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The death of the lesser of two evils: if not Camejo, then Flynt!

by Alexander Cockburn Thursday, Aug. 07, 2003 at 9:01 AM

When Real Politics gloriously and excitingly raises its head in the recall effort, many leftists bleat nervously about Republican plots, and the need to rally to the Democratic Party and its man in Sacramento.

The death of the lesser of two evils

If not Camejo, then Flynt!

Alexander Cockburn - Creators Syndicate

08.06.03 - I gave a talk about current politics at

Diesel, a fine Oakland independent bookstore, late

last week. No one in the leftish crowd seemed notably

put out when I declared myself dubious of the

proposition that the only element of mystery about

9/11 was whether George W. Bush had ordered the

attacks on the World Trade Center on his own

initiative or was merely acting as the catspaw of Dick


Nor was there any outcry when I denounced Ariel Sharon

as a war criminal and his U.S. claque as a bunch of

unconscionable rogues.

But as soon as I said I couldn't see much reason to

get excited about Howard Dean as a candidate for the

Democratic nomination and he seemed to me to be a

thoroughly conventional right winger, there was an

audible ripple of irritation in the crowd. In the

course of an angry denunciation of my unsparing

comments about Dean, a woman said that the left should

be rallying not only to the standard of the former

governor of Vermont, but of Governor Gray Davis of

California, now facing a recall vote in early October.

Gray Davis! There was a time once when "lesser of two

evils" actually meant something momentous, like the

choice between starving to death on a lifeboat or

eating the first mate. Was there ever a man who

brought the always gray phrase "lesser of two evils"

into greater disrepute?

Shackled to "lesser of two evils" is its dread mate,

"compromise." In its funereal syllables is congealed

the whole sad history of the U.S. two-party system,

from the first compromise in the Constitution allowing

the import of slaves till 1820, to the Missouri

Compromise letting that slave state enter the union,

to the compromise of 1877, which ended Reconstruction.

The twentieth century was no better. In the

compromises that ensured Republican hegemony there was

one moment of hope, sparked by the Great Depression

and the vast public zeal to get out of it. Then, after

the war, America saw programs for full employment, for

complete social security. Education at the University

of California cost a quarter. Democratic clubs in

California exercised strong populist control over

prospective candidates.

In the years that followed, the Democrats slowly

bargained everything away, in that same spirit of

compromise. No one talks about full employment now.

Organized labor is belittled. Oldsters see Social

Security being eroded.

The paradigm of this downward descent is Gray Davis,

who now proclaims that he is going to fight "like a

Bengal tiger." It takes one to know one. Bengal tigers

like to hang out near some village and eat small cows,

fearing even the stately water buffalo. When its teeth

go bad the Bengal tiger gives up on the cows and

starts attacking elderly, defenseless humans.

Davis' only enthusiasms are for raising money and

endorsing the death penalty. His main achievement has

been to ransom California off to the energy Mafia. He

represents the End of Politics as anything remotely

honorable or idealistic.

But now, when Real Politics gloriously and excitingly

raises its head in the recall effort, many leftists

bleat nervously about Republican plots, and the need

to rally to the Democratic Party and its man in

Sacramento. Despite official Green endorsement of the

recall effort, many Greens aren't much better. I

listened to one the other day, a fellow of normally

militant fiber, whining that the recall bid is

unleashing "toxic" forces and everyone should work for


But there's a sound Green candidate in the form of

Peter Camejo, and surely the recall ballot, with some

hundreds of candidates crowding in before next

weekend's cut-off, represents the best Green shot ever

at capturing any significant slot, with normal voting

blocs possibly fracturing.

Real Democracy, as opposed to the sham stuff usually

on offer, is embodied in the ability to recall

politicians who stab their supporters in the back.

Davis should face the music. How wonderful it would be

to see Larry Flynt roll into the governor's mansion in

Sacramento, and by making that possible, Davis would

earn himself a page in the history books, not merely a

footnote about his skills as a fundraiser.

(c) 2003 Creators Syndicate

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