From the People Who Brought You Richard Nixon & George W. Bush

by A. Jay Adler on January 30, 2012
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Who has a shorter memory than the perpetual loser? Over and over the perpetual loser performs the same self-defeating act. Again and again, the loser fails, and failing, finds cause for failure in the inadequacy of others. Charlie Brown runs, as he has run countless times before, for the football Lucy holds to the ground, and which she withdraws yet again, at the ultimate instant, just before Charlie’s flailing kick. Upending himself, he falls to the ground, and cries out in despair, “How long, O Lord.”

Lucy, analyzing Charlie’s unknowing allusion to scripture, offers the final verdict.

“All your life, Charlie Brown. All your life.”

And you thought Peanuts was all sweetness and Christmas specials.

If you are a self-described liberal or progressive anticipating the 2012 presidential election, then you need to beware. For Lucy is coming and she brings her football with her. The same Puritopians who helped elect Richard Nixon president and who practically gave the 2000 election away to George W. Bush, now want to persuade you that the reelection of Barak Obama is not a momentous and meaningful prospect.

Here is Glenn Greenwald, one of the more popular voices of Puritopia (and neither liberal nor progressive anyway) sounding the meme:

Watch the Soros video yourselves. Apparently for the lawyer Greenwald, nuance is like the exculpatory evidence that refutes appearance and shows the defendant innocent. If a mainstream journalist distorted events like this, Glenn Greenwald, blogger, would burn his ass. But who made George Soros the arbiter, and that isn’t even the point.

In 1968 white segregationist George Wallace ran as a third party candidate against Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Republican Richard Nixon, declaring that there wasn’t “a dime’s worth of difference” between the Democratic and Republican parties. The meme may have been that of a racist Southern governor, but the belief was adopted by that era’s version of the Puritopian – the most extreme elements of the antiwar left, who refused to forgive Humphrey for his loyal service to Lyndon Johnson and thus withheld from him their support. In September 1968 Humphrey was 18 points behind Nixon in the polls. He made moves to mollify his Democratic critics, and by just before the election, he was only 2 points behind. He lost the popular vote by a mere 500,000 votes. Significantly, while Nixon won 86% of the registered Republican vote, Humphrey won only 74% of registered Democrats. Democratic division before and after the ’68 convention caused many McCarthy, Kennedy, and McGovern supporters to withhold their votes from Humphrey.

It is so recent, we need not review the events of 2000 and the direct link between the candidacy of Ralph Nader and the loss of Al Gore to George W. Bush, after Nader conducted his campaign on the claim that the two major party candidates were “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” First, then, consider, in just the broadest terms, how different would be the history of the contemporary United States had Hubert Humphrey gained the presidency in 1968 rather than Nixon. Watergate and the following twenty-four year Democratic exile from shaping the national direction are the broadest strokes. Here, in contrast, is a detail, a dot, that broadens to a wide swath across the canvass: in 1972, Nixon appointed William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court. Rehnquist served for thirty-three years, nineteen of them as the third-longest serving Chief Justice in history.

Rehnquist was still on the court in 2000 and was part of the Republican-appointed Supreme Court majority that gave the 2000 election victory to Bush over Gore. One Puritopian deliverance of the presidency to the GOP played a role thirty-two years later in another.

Imagine, again, in just the broadest terms, the changed history of the United States had Gore rightfully gained the presidency. Almost certainly, there would have been no Iraq War. There would have been no Bush tax cuts. These are the two largest contributors to the national debt. Observe Bush’s appointments to the Supreme Court – young men likely to serve as long as Rehnquist.

From 1968 until Obama’s election in 2008, Republicans held the presidency for 28 out of 40 years. Had Humphrey and Gore been president, the numbers would have been reversed. When we speak, as all on the left do these days, of the thirty-year decline in middle-class financial security, earning power, and wealth, and the obscene increases in riches and plutocratic power among the wealthiest Americans, this is a democratic decline concurrent with the rise of American conservatism and its access to presidential power.

When the Puritopians speak of no difference between the parties, they are like interplanetary probes scanning an alien planet. They cannot see the trees for the forest. Because the two parties both espouse capitalism and run candidates subject to the same human foibles and who play by the same corrupting rules they are given as brokers of power, Puritopians want to pull the ball away. They obscure in their every resentful, rageful blast against the system the individuals who would have jobs under democratic governance, with union protection, and growing earnings, enabled to love and marry and serve as they choose, living under the protection of law and agency enforcement that would uphold their rights in difference, and work to protect their water and their food.

Remember how you felt, if you were around, the night Richard Nixon won, and every day of his presidency. Remember the fallen hopes of December 2000, and the years that justified their fall. Listen to these GOP candidates when they speak. Imagine the country you will face on November 6 of this year if one of them wins. Try to persuade yourself it will be no different from the country you wake up to tomorrow, or the one that Barak Obama will continue to try to develop as of that post-election day, especially with a Democratic congress. Do you think the GOP and Tea Parties and conservatives hate him so much because he is no different from them? They know. How can you not? And who is it who tries to persuade you to diminish the circumstances of your own life out of rage against an imperfect world and system that can never deliver to you all you wish it could?

Has this belief that there is no difference between the parties gained the results its adherents hoped for before? In 1968? In 2000? Is the country better for it? Did we smash the system, start all over, make it all better? Or did we only hand power to those who made it worse?

If you wish for some kind of revolution, that dismantling of the system and believe in starting all over, then I can say nothing to you.

Do you think some third party candidate will win in November? Who? Really? Come on.

Do you think, well, we didn’t make it happen in 2000, or with Nader 04 and 08, but we’ll make it happen one day, we’ll get it done? Well, then, my friend, you believe in the hard work of slow change, and sometimes faster, and the gradual betterment of a human and imperfect world. Instead, then, of believing all your effort the invisible, wondrous cause of an outcome, someday, of successive defeats, and all the dispiriting losses that follow from them, why not work along the way to feel that change a little bit each day, even though there will always be so much more to do?

It is a far better thing to be disappointed in your president, if that’s how you feel, than to despise everything he stands for. You can work with the former. With the latter you can only talk idly again about leaving the country. Or, worse, you can do it – after just handing it over.

If Obama loses in November, Glenn Greenwald will still be writing for Salon (probably, or if not, some other publication). He’ll still be shuttling between the U.S. and Brazil. He’ll get to rage against another perfidious president and the same old rot – but, really, you know, rather worse.

And you, progressive, liberal, mon semblable, mon frère – what will be the prospects of your life on the day New Gingrich or Mitt Romney takes office? How will fare the poor, the uninsured, the working man and woman, the retired, the immigrant, the gay, the different, our environment? How better will we manage the American role in the world? Will you really feel no different?

How many times do we have to do this? How many times do we have to play this game? Because I’m telling you, Glenn Greenwald is kneeling with his ball in his hands. He’s whispering, “I’ll hold the football, and you come running up and kick it.” And he’s smiling.

AJA

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