Multiple Choice
By A.D. Freudenheim

10 August 2003

Question: The Democratic Party can win the 2004 Presidential election by:
A) Playing to the Center
B) Playing to the Left while faking to the Center
C) Playing to the Center-Right
D) Playing to the Right while faking to the Center

My answer? Who cares! If this is the general tone of the debate about the Democrats and the election – and it does seem to be – then as with the elections in 2000, it is hard to get too excited. Oh, sure, Bush stole the election from Gore; that was awful, not to mention despicable, as is most of what has taken place under Bush’s administration. It doesn’t matter. The issue of how to win is moot because, let’s face it, a Democrat won’t win, and if he does, it will be nearly impossible for him to govern. (And, yes, “him,” because there are even fewer viable women candidates than there are men.)

At the present rate, it seems more than likely that the Republicans will hold their majorities in both houses of Congress. There is at least one low-level war going on, with one or two more on the horizon, and wars favor the GOP. While Bush does appear to have lied about how egregiously Iraq was pursuing our destruction, there is no doubt that – even with the chaos – Iraqis are better off now than they were before, and that will count for a lot. The lies Bush told about Iraq have been batted around in the news, blame has been tossed, re-tossed, and finally accepted; but so far, no one in Congress has actually pushed for impeachment hearings, which means, effectively, the issue is dead. Sorry, Lefties, but that’s just the way it is. Unless new – and very real – evidence comes to light showing the wholesale, intentional distortion of the truth many believe took place, this is not the issue that will bring down the Bush administration.

It does not get better in other areas. As poorly as the economy is doing, it is better than it was and surely could be worse, and I have difficulty believing that members of the fiscally-conservative Left (many of whom must have voted for Bush last time around) will have been prompted to change their minds. Complaints against the Justice Department for infringing on civil rights largely fall on deaf (white) American ears because, alas, most of the people affected are not considered serious stakeholders in American society: they are recent immigrants, or minorities, or not wealthy, or otherwise considered irrelevant. Soft liberal hearts melt on these issues, but these, too, are not the problems that will toss the Bushies from the moving train.

A lot can happen in the next 15 months. Our relative economic equilibrium could destabilize, the body bags coming back from Iraq could rise to Viet Nam-era levels, or some delightful bit of malfeasance on the part of Mr. Bush or his administration might come to light. All possible – and all unlikely. Which is why the Democrats are in such a swamp. I am not going to run through the list of the candidates and their qualities, since there are enough pundits around to do that job. It is evident, though, that each one has a fatal flaw – that some part of the Democratic camp thinks that all the other parts are off-base – whether it is that candidates are too left-wing (Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt) or too much like Bush (Joe Lieberman), or that their most redeeming feature is only that they’re not Bush (Kerry and Graham). It makes the whole concept of an election rousingly engaging, doesn’t it?

So ... what do I want? I want choices – real, viable, political choices. Readers of this column know that I endorsed Ralph Nader for president in 2000. I had no expectation he would win the election; it was, rather, a matter of making a statement about the need for better, broader governance options. Our two-party system is stagnant, and has been for decades. The differences between candidates over the last 40 years has continued to narrow, particularly as the Lefties of the Democratic party have matured, become more bourgeois, and morphed into the conservatives who make up the Democratic Leadership Council (which also makes them very effective at bashing what remains of the Democratic Left). The American right has also mellowed, and if you don’t believe that, just take a look at the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, or remind yourself that (perennial Congressional threats aside) Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land more than 30 years later, surviving Reagan, Bush I, and so far, Bush II. Liberal complaints that the fiscal conservatives are held hostage by the socially-intolerant Christian conservatives do not help the Left’s cause, particularly since this claim is about as true (or not true) as the accusations leveled by the GOP that the Democrats more closely resemble socialists.

It is time to demand more political opportunity. Time to reject narrow and irrelevant choices, time to stop voting in a system that’s sole purpose is to maintain the flow of funds into the coffers of both parties and into the Congressional districts of these parties’ duly elected representatives. There is a reason that the largest political bloc in the country consists of the non-voting public – because the choices we have been offered are not real, not deeply meaningful. At the local level, in some places, options have begun to appear; in New York City, for instance, there are several smaller parties with a presence in the booth on election day. Several years ago, Minnesotans elected an independent governor (Jesse Ventura) who, despite his personal foibles, certainly reasonably well steering that state. Alas, the way most of our civic structures function, small parties that do not win an election tend not to have a voice in governance at all. Ours is not a country of parliamentary-style governance, though this may be an option we should consider seriously.

Our system of government pulls towards the center, keeping most minority issues safely unresolved until the last possible moment; this provides great stability, but at the cost of meaningful change in increments smaller than a generation or two. Where are the leaders who can stand up for an issue – and stick with it? Why are we so afraid of candidates with opinions, even if we disagree with those opinions? Choosing between the lesser of two evils was never much of a choice, and we should stop putting up with it. The upcoming election would be a good place to start.

Copyright 2003, by A.D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
This page is part of: The Truth As I See It.