Voices from the Collective: New Political Parties?

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The discussion from which these posts are selected followed in the wake of the 1996 US elections.

Issue #29, November 1996


The discussion from which these posts are selected followed in the wake of the recent US elections. As always, posts are reprinted unedited and as they appeared on the Bad Subjects discussion list.


Date: Wed, 13 Nov 1996 00:43:58 -0600 (CST)
From: Jonathan Sterne j-stern1@uiuc.edu
To: Multiple recipients of <bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Re: The Alliance.

I can't keep up with this list, hard as I try.

At 11:17 AM 11/9/96 -0800, Don Jordan wrote:

> Are any Bad Subjects subscribers
> interested in, or even following, The
> Alliance, established because of the
> strong response to Ronnie Dugger's article
> in The Nation, August 1995, "A Call to
> Citizens: Real Populists Please Stand
> Up?"

I am curious about your views on it, but have not seen it mentioned on this list of progressive academics. Now now, I don't even think the academics on the list would constitute a quorum. But who knows? I read the Alliance piece in the Nation, but did not find it particularly inspiring. More in a moment. We are mindful that we could merely be fragmenting the left even further. Whether we can do better than the New Party (no national candidates); the Labor Party (afraid to condemn the Democrats); the Green Party (have you seen Brian Tokar's article in the November Z Magazine describing how Nader's candidacy has demoralized many long-standing Greens); and other progressive parties, remains to be seen. This is one of my major concerns.

I'm considerably more optimistic about the Labor party than you appear to be, but it's also a question of what real alternatives the populists offer. As an ideology or even a label, I don't think populism is a particularly good place to start: it's certainly not inherently progressive. As for the Nader candidacy, I think it was botched, but not an altogether bad thing when you consider that nationwide he got about 1% of the votes - more than anyone except the big three. And that's without seriously campaigning. His big mistake was not helping the Greens to build for the future, and not making sure he was on the ballot in every state. I thought he was on the ballot in Illinois, but was greeted by a bad-to-worse list of candidates when I hit the voting booth: Dems-Republicans-Reform-Libertarian-US Taxpayer-Natural Law. Ugh. Had to find out how to do a write-in.

Currently, there is no strong leftist party in Illinois (or at least this part of it), and my political work has been mostly confined to explicitly labor and feminist concerns anyway, as opposed to party politics. But if I were to join and help build a party right now (like, say, when I move and am no longer involved in the political stuff I do here), I would put my cards in with Labor. Those of us who are members of The Alliance are hoping that it can make a real difference in the future with respect to progressive political results. It is hard for us not to be disillusioned, of course, as it is fo all progressives. But idealism never dies for some of us. We view our efforts (if I may speak for the others) as bearing the torch of freedom to the next generation, even if we fail to bring about the fundamental change we seek. So what do the populists have to offer that the other left parties don't? -

Jonathan

From: dhenwood@panix.com (Doug Henwood)
To: Multiple recipients of
<bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Re: The Alliance

At 12:43 AM 11/13/96, Jonathan Sterne wrote:

> "As for the Nader candidacy, I think it
> was botched, but not an altogether bad
> thing when you consider that nationwide
> he got about 1% of the votes-more than
> anyone except the big three. And that's
> without seriously campaigning. His big
> mistake was not helping the Greens to
> build for the future, and not making sure
> he was on the ballot in every state."

That's pure Nader. Around "progressive" Washington, such as it is, he & his are known for going it alone. One example: the Fair Trade Campaign (a coalition of many groups) got a leaked copy of the NAFTA draft, and were planning jointly to release it in a press conference. Nader's trade person, Lori Wallach, decided to yak to the press a day before the scheduled release, thus getting most of the credit herself. Nader should have done a lot better than 1% (and that's rounded upward from 0.6%, or 581,000 votes). He has tremendous name recognition, high positives in public opnion polls, and if he'd actually campaigned he could have contributed something to breaking open American politics. Instead, he ran his weird non-campaign. He burned people out, and made the left look weak and foolish. Fuck him.

-Doug

From: Patrick Ellis
patricke@uclink4.berkeley.edu
To: Multiple recipients of
<bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Re: The Alliance

At 12:43 AM 11/13/96 -0600, Jonathan Sterne wrote:

> "But if I were to join and help build a
> party right now (like, say, when I move
> and am no longer involved in the
> political stuff I do here), I would put my
> cards in with Labor."

Why Labor exactly? Why any particular party? This isn't meant as a challenge, just a clean question. With so many parties on the left right now-Labor, Green, Peace & Freedom, the Alliance (a party or not?), and I guess Natural Law(?)-I'm curious why you feel so strongly for Labor. I'm Green, my partner is Peace & Freedom. I'd be willing to switch if I thought there was a better chance of forging a viable left movement with another party. For the moment, however, the Nader candidacy-horribly flawed though it was-seems to have given the Greens more state (California) & national momentum. But the fact that the Greens put up a candidate who wasn't willing to really jump into the fray and/or help to build a sustainable movement makes me wonder about the party leaders' basic political instincts. Whichever it be, a decidedly left political party seems a necessity, because no matter how much organizing & rallying & letter writing & whatever you do, if at least a fair proportion of the folks passing the laws aren't beholden to some specific organization promoting change it won't happen.

-Patrick, mumbling instead of working...

From: dhenwood@panix.com (Doug Henwood)
To: Multiple recipients of
bad@eserver.org
Subject: Re: The Alliance

At 8:32 PM 11/13/96, Don Jordan wrote:

> "As sad as it makes me to admit it, I
> agree, and with that degree of anger. He
> didn't even try! What was he doing? He
> can write "No Contest," and say a lot, as
> he did in his acceptance speech. But why
> did he quit after that?"

I think he made the left's opponents comfortable in the thought that the left can never threaten them. Theories about why Nader ran his stupid non-campaign include (and these come from people who've worked with and around him, not my own imagination): 1) he didn't want to alienate the Public Citizen donor base, which is heavily Democratic, and might view his candidacy as a spoiler; 2) he would have had to reveal his finances, which would have shown him to be rather rich; and 3) that wealth comes from contributions of trial lawyers,just like his enemies (Wall Street Journal editpage, Forbes) say.

-Doug

From: murphy!acmcr!vr @eserver.org (Vicki Rosenzweig)
To: Multiple recipients of <bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Re: The Alliance

I thought Natural Law was basically Republicans who meditate. Have I been misinformed? -Vicki Rosenzweig

From: Graham Cook 412188@newschool.edu
To: Multiple recipients of <bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Natural Law

The Natural Law Party received considerable press in Canada in the last federal election, mostly because of their public "yogic flying" displays (bouncing up and down on mats while in the lotus position). As I'm sure people know, they're connected to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation. How much they're connected, I haven't seen any good evidence; a candidate in a New Jersey House or Senate race, a physicist, said that "only 6 percent" of their members are into TM, which sounds ludicrous to me. I interviewed another candidate back in Canada for my university newspaper; he stressed meditation and other alternative therapies as the solution to rising health costs, a policy they were emphasizing even more here in the US.

They argue that what we need is not politicians, but _experts_ to run the country and solve problems according to rational, natural laws. The "rational" economic policies they support are pretty much laissez-faire, although they don't talk much about economics. I was very surprised to hear a caller to the US public radio show "On the Media" complain about the lack of coverage of left-wing groups during the election, and then mention "the environmental group" Natural Law Party as one of them. Critics in Canada suggested that the NLP was running candidates as a (relatively) cheap way to advertise TM.

- Graham Cook, glad to hear that Ted "Booji" Byfield has also caught memes from brain-eating apes (A little human sacrifice/It's just supply and demand...)

From: Paul Henry Rosenberg <rad@gte.net>
To: Multiple recipients of <bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Re: Natural Law

Graham Cook wrote:

> "The Natural Law Party received
> considerable press in Canada in the last
> federal election, mostly because of their
> public "yogic flying" displays (bouncing
> up and down on mats while in the lotus
> position). As I'm sure people know,
> they're connected to the Maharishi Mahesh
> Yogi and Transcendental Meditation. How
> much they're connected, I haven't seen
> any good evidence.

Here in America, the party was started in the town where the Majarishi's business college is located. The deal is, they calim that though it was started by people who "happened to be" into TM, it has spread to involve many more people, most of whom haven't even heard of TM. Which could be true-but so what? The first one's always free!

> a candidate in a New Jersey House or
> Senate race, a physicist, said that "only
> 6 percent" of their members are into TM,
> which sounds ludicrous to me."

Funny, their Presidential candidate, Hagelin, I think, said it was less than 2 percent. Guess that mathematics isn't part of natural law!

> I interviewed another candidate back in
> Canada for my university newspaper; he
> stressed meditation and other alternative
> therapies as the solution to rising
> health costs, a policy they were
> emphasizing even more here in the US.

Which is all well and good, but the evidence for meditation is pretty slight compared to, say instituting a social welfare like Sweden has. Talk about an ounce of prevention! But, of course that conflicts with the "rational economics" mentioned below.

> They argue that what we need is not
> politicians, but _experts_ to run the
> country and solve problems according to
> rational, natural laws.

Perot with an MBA.

-Paul


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