17 January 2008

It matters

I've noted -- hell, I've relished -- the infighting among Republicans many times. But there's discord on the Democratic side as well, and this concerns me. If left unchecked, it could endanger our ultimate victory in November, in two ways. First, if the rancor between the partisans of the three main Democratic candidates grows too strong (as it has threatened to do between Obama and Clinton supporters over the explosive accusations of sexism and racism, for example), then whichever of our candidates is finally nominated might find that the partisans of the other two refuse to vote for him or her. Second, those furthest to the left, who support a more radical agenda than any major candidate could ever adopt and remain electable, might similarly revolt in disgust over the eventual nominee's inevitable tacking toward the center for the general election -- and might even feel inclined to vote for a third candidate rather than for the Democrat.

We can see both of these phenomena roiling the Republican side (substitute furthest right for furthest left, but the divisive effect is just the same). Just look at how the mutual hostility between their various factions is escalating, and how the possibility of a Ron Paul third candidacy splitting the conservative vote worries their more thoughtful partisans. I don't want to see that happen with our side.

Unfortunately the internet promotes misunderstanding and conflict. It's an impersonal form of communication. People use very informal language which, in writing, is easily mistaken for being more aggressive and rude than the writer intended.

Half a million people voted for Nader in 2000. If all those votes had gone to Gore instead, several close states would have been "flipped" from red to blue, rendering the Florida fiasco irrelevant to the final electoral-college outcome. Most of those who voted for Nader held that, since Gore was not left-wing enough for their taste, it did not matter which of the two major candidates won; it was more important to register a strong protest vote and punish the Democratic party for not taking a (suicidal, from a general-election standpoint) harder-left line.

If you still believe that now, nothing I or anyone else can say can possibly help you. Anyone who can look at the last seven years and still think that it didn't matter whether Gore or Bush became President must be an illegal alien from Neptune. But I think most of us are smarter than that, and are capable of learning from the hideous and dangerous mess which the current administration has made of our country.

Of course, President Bush will not be on this year's ballot. One of the big three Democrats, and one of the big five Republicans, will be. But the two major parties are, if anything, more polarized and distinct from each other than they were (or, at least, than they visibly were) in 2000.

So the next time you feel exasperated with a supporter of a rival Democrat, or start to find some third-party alternative tempting, keep in mind what's at stake in 2008:

We're one Supreme Court appointment away from having Roe vs. Wade overturned.

Another four years of erosion of the separation of church and state will entrench the loss of crucial freedoms.

Another four years of no federal funding for stem-cell research will further delay progress in critical fields of medicine, leading to death and suffering on a much larger scale than is at stake in Iraq, even if it's in a less dramatic and visible form.

Another four years of inaction on global warming will let the problem grow worse, and more difficult and expensive to deal with.

There probably won't be some huge, monumental disaster like a declaration of martial law or a Constitutional amendment to create a theocracy. There'll just be some number of women who are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term or die in back-alley abortions because they live in a state run by reactionaries who finally get to legislate their taboos. There'll just be more church involvement in politics, more discrimination and bigotry against non-Christians, more children subjected to creationist idiocy and state-sanctioned prayer in schools as the judges who presently block such evils are gradually replaced. There'll just be millions of people with Parkinson's disease, macular degeneration, spinal-cord injuries, and so on who will suffer needlessly because the development of stem-cell-based cures for those conditions will be delayed for years -- and some tens or hundreds of thousands of those people will die needlessly. There'll just be more deadly heat waves and monsoons in places like India and Indochina because the world's greatest industrial power wasted four more years pretending that the biggest remaining ecological problem of our time doesn't exist.

There will, in other words, be plenty of blood to go around, to stain the hands of every individual who looked at our present situation and nevertheless voted for a third candidate or didn't vote at all.

We can't afford another Republican administration. We can't. No matter who the Democrat is.

I support Clinton, but if it's Obama or Edwards, I'm not going to take my ball(ot) and go home in a snit. We can't afford the kind of internecine conflict that might make any of our allies do so. The stakes are too high.

Leave the circular firing squads to the Republicans.

(Note: This posting developed from a comment which I wrote on FranIAm's site here; Fran's own posting is a must-read.)



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that the USA cannot, under any circumstances, endure another Republican administration. Dubya has been an unmitigated disaster and the entire Republican edifice is corrupt from top to bottom. They will not clean their house until they are humiliated in an election.

Like many others, I get nauseated when the Dems pander to the religidiots, but I recognize that they are just playing by the rules that currently control the game. They've got to win the game before they'll be able to change the rules. And they've got to get over the currrent round of sniping and keep their eyes on the big picture to win the game.

19 January, 2008 09:01  

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