06 October 2008

The Second Vice-Presidential Debate

It's not clear whether the producers of the Democracy Now! radio program invited Senator Biden or Governor Palin to participate in their vice-presidential debate of October 3. My guess is: probably not. But it was only fair, since we can be even more certain that the organizers of the October 2 St. Louis debate did not invite Matt Gonzalez, Ralph Nader's running mate, or Rosa Clemente, who is Cynthia McKinney's. Here's a transcript of the debate, in which the two progressives were invited to comment on Biden and Palin and distinguish their own positions. On a first reading, I think Gonzalez came off better because Clemente tended to make unrealistic demands while appealing to a relatively narrow demographic. The debate became most interesting when the candidates were invited to go after each other rather than their Bipolarchy counterparts:

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader ran on the Green Party ticket in the last presidential race, but, Rosa Clemente, your main difference with Matt Gonzalez and the Independent candidacy of Nader-Gonzalez?
ROSA CLEMENTE: I mean, I think one of my main differences, I feel that a lot of the issues coming from some of the other third parties are more reformist issues, and I feel we don’t need reform anymore. We need to really look at a lot of these systems in this country and talk about fully dismantling them. And I think that’s one of the reasons that Cynthia picked me. I think, coming from my generation, coming from the South Bronx, still seeing my family there suffering in the poorest congressional district to this day, understanding the history of Puerto Rico and what the United States of America has done, particularly to my people and that country and my island, that we can’t afford to be talking about reform, we can’t afford to be talking about the lesser of two evils, although I don’t see Matt Gonzalez or Ralph Nader as an evil. I’m talking about the fact that—
MATT GONZALEZ: But, Rosa, I’m just wondering, though, could you just give one example where we’re reformists and you’re something else?
ROSA CLEMENTE: One example of reform, where we’re different?
MATT GONZALEZ: Yeah, where you think we’re—where we’re advocating reform, and somehow you’re advocating system change, because we’ve not supported this bailout.
ROSA CLEMENTE: I mean, I think the prison-industrial complex—I think—I mean, look, I applaud Ralph Nader for coming out finally against the prison-industrial complex, but part of that still keeps the prison-industrial complex alive. Part of that still says that there’s people that should be subjected to prisons. And I have a very different view on that. I don’t think we need prisons. I think we need the abolition of prisons. I think we have to fully understand that particularly my generation, African American and Latino young people—no one is speaking to that issue. No one is speaking to that issue, you know, and I think the Green Party has been forced to speak about that issue, because Cynthia specifically picked me. I come from that generation. I see what’s going on. So that’s what I talk about. I think it’s more about truly radical progressive change.

To clarify my own viewpoint, I don't dispute Clemente's contention that, on some fronts at least, dismantlement is preferable to reformism, but I question her priorities. The Think 3 Institute's position is that there are indeed still people who should be subjected to prisons, and it will do the nation good to see those people imprisoned. It'd be a different class of people, for the most part, from the current prison population, and I wonder whether Clemente would consider Crhymethinc's platform, for instance, and not agree that prisons would still have some use. The whole exchange demonstrates Clemente's narrow point of view. She actually seems to believe that only "her" people are imprisoned, and therefore prisons are unfair. While she may claim to bring perspectives that are often ignored, she seems to ignore some herself.

In any event, I hope to see more encounters like this one in the next month, preferably with the "principals" involved. A round-robin format that would give Baldwin, Barr, La Riva, McEnulty, McKinney, Moore and Nader turns before the public would be ideal. Maybe Ron Paul can do something to make that happen. It's simply imperative in these days of the bailout that Americans realize that they have more choices than liberals for the bailout and conservatives for the bailout. I'd like to see if poll numbers show any signs of growing awareness, not to mention growing support, for the independents, but I won't hold my breath waiting for the news.

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