Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Frank talk for the left

Lately, I haven’t felt particularly driven to write. That’s odd for me, as I have managed to put up content on both of my blogs fairly consistently. Maybe it’s the post-publishing blues, or the depressing weather. Possibly, the reason might be the inevitable need to follow-up one’s first book with another scintillating release. Being a writer who seems doomed to turn out niche books, that last reason appears dubious at best—there really isn’t any pressure at all to turn out another book that a 1,000 people might read, if I’m lucky.

While I haven’t been writing regularly, I have tried to do a bit more reading. I just finished Joshua Frank’s Left Out! How Liberals Helped Elect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005). A writer who contributes to such leftist muckraking rags as Counterpunch, Z Magazine and Earth First! Journal, Frank uses his allotted space to dissect the failed reasoning that gives us a choice of the lesser evil each election cycle.

Showing that the Democrats have marched to the same corporate beat as the Republicans for much too long, Frank peels back the façade of our two-party disaster and honestly looks at the options, moving forward, post-2004. Refusing to live in the land of denial that so many progressives have escaped to, Frank squarely lays the blame for George W. Bush’s reelection where it rightfully belongs—squarely on the door step of the Democrats. Not allowing the ABB (Anybody but Bush, in case you’ve forgotten) crowd any wiggle room, Frank writes, “I certainly don’t buy that this election was stolen like so many liberals are convinced. But hypothetically, if election ’04 was rigged, it should never have been close enough for Bush to steal. John Kerry should have won by a landslide. The Democrats simply failed to distinguish themselves on a host of critical issues.”

Frank spends a good portion at the beginning, deconstructing the myth of Howard Dean as progressive savior. Showing just how far to the right Democratic ideals have shifted, Frank clearly portrays Dean as the craven politician that he is—worse yet, he’s nothing more than a run-of-the-mill governor, a political rerun of the same show and sponsors that gave us Gore, Lieberman, Kerry, Clinton, etc. Yet, progressive Democrats, desperate for someone to lead them out of the swamp of triangulation and welfare reform (thank you, Bill Clinton), hitched their wagon to the Dean pony. Once that sideshow crashed and burned, then it was off to the main attraction—the sleep-inducing main feature of Kerry/Edwards.

The book is much more than just a bashing of Howard Dean, however. For someone like me, a registered Independent who often is enticed over into the two-party camp every four years, Frank was just what the doctor ordered. Recognizing that I’ll never get what I want by voting for what I don’t want, Frank clearly delineates what our strategy needs to be—working at the grassroots level, building third parties like the Greens and electing candidates to local office. Cynics (of which I am an honorary member) will say that third parties don’t stand a chance. That reason has been used quite successfully by our corporate puppet-masters to keep us in line with the two-party charade they’ve left us with. Yet, I don’t believe we have much of a choice, unless we are content to continue down the road of political cronyism, unending war, and media confusion.

On my most optimistic days, I hold out this illogical hope that a third party—one that acted with vigor, intent and possessing stamina—might come along and run a candidate that offered clear choices to voters. I imagine the millions of disenfranchised voters turning out and voting in droves for someone who offered real, tangible options, not the same old warmed over ideas of our two-party plutocracy. A young Ralph Nader, with charisma? Of course, there is the small issue of our winner-take-all, geography-based, political system, that assures us of the lesser of two evils every four years. Instant run off voting (IRV) might be a solution to lift us out of our current quagmire.

Frank is an unabashed supporter of the Green Party, although he takes them to task in his book, for their disastrous safe-state policy. He clearly shows in the book that Nader’s run in 2000 had the party moving in the right direction, only to see it implode with infighting, caused primarily by good and principled people succumbing to the ABB mentality that plagued so much of the left side of the political spectrum in 2004.

If you enjoy solid political writing, as I most assuredly do, then Frank’s book is a worthwhile read. At just over 200 pages, it’s an easy book to plow through over the weekend and I recommend it for clearing one’s head of faulty notions about our political process.


Joe said...

I voted "against Bush" moreso than "for Kerry" in 2004. So much for that idea. (Or maybe not, he did "Kerry" Maine, after all.) Next time I might just go ahead and vote for the Greens on principal, if they roll out somebody who seems to know what s/he is doing.

I also favor IRV. I'm not sure that the "in charge" party (whoever that may be at the time) will ever get something like that passed, however.

I guess I'm a cynic, too!

Jim said...

It's difficult not to succumb to cynicism. Anyone with an ounce of awareness about our current political state is forced to admit that things are not looking good for fans of democracy.

One could make the case that our founders never intended government to be anything else but a plutocracy, where the ruling class held sway and the rest of us received a few crumbs from their tables. Our current two-party joke is an example of the spoils we receive--that four year horse race that entertains us and deludes us for a brief period.

Having studied history, I am aware of periods when actual democracy has mysteriously broken out and flourished, albeit, briefly.

My antidote to cynicism is finding local causes, at the grassroots to get my energy focused upon.

Currently, I'm sort of in limbo, as I'm not sure where I want to focus my energies.

Of course, that damned issue of making a living, paying my bills, trying to come up with a follow-up to WTHT, keeps me from being as focused as I'd like to be on saving the world.

Joe said...

"Our current two-party joke" . . I like that. I'm reminded of two television shows:

#1 on The Simpson's Halloween show from 1996 (which I caught on rerun this week), a riff on the Clinton / Dole battle, where the two candidates were replaced by space aliens. Homer outed the aliens, but the aliens retorted with "it's a two-party system - you have to vote for one of us!" And the denizens of Springfield had no choice but to agree.

#2 An episode of South Park from last fall, just before the election. PETA objected to the use of a cow as the South Park school mascot, so the kids were voting on a replacement. The choices: Giant Douche (suggested by Kyle) and Turd Sandwich (Cartman's offering). Stan is dejected to realize his only options are a turd and a douche.

I'm not ashamed, at this point, to admit that 75% of my television viewing consists of baseball and cartoons.