Tuesday, 19 August 2003

From Nader to Kerry

This seems like a good time to start up a new blog and be unnoticed for a while as I get my feet under me. To kick things off, I thought I'd post this description of how Kerry brought me into the party--from the left, not the right. This was originally a diary entry on dkos.

Thu Oct 21st, 2004 at 07:43:05 GMT

In 2000, I voted for Ralph Nader. I do not apologize for that. I voted my conscience, and I voted hoping to help break what I felt was an unconscionable hold on the two-party system by corporate money. I know, but bear with me for a bit.
I might have voted for Ralph Nader again if not for Ralph Nader. I started to get leery when dispatches were appearing on his site with strange wordings and capitalization, e.g., his call to "End Corporate Welfare as We Know It." Nader's issue statements this year are nearly incoherent babble, and while his speeches are much better I was worried. This was just a minor issue, though, and I only bring it up because it's where I first noticed the problem.

What really broke my support for Nader in half, not to mention very much hurt my belief in anyone's honesty and integrity, was this interview with Pat Buchanan. It's truly insane, with Nader and Buchanan repeating talking points at each other just like any good major-party candidate. Buchanan's doing his coded-racist best to portray illegal immigration as an invasion, an attack on the American people. What really blew my mind was this exchange:

RN: The subservience of our congressional and White House puppets to Israeli military policy has been consistent. Until '91, any dictator who was anti-Communist was our ally.
PB: You used the term "congressional puppets." Did John Kerry show himself to be a congressional puppet when he voted to give the president a blank check to go to war?

RN: They're almost all puppets. There are two sets: Congressional puppets and White House puppets. When the chief puppeteer comes to Washington, the puppets prance.

This is truly Zionist-conspiracy-level anti-Semite speech. Nader's also made these remarks, quoted from one of his own press releases.

The days when the chief Israeli puppeteer comes to the United States and meets with the puppet in the White House and then proceeds to Capitol Hill, where he meets with hundreds of other puppets, should be replaced. The Washington Puppet Show should be replaced by the Washington Peace Show. And then we'll get more peace in the world, and we will reward all those taxpayer dollars and all those high energy prices that have been sacrificed because of the lack of steadfastness of our federal government under both parties to address that very resolvable conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Nader seems very proud of his sentiments, and while I agree that engaging the Israeli peace movement is a good idea, the problem is the language he uses in suggesting it, as pointed out in a Washington Post editorial. This is just as much a coded appeal to racism as Buchanan's own remarks, and either Ralph is doing it on purpose or he's completely lost track of his own words and is wandering well into tinfoilhatland.

Nader's later hypocrisies, such as taking money from GOP donors that obviously want to use him as a spoiler, not to mention the funders of the Swift Boat Veterans for Lies, were merely confirmations of what I had by that point decided, which was that I couldn't support Nader again. Whether I would toss my vote out on a third party again, or actually support the Democrats, was not yet decided. Keep in mind that I live in deep red Indiana, and I could vote for whomever I wanted, and indeed stand outside a polling booth forcing everyone I met to vote Democrat at gunpoint without affecting the election.

Coming up on the Democratic National Convention, I must say that I wasn't terribly impressed with the Democrats. However, once Kerry picked Edwards instead of Gephardt, I did feel I could vote for him. I must say I'm not enamored of Edwards, whose demeanor irritates me, but I don't base my vote on who I want to go drinking with. I had researched Kerry's positions, and felt comfortable with them, not to mention very impressed with his elegant solution to health care and his energy policy. I was going to make my decision based on the convention.

Then I saw Barack Obama's speech.

Then I saw John Kerry's speech.

Let me say that, against the common wisdom, I put these two on much the same level. Kerry's delivery was less than smooth, and he didn't get into the substance of his points, but he clearly cared, and that's what I wanted, what I hadn't believed I could get from a major party candidate. Al Gore didn't have it, and the Democrats felt that in 2000. He has it now, and I'm sure he wishes he could send it back in time, but I don't think there's anyone in America who would in 2000 have taken seriously a description of what the Bush administration would be.

Kerry cared, and he made me care. More than that, he made me a Democrat. He had help, but he brought me the final leg. Dean, and to a lesser extent McCain-Feingold (which I regard as a success, despite popular belief otherwise), showed that grassroots activity has a place in the "duopoly" that exists; one can change the course of the party without breaking with it. Between them, the nine candidates showed an admirable ability to unite once a winner was clear, which Democrats had always done poorly in the past. Kerry, though, showed me that an intelligent, intellectually honest person can make it to the head of the class even in this age of sound bites and music video campaign ads. He's clearly willing to slog through crap to be our leader, not because he's power-hungry, as in that case he'd actually perform the flip-flopping he's accused of; John Kerry has, in fact, stuck remarkably fast to his beliefs, even when decrying the war itself might have helped him, or when taking a less hardline stance on abortion could have helped him, or when claiming that all terrorists can be stopped could have helped him. The words may change, but the man believes what he believes, and I believe in him.

So, I am a Kerry Democrat. I'll do whatever I can to see him in office, and I think he'll be a fantastic president. I've always wanted to be led by a person who can and does use phrases like "would that it were", and a liberal hawk is exactly what Kerry is and what the country needs right now. Kerry could still break faith with me once he's in office, but I don't think that will drive me out of the party after the lessons I've learned these past two years. I don't think he will, and if he doesn't he has at least one vote lined up for 2008.

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