have all the money, and because the party faithful are petrified by the twin Gorgons of "electability" and "realism."

What's needed, instead of a primary challenge, is an aggressive left-wing third-party campaign in the general election against these Democratic malefactors -- even if the result will be a Republican victory.

It's especially important to do this right now, when the Democrats are full of giddy optimism about regaining seats – maybe even ragaining a majority – in the House of Representatives. The party has done absolutely nothing to deserve such a windfall – they've gone along lamely with everything from the Iraq war, to the Patriot Act, to the bankruptcy bill and CAFTA. But because the Bush administration and the congressional Republicans have shot themselves in the foot, not once but repeatedly, the Democrats expect to get a free pass.

They mustn't be given one. That would be a perverse incentive – rewarding them for misbehavior.

I know this seems like crazy talk to most people. After all, bad as these Democrats are, a Republican would be worse, surely?

Well, possibly – although the difference might be undetectable without a microscope. But let's allow the objection. Let's say that an aggressive Green campaign against Hillary in New York, in the general election, costs her just enough votes for some kind of Republican creepy-crawly – a d'Amato redivivus – to squeak in, and he or she really is, in some hard-to-imagine way, worse than Hillary. I would still argue that bunging Hillary was worth doing.

Why, you ask? Isn't this a case of cutting my nose off to spite my face?

I would say not. I would say it was an investment – an investment in being taken seriously. (Besides, we survived one d'Amato -- we can survive another.)

The dirty secret – or rather, the dirty not-so-secret – of the Democratic party is that it depends on votes from two classes of people for whom it systematically does nothing: Blacks and Lefties (however you choose to define the latter term). And the reason it does nothing for these two groups it that it thinks it has them both locked up. "Where are they going to go?" Hillary and the Triangulators reason. "They're terrified of the Republicans, and that keeps 'em on the reservation" – or rather, to borrow Hillary's self-revealing metaphor, the plantation.

Now my crystal ball doesn't show me the exact details of what might happen if the Blacks and/or the Left got off the plantation and started loose-cannoning around the American political system. I can think of a couple of scenarios, though.

Scenario number one: the Democratic Party might simply evaporate.

Oh my God, you're thinking, naked to our enemies, without even the exiguous and leaky shelter of the old donkey party. Not so, I assure you. Not so at all. The crucial thing to understand about the two parties is that they are not antagonistic, but symbiotic. Each defines itself in terms of the other, and they prop each other up, in a delicate and surprisingly fluid dance, swapping constituencies, blocs, and issues every few decades. They're not characterized by their ideologies, or even by their constituencies -- they're characterized solely by their rivalry. It's like Guelphs and Ghibellines, or Crips and Bloods. Remove the Democrats, and the Republicans, as such, no longer exist. In other words, by destroying the Democratic Party, we would not be destroying a counterweight to the Republicans, but rather cutting the legs out from under them.

The Republican Party (like the Democratic Party) is what I have called elsewhere a "coalition of the incompatible" – a more or less opportunistic aggregate of people and groups with quite different attitudes and interests, united only in their desire to hold office at the expense of the other team. If the Democratic Party evaporates, these various sub-factions of the Republican party would have nobody to fight but each other. There would be losers and winners. We could confidently expect that the libertarians would lose out to the entrepreneurs of the incarceration and policing sector, for example, and the America-firsters would find themselves hogtied like Gulliver by the Israel lobby. The losers would become unhappy, as losers are wont to do, and with all the various remnants of the old Democratic Party floating around, plus the forty percent or more of Americans who have become too turned-off to vote at all – who knows what unanticipated coalitions and new formations might result?

One thing that would certainly result is that ideas now automatically ruled inexpressible by the requirements of "realism" and "electability" would start to be heard. And once these are in play, the sky's the limit. More on this below.

Scenario Two: The Democratic Party is "Gideonized"

My fellow-blogger J S Paine, who is a bit more sanguine about the future of the Democratic Party than I am, is fond of saying that the party needs to be "Gideonized." He is referring to the first recorded party purge in history, undertaken at the direction of the Lord God Jehovah Himself. As the Book of Judges tells it,

And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many....

Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early.... And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.

And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there....

So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.

And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.

And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you... and let all the other people go every man unto his place.

The Lord's thinking seems to have been that the guys who "lapped" were standing up, keeping their eyes open, while the guys who knelt down and put their faces to the water would have been sitting ducks if somebody attacked them. Anyway, Paine's point in quoting this story is that sometimes a smaller, more courageous, more competent army is better than a big, cowardly, inept one.

Big, cowardly, and inept certainly describes the Democratic Party. But suppose we could purge it – with the Lord's help, of course – of the Hillarys, the Liebermans, the Pelosis, the Schumers? Suppose we saw to it that there could be no such thing as a war Democrat, a debt-slavery Democrat, a wiretap Democrat, an AIPAC Democrat?

The party would be smaller. But it would also have a message, and it would be able (as in Scenario One) to articulate ideas now ruled out of order by bipartisan consensus – like single-payer health care; like a generous, inflation-indexed minimum wage; like putting a little daylight between ourselves and Israel; like taking better care of business at home and not running around bombing other countries; like an end to secret-police snooping and a renewed respect for the liberties that until recently, Americans thought of as their birthright.

And as with Scenario One, there's every reason to think that many people who now consider themselves Republicans, or who now see no reason to care about politics at all, might find some of these ideas attractive – if they could just hear them.

So all you frustrated Lefties, gird your loins, as the Lord would say. Get yourself away from the fleshpots – such as they are – of the Democratic Party. Drown Pharaoh and his Hillaries in a Red sea. Yeah, it's a wilderness out there, but if you ever expect to find the Promised Land, that's where you have to go look for it.

Comments (1)

Bruce Pieroni:

I have been advocating the same thing for qute a while now (since the non-election of 2004). The horror I rase on the faces of fellow progressives is telling. They are caught in a self defeating cycle. They cannot see how a third party is the only hope of returning our voice in government. They are affraid and they are without imagination. We, as progressives cannot do much about the republican party but if we work in a concerted effort we can change, or better yet, eliminate the phony Democratic party. It won't be prety but then what is in America today?

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