The Empire Strikes Back (Cont.)
Party in Limbo
Gush and Boredom Forever
Machine Politics

The Empire Strikes Back (Cont.)
Darth Nader

Despite the ferocious liberal attacks, Nader was no spoiler.

"CNN exit polls show that only about 47 percent of the Nader voters would have voted for Gore in a two-way race, while 21 percent would have voted for Bush and 30 percent would have abstained from voting in the presidential contest altogether," writes Tim Wise of Alternet, who puts together the following case for the consumer advocate.

In New Hampshire, Bush's margin of victory was about 7500. Nader received 22,000 votes. Based on the exit polling, if Nader had not been in the race, less than half his votes would have gone to Gore. A fifth would have gone to Bush, who would have ended up with a 1500-vote victory.

In Oregon, before things tightened over the weekend, people blamed Nader for what appeared to be a Bush victory. Late last week, Bush was leading by 23,000 votes and Nader had 54,000. But suppose Nader hadn't been in the race. Based on exit polls, Bush would still have squeaked by with about an 8000-vote victory.

In Florida, the case seems most convincing. There, Wise points out, although Nader got 95,000 votes, Gore lost white women, 52-45. And Nader was no big factor among seniors. "Even more to the point, Bush received the votes of 12 times more Democrats than Nader did, and 5.25 times more self-identified liberals than Nader did . . . indicating that progressive voters and those who might have been seen as a natural lock for Gore, actually were stolen not by the Greens but by the Republicans."

Of course, if Gore had won Tennessee, not to mention Clinton's Arkansas, along with the traditional Democratic bastion of West Virginia, Florida would be irrelevant.

Party in Limbo
Green Stick Fracture

The Green Party seems a most unlikely vehicle for the social and cultural anti-globalization movement, of which Ralph Nader is now the most visible leader. Like most social movements, this one will take years to emerge as a coherent force—and its growth as a political party is the least likely avenue. The movement found its voice in the streets in Seattle; it was a force to be reckoned with at the Republican convention in Philadelphia, and again in Prague. As an electoral vehicle, however, it lacks control and discipline.

Although Nader has promised to take the lead in shaping the Greens into a watchdog party that will run candidates across the country in 2002, the Greens are basically a small, fractious group of enviro-leftists. It's a little difficult to believe that well-organized urban coalitions will waste much time bickering with them over whether the leadership should be fashioned as some sort of cooperative, revolving-door-type apparatus.

In Germany, where the Green Party is part of the ruling coalition, it evidences little real independence and seems more like an adjunct of the Social Democrats.

Beyond this, Nader's relationship to the Greens has always been tenuous. His staff has little or nothing to do with them. In fact, Nader himself is not even a member.

Gush and Boredom Forever
Tweedledum & Tweedledubya

The presidential election probably was so close not because of any great divide among the electorate, but because people have a genuinely hard time telling Gore's New Democrats from Bush's compassionate conservatives.

With the vote so close—17 states were won by margins of 5 percent or less—the issue of accurate ballot counts may grow. In addition to Florida, the outcomes in Oregon and New Mexico remain unclear, and questions have been raised about the counts in Iowa, Wisconsin, and even New Hampshire. Moreover, there is another issue in Florida—i.e., whether the ballot itself is illegal.

In the House and Senate, results were razor-thin. Five House races—in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Jersey—are subject to recount. The Senate race in Washington is a cliff-hanger, with the incumbent Republican, Slade Gorton, in a seesaw battle with Maria Cantwell.

Tom Daschle's call for "power sharing" is likely to go unheeded. Congress will politic as usual, with Republicans trying to recruit blue-dog Democrats into a conservative coalition on social-welfare issues and liberal Democrats seeking accommodation with far-right-wing colleagues in a coalition against free trade.

Whatever happens in Florida, the next government is bound to be tied up in legal challenges for weeks. In Congress, where the Republicans scraped by with scant majorities, little can be accomplished, and more of the gridlock that gripped both houses for the past four years is in store.

In perhaps the most immediate sense, the election is a bitter defeat for House Democrats. Minority leader Dick Gephardt, hoping to become speaker, had persuaded older Democratic leaders to postpone retirement until the party was back in control. Now Gephardt probably will never be speaker, and with redistricting battles looming, the Democrats have little chance of regaining control in the near future.

For conservative Republicans, the strongest intact element is libertarian-style free-market economics. Having junked the New Deal social-welfare programs—with the New Democrats' help—the Republicans now seek to privatize Social Security, with the Democrats dragging their feet, but in the end going along. Neither Bush nor Gore has offered specifics on Medicare, and while both allude vaguely to plans that would make drugs accessible to seniors, neither is likely to allocate more money on this.

As has been noted here, Bush has adopted many of the goals of the Christian Right, awarding them growing control over social-welfare programs. In Texas, he let Christer right-wingers run schools and day-care centers, help manage prisons, and administer other aspects of the shredded safety net. Although this sounds dissimilar from Democratic policies, Gore, in an effort to combat Bush during the campaign, made a nearly identical pitch for faith-based social-welfare institutions in Atlanta last spring.

Neither party will try to regulate the Internet if it can help it. As for all the rhetoric about sex and violence in entertainment, the Republicans will resist most moves to increase federal regulations, and the Democrats are too dependent on campaign financing from Hollywood.

As regards the Supreme Court, selecting any new justices will require bipartisan backing in the Senate, which should lead to the choice of somewhat more moderate nominees.

On foreign policy, Bush has some leeway. Although he has promised to curtail American "peacekeeping operations" abroad, he would intercede in this hemisphere. Count on Bush to act in South America and the Caribbean: in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America by jumping into the drug wars; and in Haiti, where Jean-Bertrande Aristide seems certain to regain the presidency in elections later this month (which hopefully will go more smoothly than the U.S. elections), by removing the remaining vestiges of American intervention, thus opening the way for a possible coup.

Above all, there will be no redistribution of wealth downward. Any reshuffling of the economy will favor the rich.

Machine Politics

"Machines are neither Republicans nor Democrats, and therefore can be neither consciously nor unconsciously biased."
—James A. Baker III, announcing that the Bush campaign would seek a federal injunction to block manual ballot recounts in Florida

Additional reporting: Rouven Gueissaz and Theresa Crapanzano

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