Tuesday, September 17, 2002

They Must be the Same

Lowell Ponte’s “The Greening of McKinney” in today’s FrontPage is a truly bizarre document that works primarily as an expression Ponte’s dislike for anyone in the Democratic Party or further left and his inability to distinguish between people in that very broad category.

It begins with the usual Cynthia McKinney bashing. I don’t agree with all of it but, for the most part, critics stick to the facts about her record and don’t engage in wild conspiracy theories. Ponte, however, does go into that terrain.

In an attempt to illustrate an alliance between the Green Party and McKinney, Ponte writes:

    …her [McKinney] wacky Left radicalism and position on the executive board of the congressional “Progressive (i.e., socialist) Caucus” (honored here on the website of the Democratic Socialists of America) brought “more than 50 Green Party activists from across the nation…to Georgia,” reported Associated Press, “to help McKinney in the final days of her primary campaign.”

There appears to be a missing word or two but the AP story Ponte links to doesn’t say that McKinney brought in Green Party activists. Rather it just says they came to campaign for McKinney, making it unclear if McKinney knew about their party affiliation at all or if it was a coordinated effort. Maybe the congresswoman knew and maybe it was an organized effort but the evidence is not presented by Ponte.

Probably unaware of his lack of understanding of the article, Ponte uses it as the basis for the following revelation:

    Reading this AP story, I suddenly felt stunned at the obvious truth I had so long overlooked about the real nature of the Green Party.

    Who was its Presidential candidate in 2000? He was Ralph Nader, who beneath his anti-capitalist political costume is a proud Arab-American of Lebanese ancestry.

Say what you will about Nader and his 2000 presidential campaign but this passage is very strange and does not mesh with the facts.

What exactly is Nader’s “anti-capitalist political costume”? The most logical explanation is that Ponte doesn’t believe Nader actually believes in the positions he has taken over the last 40 or so years but Ponte provides no reason to believe this.

Nader does take pride in his Arab ancestry but he does not make a very big deal out of in his public profile nor does it appear to have greatly influenced his politics, as this excerpt from an interview conducted by David Barsamian shows:

    DB: Few people know of your Arab heritage. Your parents were born in Lebanon. You rarely mention this. I was wondering how that background influenced you.

    RN: It was a very civically responsible upbringing. My parents said to the children, The other side of freedom is civic responsibility. My father said that when he sailed past the Statue of Liberty. He took it seriously. So we were always encouraged to participate and try to improve our community and not be passive onlookers or bystanders. Our parents would take us to town meetings in my hometown, which were often pretty robust displays of discussion between the citizenry and the selectmen and mayor. I think it was also a time when children had some solitude. They weren't glued to video games and television thirty or forty hours a week. We played in the backyard instead of sitting on a couch gaining weight, getting out of shape, munching potato chips and watching some violent cartoon show.

    DB: What about the heritage of Arab culture?

    RN: We grew up learning the language. The proverbs were always a part of encouragement and admonition in the household. It was a very nurturing type of cultural upbringing.

If we know that Nader is takes pride in his heritage then it can be safely assumed that his comments about that heritage's effect on him are accurate.

Most importantly, Ponte implies that Nader’s ancestry reveals something inherent about Nader and/or the “nature” of the Green Party. Yet Ponte never says what that is. No doubt many people would read that passage and conclude Ponte is racist. (I’m not sure if that is the correct assessment or not because it is unclear to me what Ponte is getting at.)

Ponte goes on to write:

    What is the color green? Yes, it is the color of trees — except as we head into autumn — and is the symbolic color camouflaging the watermelon-red-inside-green-outside environmental movement.

    But the flags of Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim nations are also mostly or at least partly green. Why? Because green is the symbolic color of the Prophet Muhammad, the legendary color of the cloak he wore, as well as the color of Muslim heaven envisioned as a lush oasis amid desert sands.

    And now the Greens are courting Cynthia McKinney, strange bedfellow with a proven family history of hating Jews and prostituting her political office to Muslim radicals willing to heap lots of green upon her.

    Is this mere coincidence? Are the Greens willing to embrace anyone or any group that both hates America and is willing to provide millions in cash to finance this party’s political ambitions?

    Are the Greens really mere Gaia-worshipping pagans, pantheists and latter-day Wiccans, as they are widely perceived? Or could this party have secret, or even not-so-secret, alliances with radical Arabs, Islamists and the Muslim faith?

Leaving aside the issue of the Green Party’s religious preference or lack thereof, the Green Party's hedging on whether it is pro-capitalist or not and the matter how a political party could form an alliance with a religious faith, Ponte seems unable to grasp that many people –Democrats, Greens and others- do not see McKinney the same way he does. Many of her supporters no doubt do not believe that she is a beholden to “radical Arabs, Islamists and the Muslim faith.” Rather they see her as a strong woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and criticize the powerful. Ponte doesn’t have to agree with this assessment to not recognize that it exists if only in the minds of evil idiots.

Ponte goes on to say that he’s happy Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election because:

    Imagine what might have happened if this Gorebot had been Commander-in-Chief on September 11, 2001, as an ally of Ralph Nader and fellow “Progressive” Democrats like Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. Thank God Ralph Nader ran for President in 2000.

Gore and Nader are allies? When exactly did this alliance form?

And for the record, I am unsure how Gore would have reacted to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. I find it perfectly plausible that he would have reacted just the same as Bush did and would like to know how Ponte thinks he would have reacted.

Ponte also writes:

    For the record, I hope Cynthia McKinney becomes the Green Party’s Presidential candidate in 2004. This would educate millions of idealistic young Americans as to the real nature and agenda of this extremist political party. And it would siphon votes away from the Democratic Party’s candidate who will be pretending to be more centrist than McKinney.

Yep, everybody knows that the Democratic nominee will be “pretending” to not have the same positions as McKinney because all Democrats are the same or something.

In another section, Ponte writes:

    What remains to be seen is how many African-Americans, women, and principled Leftists the McKinney’s [Cynthia and her father Bill] can also inspire to leave the Democratic Party, the traditional party of the slave owners, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow, Bull Connor and today’s most racist politicians.

Given all else that Ponte believes about McKinney, it is bit strange to think he sees anybody who is “principled” as following McKinney. And how does this jive with his hope that McKinney as the Green’s nominee will “educate millions of idealistic young Americans as to the real nature and agenda of this extremist political party”?

There aren’t any logical answers to these questions because, as this article indicates, Ponte doesn’t seem to recognize any differences amongst Democrats or between Democrats and those to their left. Sure Nader repeatedly bashed Gore and the Democratic Party, but if Gore had been elected Nader would have been in the cabinet. Yes many Democrats preferred another candidate to McKinney but in two years they will nominate someone who has the exact same ideology as McKinney. The Green Party may have a very different platform than the Democratic Party but it doesn’t represent a different political movement.

There are of course many Democrats and leftists, not necessarily mutually exclusive groups, who view all Republicans and conservatives in the same way, that is they view them as being all the same. Whichever side it comes from, such reductionism is not an intelligent means of understanding politics. It leads to all sorts of conspiracy theories and will rarely, if ever, lead a person to understand those he or she disagrees with.

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