A Zero Option politics for the American left

Chris Hedges recently talked with Ralph Nader. One part of their conversation has Nader pointing to a very odd mechanism found in American politics:

"The more outrageous the Republicans become, the weaker the left becomes," Nader said when I reached him at his home in Connecticut on Sunday. "The more outrageous they become, the more the left has to accept the slightly less outrageous corporate Democrats."

Why would Republican outrageousness work like this? Why does it produce this counterintuitive result? It's not that the left has to commit to supporting the moderately less destructive Democratic Party. In fact, the Obama administration has already demonstrated that the Democratic Party does not find it difficult to move rightward with the Republicans. In this respect Obama has continued the grand push rightward that took hold with the emergence of the Democratic Leadership Council and the political defeat of the Rainbow Coalition. Putting the matter in blunt terms, one can say that the Democratic Party has long been the tail end of the Reagan Revolution.

Hedges continues:

Nader fears a repeat of the left's cowardice [voting for the Democrat] in the next [2012] election, a cowardice that has further empowered the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, maintained the role of the Democratic Party as a lackey for corporations, and accelerated the reconfiguration of the country into a neo-feudalist state. Either we begin to practice a fierce moral autonomy and rise up in multiple acts of physical defiance that have no discernable short-term benefit, or we accept the inevitability of corporate slavery. The choice is that grim. The age of the practical is over. It is the impractical, those who stand fast around core moral imperatives, figures like Nader or groups such as Veterans for Peace, which organized the recent anti-war rally in Lafayette Park in Washington, which give us hope. [emphasis added]

The left, need it be said, has no place within the Democratic Party save as useful idiots who dutifully vote for a Democrat when given the opportunity. It may appear that the left has nowhere to go, as Nader contends. This is the left's zero option politics. If, on the other hand, the broad left wants to give itself a multidimensional politics, if it wants to have options to play, it will need to refuse to support the Democratic Party.

Is it me or is it ironic that America is counting on the left to make the right decision in this matter?

This essay also appeared on Salon.com and FDL.com

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