McCarthyism and Anti-Naderism: There Are Alternatives to TINA

There actually are people who want to have all the power and wealth in their own hands, and so it is in their interest to make the rest of us believe we have no power, no choice. Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister in the 1980s, had the perfect phrase for it, “TINA — There Is No Alternative.” That is what they would love us to believe.

In fact, we have a lot more power than we think, and if we used the power we have — individually and collectively — we would be better off than we are now, and so would our kids and neighbors, communities and world.

Two huge alternative-smashing movements have pushed us along the path toward believing TINA. Each one intimidated millions of people into backing away from alternatives, and supporting the powers-that-be, but millions of people have started to recognize that, yes, Margaret, there are alternatives.

One of the movements was McCarthyism in the 1950s. McCarthyism made great headway toward killing off powerful organized groups — socialists, communists, and unions — that pressured FDR (President Franklin Roosevelt) to implement the far-reaching programs of the New Deal. As a result of McCarthyism, people backed away from identifying with those groups and started to believe that there is no alternative to the capitalist system they saw around them. They backed away to preserve doing the things they loved to do whether it was writing, making films, earning a living, doing civic work, helping their fellow beings on the earth.

Another huge alternative-smashing movement has been happening more recently, during the lifetimes of anyone over 20. That movement can be called Anti-Naderism, the idea that voters should not vote for candidates that “can’t win” or else they will help the candidate they don’t like. After the 2000 presidential election, the Democratic Party leadership rationalized that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader caused Bush to take the presidency rather than Gore (note that I did not say “win” the presidency). This movement pushed the idea that there is no alternative to the two huge (Titanic) political parties. These parties are corporate-funded, and therefore easily controlled by corporations and the 1% that own them.

As a result of Anti-Naderism, people feel they have no choice but to align with the Democratic Party, if that’s the rhetoric they like, or the Republican Party, if that’s the rhetoric they like. Meanwhile, those who want all the power and wealth in their own hands can easily make sure the Titanic Parties are on their side, not ours. There is evidence that instead of backing away from alternatives, people are moving forward.

We can break from the constraints of McCarthyism and Anti-Naderism. We have power to step out, learn the truth, tell the truth, not go along with the program that helps the 1%. We can gather together in cooperatives, communities, unions, and independent political parties. We have the power to vote for candidates, like Nader in 2000 and candidates in Richmond, California in 2014, who do not take corporate or developer money, and whose values and positions we want.


Green Party Should Start Local — Really?

“The Green Party should not run for President and other state and national offices. It should run candidates for local office first, and then build up to higher level offices.” How often have I heard that? Many, many times, including recently after I posted the blog “Bernie Sanders and the Sheepdog Approach.”

I know the advice is well-intentioned, and it sounds reasonable and rational. The only problem is, it doesn’t work. Our political system is not reasonable and rational.

I’ll say this up front: blaming third parties for their weakness is like blaming poor people for their poverty. Sure, we make mistakes, some of them huge. But the system doesn’t cut us any slack — quite the reverse — unlike the slack it cuts the so-called winners of politics and society. Just a few examples of “slack” (in alphabetical order): air-time for your point-of-view, bail-outs, beneficial rulings, corporate welfare, favorable treatment, payback contracts, payback legislation, prejudice in your favor, subsidies both visible and behind-the-scenes. The list goes on.


NOTE: When I say Democrats and Republicans I am talking about the PARTIES not the INDIVIDUALS, recognizing that the values and behaviors of the parties and the individuals are different. As a form of short-hand I’ll call the Democratic and Republican Parties the Titanics, and the other parties the Alternatives.

1. Electoral rules necessitate runs for higher office. Currently electoral laws keep Alternatives off the ballot in about half the states. State laws vary, and one typical way to maintain a ballot line and be a legitimate political party is to achieve a certain percentage of votes in a statewide race. In general, if an Alternative presidential campaign obtains one-time ballot access and then receives about 2% of total votes in the state, a new ballot line is created. Then Alternative candidates can run for offices from school board to sheriff to US congress. (For more details, see the end parts of Bruce Dixon’s sheepdogging articles, HERE and especially HERE.)

2. Local winners switch from Alternative to Titanic. The greatest and saddest example I know is San Francisco. In the 2000s the Green Party had the wonderful success of having six local office holders. However, five of them switched before taking the next step in their political careers. Matt Gonzalez switched to independent, while Jane Kim, John Rizzo, Christina Olague, and Ross Mirkarimi switched to the Titanics. Could the Green Party have done better in its support of the elected officials and candidates? Yes. Did the Titanics make them offers they couldn’t refuse? Yes.

As a matter of fact, after winning many lower level elections, Bernie Sanders switched from Alternative to Titanic to run for higher office. By the way, if you have it in you to run for local office as an Alternative, do not let any of this stop you. We need you.

3. They fight you just as hard at the local level. Speaking of Matt Gonzalez, as a Green Party candidate for mayor of San Francisco in 2003, he came within 5 percentage points of beating Gavin Newsom. Not only did Newsom outspend Gonzalez 6 to 1, but he brought in a powerhouse of Democratic notables to fight off the terrible threat of a major city having a Green mayor. I don’t think any city facing the terrible threat of a Republican takeover had these folks come to town: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Jesse Jackson.

4. They refuse to initiate important national and state policies. Probably by now everyone can come up with a pretty good list of national policies that Alternatives were the first to promote (abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, eight-hour workday, public schools, child labor laws, and programs like Social Security and Medicare). Only later did the Titanics get behind them. In my personal experience, I know for sure many people first heard about State Banks because of my 2010 Green Party run for Governor. Maybe that’s why they arrested me outside a gubernatorial debate. Or was it because I brought up Prop 13?

5. Major problems of the cities and counties can only be solved at the state and national level. Constrained by state and national laws, localities don’t even have the power they need to balance the budget. In California, cities are stuck with raising revenue by increasing parking fees and traffic tickets, and asking the voters to pass parcel taxes. Whether you own a mansion or a hut, you pay the same exact same dollar amount each year on the “parcel.” Prop 13 is the problem, and in 2010, Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman were not talking about keeping only the good parts of Prop 13 and reforming the bad parts that devastated California’s public schools and universities and other public goods.

6. Why not run as a Titanic to get elected and then implement needed solutions? As a Titanic, you have to toe the line, or you will be treated like an Alternative. And as a Titanic, you either take money from corporations and developers, or you benefit from corporate money flowing through the party (unless you’re in the Richmond Progressive Alliance, which runs slates of Greens and Democrats who pledge to take no corporate money, and who have beaten Chevron-backed candidates). You take money from corporations and you essentially work for them. You cannot turn your back on the boss and stay in office.

7. Voters and media focus on President, maybe Governor and Mayor. Many people’s relationship to politics begins and ends with President. There is some focus on Governor, on the Mayor’s office, as well as on Congress. There’s very little attention paid to the rest. By the way, I never want to discourage anybody from voting. My attitude is to use every bit of power we have toward creating a better world. Our voting is an important power, or else why would they keep trying to take it away? My advice to make voting quick and easy is to only vote for candidates who take no money from corporations and developers. That’s how you identify the candidates who are on your side, not the side of the 1%.

8. Alternative parties get attention and motivation through runs for higher office. Nader’s presidential runs starting in 1996 put the Green Party on the map, although there was a huge backlash. (I am working on a piece comparing Anti-Naderism and McCarthyism as to their effects of eliminating Alternatives and keeping us where the powers-that-be want us.) Jill Stein’s presidential campaigns have been a huge boost for Greens across the country. When the Green Party of California ran its first full statewide slate in 2002, Greens were questioning the wisdom of running statewide. At the same time, the local parties wanted us — I ran for State Controller — to come to town to help their locals gain some traction. The state party had seven hard-working volunteers. That’s not a bad thing.

9. People want to vote for values and policies they want. Sometimes when I was wavering about the wisdom — or personal comfort — of running for state office, people would implore me to run so they would have someone to vote for.

10. Bottom line: follow your heart. Take the path life leads you to. If your energy points you in a certain way, go there and hopefully you and your compadres won’t hold you back. There are lots of problems and lots of solutions, plenty of ways to use our own unique combination of gifts and wounds (let’s face it, our wounds help make us who we are) so that we can make a worthwhile contribution to a better world.

* * * *
What do you think? Did I miss some ways the system fights the idea of Alternatives running local and building up?


Bernie Sanders and the Sheepdog Approach

INTRODUCTION:  The term “sheepdogging” comes up in my mind whenever people talk about the 2016 presidential election. Here are excerpts and links to two articles by Bruce A. Dixon to explain both the “sheepdog” approach, and the alternative. I hope you find this memorable and engaging too.
— Laura

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016
Submitted by Bruce A. Dixon on Wed, 05/06/2015 – 16:09

Bernie Sanders is this election’s Democratic sheepdog. The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there’s no White House Democrat running for re-election. The sheepdog is a presidential candidate running ostensibly to the left of the establishment Democrat to whom the billionaires will award the nomination. Sheepdogs are herders, and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two party box.
1984 and 88 the sheepdog candidate was Jesse Jackson. In 92 it was California governor Jerry Brown. In 2000 and 2004 the designated sheepdog was Al Sharpton, and in 2008 it was Dennis Kucinich. This year it’s Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. The function of the sheepdog candidate is to give left activists and voters a reason, however illusory, to believe there’s a place of influence for them inside the Democratic party, if and only if the eventual Democratic nominee can win in November.

This is What Happens When We Follow the Democrat Sheepdog. And What Can Happen If We Don’t
Submitted by Bruce A. Dixon on Wed, 06/03/2015 – 01:51

The hopeful word is always that the defeated sheepdog remains firmly committed to pushing the Democratic nominee leftward, both on the campaign trail and even more hopefully in the White House. But this never happens either. Losing Democratic nominees Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry adopted none of the positions of their sheepdog primary opponents on peace or climate change or mass transit or housing or racial and economic justice, and Democratic winners Clinton and Obama ignored them in the White House as well.

[The entire article is well worth reading. Bruce Dixon talks about a viable alternative to replaying the “sheepdog” scenario.]

I Can Rationalize Anything

[UPDATED three days later in the POST SCRIPT below, after my 50th Rockford High School reunion, the reason I had to get to Michigan that very day!]


I had a boyfriend (first love of my life, actually) who said he had realized, “I can rationalize anything.”  I never ever knew how I felt about that, until this past year, when I realized that one of the big problems, if not the biggest problem, of the human species is that “we can rationalize anything.” Meaning we can take whatever the reality is, and make it sound like something else, that fits inside our world views, our small brains. Big brains, supposedly, for animals.

(It’s always funny to me how people say, “The animal part of us” or “Humans are like this and animals are like that.” What part of us is NOT animal? The part that’s a rock, a plant? We are totally animals, and yet we take all of our animal experiences and turn them into rational thoughts. We make stuff up all the time.)

Today I have a huge thing to rationalize. I am flying from Oakland to Detroit (I am finally able to laugh about it, just now, as I write) and it’s costing me $1000 more than I thought it would cost yesterday! My flimsy excuse is that …   (see OUTTAKES for the stream of consciousness that I excised from here!)

… Back to my flimsy excuse. Excuses are a frequent mode of rationalization, eh? (I like the Canadian “eh?” just like the Southern “y’all” for you plural.) I made reservations using Southwest Airlines flying out of San Francisco, and then Southwest changed it to bad flights and I called them up. We went back and forth between SFO and OAK and somehow I didn’t get that BOTH departure and arrival flights were Oakland (I live in Oakland), so this morning I went to SFO. Yikes. (see OUTTAKES for extraneous details.)

I used to rationalize extra costs by saying, “Will I even remember this when I’m 65?” Now that I’m 67 (the summer of love), what should I say, “Will I even remember this (or anything) when I’m 100?” Now my fall back rationalizations are that I live in a community house — which is wonderful in so many ways — and I don’t own a car and so I save $1000 every month or two over what it would cost if I lived in more “normal” ways. Also, I rationalize by remembering people, especially rather poor-but-proud people who say, “Yes, that was an extra expense. But thank goodness we did have the money!” Hearing that always reminded me of how lucky I have been in my life, when I really look at it. Maybe some other day I’ll blog about the real wealth, which is … health. Knock on wood.

I’ll post this blog now, with outtakes at the bottom.  I’m at Phoenix airport and we’re boarding right now for Detroit!

I WOULDN’T HAVE MISSED THIS REUNION FOR A THOUSAND BUCKS!!!  I got to Detroit about 2 hours later than intended and my such-a-good-soul college friend Lenore was there to pick me up. I made it to all reunion events and had a great time. I love the fact that people DO grow up, and growing up is a good thing.

OUTTAKES – TMI (Too Much Information) on my airport mess-ups!
At SFO airport on Friday, I looked at the board for departures and didn’t find my flight to Las Vegas. Was I confused and should I be looking at arriving flights? No. Hmmm. I even asked the seemingly also confused man standing nearby if he was going to Las Vegas, thinking maybe there was an error on the departure board. Then I looked at the boarding pass I had printed out and saw for the first time that it said … OAK. I still didn’t immediately understand! But when I did I ran for the nearest taxi; 110 dollars later I was at Oakland airport; and then at 10:32 I was at the gate watching my 10:35 flight pull out.

Carolyn at Southwest was really helpful but we realized there was NO WAY Southwest could get me to Michigan, at all, in time for my 50th high school reunion activities the next day. So I check Orbitz and they teased me with a $504 flight departing in an hour from OAK that would arrive in Detroit only 2 hours later than my original plans. But the listing said I had to call the airlines to reserve. A very helpful woman tried very hard to reserve that flight that had 3 seats left, but she couldn’t actually reserve it, because it was such a short time away, but I should go to the US Airways folks in the airport, and there it turned into $870 and by this time I just put my credit card on the counter and said OK.

THIS SHOULDN’T even make the “OUTTAKES” pile!

(BTW, will I get a meal on this trip, or not, since I’m flying first class? I’ve already gotten two glasses of red wine on the Oakland/Phoenix flight, wondering why they serve Merlot only, and not Cabernet Sauvignon. Nope, no meal this flight, but I should get dinner on the Phoenix to Detroit trip, right?)

P.S.  I’m not even going to preview this.  Times are changing. Perfectionism is out.

Curious about Cuba? (Reference Sheet)

I’m so happy whenever I get a chance to talk about Cuba, especially when I’ve given presentations or led discussions. I hope to post — if it gets edited! — a video based on a recent presentation with pictures at a “Green Sunday” (hosted by the Green Party of Alameda County, and video-taped by Jonathan Nack).

If you are Curious about Cuba, you’re in good company. It’s fascinating in so many ways. This blog has references to help you satisfy some of your curiosity!

Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana, by Marc Frank

Cuba: A Revolution in Motion, by Isaac Saney

RESOURCES WEBPAGE of Eco-Cuba Network, sponsor of the April 20-29, 2015 tour.
Contents (partial list):
—6 videos available online
—Salud! a film on Cuba’s health care system, directed by Connie Field
——(available at Oakland and Berkeley Public Libraries)
—Maestra, a 30-minute film on Cuba’s 1961 literacy campaign, directed by Catherine Murphy
——(available at Berkeley Public Library)
—Slideshows, relatively short: Cuba Naturally, and The Birds of Cuba

Task Force on the Americas/MITF, co-sponsor of April tour, and many others in Latin America, (415) 924-3227,,, news about Latin American regional integration and specifically Venezuela, blog about Cuba, CA, politics, life. Contact: laurawells510 (at)


CUBA: Questions about Normalization, Religion, Birds, Dance…

My blog on April 20, 2015 was written on the first day of my Eco-Cuba Network tour and listed questions others and I had about Cuba. This blog post will provide some answers and refer to prior blogs as well. Answers to other questions will appear in future blogs.

NOTE: You know that I am not an expert on Cuba (nobody is, really!) and that Cuba is not perfect, right? I’ll state my bias straight away: when discussing countries or other entities that I see as trying to improve conditions for people and the planet, I tend to be less of a critic and more of a “cheerleader” (and no, I was not a cheerleader in high school). I am interested in seeing and spreading the word about strengths, hope, and power at “la base” — which is how they say “grassroots” in Spanish — and in the leadership too.

Q.    What are hopes and fears of the Cuban people related to normalization of relations between the US and Cuba? And how do they differ according to age group?
A.    Improved trade and development are the main hopes. The main fear — and it seems to be more a fear of mine and others in the U.S. — is that Cuba could be overrun by the U.S. and by capitalism in general.

Cuba has strengths and strategies for avoiding being overrun. See the list of Cuba’s strengths in my 5/11/2015 blog, especially #2 about the Foreign Investment Law. HERE

A big hope is that opportunities for trade will improve, and that their trade deficit will be reduced or eliminated. Currently other countries across the globe trade with Cuba, but the U.S. has imposed undesirable consequences on those countries, banks and other businesses. So, sometimes they’ve decided to raise prices for Cuba to compensate for the risk, or to not do business with Cuba at all.

Cubans hope for an improved ability to obtain embargoed products that have some U.S. components, such as medicines and medical equipment, building materials, and technology. They hope for an improved ability to sell Cuban products to the U.S. market. The blockade hurts people in both directions. For example, Cuba has developed a medicine for diabetes that U.S. doctors are asking, “Why can’t we obtain that for our patients?”

As to development, they want to build day care centers (for children and their growing population of seniors), housing, infrastructure for agriculture, etc. Many of those projects were stalled at the beginning of the “special period” in the 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed.

The Foreign Investment Law excludes foreign investment in education and healthcare and I say “Hip Hip Hurray!” to that.

Q.    Religion and spirituality. Is it valued? respected? embraced?
A.    I was surprised that people are free to practice their religions. (There’s a lot I didn’t know about Cuba.) The country has become more and more open to religions: Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Santería, and others. Recently the Communist Party’s prohibition against accepting believers as members ended. Although the most common religion is Roman Catholic, there hasn’t been as much catholic-based “liberation theology” as in many other Latin American countries. People are pretty secular, however, they may have their children baptized, but they don’t often attend or get married in the church. Popes have been welcomed for visits, and BTW, they have been objecting to the U.S. embargo.

Q.    Is the dual currency system getting better or worse for the Cuban people?
A.    I don’t know! All I can say is that the Cuban people and government are making economic changes, as individuals and as the government. Related to these changes, I was startled to learn that Raul Castro, who became interim head of state in 2006 and official head in 2008, said, “We have to wipe out forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where you can live without working.”

Q.    Will I be able to see some of the wonderful birds that are in Cuba and nowhere else in the world? Like the Bee Hummingbird (zunzuncita).
A.    Yes. I saw the Tocororo (Cuban Trogon), and the Cuban Green Woodpecker among many others. The Tocororo is the Cuban national bird and is a striking blue, red, and white, the colors of the Cuban flag. (Do the colors sound familiar?)

However, the world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird, will have to wait for the hope-for next time I go to Cuba. Then I’ll go to the Zapata National Park, near the Bay of Pigs. I found more information about it HERE.

Q.    Will I get to dance, salsa, bachata, cumbia, cha cha, rumba, bolero, whatever?
A.    Yes, 3 times, with primary grade children, down syndrome young people, and at a meeting of a local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. (I’m guessing the dancing started in the night clubs after I went to bed!) We politicos in the group thought the CDR would be a chance to see neighborhood politics in action. Nope — they had a party for us! One Cuban said that if all Cubans would strive as hard for excellence in the economy as they do in music, Cuba would solve all its economic problems. Hmmm.

Leaders, PART II: Memorial Day Thoughts on the Military

“Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Wars never solve anything, and the people who send you there, don’t go there.” Harry Wells, my dad.

“Yes, before 9/11 happened, I counseled high school graduates in Detroit to join the military. You should have seen how changed they were when they came back. They were more organized, disciplined, and confident.” Lenore, my college friend.

“I joined a different army. I joined the one with the condos and the private rooms.” Goldie Hawn, playing the lead in the film Private Benjamin.

* * *

Today is Memorial Day, the perfect day to post the blog I started a few days ago.

In my recent blog about leaders (HERE), I mentioned my own shaky relationship with hierarchy, and talked about two well-known leaders in the world, Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. It’s impossible for me to think of their huge achievements (see “Notes” section below for details), and not acknowledge that they came from the military — one of the most hierarchical institutions in existence.

I find myself wishing — in social movements, political campaigns, the Green Party, the community house in which I live, as well as the world and myself — that we had more discipline, organization, dedication and commitment. I wish we could count on ourselves and each other to do what needs to be done. I wish we allowed ourselves fewer excuses. I wish we had more confidence to move forward, and less resistance that causes us to hold back. I wish we would follow rules when those rules would get us what we really want.

In other words, I wish we who love peace would learn to organize as effectively as those who love war. I wish we would learn the good things people learn in the military.

The military I mean is a different military from the one that sends people like my dad to wars that “never solve anything.” Dad was in the Air Force because he loved flying. Then he was in World War II and the Korean War. It was late 2001 after the U.S. military went to Afghanistan that my daughter asked him what he thought about the war. I started backing out of the room because I always thought he was gung-ho whatever the military did. I was shocked — and relieved — to hear his answer.

Also in late 2001, I was shocked in an opposite way to learn that my peaceful friend Lenore had counseled kids to go to the military. But it was a different military, and she was counseling people with few options. They lacked the money and/or educational background needed to go to college, and Detroit lacked job opportunities even then.

It was a different military during the years before 9/11. TV recruitment ads showed benefits like traveling, learning new skills, and higher education after your military stint. It has been documented that after 9/11 recruitment ads began to show combat, not before. The kids my friend counseled returned from the military not having been in combat. They returned not with the post-traumatic stress disorder of many of today’s vets. They returned more organized, disciplined, and confident.

They had been trained to follow orders, yes, but they also were trained to know how strong they could be. We can’t forget how important the soldiers themselves were in ending the fiasco in Vietnam, as seen in the documentary Sir! No Sir! They had the same mission as those of us demonstrating against war. We were all serving our country.

As to leaders, I wish all of ours had the dedication and commitment shown by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. We could use leaders who persevere in the face of enormous hostility, and do whatever they can do, while fostering people’s participation, to create a better life for people and the earth.

That’s what I wish on this Memorial Day. That’s what I would celebrate as worthy gifts from the military, a different military, one with a mission to train people to truly protect life on earth.

* * *

NOTES on the achievements of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez

Fidel Castro — working with many other soldiers and with the crucial support of civilians — led a successful revolution against Fulgencio Batista’s military dictatorship, a dictatorship in which 10,000 to 20,000 people were killed from 1952 to 1959. Fidel followed up that feat by continuing the revolution for more than 55 years, with improved healthcare and education, despite the active hostility of Cuba’s neighbor, the United States of America, the greatest military and economic super-power the world has ever known.

Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998, breaking through a 40-year fixed two-party system. The Chávez government created a new bottom-up constitution, improved healthcare and education, increased participation in the government, and reduced inequality of wealth. He also led the way in strengthening regional cooperation in South America and beyond. Fifteen years ago, I never thought I would feel great support for a place where a government combined forces with the oil industry, the church, and . . . the military.


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