My dictionary defines “myopia” as “a lack of discernment or long-range perspective in thinking or planning.” This would have been a pretty good definition of the accusation leveled by Ralph Nader at progressive Gore supporters. The rap, according to Naderites, was that “frightened liberals” had blinded themselves to the opportunity to build a genuine progressive opposition party in exchange for a few pro-choice Supreme Court Justices and the odd rhetorical gesture. That’s why, even when it became clear that Nader held the balance between Gore and Bush in key states like Florida and New Hampshire, he refused to release his supporters. Nader actually looked forward to a Bush presidency because it would “galvanize” progressives and teach the Democrats a lesson.
Back then it may have been possible to argue that Nader was simply naïve. He lusted after matching funds for Greens. He fell for Bush’s false promises and moderate-sounding rhetoric, failing to pay sufficient attention to the extremist agenda they cloaked. Nader may also have been taken in by the punditocracy argument that Bush would not dare upset the centrist balance of politics, given the narrowness of his likely mandate and the opposition to most of his policies in virtually every election poll.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee, indeed. Just sixty days into the Bush presidency, the myopia is clearly on the other foot. Nader argued that while Gore might have been superior to Bush on social issues like choice, virtually nothing separated the two candidates on issues relating to wealth and corporate power. How unfortunate, therefore, that George W. Bush has already:
§ convinced the House of Representatives to pass a $2 trillion tax cut, of which 43 percent will go to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans;
§ signed a bankruptcy bill, vetoed by President Clinton, designed to squeeze poor and middle-class people with medical emergencies, childcare payments and the like, but which does nothing to curb banks’ predatory lending practices, which target the young and poor;
§ signed a bill overturning Clinton Administration work rules requiring employers to address conditions causing repetitive stress syndrome–affecting more than 1.8 million workers, nearly two-thirds of whom are women–in what looks to be the opening shot in an all-out war against organized labor;
§ torpedoed global efforts to combat planetary warming–breaking a campaign pledge and humiliating his EPA chief–by ruling out regulation of carbon dioxide emissions (after Nader lauded Bush’s support for such measures as “historic”);
§ proposed the opening of “all public lands [!],” including national monuments, to drilling by his oil company cronies;
§ undermined John McCain and Russell Feingold’s efforts to control the abusive, antidemocratic campaign finance system;
§ subverted the South Korean peace process–and humiliated his own Secretary of State–to preserve arguments for the costly Star Wars boondoggle.
Note that I haven’t even mentioned the appointment of extremists like John Ashcroft and Theodore Olson, who will be advising Bush about whom to appoint to the federal bench; or Gale Norton, the James Watt protégée now heading the Interior Department, who believes polluters should be trusted to be self-policing; or Andrew Card, the automobile industry’s chief lobbyist, now Chief of Staff; or Michael Powell, the new head of the FCC, who has no interest in moderating media mergers. And I haven’t said a word about so-called social issues.