By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Of course there’s one nagging concern about Bradley: While he’s sounding mighty progressive now, he had 18 years in the Senate during which he was nobody’s liberal, at least on economic issues. It’s not surprising that he’s campaigning to Gore’s left on good-government and social issues — calling for campaign-finance reform, and for gun-control legislation far more sweeping than what Gore supports. These are the kinds of proposals he supported in the Senate. The surprise is that he has also reinvented himself as a Democrat in the Roosevelt tradition, willing to use public resources to solve public problems.
Bill Bradley is saying exactly what needs to be said during this campaign season, reminding Americans that they should ensure (and, with the surplus, that they can ensure) that our prosperity be widely shared. His problem isn’t his message; it’s his delivery. Bradley has proved himself a miserable campaigner, oddly unable to defend his proposals on their considerable merits, opting instead simply to attack Gore for lying. His inability to dispel Gore’s misrepresentations is disquieting — though not half so disquieting as Gore’s willingness to level ludicrous charges against Bradley’s programs. As a campaigner, Gore’s certainly shown himself to be one shrewd and tenacious operator, even as his message has grown less and less inspiring.
On the largest question of our time, however — how should we try to shape the globalized economy? — Bradley and Gore, like Bush and McCain, are simply and terribly wrong. All four candidates, in varying degrees, have been proponents of a laissez-faire global order, backing treaties devoid of environmental standards and guarantees of worker rights. All support China’s admission to the WTO.
There is, however, one candidate on the ballot who supports fair global trade standards: Ralph Nader, who’s a candidate in the Green Party primary. The veteran consumer activist has announced that he’s running (albeit as a gadfly candidate) for real this time: a distinction he has to make because four years ago and, briefly, eight years ago, he also proclaimed his gadfly candidacy, and then neglected to wage a campaign, gadfly or otherwise. (It is the fate of liberalism in the 2000 election that neither its mainstream candidate nor its protest candidate has the slightest idea how to run for office.)
Still, the idea of a protest candidacy for the presidency — not to mention an inept protest candidacy — makes us a little nervous. Even in these triangulated times, there are still glaring ideological differences between the two parties on a range of key questions, and the one arena in which these differences are most decisive will be the next president’s Supreme Court appointments. The Court is currently divided 5-4 or 4-5 on a range of fundamental issues, not least the efforts of the Rehnquist Reactionaries to resurrect the doctrine of states’ rights. Over the past two years, Rehnquist’s Gang of Five have increasingly ruled that federal laws do not apply to states. For the past 65 years, American conservatism has been bent on repealing the New Deal, but Rehnquist & Co. seem bent on negating the Civil War.
With his judicial appointments, a Republican president could turn the clock back to God knows when. Which is why, while we regard Nader as the most valuable of public citizens, we do not support what may or may not emerge as his presidential candidacy.
For his part, Bill Bradley seems poised between the virtuous marginality of Nader and the robo-centrism of Gore. Like John McCain, and quite unlike Al Gore or George W. Bush, Bradley gives every indication of having a moral center. Unlike McCain, though, he favors policies that would reduce the screaming inequality in American life, that would make health care a right rather than a privilege, and a decent wage for a working-class job the norm rather than the exception. Bradley calls us, if sometimes inexpertly, to become a better nation — and it’s been a long time since a presidential candidate has sounded that call at all. On Election Day, we recommend you answer his challenge with a vote for Bill Bradley.
UNITED STATES SENATOR — MEDEA SUSAN BENJAMIN
The Feinstein Conundrum — a regularly recurring feature of California life, like the swallows’ return to Capistrano — is back. Every six years, liberals and progressives have to determine whether Dianne Feinstein’s re-election is of such strategic importance that they must discount the fact that her politics frequently make them retch.
Dianne Feinstein is a centrist, which is not to say she ends up in the middle on every issue, but rather that she bounds from left to right (or wrong) depending on the subject. Her environmental record is generally good, and she deserves credit for the Desert Protection Act, which preserves a vast tract of California’s natural resources. She’s taken an active role in the ongoing fight for a Patient’s Bill of Rights; she’s a solid defender of gay rights and a woman’s right to choose. She was, of course, the author and driving force behind the federal ban on assault weapons.