Talkin Left/Right Coalitions

Talkin Left/Right Coalitions
Dr. Lenora Fulani

A lot of the talk on the political pundit circuit lately is about how independent presidential candidates will affect the campaigns of the Democrat and the Republican.

This spin cycle began when Forbes magazine speculated that, contrary to conventional wisdom, conservative Pat Buchanan may injure Al Gore more than George Bush in November by drawing rank and file labor voters to the Reform Party ticket because of his positions on trade and globalism.

Then there is speculation about the extent to which Buchanan will peel away hard-core pro-lifers if Bush chooses a pro-choice running mate. Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said, “Five to eight percent of the voters will defect on the pro-life issue, and Pat Buchanan is there.”

At the same time Ralph Nader, the Green Party presidential candidate who was profiled in the New York Times last week, is widely regarded as
a left candidate who will pull votes from Gore. Commenting on a poll by the Zogby Group that showed Nader at 5 percent and Buchanan at 3 percent, the Times added — perhaps to comfort two-party enthusiasts who are miffed that there are any independents running at all — “… an aggressive Nader campaign could entirely offset advantages Mr. Gore might gain from Mr. Buchanan’s candidacy, which is expected to siphon votes from the apparent Republican nominee, Gov. George W. Bush.”

These are certainly interesting — if highly speculative — analyses. But they miss what is, in the long run, a far more important story. That is the story of the impact of the independent presidential candidates on the independent movement which seeks to supplant bipartisan special interest control of government with a multi-party grass-roots democratic system.

At one level, Buchanan and Nader have straightforward goals. Buchanan wants to get the Reform Party nomination so he’ll have $12.5 million to get his message out in November. Nader wants to get his message out and poll above 5 percent so that the next time around, the Greens will have $12 million to spend.

But at another level, these independent candidacies have put a potential realignment of American politics on the table. As candidates of the left and right, respectively, who share a remarkable number of positions on trade, globalization, foreign policy and political reform, they popularize the notion of a left/right coalition as the base of a future majority party in America.

While Buchanan may be more forthright in his left/right efforts (by seeking my endorsement for example) when the ballots are counted in November, we may well be looking at 15 million total votes cast for Nader and Buchanan. In other words, we’ll see 15 million Americans from the left and the right who want an alternative to the current globalist bipartisan system. That’s a sign there is a basis for a long-term left/right independent coalition.

Will the left and right come together? Alexander Cockburn, theleftist arch-muckraker, was a guest on my weekly TV show last week and
had some insightful comments about the potential for left/right coalitions. He also has some acid observations about the extent to which the traditional left — in the face of that potential — keeps its followers in the fold by terrifying them with a fantasized picture of the power of the right.

In a dialogue with my co-host Fred Newman, Cockburn observed that the left, often in conjunction with the U.S. Justice Department, “cultivate(s) this image of an America where there is an enormously powerful right waiting like a panther to pounce. It’s drivel. But the minute you have a possibility of unusual alliances, of getting behind the theatre, the mime of the American politics, they invoke this bogey.”

The left is conservative in the extreme when it comes to left/right coalitions. And Cockburn is one of the powerful voices on the American left who see the “creative” use of left/right coalitions offering an opportunity to go beyond the corruption of current day politics. Referring to Buchanan having reversed his pro-war posture of the 1960’s and 1970’s, Cockburn said,

To the extent that Buchanan’s come off that position, then congratulations to him … look, he is against the sanctions in Iraq

that are killing all those Iraqi children. Some fellow on the left protested to me about my being at that conference (the

conference at which Cockburn, Buchanan and I all spoke).

I said, “Al Gore is in favor of sanctions, Bill Clinton is in favor of sanctions, Madeleine Albright is in favor of sanctions. Pat Buchanan is not in favor of sanctions. So I’m happy to be at a conference with him.”

The traditional right, like the traditional left, opposes left/right coalitions, too. In last week’s issue of the National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor and the author of a left-baiting
broadside against Pat Buchanan’s move to the Reform Party entitled, “Conservative No More,” pooh-poohed the notion that America could go beyond left and right, dismissing it as “something pretty much only said by liberals and leftists.” Ponnuru’s observation, however, misses a new turn of events in U.S.

Ponnuru’s observation, however, misses a new turn of events in U.S. politics — namely, how some conservatives are now the ones raising cutting edge policy issues that have been abandoned by the left and liberals. Cockburn noted this on my show in a discussion of the U.S.-led war in the Balkans: “… a lot of the opposition to the war and the most spirited opposition to the war came from what would convincingly be regarded as the right. Of course, the center, so to speak, the liberals, had been the most prominent faction calling for war, calling for bombing, as they have called for other interventions in recent times like the Somalian intervention and Iraq. They are the drum beaters for war.”

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