Democratic Underground

August 10, 2001
by William Rivers Pitt

(for Crewleader)

"Why is it that right-wing bastards always stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, while liberals fall out among themselves?" - Yevgeny Yevtushenko

The clarion wail of Chandra-related media coverage has burst into a frenzy as I write this. Some Internet tipster has apparently pointed to a parking lot in Virginia and claimed, "There she lies." The result is akin to a falcon's attack upon a nest of partridge - a desperate explosion of feathers and squawking as everyone crashes into everyone else in an attempt to be first in line at the Levy driveway.

One would think matters of grave import were afoot, but this is not the case. A woman has gone missing who was once an intern for the Bureau of Prisons. She was intimate with a Congressman, or so it would appear. The media, hearkening to Mencken's observation that no one has ever gone broke pandering to the lowest common denominator, has flooded like a tidal surge over the breakwaters of restraint in their coverage of this whole sordid mess.

I do not mean to suggest that the disappearance of Chandra Levy is a story to be scorned. On the contrary, I hope she is found alive and well. If the media focused intently upon every person that has gone missing in America, there would be many anguished families that would raise a cheer of relief and gratitude.

Unfortunately for those families, unless their lost loved ones had at one time been sexually involved with a politician from the Democratic party, there is scant chance the media will pay them any mind. The moral is clear: try to sleep with your Congressperson as soon as you can.

Such a safeguard is better than a pistol or pepper spray, and will make your absence marketable far beyond the boundaries of a flyer strapped in desperation to a telephone poll. Sleeping with a Senator is apparently better than Lojack.

The single greatest casualty of the Chandra coverage has been real news. So much has happened recently, and yet our national discourse has been consistently, almost cravenly, redirected towards the slow and merciless death of a California Congressman's political career, and towards the suffering of a family that was savvy enough to hire a publicist in the search for their missing child.

One would think that the three branches of government had emigrated to the front patio of the Levy household. This is obviously not the case. Government remains where it has always been, ensconced in marble hallways atop the landfilled swamps of Washington, D.C. The men and women who walk those halls for a living have been spared the gaze of the camera's eye, for the most part. Some of us, however, still man the watchtowers.

Over the last several weeks, I have pointedly ignored the storm of coverage regarding Levy and Condit. This has, at times, required Rainman-esqe singlemindedness: "Don't care about Condit. Don't care about Condit. Uh oh, Condit. Don't care. Don't care."

The effort has paid off. I am proud to call myself politically well-informed this evening. There are many subjects I could focus on tonight, and none of them have anything whatsoever to do with Gary Condit or Chandra Levy. Frankly, I probably couldn't pick either of them out of a police lineup.

Tonight, however, I wish to discuss something I raised in an earlier essay entitled 'Fire on the Mountain.' In that essay, I urged the disparate factions left in disorder after the catastrophe of November 7th to put aside their animosity and come together in solidarity to fight our common foe.

In that essay, I attempted to forge some sort of peace treaty between those who voted for Gore and those who voted for Nader. There has been an intense battle waged between these camps. Gore voters believe the Naderites to be benighted fools who did the GOP a great service in Florida. Nader voters believe themselves to have voted in good conscience for a better candidate, and scorn the idea that they alone gave the White House to George W. Bush.

It seemed to me that both sides were correct, to a degree. There is no doubt that, without Nader, many of those 90,000 who voted Green in Florida would have gone for Gore and denied Bush's minions the ability to thwart the democratic process. It is equally beyond doubt that there were far more factors than Nader in play last November that collected to hurl Gore down to defeat.

Whether or not Nader was a better liberal candidate than Gore has also been subject to savage debate. Gore supporters point to all the money the GOP poured into Nader's campaign in the final weeks before November as a sure sign of tainted morality. They further point to the specious argument foisted by Nader which claimed that there was no essential difference between Gore and Bush. The events of the last six months have proven Nader's claim to be brazenly false, to say the least.

On the other side of the argument sit the Nader voters, who saw Gore as just another politician corrupted by corporate money. They looked with disdain upon the Gore fortune tied up in Occidental Petroleum Corporation stock, and believed him to be yet another captive of corporate influence. They shuddered at his deliberate pandering during the Elian Gonzalez fiasco. In essence, their support of Nader was a refutation of the centrist DLC ideology which borrowed often during the Clinton years from the GOP's playbook.

The response I received from the publication of 'Fire on the Mountain' was astounding. Gore supporters called me a fool and an ass for even considering the candidacy of Nader. Many expressed little desire to reach out to Nader's voters in an effort to rebuild a Leftist coalition within the Democratic party. Some even accused me personally of treason for even speaking the name of Nader.

Nader voters, by comparison, thanked me for the flag of truce I attempted to wave. Several expressed the desire to vote for any Democratic candidate who has even the remotest chance of defeating Bush in 2004, but several had become hardened by the blistering vitriol from Gore supporters, and refused to even consider the Democratic party as a viable option.

Thus, my attempt at détente collapsed into ignominious failure. Thus, we on the Left slice off our nose to spite our face. Thus, old Yevgeny's question, posted at the beginning of this essay, becomes all the more pressing.

The reason for the Right's continued success at the polls, despite their status as political minorities in America, is simplicity itself. The typical conservative voter places the success of the GOP candidate above the consideration of their own ideology. They pull the lever and hoped for the best, choosing to avoid becoming one-issue voters. Their faith has been well rewarded since November.

For example, Bush was described as being soft on the abortion question during the 2000 campaign, a fact that stirred great consternation within the ranks of the anti-abortion wing of the GOP. There is no faction in any party more ardent in their beliefs than the anti-abortion wing of the GOP. Despite their concerns, they swarmed to the polls in support of Bush.

Within hours of his inauguration, Bush ended a Federal program that offered abortions and birth control advice to women living in Third World poverty, thus proving that Bush's campaign silence regarding abortion had more to do with tactics than ideology. Those anti-abortion voters had taken a leap of faith for the sake of solidarity, and had been rewarded.

Many liberal voters who had concerns about Gore's view on certain subjects did not do the same. They saw a candidate who offended certain aspects of their liberal sensibilities, and refused to support him in November. Instead, they chose to support Nader, and wrapped themselves in a cloak of righteousness. They had voted their principles, and had spurned the taint that had invaded the Democratic party.

They believed they could do so safely; how could a few votes for Nader change the course of American history? I urge them to seek out a conservative who voted for Ross Rerot in 1992 to find an answer to that question.

William Jefferson Clinton would have been soundly defeated in 1992 without the presence of Perot in the race, and without those conservative voters who placed their own ideology above the success of the GOP. Liberals who voted for Nader must observe this closely, and take the lesson to heart.

Those conservatives who went for Perot in 1992 singlehandedly sent Bush Sr. down to defeat. They have since decided that solidarity counts more than anything else. They have placed the success of the main conservative party, the GOP, above all considerations. In 2000, with assistance from the Supreme Court, their ideological selflessness finally gained them the prize they sought.

The time has come for the Left to learn this lesson.

The essence of liberal ideology is founded upon concepts of personal freedom. A liberal believes that he/she should be allowed to love and marry whomever they wish, be that person of the same sex or not. A liberal believes that women deserves the right to exert control over the reproductive functions of their bodies.

A liberal believes that government can be used as a tool to help every American reach for their best selves, regardless of racism or disability. A liberal believes that God has many faces and many names, each deserving profound respect. A liberal believes that those who believe in no God are as excellent and moral a citizen as the most devout believer.

Many liberals also believe that the influence of corporations upon our politics is insidious and evil. Many liberals have chosen to avoid supporting a candidate from the most popular liberal party, the Democrats, because of the influence corporate America has had upon them. They are not wrongheaded in their concerns, to be sure.

Unfortunately for the republic, too many liberals believe that their consideration of these concepts are the most profound and important ever to be contemplated. Many liberals, ensconced in the strength of their ideology, are islands unto themselves. They are today beyond cries of solidarity. They have not learned the lesson learned most painfully by the GOP after the candidacy of Perot.

I am forced to challenge this ideological isolationism. I ask any liberal who reads this to describe for me how their ideological purity is more important than defeating Bush and his ilk in 2004. I request a detailed analysis that describes how a second Bush term will further the cause of liberalism in America.

If the Left does not come together in time for 2004 in a strong showing of support for the Democratic party, the only liberal party with any hope of putting forth a candidate to defeat Bush, I promise you we will have another Bush administration. Unless history repeats itself, we will not be given the luxury of claiming that his victory was illegitimate. If we are divided, Bush will win, and he will do so legitimately.

We are past the point where rifts in our political alliances can be tolerated. The removal of George W. Bush is far more important than whatever aspect of the Democratic party offends you. If you come back to the party, your voice will be heard. I will be your voice, because I agree with you. The party cannot afford to ignore you after Nader, and I vow to make your viewpoint heard loud and clear in the coming months and years.

When a Democratic candidate steps forward to challenge Bush in 2004, you must support that candidate. You must place the same faith in that candidate that the anti-abortion conservatives placed in Bush. We must have solidarity, and we must have faith.

I give you my word that your faith will be rewarded, because solidarity on the left will render Bush a footnote in our history. At this point, with all that is at stake, no better conclusion can be hoped for. Together, we will work out the ideological differences between us at the victory party. I'll be tending bar. Let me buy you a drink.

Chandra Levy is still among the missing. So is unity on the Left. These absences are a distraction from what is needed to heal our country. I pray this changes sooner rather than later.

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