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government selection 2004

Missed Opportunities: The Way Progressives Lose

I'm not sure, but the argument seems to be something like the Butterfly Effect: if Senator Kerry can shake his little wings, that may change weather patterns in Iraq.
From AxisofLogic.com

Antiwar Movement
Missed Opportunities: The Way Progressives Lose

By Gary Corseri
Mar 27, 2004, 19:00

In 1968, I was a 22-year old graduate student studying transformational grammar at Harvard. In that year when it seemed the very foundations of the world itself could be transformed, our professor invited Noam Chomsky to come and talk to us. Our professor had been a protégé of Chomsky's at M.I.T., and after weeks of laboring with "deep structures" and other models, we were high-keyed to meet the man who had started the linguistic revolution.

Soon after he entered the room, it was clear that Dr. Chomsky, a small, trim, intense but amiable man, had matters weightier than grammar on his mind. This was 1968, after all: the year of the Tet Offensive, police riots at the Chicago Democratic convention, the King and RFK assassinations, student and worker insurrections in Paris, hell and highwater. Bob Dylan had sung that the times they were a-changing, and the promise of it, of a new dawn following the agonies of re-birthing the world, drifted about our young heads like pheromones and was irresistable.

Noam Chomsky spoke about politics, and he spoke brilliantly and inspiringly about our own choices and responsibilities, but the thing I remember the most was his answer to a question at the end of his talk when someone asked him about the upcoming election. Having spent about an hour staking out clearly liberal positions (and "liberal" was not a dirty word then), Dr. Chomsky responded that, in the contest between Democrat Vice-President Hubert Humphrey and Republican former VP Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon was likely to be the better candidate because he would have more options available to him; more options for ending the war, improving race relations, etc.

In the course of that prodigious year, Nixon was indeed elected. And there followed tens of thousands more American deaths and millions more Vietnamese and Cambodian deaths; Nixon's "secret plan" to end the war; light at the end of an endless tunnel; destroying villages to save them; deteriorating race relations; drug-drenching escapism; Watergate; the threat of impeachment; our ignomineous departure from a country we had ravaged; Tricky Dicky's final wave good-bye.

I thought then, in 1968, and I believe now, that Noam Chomsky was wrong in his assessment. Being smart is one thing, being a seer is another, and the good Doctor's venture into soothsaying might be forgiven, were it not for the fact that he's doing it again.

In an interview given to the UK Guardian on March 20 this year, asked about the differences between Bush and Kerry, Dr. Chomsky holds forth thus: "Despite the limited differences both domestically and internationally, there are differences. And in this system of immense power, small differences can translate into large outcomes."

I'm not sure, but the argument seems to be something like the Butterfly Effect: if Senator Kerry can shake his little wings, that may change weather patterns in Iraq. Before his liberal (now a dirty word) credentials tarnish too badly, Dr. Chomsky throws in a good word for two political knights-errant:

"My feeling is pretty much the way it was in the year 2000. I admire Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich very much, and insofar as they bring up issues and carry out an educational and organisational function—that's important, and fine, and I support it." Then he reverts to his "deep structure" meanings:

"However, when it comes to the choice between the two factions of the business party, it does sometimes, in this case as in 2000, make a difference."

At more length, Dr. Chomsky cinches his argument for Kerry by citing the way the two parties look at health care, and condemning the present administration as one that is "devoted to a narrow sector of wealth and power."

Perhaps it's just as well for his arguments that he allows international affairs to slide under the table. President-manque Kerry's most recent thoughts about the war on Iraq is that Bush has mishandled the whole affair not because he lied about WMD, but because he didn't send enough troops! Light-at-the-tunnel's- end Kerry believes another 40,000 should be about right.

In the dismissive way he treats Dennish Kucinich and Ralph Nader, the two individuals who have been bravest and most forthright in challenging the assumptions of our two-party, stamp-for-approval, winner-take-all electoral system, Dr. Chomsky appears to have become more comfortable with the mantle of the publican than the patched-elbow tweed of the teacher.

Does he "support" the "educational and organizational function" of the Kucinich and Nader campaigns? How? To what extent?

Had the "educational" and "organizational" functions of dissidents met with a little more respect, elucidation and follow-through back in 1968, we might not be in the predicament in which we find ourselves today with, once again, two awful, but, we are told, viable, choices.

It must seem to Dr. Chomsky that he has for years been one of those voices in the wilderness trying to educate and organize a culture and society malleted into shape by a moribund public education and a many-tentacled Big Government-Big Media axis of alienation. He has had a resonant voice; but the struggle is hardly over; in fact, it has hardly begun. Past mistakes need accounting, present errors need redress.

Eight months ago, I moved back to the Boston-Cambridge area, this time for the sake of my wife, so that she could make a mid-career change and earn a second Master's. As the anniversary of the Iraq War approached, I felt certain I would see signs leading me to a Boston demonstration; as I passed through Harvard Square, each day I expected to be handed a flyer announcing the meeting place, the time. But nothing came. Nor could I find information in the local papers, the local news broadcasts. And finally, as the days narrowed, and I could fully wrest myself from mundane concerns, I searched the Internet and the great voice of the Internet came back with news of bus trips to New York City, to take part in the demonstration there—and nothing else.

In this great metropolis of 5.7 million people, twenty four adamantine souls protested their government's perfidy in Copley Square in downtown Boston. I am chagrined to say I was not among them. I never could find out where or when they were meeting.

These aren't just "scary times" (a la Billy Crystal at the Academy Awards); America is passing thru one of its paranoid-schizophrenic periods that date back to the Salem witch trials, Jonathan Edwards, and move periodically forward through the spasms of the Revolution, the Civil War, genocide against the tribal peoples, slavery, the Gilded Age, and on and on to McCarthyism, Vietnam, and now the Terror Wars.

The best thing we no-longer-ponies can do is pass on a little wisdom to the young. There are ways to survive these times without losing life, limb, sanity and integrity. But don't think it's going to be easy. Think hard. Think that the struggle will be very hard. And out of the pressure of eons, carbon transforms into diamonds.

Organizing people in the Boston/Cambridge area to go demonstrate in NYC lacks educative value. People need to see demonstrations where they live. The young need to see their elders and each other on their own streets, in their own neighborhoods. They can hold signs, bang pots or march. I don't advocate a 1960s' "Days of Rage" campaign because that would be self-defeating and antagonize those who are already fearful, cowed,or simply unconvinced.

New York City can take care of itself--must, in fact. It also sends the wrong message to be wasting fuel on bus trips when much of the Terror Wars has to do with wasting fuel. "Think globally, act locally" is a bumper sticker I used to see a lot, but not so much now. In the age of Imposed Globalism and the reactions/opposition to that imposition, it still makes good sense.

"Rogue states that are internally free-and the United States is at the outer limits in this respect-must rely on the willingness of the educated classes to produce accolades and to tolerate or deny crimes, " Noam Chomsky wrote some time back. He was right then. We can no longer afford to award accolades and legitimacy to presidential candidates who mimic and out-joust one another. Nor can we tolerate the crimes of mendacity that take nations to war, that kill and maim in the name of security while creating a terrified insecurity, that pervert justice itself in the name of justice.

homepage: homepage: http://naderoregon.org/

What a turkey! 28.Mar.2004 05:08


It is one thing to support Nader.

It is another to be stupid.

It is one thing to think in 1968 that Chomsky's assessment was incorrect. It is another thing to show it. In the particular case, you would need to show that things would have been better under president Humphrey, and to show there was strong prior evidence available to Chomsky. Neither is possible.

It is one thing to disagree with Chomsky's assessment today. It is another to introduce your own butterflies and call them a weakness in his argument. It is yet another to impute positions which Chomsky clearly does not take. He does not allow "international affairs to slide under the table". He says there are limited differences. He does not treat Kucinich and Nader in a "dismissive way" (check a dictionary!). He says it is more important to exploit what few differences there are between Bush and Kerry. You can disagree, if you wish, and if you can make an argument -- however, you must argue with what he says.

It is at least extremely careless to quote Chomsky saying he admires and supports the educational and organizational functions of Kucinich and Nader, then several paragraphs later to ask if he supports those functions.

It is one thing to look back to 1968. It is another to claim that there were ''"educational" and "organizational" functions of dissidents'' in the Nixon-Humphrey election, and that they met with disrespect. The dissidents, if you consult your memory, or an honest history book, didn't like Nixon; and they didn't like the Democrats who dragged them into Vietnam, either. Furthermore, in those days, the Republicans were still believed (incorrectly, by many) to be Republicans.

Whatever the value of Chomsky's analysis, or your opinion of it, Chomsky does analyse and publish and answer the same questions over and over. You sat at home and waited for somebody else to organize a protest.

I agree with you that busing from Boston to New York is silly. I agree, too, that there is much to pass onto to the young. They are not, however, our prejudices and sloth, decked out in the robes stripped off wisdom's naked body. They are respect for the arguments of those with whom we disagree and skills to articulate an honest argument.

Nader 28.Mar.2004 09:56

George Bender

The next task is to get Nader on the Oregon ballot. To do that we need to get 1,000 registered voters together in one place at the same time. Join us on April 5, 6 p.m., Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave. It's free. If you're not already registered to vote you can register there.


The choice is between reality and fantasy 28.Mar.2004 11:22

politics as possible

The greatest possible effect of the Nader candidacy will be that Bush will win in November. If Bush wins that will be taken not as approval of the status quo, but as a green light to complete the program that the neocons have begun. Havana will be bombed. The population and culture of the U.S.A. will be militarized. It will become total war. Bush will not even have a choice about this. The Republicans have come too far in their attempt to take complete one-party power in the U.S.A. and to impose total corporate globalization and privatization upon both the U.S.A. and the world. Bush will have to push forward with the program, because the alternative will be to face massive popular opposition and impeachment in the Congress --- to risk everything. That is why the neocons do not care to hear the reality that their plans are insane. And the fact that those calling the shots at the top reject reality is why there is tension and dissent between the Bush Administration and appartchiks in the security and intelligence institutions of the government. Down here at the street-level --- "on the ground" as the air-war inspired media language puts it --- there are other fantasies operating in addition to the fantasy of SuperAmerica that is promoted by the corporate media and the Republican Party National Committee: there is the fantasy that Nader can do anything other than keep the neocons in control of the White House and of the Congress AND the related fantasy that it makes no difference whether Bush or Kerry is elected in November.

What about Kerry? As Noam Chomsky understands, a Kerry administration --- if we are lucky enough to get one --- will at least have other options open to it. For example, Kerry could continue the current policy of "containment" respecting Cuba, could even embrace a Cuba policy similar to the turn-around in U.S. policy toward post-war Vietnam, could pragmatically give up on the current U.S. policy of attempting to force privatization of oil production in Latin America --- Mexico as well as Venezuela --- and come to a realistic assessment based on the reality that in a few years the oil will be gone anyway, so if Chavez can stabilize the flow of Venezuelan oil onto the world market, why destabilize the Chavez government for nothing more than to comply with an unproven economic theory that opposes the traditional pragmatism of the Democrats --- an ideology-based theory that Nobel laureate economists have identified as faulty?

Why was Nader not working to build the Green Party over the past four years? Instead, he was working on his career resume, as he has always done. Nader is a careerist and an opportunist. A millionaire. That Nader's candidacy will have any positive effects is a fantasy. Can we afford to indulge in fantasy with so many lives at stake? Yes, Kerry represents the traditional "moderate" two-party system which should be eliminated and replaced with something better, but without Kerry we are headed toward a one-party system that will make the task of building an alternative to the left of Kerry much more difficult to achieve than it will be with Kerry and the "moderates" back in the driver's seat. The reality is harsh, but it is still the reality. The system needs to be changed --- voting for Nader will help to change the system alright, but in the direction of war and fascism, not toward freedom and democracy. Why did the Nader campaign fail to support the March 20 INTERNATIONAL Day of Solidarity, promoting bar-b-ques and pizza picnics instead? Nader is peddling an illusion.

Vote for Kerry, but continue to educate self and others. Organize and work to change the voting system and bring Instant Runoff Voting into effect. Build the Green Party and the Socialist Party. Organize the work-place. Promote regulation and reigning in of corporate irresponsibility and criminality. Decriminalize behavior that is not harmful to others. Criminalize corporate theft and war profiteering. Work to elect people to Congress who will join and enlarge the House Progressive Caucus (with Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee as co-chairs) and do whatever works to move Democrats in Congress (and throughout the country) away from DLC-Clinton Republicratism. None of these programs is incompatible with voting for Kerry under the unpleasant circumstances that constitute the reality of U.S. politics 2004. Don't give up or surrender, but continue realistically by recognizing the reality that Kerry --- although far from ideal or optimum --- is clearly better than Bush. Or prepare to recognize much more unpleasant and harsh realities that will be forced upon us if Bush and the neocons are not checked and brought down.

politics as possible 28.Mar.2004 12:51

George Bender

You make a good slave.

George Bender 28.Mar.2004 13:53

politics as possible

Your idea of a slave revolt is voting for Nader?

that is the choice 28.Mar.2004 15:50

not mired in denial

The fantasy is that the democrats are goin gto do anythin gdifferent from the republicans. Compare Clinton to Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. What exactly are the differences?

"Republicans have come too far in their attempt to take complete one-party power in the U.S.A. and to impose total corporate globalization and privatization upon both the U.S.A. and the world."

Name 1 instance of the democrats being opposed or even critical of any policy of corporate globalization or privatization.

In you second paragraph count the number of times you used the word "could". Kerry could grow wings and declrae himself the second coming of Christ. Like most people I'm going to base my vote on his record and his current statements. Currently he endorses Bush's policies and does not have a platform to change them.

"Nader is a careerist and an opportunist. A millionaire."

As opposed to Bush and Kerry I suppose...

"is clearly better than Bush"

Name one way that doesn't rely on the word "could" or "might" using factual examples from Kerry's record or platform.