Saturday, November 1, 2008

Trail of Broken Promises: A Powerful Closing Argument By an Unknown Candidate

The election has entered its final leg, and if recent polls reliably gauge voter sentiment, then people of all political persuasions now suffer from acute election fatigue. Perhaps that stems from the fact that together, the candidates have spent over $2.4 billion buying our votes and loading the coffers of the media. Sorry, I meant to say that they have made Democracy work, by getting their critical messages to American public.

A lot of the traditional media are using these final moments of the race to present the "closing arguments" of the candidates, as if the public really needs to hear a summary of almost two years of argumentation. Nevertheless, Obama's "pick me" infomercial and McCain's final stump speeches on the perils of socialism have taken over the airwaves. Because I find that stuff way too manufactured and redundant for my tastes, I have decided to create a completely different "closing arguments" page.

Recently, I stumbled upon a very passionate essay written by Matt Gonzalez, the Vice Presidential candidate on the Green Party ticket, which features perennial presidential contender Ralph Nader. Nader provokes deep anger among Democrats who unfairly blame him for Gore's defeat in 2000. Had Gore simply carried either Tennessee (his home state), New Hampshire, or New Mexico, he would have won the election. Furthermore, even if the several thousand voters who supported Nader in Florida had instead voted for Gore, he still would have received fewer "official" votes than Bush. Nevertheless, by contesting the right of third-party candidates to participate in presidential debates, the Democrats (joining the Republicans) have helped keep Nader's ticket locked in obscurity and have guaranteed the absence (at least for the near future) of a viable third party in U.S. national politics.

My personal opinion of Nader has vacillated from thinking that he suffers from horrible narcissism -- which would hardly disqualify him for the presidency -- that he is a closet conservative, or that his heart is in the right place but that somewhere during his lifetime, he lost any concern for pragmatism or for developing an effective method for actualizing his progressive vision. I do not purport to understand what drives Nader today, and I empathize with Democrats who resent him. Nevertheless, the closing argument of Matt Gonzalez should inspire any true progressive who reads the essay, which appears in the Dissident Voice.

In the essay, Gonzalez criticizes Democratic leadership, particularly Pelosi, Reid, and Obama, for their various "failed promises." With respect to Senator Obama, Gonzalez denounces his votes in favor of the Patriot Act and FISA (Bush's anti-privacy eavesdropping law), which betray his promises to reject these measures, his support of the death penalty despite its pronounced racial and class biases, the abandonment of his promise to renegotiate NAFTA, his selection of Joe Biden as a running mate despite his lifetime of support for the banking industry even on matters of consumer fairness, and his moderate, conservative or contradictory positions on a host of other policies.

The essay falls short at times when Gonzalez fails to acknowledge that effective participation in the legislative process often requires compromise. Gonzalez also repeats the liberal mistake of blaming Gramm-Leach-Bliley (which he appropriately links to Democrats, including many of Obama's advisers) for the financial crisis. Despite these shortcomings, Gonzalez offers an accurate, fair and rarely voiced (or heard) critique of Obama from a progressive perspective.

Although the essay is too long to reprint here, I encourage you to visit Dissident Voice and read it (follow this link: The Trail of Broken Promises: What Do They Have to Do to Lose Your Vote?). It is quite powerful. My commitment to publicizing Gonzalez's essay arises, in part, from the unfortunate fact that during this election cycle Democrats have often refused to engage in and have even derided healthy, constructive and honest debate with each other and with Republicans. To me, that does not inspire confidence or hope.

Postscript: Matt Gonzalez has a very impressive history as a progressive lawyer and politician. You can read more about him on this webpage: Gonzalez biography on Nader website.


Michael Laden said...

Great speech. But I just can't vote for Nader.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Yes, that was a powerful statement. I will not vote for Nader either, but I do believe that Democrats should use this moment to go hard or to admit they are compromising. Otherwise, the redefine what liberal looks like, if they compromise in silence.

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