An argument to be postponed until later

Recently Brad DeLong said that having Barbara Ehrenreich writing for the New York Times will be a waste of ink and paper. When Ehrenreich  wrote a piece a few days later renouncing Ralph Nader, DeLong wrote another piece telling her how irrational she had been ever to have voted for Nader in the first place.  Over the next few days Henry Farrell and Kevin Drum came to Ehrenreich’s defense,  Matt Yglesias posted twice,  first ambivalently and then scornfully, and finally Digby weighed in with a ferocious post which Matt Stoller mostly endorsed. (And don’t let be forget Max).


After a couple of cooling-off timeouts, now it’s my turn. 


First of all, I agree with everyone named (including Ehrenreich)  that no one should vote for Nader this year, or the Green candidate either.  I also have agreed for some time,  as Ehrenreich probably doesn’t,  that it was wrong to support Nader in 2000. Mea maxima culpa.


But is this really the right time for score-settling?  Ehrenreich’s piece very clearly renounced Nader and was clearly designed to persuade other ex-Nader voters not to vote for him.  Isn’t that a good thing?  [Three lines of heavy sarcasm deleted]. After Nov. 3 we should have plenty of time to work out our differences.


Rather  than make a detailed response to the various posts, I’ll just make a few main points.


First, when people call the Democrats wimps, it’s not just a right-wing slander.  In Florida 2000, in particular, Gore, Lieberman, and Christopher were massacred by Bush, Cheney and Baker.  The whole Republican campaign was ruthless, down to goon squads intimidating election officials,  and the Democrats were timid.  At every point the Republicans grabbed, and the Democrats hesitated.  Particular examples were the overcautious request for a partial recount,  the failure to contest the postdated military ballots, and above all the refusal even to touch the charges that black voters were wrongly excluded from voting by the inaccurate felon list and otherwise.


Yes, it’s true that the Congressional minority has to pick its battles, but I don’t see how that was true in Florida.

I have come to believe that voters take the resourcefulness and ruthlessness of a campaign as a proxy for the military effectiveness of the candidate, and that the Democrats failed that test.  (As the infamous Bartcop asks, how can the Democrats protect the American people when they can’t even protect themselves?)


Incidentally, a recent report makes it clear that Kerry will be prepared this time around. Good for him.


Second, while Clinton really did do a lot of good, his results were mixed.  Somewhere DeLong said that the Clinton program enacted was really only part one of a two-part plan.  Unfortunately, only the first, Republican part got enacted (with Republican votes, and in defiance of the Democrats in Congress).  And I think that it is reasonable to believe that the damage Clinton did the Democrats by this had something to do with the eventual loss of Congress. 


Third, to my memory it was not the leftists (except for the egregious Hitchens) who abandoned and double-crossed Clinton during the fraudulent impeachment attempt.  It was moderates like Lieberman, who was rewarded with the vice-presidential nomination. 


Finally, I wish I agreed with Digby about this: “It’s good to remind ourselves that our internecine battle is, and always has been, about the right strategy to get where we all agree we want to”. 


During the DLC ascendency I have frequently found myself running into Democrats who are completely uninterested in, or hostile to,  questions of equality or economic democracy,  and who talk harshly about “pandering to the core constituency” and “outmoded zero-sum class warfare politics”.  (Matt Yglesias is a little that way, though far from the worst).  Many DLC Democrats,  probably including Clinton, were simply dealing realistically with the political realities, but there are others who really, truly  are Republicans Lite.   (And as I  keep saying, the Democrats might have been able to make an issue of Enron if Lieberman hadn’t been Arthur Anderson’s main man.)


While voting for Nader was the wrong choice,  there were good reasons why people had their doubts about Clinton and Gore.  When I read the comments of some of the rising lights of the Democratic party about this episode, I get a definite feeling that they believe that the Clinton accomodations should define political reality from here on out, and that either they have no idea whatsoever why some Democrats have their doubts about Clinton’s accomplishment,  or else that they completely disagree about these doubts.


“Hats Off to Matt Stoller who is trying to do God’s work in bringing the fractious Democrats together,” concludes Digby.  I do hope that this turns out to be what happening.  I must say that I think that the beginning could have been a bit more graceful.  



DeLong I






Yglesias I


Delong II 


Yglesias II