Round Three: Concluding Remarks - November 6, 2000
Around and around we go, and where we stop tomorrow night really does matter. My own politics are such that I wish that larger progressive issues of the kind Ralph Nader champions were up for grabs in tomorrow's election. As the political editor of the one newspaper in Los Angeles that has consistently made the case for and promoted the living wage, for instance, I devoutly wish it were on the nation's agenda. That it's not doesn't mean that the differences between Al Gore, who supports a hike in the minimum wage, and George W. Bush, who opposes it (and in whose state the hourly minimum for farm workers is a mind-boggling $3.35), are trivial.
Would I prefer it if we were at the barricades for single-payer health care, not just a prescription-drug benefit? Absolutely. It's not simply a more comprehensive solution, but far more equitable, efficient, and just. And, alas, unenactable. Meanwhile, there are millions of seniors and seven or eight drug companies who all think, from different perspectives, that prescription-drug benefits are a big deal -- and they're right.
If his eagerness in pushing welfare reform were all that Al Gore stood for, then the entire American left would be supporting Ralph Nader. We have no quarrels when the perfect is the enemy of the bad. It's when the perfect is gunning for the good -- for the Al Gore who backs hiking minimum wages and covering medications -- that we differ, particularly when nothing in Nader's strategy gets us one whit closer to perfection (that is, building a left).
That said, I'm touched by Chris's boundless faith in the future of Green politics. It's true that the European Greens have cabinet ministries in Germany and France. It's also true, however, that Germany and France have proportional-representation elections and the U.S. does not, and that no national European Green Party has ever received more than 10 percent of the vote, which in the U.S. would not win it a single congressional seat. Now, I'm as big a supporter of proportional representation as the next guy -- in fact, I suspect I'm a much bigger supporter than the next guy -- but, Chris, I must have missed the issue of The Weekly Standard where your guys endorsed it. Until we switch to a proportional-representation system, the ability of the Greens to win any kind of federal election is roughly that of the Shakers. The only "big dent in American politics" they can make is to run candidates who draw votes from Democrats in closely contested districts, thereby electing Republicans. Nader is on record favoring exactly that strategy, even against the Paul Wellstones of this world. No wonder you have such great hopes for the Greens, Chris.
(I also must note, Barbara, that the presence of Greens in coalition governments in Germany and elsewhere hasn't kept those governments from moving down the Third Way -- a move opposed by you, me, and Europe's unions far more than by Europe's Greens. All the more reason why unions, which here as in Europe are the chief defenders of the welfare state, are so important, and why defeating the labor-bashing W. is so critical.)
Back to you, Chris: I'm relieved that Governor Bush will be a moderate because his father was. I thought the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act had something to do with the fact that the Democrats had sizable congressional majorities during Pappy Bush's presidency, that people like Henry Waxman rather than Tom DeLay were writing the legislation being sent to the White House. Good to know that it was all genetic.
I was also struck by your discovery of the hitherto unrecognized similarity between Governor Bush and John Lindsay, particularly since Al Gore isn't remotely as left as John Lindsay, and Ralph Nader is only slightly more so. Remarkable!
In Sunday's Washington Post, a state-by-state survey concluded that the most likely outcome of Tuesday's election would be GOP control of both houses of Congress and the White House, though Gore and the Senate Democrats were clearly still in the game. The last time the Republicans controlled all three branches of government -- for if they have the legislative and executive, the judicial will surely follow -- was 1931. No, I'm not saying that wall-to-wall Republican rule with W. as its titular head will take us back to that exciting time (for one thing, I don't think you could find the ethical equivalent of Tom DeLay in the GOP of 1931). No, I'm not saying that Al Gore will make justice roll down like a mighty stream, though there will be a drop here, a rivulet there. I am saying that unless you're viewing this election from somewhere beyond Saturn, the differences are perceptible, large, and important. Big enough, certainly, for progressives to vote for Al Gore -- not gleefully, but certainly not shamefully, either.
Round Three: Concluding Remarks -- November 6, 2000
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