"What we're seeing is battered-wife syndrome dynamics," explains Diane Kern, a Ph.D. criminologist who runs a marriage and family therapy practice in Walnut Creek. (I know, I know: Why didn't they think of this combination before?) Kern says her Green Party clients are suffering insurmountable anguish as neighbors, friends, family, and even strangers berate them, insult them, and blame them for the medieval Republican epoch that may soon come.
"These goddamned Nader voters," as my dear, sweet, liberal, Democrat friend Marie Jones puts it. "They screwed it for all of us."
The poor Greens hear this all the time now. Union Solidarity Forever parents speak curtly to their kill-the-corporate-media offspring, and secretly ponder major reductions in trust funds. Lefty managers at lefty nonprofit service organizations punish their even-more-lefty Naderite underlings with piles of meaningless paperwork. Friends belittle Naderite friends at dinner, and then work themselves into angry froths, and finally get a grip on themselves and change the subject -- just to avoid physically attacking those friends.
To me, this seems all good. After all, a bunch of egotistical longhairs ran a leftist-doctrinaire presidential campaign based on the ludicrous fantasy of building a "movement," and "making a statement," when what they really were doing was (apparently) turning America into an environment-raping right-wing fiefdom for the next four years.
But I'm no psychologist. So I phoned the aptly named Josh Green, an amateur therapist with a practice in the Mission District, to ask about advice for troubled Green Party voters.
"My suggestion is: Figure out where you stood," said Green, a graduate student at the California College of Arts and Crafts and a conceptual artist who claims his newly launched "therapy practice" isn't precisely conceptual art. (I know; why didn't somebody think of this combination before?) Committed Green Party activists should be proud of standing for their beliefs, Green said; the rest should be ashamed. "In a sense, if you did vote frivolously -- the wild-hair syndrome -- maybe you should hang your head a little bit, and use it as a learning experience, and realize we're having a bumbling fool as president," Green said, offering the fair-business-practice caveat that those who frivolously voted for Nader probably need to see a fully licensed practitioner. (1),(2)
As I was pondering the question of whether Nader voters might be aided by clinical treatment, my old friend Dan Deluce called. Dan is one of the best amateur psychologists I know, having helped wean me from two girlfriends during the past 10 years, while weaning himself of -- oh, I don't know -- maybe 70 during the same period. He's also something of a man-of-the-world, having served as Reuters' bureau chief in Sarajevo, before taking a job as head of media reform for the U.N. agency that runs Bosnia, which he recently left to chase a girlfriend to Amsterdam. (I know: great combination.)
I asked Deluce's clinical opinion of America's recent wave of left-on-left emotional violence. He seemed to think the Greens deserved whatever they got; during the past 20 years, he said, the fringe left has furthered its cause only by forging coalitions with more moderate left groups (à la the left-left Greens and center-left Democrats). The far left, he noted, digs its own grave whenever it wages doctrinaire vanity campaigns. In Mexico, doctrinaire leftists bickered endlessly, to the delight of an authoritarian regime. It was only this year that a centrist coalition toppled the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.
The same has been true in the Balkans, and almost everywhere else Deluce has managed to observe. "Milosevic was toppled the other day, because the fuckers finally unified. The students and workers and the dispossessed unified, and decided they had to get together and get rid of him," said Deluce.
The world over, Deluce noted, fringe-left movements thrive on the fantasy that hordes of politically sleepy leftists will awaken once they hear the doctrinaire progressive message. Thanks to the Naderites, slumbering America woke up all right -- slumbering right-wing America. Now, with the Naderites' help, we may have a conservative dope with a Cabinet full of zealots determining American foreign policy.
Bush's "fucking idiot adviser, Condoleezza Rice, she's a fucking fascist professor," Deluce explained. "People around him really are people who are locked in the Cold War. Colin Powell, Dick Cheney -- they understand only the Cold War. Condoleezza Rice wrote her dissertation on the army of Communist Czechoslovakia. I'm sure she did a really great job. But it's fucking irrelevant."
Which seemed like sober psychological advice to me.
Once, Alejandro Alonso helped me escape a car full of kidnap-minded thugs in Mexico City. This saved us both from certain psychological trauma. Also, there was a stretch where he bought me endless beers, listening to me lament an ending romance. Considering Alex a qualified therapist, I called him last Friday to ask about his experience with doctrinaire leftist enterprises such as the Ralph Nader Greens.
Alex, now a writer at Buenos Aires Económico, quickly noted that he would be attending a press conference that very evening at which the International Monetary Fund would announce it was putting Argentina into a form of near-receivership. The IMF was taking this action following the resignation two weeks earlier of left-wing Vice President Chacho Alvarez, who cited regime corruption as his reason for leaving, but at bottom objected to government concessions to the IMF by his less extremely left-wing partners in the government's ruling coalition.
Because of this far-left split from the coalition, Alex said, "We're going to have the IMF run the country. These guys just gave up when the country was facing trouble. The coalition was supposed to be central left, and Alvarez represented the left-left."
Then he spoke some jargon that is important to report: "Because of the political turmoil associated with his resignation, it was impossible to get into the world financial markets. Country risk is pretty high now. Two days ago our sovereign risk went above Russia and way past Brazil. It was all because of politics."
This is what the jargon meant: "Leftists were willing to turn Argentina into the world's worst financial basket case, rather than sully their doctrinaire purity."
Crazy. Clinically crazy.
Which sounds awfully darned familiar sitting at my desk in the sunny U.S.A.
If George W. Bush prevails, the Republicans will probably spawn another Reaganite tax-cutting-and-military-spending boom/bust cycle, dragging us into recession in about the year 2006. They'll adhere to Bush's facile pledge to abandon "nation building" and use the Army only to "fight and win wars," allowing Eastern Europe and Africa to careen toward chaos. Environmental regulation, worker-safety regulation, a minimum-wage increase, food stamps, Head Start, child care, and gay rights will be marginalized, if not completely ignored.
In other words, it's the proper time to open up a can of battered-wives syndrome on the heads of a few Nader voters. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean actual physical assault.
For those who have Naderite offspring, it might be a simple matter of serving tomato aspic, rather than turkey, at Thanksgiving dinner.
Or, if you have Naderite co-workers, why not have walnuts for lunch, cracked loudly, for at least an entire hour, at your desk?
If your boyfriend's a Naderite, try flirting ostentatiously with strangers whenever you're in public together, all in the name of the national interest.
This sounds like a lot of work, I know. But if we're going to build a national movement, it's going to involve some pain.
(1) Green offers holiday gift certificates valued at between $10 and $50, good for one or more visits, available online at www.unlicensedtherapist.com.
(2) Those doubting that Naderites could be frivolous, or hypocritical, or both are urged to review reporter Matt Welch's night-long dispatches from the Green Party campaign headquarters in Washington at www.workingforchange.com. According to Welch, the Naderites were crowded around a television, rooting for Gore, after spending months telling voters there was no difference between the two mainstream candidates.