Tuesday, August 03, 2004

YOUNGEST LIVING SOCIALIST TELLS ALL: The Kerry-Edwards nuptials in Boston were a rollicking good time. The whole extended family came and made nice for the sake of the happy couple. It's a shame the honeymoon can't last forever...

Jeanne d’Arc at Body and Soul points us to this column by Naomi Klein, published in the both the Guardian and The Nation. The damn thing has me tied up in knots. Ms. Klein’s thang is economic justice and anti-globalism. I sense that her politics and mine agree about 98%, and that this is a case where I get way too emotional about the 2% deviation, but consarn it, this piece irks me.

Klein’s basic thesis is that Bush hating is a surface phenomenon. Bush and his gang are crude, unenlightened, perhaps a little quirky. But on principle, Kerry and Bush are equally atrocious. Leftists err by making Dubya the personification of all their problems, when Kerry is just as complicit in the drug war, free trade, divvying up the spoils of war in Iraq, and other immoral U.S. policies. Klein never mentions Ralph Nader directly, but it’s the old Ralph refrain that both major candidates are equally compromised by special interests:

"The main difference will be that as Kerry pursues these brutal policies, he
will come off as intelligent, sane and blissfully dull. That's why I've joined
the Anybody But Bush camp: only with a bore such as Kerry at the helm will we
finally be able to put an end to the presidential pathologising and focus on the
issues again."

Yes, what we need is a nice boring president who will not blind us to the reality of corporatist evil. Strangely, Klein seems to regard the "innocuous" Clinton years (I swear to God, she characterized Bill Clinton as innocuous) as a golden age, despite the fact that NAFTA passed during Clinton's tenure. Republicans, Democrats: all swine. It's just that the Bush administration is loaded with "odd personalities" who drive us to distraction:

"[T]he zealots in Bush's White House are neither insane nor stupid nor
particularly shady. Rather, they openly serve the interests of the corporations
that put them in office with bloody-minded efficiency. Their boldness stems not
from the fact that they are a new breed of zealot but that the old breed finds
itself in a newly unconstrained political climate."

This is just dunderheaded--truly a distinction without a difference. Did the political climate unconstrain itself? Hardly. The Republicans have been working for a generation to undermine the values of reason, civility and fair play in Washington.
"Some argue that Bush’s extremism actually has a progressive effect because it
unites the world against the US empire."

Geez, do some argue that? On my planet, people observe that Bush appoints ringers to the federal bench, ignores education and research, and runs up crushing deficits. Every single day, Bush’s extremism does a little more damage, damage that will be felt long after he has left office.

But to Naomi, anti-Bush animus merely clouds men’s minds until they fail to "understand modern empire not as the purview of a single nation, no matter how powerful, but a global system of interlocking states, international institutions and corporations…"

Frankly, that global system sounds fucking GREAT to me right now. Let those states and corporations interlock, if it will prevent Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz from taking over the world.

It isn’t a hot news flash that John Kerry is not progressives’ dream candidate. I’m probably a little naïve in hoping that some of Kerry’s campaign rhetoric is just for show and that he’ll change course promptly upon taking office (I’m thinking mostly of his support for Israel’s right to build a security fence in the West Bank). But that’s not half as naïve as not seeing a large difference between the Democrats and the Republicans in the way they do business. The GOP of Bush and Delay ignores the law, ignores the rules of civil discourse, ignores facts, when those things collide with their Manichean worldview. There is no national emergency they won't exploit for partisan advantage. They're downright Orwellian in their anti-democratic instincts and corruption of language.

As is widely recognized, progressives will need to work to keep their agenda in front of a President Kerry. But Chrissakes, the difference for progressives between a Kerry and a Bush administration, is the difference between a difficult uphill chance, and NO chance.

I got annoyed, on the eve of the Democratic Convention, watching The Chris Matthews Show. Matthews devoted several minutes to the notion that the Clintons lead an ultra-left faction of the party that secretly wants Kerry to tank in '04, to clear the way for Hillary in '08. This is a total right-wing strawman, I tell myself—utterly ridiculous. Look how the party is uniting behind Kerry. Then along comes Naomi Klein and fuels that insulting innuendo.

Really, Klein gives the game away in her first graf with the line "standard-issue Bush-bashing schlock, on sale at Wal-Mart, made in Malaysia." Wal-Mart reference = gratuitous snobbery. I know about Klein’s anti-globalist, anti-sweatshop bona fides; so add a side order of sanctimony to the gratuitous snobbery.

(I’m not a regular reader of The Nation anymore, but I intend to pick up the next few issues and look for the letters to the editor about this one. Hopefully Klein will write a rebuttal as well [rubbing hands gleefully] . Silly as The Nation can be, getting all het up about Alger Hiss or some other controversy that only a dwindling handful of nonagenarian ex-union organizers living in Greenwich Village gives a shit about anymore, you still have to love the flame wars in the Letters section—erudite, sourced, devastatingly polite, fundamentally vicious.)

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