It must be some playful new postmodernist form of politics: First you spend years ranting about the plutocracy that has supplanted American democracy and is rapidly devouring the planet. You complain about the growing numbers of Americans who can’t afford healthcare or housing; you rant about the inadequacy of wages and the arrogance of the corporate overclass. Then, just as large numbers of people start tuning in and even getting excited to the point of supporting the one presidential candidate who’s making the exact same points you’ve been trying to get across all this time–you whip around and shout, “Only kidding, folks. Get out there and vote for Gore!”
Normally I’m more responsive when summoned to help save a drowning man. But none of the lefties for Gore are arguing that Gore has said or done anything recently to earn progressive support. He’s going down, is all, and going down so quickly and inexplicably that no one can call him “wooden” anymore–there’s a question whether he’s even carbon-based. Here he is, faced with the frothiest Republican presidential hopeful since Dan Quayle, and Gore can ignite no sparks, cannot even rise above his own fundraising scandals or apparently grasp wherein the scandal lies. As recently as late June, for example, he praised an audience of African-immigrant Americans for their contributions to his campaign, promising that the money would be “helping to focus the attention of our country on issues in Nigeria or Ethiopia or Ghana or Cameroon or South Africa.”
We are being summoned to save this inveterate bribe-seeker because “a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.” That in itself is a disturbingly Orwellian proposition, easily generalized to “Don’t challenge the system, you’ll only make it worse.” But leaving that aside, let us acknowledge that Bush is indeed scarier than Gore on several discernible issues, abortion the most prominent among them. Hence the familiar plea of the pro-Gore leftists: Keep W.’s pudgy little fingers off the Supreme Court.
Ah, the Supreme Court! Never mind that pro-choice Justice O’Connor was a Reagan appointee or that Clinton’s man Breyer is one of the most economically conservative Justices around–the Supreme Court gets dragged out every four years to squash any attempt to escape the Democratic Party. So it has been and so it will always be until we have a Court consisting entirely of pro-choice teenagers.
Abortion, which is the issue I am most frequently Gored with by the political “realists” of the left, deserves a closer look. Note first that the prominence of this issue in the Gore/Bush race above all reflects the loving concordance of the candidates on almost everything else–militarization, incarceration and the necessary immiseration of working people everywhere in the service of global capital. Note second that what has vitiated abortion rights on the ground is not so much the legal whittling away of Roe v. Wade (though quite a bit of that has gone on too, at the state level) as the relentless pressure from antichoice groups on abortion providers. And aside from reining in clinic picketers, there’s not a whole hell of a lot the Supreme Court can do to fix that.