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Anybody but Bush? Watch out, Dems!

Let's aim higher than pro-death penalty, pro-drug war Dean
Alexander Cockburn
06.25.03

Here I am, enjoying post-solstice sunrise at 5.48 a.m., and, on California's North Coast, sunset at 8.35 p.m. (probably classified info if you ask Tom Ridge). I'm in the early summer of 2003, and already people are acting as though the first Democratic primary was only a month or two away. Already we're wading deeper into the issues that will pulse with increasing intensity across the next 17 months.

Is the task of booting George Bush out of the White House paramount? Out with the imperial Crusader, the death-penalty-loving, Bill-of-Rights-trashing, drug-war-advocating corporate serf! By all means. But whoa! Who's this we see, galloping out of the mists of rosy-fingered dawn, a knight errant sent by the gods to give the kiss of life to all our fainting hopes? It's ... why, it's... yes, it's another imperial Crusader, a death-penalty-loving, Bill-of-Rights-trashing, drug-war-advocating corporate serf. Only he's a Democrat, not a Republican. That changes everything. Or does it?

Take Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont. Right now, he's enjoying a boomlet. Across this great land, ambitious Democrats are hopping from foot to foot in an agony of indecision. Kerry, Graham, Dean, Gephardt: Which way to jump? Dean! Clinton without the satyriasis, Carter without the Baptist sanctimony; a simple country doctor (albeit with Dean and Witter armorial bearings) who ran Vermont through the Nineties, and who, somewhere in the mid to late 90s, began to set his compass for the White House. Progressive, but not radical; against the war, but no peacenik.

I'm a realist. I know that anyone hoping to win the Democratic nomination has to achieve acts of political prestidigitation equivalent to, though harder than, guiding a herd of rampaging Gadarene swine through the eye of a needle. No matter that a candidate might have the idealism of William Morris, the conscience of Philip Berrigan, the moral clarity of Robespierre or Ralph Nader, he'd still have to act as ruthless swineherd. I know that. But I'll confess it. The more I look at Dean, the less I like him.

The death penalty? Yes, Dean evolved into a pro-death penalty position just when he was debating a White House run. For heinous crimes like killing kids or cops. Now, with his eye on the primary in South Carolina, he's added "terrorists" to those into whose arms he would stick the needle. Isn't that the posture of Ashcroft or of W. Bush, who signed more death warrants than any other governor in U.S. history? It is, but be reassured by the Dean campaign. In a Dean administration, those consigned to Death Row will know, even as the needle starts pumping the poison into their veins, that President Dean went that last half mile to ensure fairness.

Medical marijuana? Is the Democratic candidate wholly owned by the pharmaceutical companies, the blue-nose lobby? Dean says, "My opposition to medical marijuana is based on science, not based on ideology." Oh, yeah. Dean's opposition is based on 200 percent proof political calculation. He looked in the crystal ball and decided he didn't want to be pilloried by Tim Russert and the other telly-pundits as a friend of the herb, so Gov. Dean headed off a really good medical marijuana law making its way through Vermont's lower house, the same way he headed off a pioneering health initiative in Vermont. Recently, he called Gephardt's health proposal "pie-in-the-sky radical revamping." He was gung-ho for welfare "reform," which he has called an "incredibly positive force." He's a "fiscal conservative," which is kiddy code for serf of capital.

Yes, Dean did stick his neck out a tiny bit on the invasion of Iraq. He said he wasn't convinced by the WMD threat. Smart fellow. He took some stick for that. Good for him, but Dean is a solid, mainstream imperial Democrat, with entirely predictable prostration to AIPAC and the Likudniks.

I'm glad to say I'm not alone in adopting a reserved attitude toward strident Democrats, saying Out with Bush at any price.

When we look back in a year or two or five, I think it will become clear the war on Iraq helped to propel the domestic peace and justice movement to a much higher level of organizing. Can the peace movement keep going; and if so, in what direction? Will it become a recruiting base for Democratic candidates for the nomination, or will it remain an independent force?

A foretaste, maybe even the taste, of what the answers might be came at the start of June in Chicago, at a conference organized by United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ). Wazzat? After organizing the two largest anti-war demos in this country (Feb 15, March 22) UFPJ (of which Dobbs is the press coordinator) is now the major national coalition with more than 650 member groups.

The conference was aflame with a cross section of America's radicals, everyone from the Socialist Alternative to Code Pink! to U.S. Labor Against the War, to the Communist Party USA, along with local coalitions such as Wasatch Coalition for Peace & Justice (Salt Lake City), the Terre Haute (Ind.) Stop War on Iraq, and East End Women in Black, just to name a few.

The theme of UFPJ's relationship to the Democratic Party ran like a red thread throughout the entire meeting. At no time did it seem likely that the majority of delegates were anything but independent of both parties. There were impassioned pleas for UFPJ to endorse Dennis Kucinich (also, from a very few, Howard Dean) but such calls were easily overwhelmed by the majority of those present. UFPJ will not be endorsing or supporting any candidates, at any level. Demonstrations are scheduled for both the Republican and Democratic conventions next year. The peace movement is alive and kicking.

People like Dean had better face facts. The Democrats aren't going to win over everyone with the Anyone But Bush line next year.

homepage: homepage: http://www.workingforchange.com/

Anybody but Bush? Yes! 26.Jun.2003 08:07

Dade Cariaga dadecariaga@hotmail.com

Good article, and good points made. Nonetheless, I'm afraid the reality (for me, anyway) is that whoever the Democrats put up as their nominee next year will get my vote. (Even Joe Lieberman, for God's sake!)

Bush is a monster. He must be stopped.

what's the real agenda here? 26.Jun.2003 08:30

.

The points in this article smack of a republikkkan worried that Dean has made tons of good points. in the past 7 years while Dean has been governor of vermont, some of the most liberal laws in the country have passed there. it's the only state where same sex partners get health insurance... he is openly bashing the bush agenda...

sounds like this post is from one worried that Dean might actually have a chance to me...

And the fact is, the Green Party has also decided to get on board with the campaign to oust bush.. how can anyone in their right mind argue with that?

Former Democrat 26.Jun.2003 08:45

James Stevens regimechange04@yahoo.com

The Democrats have even gone as far as calling anyone who wouldn't vote out Bush responsible. The backlash for Florida has to end, they have slipped into centrism decades ago, and are now attacking the grassroots base of the party. This needs to be heard by Democrats, and Blogosphere isn't listening; Nader didn't cost Gore the election, remember he won, Bush and Rove stole it! Besides the NAder votes in Florida weren't as many as the registered Democrats who didn't vote. Perhaps the oldschool Wallace style Democrats who wouldn't support a Jew, this is the fringe element to remove from the party. This being said, I cannot support them anymore, Bush is a monster but they have greenlighted him for two years, and now want to act like it is neccessary to stop them.

I will support a Dean nomination, but cannot support the others, no matter how bad it gets.

At any cost???? 26.Jun.2003 09:12

StevetheGreenanarchist

The notion that Bush must be removed at any cost, including electing a status quo supporting moderate Democrat is in my opinion a flawed strategy.

If you understand the critical nature of our current global emergency as well as our consistant drift towards a fascist state, you have to ask yourself, how did we get here?

Did the Bush regime pull us there kicking and screaming all the way?
Obviously some of us have been, but not the majority of the American people and certainly not with any real opposition by the Democratic party.

If we are to buy into the notion of the "lesser of two evils" (yet again), we must prioritize what is important to us and then compare the differences between the two evils.

My priorities are as follows.
Social Justice: But the Democrats have supported all of the so-called free trade agreements as well as the bio-tech industries efforts to corporatize our food and our water.

The elimination of wars for money, power, and control: The Democrats (with the exception of a few token opponents) voted for the war on Iraq in a huge majority.

Protecting our constitution and civil rights: The Democrats voted overwhelmingly for both the Patriot act and Homeland security.

Protecting our environment: The Democrats talk a good game, but when the chips are down and the votes are in, their compromises are nothing more than sellouts to the same people who are legally bribing the Repugs! The result has been the continual devastation of our planet for the profit of a few.

So exactly where is it that the Democrats deserve my vote?
I should vote for them because they are not Bush and for no other reason?
LOL

What kind of skewed way of surrender thinking is that?

First of all, we all know that no truely progressive candidate will get the nomination of the Democratic party. You must acknowledge this before the rest of these points make sense to you.
Secondly, the moderate status quo supporting Democrat that does get the nomination will not be significantly different than the Republicans on the issues that are the most important.
Thirdly, voting for the lesser of two evils only provides the system with the "validation" of approval that is not real.
Finally, contributing to validating this bought and sold system by voting for one of the wings of our "one party two wing" system will only delay the inevitible revolution by creating a "false calm" in the populas.

As Nader said, things have to get worse before they can get better.

Hello, StevetheGreenAnarchist 26.Jun.2003 10:40

Dade Cariaga dadecariaga@hotmail.com

I can't put too much effort into dissuading you from your position. Believe me, I sympathize. A couple points, however:

If a democrat (any democrat) is elected on the rallying cry of "Anyone but Bush," politicians being what they are, that slogan will transform itself into policy. An ancient Chinese proverb proclaims that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

With the possible exception of Dennis Kucinich, there is no real progressive candidate among the announced democratic candidates. Nonetheless, any one of these candidates would at least be receptive to progressive concerns. How much of an ear do you think President Junior Monkey will give you, if he is reelected?

And, as to your last statement, "As Nader said, things have to get worse before they can get better," how much worse are you willing to let it get?

In my mind, we have surpassed a tolerable level. We're at the nexus between fascism (Bush), and half-assed ineffectuality (dems). But if the fascists retain and consolidate control, the battle is forever lost. At least for the remainder of our lives.

Peace,
Dade

False dichotomy? 26.Jun.2003 10:57

xyzzy

When we look back in a year or two or five, I think it will become clear the war on Iraq helped to propel the domestic peace and justice movement to a much higher level of organizing. Can the peace movement keep going; and if so, in what direction? Will it become a recruiting base for Democratic candidates for the nomination, or will it remain an independent force?
That last paragraph, particularly the final sentence, appears to be headed for a false dichotomy. I don't see anything wrong with simultaneously:
  • Realizing that not all wings of the Establishment are equally bad; some are worse than others, and the Bush junta is among the worst of the worst, and
  • Therefore voting for the Democrat simply to unseat Emperor George II.
  • Harboring no misconceptions that said Democrat is still going to be anything but a tool of the Establishment, and
  • Therefore continuing to build a radical movement of opposition and resistance to the Establishment.

another logical fallacy in these Green Party don't vote Bush of office posts 26.Jun.2003 13:25

Brian

Excellent point about the false dichotomy in StevettheGreenAnarchist's final paragraph, xyzzy.

I'd like to point out another logical fallacy in StevettheGreenAnarchist's post. This fallacy lies at the center of his argument. I wish I knew the formal rhetorical names for logical errors. I don't, so it's just going to be, "apples and oranges." Steve sums up this argument of his this way:

"Secondly, the moderate status quo supporting Democrat that does get the nomination will not be significantly different than the Republicans on the issues that are the most important."

Earlier theGreenAnarchist lists the issues that are most important. Points 2 thru 4 of these are:

2. the invasion of Iraq
3. Attorney General Ashcroft's attacks on our civil liberties
4. Bush's attack on the environment.


Steve would have us believe that a Democratic president would have led an unprovoked invasion of Iraq or attacked our civil liberties as Attorney General Ashcroft has done, or dropped out of the Kyoto treaty on Global Warming because in the aftermath of 9/11 Congressional Democrats were not able to stop Bush from doing these things. (In the case of the Kyoto treaty, which happened before 9/11, Bush didn't need Congressional approval.)

Saying that President Gore would have done what the Democrats were unwilling or unable to stop pResident Bush from doing is comparing "Apples and Oranges." Gore came out courageously against the preemptive invasion of Iraq and Bush's attack on our civil liberties. Gore's stand against the war is well known. In the same San Francisco speech in which he attacked Bush's plans for war he said:

"[regarding] the Administration's attack on fundamental constitutional rights. The idea that an American citizen can be imprisoned without recourse to judicial process or remedies, and that this can be done on the say-so of the President or those acting in his name, is beyond the pale."

Gore was outraged at Bush's unilateral actions against the environment.
I AM outraged that the Democrats haven't fought harder. Nonetheless, it is illogical to say that the Democratic failure to stop Bush's war or all Bush's attacks on our civil liberties, or reverse everyone of Bush's assaults on the environment in any way indicates President Gore or any of the candidates competing to run against Bush in 2004 would have committed these outrages. I believe that StevetheGreenAnarchist knows this. If he does know this, why does he persist in making these false analogies?

The real question of conscience for StevetheGreenAnarchist is whether or not the children in Iraq or the trees in our ancient forests or a woman's right to choose, or the separation of church and state or the rest of the Bill or Rights have more meaning than a few now tired cliches about "the less or two evils" or "the evil of two lessers."

I skipped Steve's first point about free-trade agreements and the bio-tech issues because it is not so easy for me to dismiss that point. Some of the Democratic candidates have renounced these treaties and some haven't. (Both progressive-favorite Kucinich and labor's pick, Gebhardt are opposed to these treaties.) However, in last week's debate in Chicago all the Democratic candidates expressed their horror at the extent to which corporations are dominating our lives. The issue was their common opposition to the Bush administration's new rules for the FCC that allow even more media consolidation.

While we express our anger that the Democrats haven't fought harder, we much acknowledge the fights they have won. Our own Senator Wyden wrote the amendment that killed the ultimate 1984 police state legislation, the Total Information Awareness program. Bush had appointed Iran/Contra felon Admiral Poindexter to run this shredding of our civil liberties. The Democrats have, so far, successfully filibustered the Bush extremist right wing or racist court appointees. Senator Kerry has pledged to filibuster any Supreme Court appointees that want to ban abortion or attack other essential civil liberties. The Congress has succeeded in preventing Bush from drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife refuge and have had some success in restraining Bush's lust for more of Oregon's forests.

I apologize for the length of this post. However, StevetheGreenAnarchist's post is typical of the posts of many others here on Indymedia who criticize the efforts of progressive citizens to vote Bush out of office. Unfortunately, much of this criticism of the struggle to use the ballot box to defeat Bush's right wing extremism depends more on bad faith and bad logic than on solid argument.


Safety Net 27.Jun.2003 00:49

George

My main concern in politics is defending the safety net. I voted for Clinton in 92 because he was talking about free job training. Never happened. I voted for Nader in 96 because Clinton signed the socalled welfare reform act, which abolished welfare as an entitlement and set a time limit on it. Clinton also ganged up with the Republicans to cut the other safety net programs: food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Gore was right behind him cheering him on. I don't believe a word Gore says. This is what the Democratic party has become -- friendly to corporations, the rich and the middle class, hostile to working class people, whose wages have been declining, in real dollars, for 30 years. Our job security has also greatly declined. I'm not voting for any more Democrats.