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October 29, 2004


DavId McReynolds, the Green Party's U.S. Senate candidate in New York, and an elder statesman of the peace movement (whom I endorsed in an earlier post), has sent 'round a lengthy last word on the elections to his supporters. Here are excerpts:

"My mentor, the late A. J. Muste, used to say, 'the truth is always concrete'. I don't know whether the phrase was his own, or borrowed from Marx, Trotsky, or Gandhi. But it made sense and has stuck with me. When people ask me "who will you vote for for President?" my answer is "Which state do you live in?" Because of the electoral college I can safely vote for Ralph Nader here in New York State (though if David Cobb were on the ballot, I would have voted for him), knowing that Kerry will safely take New York State. If I lived in New Jersey, another safe state, I would certainly vote for Walt Brown, since I am a member of the Socialist Party and he is our candidate. But if I were in Ohio - or any swing state - I would vote for Kerry. How can a simple question have three different answers? And how in the world could I even consider voting for Nader "when the fate of the world hinges on defeating Bush"...

"Let's look at some of the errors in thinking which I feel have sprung up. (I think if I hear one more time the nonsense about 'Voting for a Lesser Evil Is Still Voting For Evil' I shall scream - how can we miss the fact that a lesser evil, while it may indeed still be evil, is lesser! ...

"First, 'there is no difference between the two major parties' (a position Peter Camejo has argued with vigor, and which is shared by many in the Socialist Party). This position is nonsense. There are major differences between the two major parties and, more important, vast differences within them. In terms of basic political science neither major party is a "party" of agreed principles. Both major parties are collections of regional interests, and usually the greatest differences are between regions, not within the parties themselves...

"The efforts by Socialists or Greens to insist there are no differences between the two parties, or that it doesn't make any difference whether Kerry or Bush wins the election, defies common sense. (Which is one reason the left has so little impact in the country as a whole - people perceive their own immediate interests better than we do. One reason many on the left are irritated by Michael Moore is because he has spoken the truth on this, reminding us that we don't really speak for or understanding working class Americans).

"If you earn more than $50,000 a year, are white, and are a male, then it doesn't really make any difference to you who wins. It is a matter of esthetics.

"But if you are a woman, if you earn less than $30,000 a year, if you are of color, then it makes a very great deal of difference. I spent time yesterday with an intelligent, committed member of the Greens (who has been extremely helpful and supportive in the Senate campaign) who insisted that it didn't make any difference in terms of choosing the next member of the Supreme Court whether Bush or Kerry won the election. This is self-deception on a disturbing scale. (Even allowing for the fact that some of the Republican choices for the Supreme Court proved excellent - Earl Warren comes to mind - and some of the Democratic choices have been dismal, do people really think that Bush can be trusted with credible nominations? Granted also that nominations have to pass the Senate, and this puts some curbs on either Bush or Kerry, I remain bemused at the thought it "makes no difference" who is President in terms of the Supreme Court....."

"On issues of the minimum wage, affirmative action, rights of gays and lesbians, of a range of judicial appointments for lower courts, of which tax cuts go to whom - on all these issues there is a difference. It certainly makes a difference in one of the more chilling aspects of this campaign - which is the degree to which the forces around Bush are pressing for a kind of 'Talibanization' of American political life, the destruction of the historic separation of church and state....."

"It was Marx who reminded us that while we make our own history (an extremely important point in Marxist thought), we do not make it as we might wish, but within the circumstances of the time and place within which we find ourselves...

"One thing which we as radicals need to confront and come to terms with is that there are no 'pure actions.' Not even for saints, and certainly not for us. All of life is a compromise between the possible and the ideal. The job of the radical is surely to press hard to make the ideal possible....

"I think of Kenneth Patchen, the poet whose works the late Alvin Ailey introduced me to, and his lines from the poem 'What is the beautiful':

'A narrow line,
Walking on the beautiful ground.
A ledge of fire'

That is what we are always walking - that 'ledge of fire' where there is hope of changing the future, and not simply protesting the present. And that 'ledge of fire' is always indeed narrow, hard to locate, and sometimes that ledge of fire is shown to us by those with more courage, who take greater chances, and help make a radical politics more possible. There is a dialectic between the prophet and the radical politican...

"So yes, dreadful as it is to argue for a vote for Kerry in a swing state, it is because Bush represents a danger great enough that the interests not only of the more rational sectors of the ruling class, but of a wide range of the rest of us, require the defeat of Bush. The general 'left' public grasped this from the beginning. Only the more elite sectors of the left, those inclined to self-delusion, don't see this...."

You should remember these wise words from Dave McReynolds as you go to the polls next Tuesday...

Posted by Direland at 11:28 AM | Permalink


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Posted by: http://pkgame.lspktai.com | Nov 20, 2006 10:44:30 PM

I'm afraid I'm less than convinced. Like those Tories who claim Margaret Thatcher's greatest achievement was to create New Labour, it may be that George W. Bush's single greatest achievement was to break the US left into unconditional support for the Democrats.

Posted by: James M | Nov 1, 2004 6:14:24 AM

Although I believe Kerry to be mildly more progressive than Gore, I have to say that I'm disappointed in him - which isn't to say I'm not going to vote for him (I live in the "swing state" of Minnesota, after all). I think there's much wisdom in McReynold's post. But in encountering progressive-leaning Dems in my own home town, I haven't been encouraged to think that there will be this vast outpouring of action in order to pressure Kerry (if he is elected) towards the left. I've talked with Kerry supporters who opposed the invasion of Iraq, protested that invasion, and are now calling for Kerry's position of increasing the army by two divisions as well as "killing" the terrorists. I hope I'm wrong and that there will be this groundswell of action after Nov. 2, but I'm afraid I doubt it.

Posted by: Phil | Oct 30, 2004 2:13:00 PM

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