I have to recommend the movie An Unreasonable Man about Ralph Nader. It’s a really great movie and I certainly learned a lot. I must admit I was quite ignorant about Nader’s life and career. I only knew him as the guy who ruined the elections and left us with Dubya. He had such a fascinating life and accomplished so much for consumer protection and safety. Seat belts aren’t optional in cars because of him. Airbags too.
I find it absolutely amazing that there was ever a time when you wouldn’t have a seat belt in your car. Growing up I remember a lot more people who wouldn’t buckle up. My best friend during my childhood and his parents and sister wouldn’t buckle up until they were on a road with a speed limit over 45. I was the kind of neurotic, annoying, ultra safety conscious 8-year-old that would badger people until they would put them on. That and people who go boating without life jackets bug me. They wouldn’t call them “accidents” if the driver’s last words were “Buckle up and watch me crash this thing!”
Airbags I’m less happy with. Don’t get me wrong, I know that scientifically its better to be slapped in the face with an exploding balloon than the steering wheel or dashboard. On the other hand, it looks terrifying in the slow motion crash videos.
I’m stubborn, so it’s rare for a movie to change my mind, but I have to say that I’ve re-evaluated my opinion of Nader. While he’s hard to relate to because of his extreme work ethic and lack of personal life, he’s always fighting the good fight and I respect that way more than “a guy you can have a beer with.” Moreover, I don’t even see it as ruining the elections like I did back then. As I’ve grown more disenchanted with the Democratic Party, my desire to return to the Third Party fringe has grown.
I didn’t blame Nader as much for the 2004 election because I didn’t like Kerry. Vast wealth equates to a vast gulf between the monied and the un-monied and Kerry is uber rich. Also, he was so stiff and awkward. Gore was too, but I sensed a driving force within him. Gore wanted to accomplish his goals. Kerry was the first candidate I got to vote for though. I did so because his last name wasn’t Bush, which was good enough. Had the Democrats fielded a barn animal I would have voted for that. 4 years of having a mean spirited llama in office spitting on and kicking at the American people would have been better.
Nonetheless, both times I blamed Nader. He stole votes that would have gone to a Democrat. But in hindsight, I feel differently. Nader didn’t steal votes. The Democrats lost votes. They couldn’t attract those people. They barely had me and I’m a fanatical liberal and progressive, so if they should have anyone firmly in their leftist camp it would be me. I never shut up about the working man, I’m pro choice, I’m an environmentalist, so why are they having trouble keeping my attention? A part of the problem is that the Democrats keep wriggling towards the center while the right keeps drifting so far right it’s been pandering to supporters of theocracy. Once you start pandering to people who see a black constitutional scholar and senator born in Hawaii and think secret Muslim terrorist you’re lost in the wilderness. The Democrats won’t stand up for liberalism because the opposition labeled it a dirty word.
While perhaps the meat of the votes are in the center, the only chance for change is with new ideas, which the center isn’t known for. It would be one thing if the Democrats won by going to the center and then through compromise and reaching across the aisle the country was getting things done. We can all get behind that, but that isn’t even the case. They all compromise their beliefs and opinions and integrity to get money and votes so that they can make a difference and then spend their entire terms in office accomplishing nothing.
Every election season (which generally starts the day after you’re elected and stops the day you die from a stress induced heart attack or lies that coalesced into a tumor) you see Democrats distancing themselves from all things Democrat. Admittedly, after their last loss the Republicans are half-heartedly inching away from their old positions. Sometimes watching establishment Republicans pretending to care about people outside their race and income bracket is downright embarrassing. You just know someone is going to use a racial slur, someone else is going to boast about how well they “get along with the [strongly inappropriate term for that ethnicity].”
Hosting dinners on getting more diversity in the big tent party at an old slave plantation; McCain blatantly saying that they need to pander so they can win (next time when you’re conning people, don’t give a soliloquy about your plans); Romney’s plan of self-deportation. Most of the time they just try to remind people that Lincoln was a Republican. Here’s a tip: If the story you tell to remind people you used to be cool is from 150 years ago, it’s time to move on.
It reminds me of that old sitcom Third Rock from the Sun about aliens impersonating a human family. Like the Republicans get the core concept of what they should espouse as their beliefs in the 21st century, but the devil is in the details. Then they always make one of those non-apologies “I’m deeply sorry that the [entire race they insulted] doesn’t like that word,” or “I’m so sorry that there were cameras present.” Like the Romney dinner video and his excuse was he thought it was a private function with no cameras. His big regret was us finding out that he’s secretly an A-hole.
So, the anti-Bush/McCain/Romney alliance I made with the Democratic Party may finally be coming to an end because I’m tired of compromise without the accompanying cooperation. While I lay the blame for lack of cooperation squarely at the feet of the Republican Party, the blame doesn’t really matter because the result is still the same. I’m tired of wars and corporate rule and elections between two guys whose differences become less and less clear as time passes. You know when it’s time for gerrymandering districts both parties always find a way to work together.
We got Afghanistan and Iraq under a Republican and then we kept those and added in Libya and God knows what else come the next couple years under a Democrat. Syria is looking ripe for us to do what we love, which is arming the rebels so that in a decade when we end up invading Syria for some reason they can shoot us with our own guns. We got Republican bail outs and then Democrat bail outs. A consumer protection agency that has no funding or power. Universal wire taps became universal wire taps. Rumors of president approved assassinations became openly admitting that the president can kill anyone. Guantanamo is still open. Millions had no health coverage and now millions have no health coverage and a few million extra get the same terrible coverage that no one wanted before.
I’d rather throw my vote away on someone I like or not vote at all than keep voting in these good cop, bad cop two party elections. Every 4-8 years the other team creeps back and promises that this time will be different. They won’t hurt us like they did last time. I keep waiting for this dysfunctional relationship to break down and it keeps chugging along. The worst part is knowing that it’s entirely possible with the corrosive influence of money on the system, there might be no way to elect a decent person. Our only hope may be for one of the standard paid for and bought candidates to lose their minds and go Bulworth (another movie I recommend.)
Then again, honesty and integrity never had mass appeal. Why vote for the guy who promises sacrifice over the one who promises everything you ever wanted and all for free. The politicians treat us like children, the media thinks we’re children and it’s entirely possible we are children.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” -George Bernard Shaw