Nuances for Democrats


Are you yearning for moral inspiration as we approach the second millennium? Read again, then, what the Texas Democratic strategist Peck Young told Lou Dubose (“Running Down the Ballot,” December 4, 1998) about why Garry Mauro couldn’t even collect pocket money (he never had more than $800,000 at any one time!) in his race for governor against George W. – well, for clarity let’s call him George Bushbush. “…[P]eople only give money to guys who have chances of winning,” Peck said. “And these guys that give money in an amount in which anybody gives a shit, you normally don’t tell them what to do.”

If that doesn’t send thrills coursing up and down your spine, take this. In a news story in Business Week last January entitled “Call Me Al, Corporate America’s Pal,” Andrew Cuomo explains why Al Gore is okay with business in spite of his being an environmentalist. Originally Gore’s standing suffered from the idea that “any environmentalist has to be antibusiness,” but, Cuomo says, “The truth is more nuanced.” The truth, Cuomo continues, is that Gore is a pro-business centrist.

Now I ask you, who can resist a pro-business centrist? Certainly not our corporate C.E.O.s. Last month Business Week reported that Al the Pal’s Clinton-like leanings are “boffo in the boardroom.” Evidently the good people who populate the Democratic Party are expected now to appreciate, indeed, to savor, the nuances of the “New Democrats.” Coming soon to your digital TV screen: America’s voters straggling over the bridge into the next polluted century under the New Democrats’ new banner, “Nuanced Service to America’s Corporations.”

If Garry Mauro had followed the Democrats’ national example in 1996 he could have raked in campaign contributions from China. Clinton laid the foundation for his while he was in Arkansas, a dinky state, indeed, compared to ours. Admittedly, Communist China (a term which has become curiously unfashionable) murdered hundreds of college students in Tienanmen Square for proposing democracy, and the same dictatorship keeps locking up subversive democrats for ten or fifteen years of corrective meditation. But the truth about China is more nuanced, too. More than a billion folks, wow, that’s some market. True, the Clinton Administration, complying with the wishes of corporate campaign contributors, has pushed the sale to China of high-tech goods that are useful in military applications. But the name of this policy is “constructive engagement.” Boffo for Business!

Oh? – not nuanced enough yet? Well, it’s true, too, as we have learned this month in The New York Times, that four years ago, in 1995, our government discovered that in the mid-eighties China stole U.S. nuclear secrets from the Los Alamos lab, as a result of which the People’s Republic has now miniaturized its nuclear warheads, which enables the Chinese Communists to load more warheads onto their missiles. The Clinton Administration didn’t tighten security at Los Alamos until late 1998, but has demoted the Energy Department security official who sounded the original alarm, and only fired the suspected spy on March 8, after the story broke. The truth, though, is still more nuanced: now that the Chinese Communists have multiple warheads, constructive engagement is all the more necessary to avoid a nuclear war with them. Under the corporate logic of our two-party duopoly we should have just sold them what they wanted to save them the trouble of stealing it.

Ronnie Dugger was the founding editor and publisher of the Observer, and is the founder and national co-chair of the Alliance for Democracy.