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Introduction: Bad Election: We Recount It

We are publishing two pieces in this issue that tackle the subject of the 2000 US presidential election.
Charlie Bertsch

Issue #53X, January 2001

In the aftermath of the U.S. Presidential Elections, members of the Bad Subjects Production Team engaged in heated debate about their meaning. We have never had a "party line" at Bad Subjects. And we pride ourselves on opening our publication to diverse points of view. But the conversations we have among ourselves are rarely as rancorous as the ones inspired by the controversy in Florida. Like our fellow travellers on the heterodox Left, we were suddenly forced to confront the possibility that our votes mattered more than we had been inclined to believe.

For years, many American leftists have argued that the electoral successes of the Democratic Party might be more of a bane than a boon. Take the case of Welfare Reform. Would a Republican President have been able to speed legislation through as efficiently as Bill Clinton? European leftists have been asking themselves similar questions about the dismantling of their own welfare states, as historically left-of-center parties in Great Britain, Germany, France and other countries pursue the course of fiscal conservatism with startling zeal. In the face of such a bald-faced betrayal of progressive values, leftists have wondered out loud whether it might not be preferable to battle a cut-and-dried enemy instead of a perpetually unreliable "friend." We're about to find out. But at Bad Subjects, we hope that the debates precipitated in the wake of the election's aftermath are not forgotten as we ponder a sequel to the Reagan Era.

We've preserved a paper trail of our own internal debates in the bi-monthly columns on our home page. These columns reflect the opinions of their individual authors, rather than any collective position. Until our focus turned to the 2000 Elections, it never seemed necessary to emphasize this point. But when Joe Lockard's first column on the topic went up, everything changed. Suddenly, other members of the Production Team were worried that the column would be interpreted as a collective statement, one that they vehemently opposed. As a consequence, they fired off their own responses to Joe's column in rapid succession. And Joe replied in turn.

Responding to Joe' s initial conclusion that "in the end there was little difference between Bush and Nader," Aaron Shuman wrote that "Ralph Nader is not responsible for Gore's pain, and no amount of Nader-bashing will cleanse Gore's sins (or those of the Left)." Lindsey Eck filed a report from his hometown of Austin, Texas that shifted the focus back to Bush:

Texas did have one big effect on the contest. Here Bush learned the lesson that propelled him to his apparent victory: Nothing is less welcome in an American male than signs of intelligence, especially book learnin'. The candidate who had learned to abdicate his elite education and Washington pedigree through contempt for intellect and a deplorable inability to speak coherent English was well positioned to take charge of an America increasingly evolving in the direction of Texanism: macho swaggering, hatred of intelligence, and contempt for the weak and pusillanimous.

After an acrimonious back-and-forth on our Production Team's listserv, Jonathan Sterne defended the decision that he, Aaron, Steven Rubio, and other members had made to vote Green.

Acknowledging that Al Gore is definitely preferable to George Bush, Jonathan nevertheless stated that the lesser of two evils is still an evil. He took particular umbrage at the blame directed towards the Green Party:

The Democrats' treatment of Nader and the finger pointing on the left is an embarassment to representative democracy. This would be a classic case of scapegoating, except that Nader and much of the radical left had already been excluded from the Washington establishment. You can't banish a goat if it's already outside the city walls.

Finally, in an effort to articulate some middle ground between the anti-Green and pro-Green factions, John Brady reflected on the difficulty of establishing a meaningful leftist party in the United States. Providing a counterpoint to the idealism of many Green supporters, John underscored the need for a leftist political program "marked by programmatic flexibility, the willingness to settle at times for smaller goals, and the ability to now and again place compromise with one's political opponents over moral correctness."

We are publishing two pieces in this issue that tackle the subject of the 2000 Election. The first, by Joe Lockard, expands on the columns he wrote for our website, offering a biting critique of the Green Party's role as a "spoiler." The second, by Aaron Shuman, is simultaneously light-hearted and sobering. Aaron was in Florida in the days following the election and spent a great deal of time talking to people on all sides of the controversy. His piece here is the product of interviews he conducted with Republican activists protesting against the Gore team's push for a recount. The worldview these interviews lay bare is disturbingly close to the one that our next President espouses, revealing a fondness for simplicity and even simple-mindedness where complex thinking is needed.

Charlie Bertsch recently moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he encounters far too many pick-up tricks with "Jesus fish" and Bush-Cheney bumper stickers.

Copyright © 2001 by Charlie Bertsch. All rights reserved.