Facts, Inferences, and Shameless Speculations
by Lorna Salzman
In the mid-eighties I was an editor at American Birds, a magazine published by the National Audubon Society. One of its contributors was J. P. Meyers, a scientist (and birder) who now heads the Pew Charitable Trust, or one of its divisions. "Facts, Inferences and Shameless Speculations" was the title of Meyers' column. I think this title needs to be invoked by those of us involved in the increasingly tedious argument over a Green Party presidential candidacy.
Many of these arguments belong in the last category of Shameless Speculations (such the demise of the Green Party unless it capitulates to the Dems). Quite a few, however, belong in the middle category of Inferences, to the effect that: if we dont defeat Bush we will enter a period marked by war and fascism. None of these arguments, to my knowledge, belongs in the category of Facts.
I dont dismiss the use of Inferences. We use these all the time when we dont want to be rude, arrogant or brutally honest, and especially when we dont have all the facts but have reasonable intelligence and understanding. Right now, the Neo-Centrists, liberals, Democrats, and Greens Lite rely heavily on Inferences as they issue their unrelenting frontal attacks on the Green Party and its prospective presidential candidacy.
There are always, of course, some historical Facts (usually events, legislation, policies) that underly intelligent Inferences. Were there none, no one would listen at all. But there is no straight line between a specific historical Fact and a future one. This seems to me to be almost a cliche. There are lots of players, contingencies, serendipities and unpredictable situations in our future. Resistance, reform, change, obstruction, revolution, vendettas and all the other things that characterize humanity and society are constantly at work. Witness, for example, the abrupt reversal of US policy regarding Iraq. What was presented as an unbending commitment to insuring "democracy" and self-government in Iraq has, because of unforeseen events (mostly terrorism against foreign troops)now changed to the likelihood of a quicker and embarrassing pull-out from that country, with no prospect of a constitutional democracy.
In the US, the Patriot Act, the war, the deteriorating economy, increasing poverty, and the disappearance of the social contract dedicated to the welfare of all citizens, are combining into a strong denunciation (finally!) of this administration - though unfortunately the willing cooperation of the opposition party in contributing to this state of affairs is conveniently overlooked by the Dems, liberals and Neo-Centrists. The election year of 2004 hasnt even begun but we are probably in for lots of surprises.
So back to the first category, Facts, followed by Inferences. Here are some which pertain directly to the Green Party. Those outside the party ignore them at their own peril.
- Fact: Less than half the US electorate voted in the 2000 presidential election - par for the course. Inference: half the voters dont like either major party.
- Fact: Nearly 3 million voters voted on the Green Party ticket for Ralph Nader. Inference: there are at least 3 million potential voters for Ralph Nader in 2004, or another GP candidate.
- Fact: Out of this 3 million, approximately 300,000 plus or minus were enrolled Green Party members, Inference: these are likely to vote for a Green Party candidate in 2004. Inference #2: all of these are the most likely potential constituency for the Green Party.
- Fact: None of the announced Democratic candidates has come out in favor of IRV, proportional representation, a multiparty system, or allowing minor parties to be full participants in the electoral process, debates, funding, publicity, etc. Inference: they will not do so in the future.
- Fact: The two-party system has methodically and deliberately skewed the electoral process to minimize the impact of minor parties. Inference: both major parties actively oppose a multiparty system.
- Fact: The Democratic Party is now conducting a strenuous, carefully orchestrated campaign of intimidation, guilt-tripping, and blame, intended to persuade Green Party members to forsake a GP presidential campaign and/or to support one of the purportedly more liberal DP candidates (Kucinich, Dean, Sharpton, Braun). Inference: the Democratic Party is running scared not only about the prospect of Bush's re-election, but the prospect of a viable third party that represents the very values and objectives that the DP long ago abandoned in favor of being a corporate pawn like the Republican Party.
- Fact: The DP, Neo-Centrists and liberals almost unanimously refrain from criticizing the DP disastrous policies on Iraq, taxes, health care, foreign policy, NAFTA and WTO, etc. Inference: these people want to distract the public from the DP failures by focusing on Bush and on the Green Party, in a concerted campaign featuring their endemic disease of "Spoiler Panic". Inference #2: these factions dont think that these DP policy failures are important enough to either mention or sufficient reason to not vote for the DP.Inference #3: the DP and its allies dont really think this country is in dire need of radical political change.
- Fact: A major objective of the Green Party is to facilitate a multiparty system of Proportional Representation, so that voters have a greater choice and therefore a greater voice. Inference: the achievement of this objective, as an "Historical Imperative", necessarily involves tactics like IRV as well as a commitment to become a regular and full-time player at all levels of electoral politics, rather than becoming a wheeler-dealer in the corrupt game of patronage politics (getting some legislation or appointed office in exchange for endorsing a Democrat).
- Fact: The Democratic Party, by dint of its reduced popularity, sell-outs to Bush and the Republicans in congress, is faltering, diminishing in size and popularity, and at a severe disadvantage electorally, despite its desperate attempts to be regarded as "Republicans Lite" and its failure to understand that if voters want Republican policies, they will vote for The Real Thing, not an imitation. Inference: in order to reclaim its majority, it needs to not only reclaim its traditional constituencies but attract non-voters, independents and recalcitrant griping voters who turn to the nearest third party available just to make their point. Inference #2: the Green Party, closest to the traditional but largely abandoned progressive program of the DP, is presently the greatest threat to the DP. Inference #3 the Green Party must be strangled in its cradle as quickly as possible. Inference #4: the best way to do this is to distract attention from the DP betrayals, blame the GP for the (Inferred) fascism about to take over, and spread Spoiler Panic at every opportunity.
- Fact: The Dems, liberals and Neo-Centrists are not now members or supporters of the Green Party or of Green candidates. Inference: they are not likely to ever be GP members or supporters.Inference #2: conceding to their demands will in no way build or expand the Green Party. Inference #3: such concessions would seal the death warrant of the GP by betraying the trust placed in the GP by not only its members but the 2 1/2 million people who voted for the GP presidential candidate in 2000. Inference #4: the actual numbers of all of these individuals and factions probably is far less than the 2 1/2 million non-GP people who voted for Nader and who are therefore far more likely prospective GP members and supporters. Inference #5: the survival of the GP depends far more upon retaining existing members and recruiting this likely constituency than on appeasing or conceding to a small band of Neo-Centrists who will never vote for the GP anyway.
(Thanks to Scott McLarty for his terms "Historical Imperative" and "Spoiler Panic").
A theoretical memo from the desk of the Democratic National Committee and its house liberals (The Nation, American Prospect, George Soros, NOW, Emily's List, etc.):
Fact: Pres. Bush is the main person responsible for the shredding of our constitution, loss of personal freedom and deterioration of US democracy, through efforts like the Patriot Act and illegal wars.
Inference: If Bush is not defeated, the US will become a fascist nation.
IShameless Speculation: Only the election of a Democrat to the presidency can prevent this.
Shameless Speculation #2: Any person or group who obstructs or does not cooperate with the election of a Democrat will be responsible for bringing us fascism.
Shameless Speculation #3: If the Green Party runs a presidential candidate, it will be responsible for bringing us fascism.