LOS ANGELES -- It's all over but the spinning. Outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the LAPD took snap shots if each other in the protest area where earlier in the week they clubbed and tear gassed demonstrators, as well as a few convention-goers and members of the media. One group of cops posed with a giant puppet head, left behind by some of the protesters. On nearby street corners, uniformed officers snapped pictures of each other in front of
squad cars, amid the discarded placards and debris.
The consensus among police and city officials was that L.A. did well in its
photo op, partly because the protests were successfully obscured.
Lawsuits against the police by people who were beaten and shot at during
the protests, and a possible federal take-over of the department, are still
Gore, meanwhile, had his own photo op, making a speech that appealed both
the left and the center, and, when you break it down, makes as little sense
as Bill Clinton's masterful presentation on Monday. Clinton took credit for
the stock market boom and welfare reform, and in a nonsequitur that brought
delegates to their feet, declared the Democrats the party of the little
guy. Gore also invoked the immortal words of DNC fundraiser Terry
McCauliff, promising to fight for "the people against the powerful".
Television viewers were spared shots of the corporate hospitality suites
and skyboxes during the proceedings. The gist of Gore's speech was to
admit that after eight years in the White House, there are more uninsured
people and a wider gap between the rich and poor than before his
Administration took power, and then to argue that the thing to do is vote
for four more years of the same. That way, Gore reasons, we can finally
take advantage of the prosperity of the last eight years to help "the
working people" we've heard so much about at this convention.
Despite jabs at the entertainment industry by both Gore and Lieberman, on
Friday morning, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gore's campaign has
actually out raised the king of Hollywood cash, Bill Clinton: In the
Southern California region, Gore and the DNC have raised $10.3 million, a
13 percent increase over Clinton's record from four years ago. So far, the
campaign has raised $443,050 specifically from the entertainment industry
in Southern California, 86 percent more than Clinton in 1996.
On other issues, Gore made Clintonian promises. His criticism of managed
care drew applause, but with his choice of running mate Joe Lieberman, one
of the chief shills for the insurance industry in the Senate, his
credibility was pretty low. Likewise, he talked about ending tax breaks for
the wealthy, but then promised capital gains tax cuts and an end to the
"marriage penalty" -- both Republican proposals that heavily favor people in
higher income brackets. He offered modest proposals for health insurance
and drug coverage for children and the elderly. He took strong stands only
in defending affirmative action, public education, and abortion
rights--enough to give progressive Democrats something to grasp onto when
they argue that Gore is decidedly better than Bush.
Over at the Shadow Convention, progressives continued to debate whether to
support Gore or Nader. But the sideshow arguments about whether the Clinton
and Gore are so bad that it's alright to let Bush win don't get to the
real issue for progressives. The real question should be what will Nader
and progressive Democrats do to advance the causes of campaign finance
reform, civil liberties, and social and economic justice. These were the
issues highlighted by the Shadow Conventions and protests in Philadelphia
Clearly Al Gore, with his corporate fundraising, his glowing endorsement of
welfare reform, and his pledge to fight the war on crime harder than ever
with more police, prosecutors, and FBI spying, is not the candidate for
For Nader to make any difference at all, he will have to do more than run
as a protest candidate. He'll have to commit his time and energy to help
build the Green Party after November, with the same resources and passion
he put into building his Public Interest Research Groups around the country.
Progressive Democrats who support Al Gore -- particularly in Congress -- can still advance progressive causes, as they have done on Fast Track
legislation and other issues where they've had to fight their own
Administration. But there's no future in the politics of folding under
pressure and fear of a Bush Administration.
If Gore wins (a big if at the moment) fighting for the "people against the
powerful" both inside and outside the Democratic Party, may mean defying Al
Gore, and resisting the endless slide down the path of pandering and
Ruth Conniff is Washington Editor of the Progressive Magazine.