Leftist Deja Vu
I am admittedly late in commenting on this item on @TAC praising a new effort to unify and strengthen leftist dissent from Obama. It brings me nothing so much as an overwhelming sense of deja vu about my own youthful travels on the left and what it was that ultimately left me dubious if not completely disillusioned.
Some personal history first. I became a more-or-less committed Green Party backer in my first year of college (my mind-boggling assortment of other associations will be a topic for another day). By the time the 2004 election was in full swing I was solidly behind Nader over the Democratic plant David Cobb to get the Green nomination, but when Cobb prevailed I was disgusted by both sides in the faction fight and ended up voting for Socialist Walt Brown – prompted in large measure by a friend who was voting for him after learning he was pro-life which, unsurprisingly, got him into hot water with some of his initial supporters. I happen to know that the men responsible for getting Walt on the ballot in his two best states respectively, Florida and Wisconsin, both voted for Pat Buchanan in 2000.
By late 2003 I had also fallen in love with the young upstart TAC, which provided intellectual stimulation I could never have hoped to find on the left. It is worth noting that a great deal of the displeasure with Nader from what my friend Keith Preston aptly calls “reactionary leftists” was over his friendly interview with TAC and enthusiastic support from Buchanan backers like Pat Choate and Justin Raimondo.
I take this stroll down memory lane to set the stage for the current effort represented by ProtestObama.org. I have great respect for all the signers, if for some more than others. If I am correct to interpret from their plan of action that they are calling for unity of the third parties of the left, I can only urge it on. A part of me even takes the hope from this that the heartbreak of the Green implosion will lead to a bigger and better force, analogous perhaps to the organizational chaos in the last quarter of the 19th century that led up to the formation of the Socialist Party in 1901.
Alas, that’s the optimist in me. The major source of deja vu in all this is that this open letter takes the form of a direct appeal to a group which is not unjustly referred to as the “left establishment”. These characters who for whatever strange reason are singled out by name – Norman Solomon, Barbara Ehrenreich, Michael Moore, Tom Hayden, Katrina vanden Heuvel – were the Stalinoids centered around The Nation I hated with a passion as a young Green and viewed as one of, if not the major obstacle in the way of the revival of a more authentic and populist left. In short they are exactly the people anyone interested in rebuilding a serious third party movement on the left needs to pointedly ignore.
It would be an injustice to readers if I did not also point out the serious reasons for pause. The Peace and Freedom Party, though a crucial backer of Nader in 2008 and a touchstone of nostalgia for many libertarians, ran for Nancy Pelosi’s seat this past year Gloria La Riva of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, an offshoot probably constituting the majority of the old Workers World Party, which not only worships at the altar of the Kim dynasty but has defended Idi Amin as a progressive anti-imperialist. I even found in my brushing up that one of their members got the Green nomination for a state legislative seat in Ohio. The Workers World remnant itself even endorsed the Green ticket in 2008 rather than run their own campaign.
But let us assume for now that this is ultimately a minor stumbling block. Indeed, the best defense against such a cancer is aggressive outreach to middle-American radicals, as the Greens showed some promise of in their headiest days from 2002-04. An event last spring in Madison, Wisconsin, at which several Greens joined hands with TAC’s own Sean Scallon, Angela Keaton of Antiwar.com, and the heroic third-party defender Christina Tobin, could represent the basis of future unity.
Last summer, I was seized by the idea of Bill Kauffman as the candidate all the people at that event could get behind in 2012, and could do well enough to keep the third party flame alive at a time its desperately needed. I had little luck modestly floating a trial balloon last summer, yet I can not shake off the vision of Batavia as the new Terre Haute. Bill Kauffman in 2012 – who’s with me?