Tuesday, July 13, 2004

American Leftists, Michael Moore, and Ralph Nader

Mark Ames, the editor of eXile, claims (in an essay that indulges in homophobic name-calling) that a few US leftists' criticisms of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 amount to an action of "a vigilante mob" of leftists rising to crush any leftist who attains a measure of popularity: "The American Left is responsible for destroying the American Left. I don't mean that metaphorically. I mean quite literally that anytime the Left starts to get somewhere, you can be sure that a vigilante mob of other Leftists will rise to the occasion to crush it, to make sure they stay as marginalized and ineffective as always" ("Backstabbers!: America’s Vichy Left vs. Michael Moore," eXile, July 8, 2004).

Pace Ames, America has no organized left to speak of, which acts as a collective and can be called "the American Left," unlike in India and Italy, to take just two examples. It is true, though, that many American leftists do behave exactly as Ames charges them -- but not toward Michael Moore, (who is admired by most American liberals and leftists -- including by those who are critical of Fahrenheit 9/11), but toward Ralph Nader.

Fahrenheit 9/11's cumulative gross is now about $80,121,002 ("Weekend Box Office Actuals [U.S.]: Jul 9 - 11 Weekend"). That's approximately the sale of 11 million tickets -- about 3.7% of the total US population of 293,729,072 ("U.S. POPClock Projection," July 13, 2004).

Since the announcement of his candidacy, Nader has polled in the 2-7% range in the voter surveys (some of which polled registered voters, while others polled only likely voters -- the total voting-age population was roughly 210 million individuals in 2000, according to "Fact Sheet: The Demographics of Voting in America").

Therefore, it is safe to say that Michael Moore and Ralph Nader enjoy comparable levels of support among the general public in the United States. In fact, it is probably immensely more difficult to receive 2.7% of the total popular vote of the eligible electorate who actually register and vote in a presidential election (as Nader did in 2000) than to get 4% of the US population to go see a very well-made entertaining movie. And yet, observe opposite reactions on the part of the majority of American liberal intellectuals and a sizable contingent of American leftists:
  • Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is so popular, and anyone who criticizes it in any way is simply a loser.
  • Ralph Nader is so unpopular, and anyone who supports him is simply a loser.
If US leftists became better at arithmetics, perhaps we might one day enjoy the presence of an organized US left, even one that would present a sharp challenge to the bipartisan consensus for empire.

Among the Democratic Party leaders, voices against the wars and occupations are silent, even while a whopping 56% of the rank and file Democratic voters say the US troops should "leave Iraq as soon as possible, even if Iraq is not completely stable":
In the past, Democrats have sometimes been badly divided, to the point of riots and walkouts, by fights over the platform. This happened over civil rights, for instance, in 1948 and over the war in Vietnam in 1968. But this year, the party appears determined to remain unified to challenge Mr. Bush.

Even the most ardent opponents of the war in Iraq have said they will not bring challenges to the platform's stand in favor of a continuing American military presence in Iraq. That is the case despite the finding in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll that, by a margin of 56 percent to 38 percent, people who call themselves Democrats say the United States troops should "leave Iraq as soon as possible, even if Iraq is not completely stable" rather than "stay in Iraq as long as it takes to make sure Iraq is a stable democracy." (David E. Rosenbaum and David E. Sanger, "Democratic Platform Focuses on National Security," New York Times, July 4, 2004)
If many US leftists were not so arithmetically challenged, they could have made the most of the widening gulf between the rank and file and leaders of the Democratic Party this year, building the Green Party -- led by the Nader/Camejo campaign -- as the anti-war alternative to the Democratic Party.

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