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political theory selection 2004

Kerry and Progressive Party Building

Ted Glick, National Coordinator of the
Independent Progressive Politics Network (www.ippn.org),
and co-coordinator of 2004 Racism Watch (www.racismwatch.org), argues that a Kerry victory would be good for progressive organizing.
Peter Camejo was the first one I heard put it out, back in
April: "Kerry will do what Bush wants to do better." In
other words, Kerry and the Democrats are the greater evil,
not the Republicans which, followed to its logical
conclusion, means that Camejo hopes that Bush/Cheney will
win re-election.

Since that time I've heard and seen others put
forward this same point of view. There's not a lot of them
on the Left but they're out there. The Counterpunch website
seems to be a repository of several authors who take this
approach.

It reminds me of the old socialist saying, "Left
in form, right in essence."

I don't support John Kerry and never have. The
main difference between his plan for dealing with Iraq, put
forward yesterday, and Bush/Cheney's is that he wants to
bring in other countries to help do the job of creating a
U.S.-friendly Iraqi government. Neither of them want to see
genuine Iraqi self-determination and sovereignty. In that
surface respect there's a grain of truth to what Camejo and
some others are saying and writing.

But a recognition that both Bush and Kerry are
about maintenance of the Empire ignores a number of very
real differences on policy between them: on civil rights, on
abortion rights, on global warming and the environment, on
worker rights, the Bush tax cuts, etc. Although they are
both "corporatists and militarists," in the words of David
Cobb, there are concrete differences that cannot be swept
away by purist ideological arguments.

However, there's another reason why those of us
who are members of the Green Party, Labor Party or other
alternative parties, or who support progressive third-party
building, should hope for a Kerry victory: it will help our
progressive party cause.

Jenny Brown, co-chair of the Alachua County
(Fl.) Labor Party, put it this way in an article in the
summer issue of Independent Politics News: "It's only as
long as they're out of power that Democrats can credibly
claim to represent us [progressives and workers]. . . The
Democrats are not the answer. This is something we must keep
being able to prove each day, to more and more people. More
people will see it. . . when the Democrats are in power.
Bush is close to the worst this system has to offer, and
Kerry is, apparently, the best, which means that Kerry is
better proof than Bush will ever be that we need to upend
it."

Since World War II the strongest, national,
progressive third party movements have developed when
Democrats were in power. The first example was the Henry
Wallace/Progressive Party effort in 1948 when Harry Truman
was President. Then there was the 1968 national Peace and
Freedom Party effort when Johnson was President. The decade
of the '90s, when Bill Clinton was in office, was a decade
which saw the emergence of three major efforts, the Green
Party, the Labor Party and the New Party.

If the Bushites are re-elected, several things
will happen. First, there will be deep and broad anger
toward Nader/Camejo on the part of many progressives, both
independents and Democrats, because of the
attack-the-Democrats strategy that campaign is openly
following. There may be similar feelings toward
Cobb/LaMarche but, given the "strategic states" approach
they are taking, distinguishing between swing and sewed-up
states, it will be much less.

Second, we will be in a position where our
criticisms of the Democrats, out of power, will not have the
broad impact they will if they were in power, as Brown
articulates above.

Third, growing numbers of us will undoubtedly be
faced with an increase in government attacks on our
dwindling rights. We will be much more on the defensive. Our
conditions for struggle will be harder.

These are not favorable conditions for
movement-building.

This does not mean that a Bush/Cheney victory
would mean that we have no hope of making progress during
the four years they would be in power. We saw an indication
of what is possible on the part of our movement before and
during the week of the Republican Convention in NYC. During
that week there were an impressive series of actions
conducted by a very broad range of organizations despite the
efforts to marginalize and undercut them by the Republicans,
sectors of the corporate media and even some timid
progressives. It was an inspiring display of intelligent
activism.

After November 2 we will need to assess what
happened on that day and determine how we struggle for
justice, peace, democracy and a stronger independent
progressive movement no matter which shade of Empire is
elected. But until then, we should be doing all we can to
maximize and defend the progressive vote on election day,
articulating clearly that while both parties are seriously
deficient and that we need to be building an alternative to
them, a key step toward such an alternative is to remove the
Bushites from the White House.

Ted Glick is the National Coordinator of the
Independent Progressive Politics Network (www.ippn.org),
though these ideas are solely his own. He is a
co-coordinator of 2004 Racism Watch (www.racismwatch.org),
which is working with other organizations toward a "Vote for
Racial Justice Week" October 18-24. He can be reached at
 futurehopeTG@aol.com.
Precisely 22.Sep.2004 15:19

Mistletoe Angel

I don't think Ted could have said it much better.

You see, as fellow progressives, I sympathize with you all very much. Some of you I agree more with than others, some of you we've even had some jousts with words. However, all your opinions matter and I very much enjoy discussing them with you.

With that said, we must consider the consequences should we fail to unite. I do not fully disagree with all your accusations of the Democrats. I agree they're not letting democracy be "by the people, of the people and for the people" to the best of their ability. I agree I'm troubled that they are not working to reduce the ludicrously expensive federal spending budget, for a smaller government is a better government. I'm somewhat troubled the party as a whole hasn't united in an anti-war stance despite a majority standing against it now.

I agree the Democrats are far from perfect, and they have much to work out, which I don't expect they can work out everything by themselves. But there is one great difference between the current Democrat and Republican platforms: Democrats can be budged, republicans can't.

That's the point. The Democrats are better at sympathizing with grassroots organizations than Republicans are. If not for Truman, the Progressive Party could very well have been arrested in its development. If not for Johnson, Nixon or someone could have prevented the Peace and Freedom Party or the full charge of the Civil Rights Movement from empowering. Under Reagen or Bush, it would be far more unlikely the Green Party could have achieved its full potential.

I know I have been defending Kerry beyond this argument as well, because knowing, in contrast to Bush, that he thinks before acting and thinks it over again, he can be moved by his peers. If we have someone like him in power, it'll give progressives more space than in comparison to Bush, whose heart and mind is like a closed drawbridge that'll never raise down, who won't tolerate any dissent at all and silence any upscale progressive movement.

In simpler words, we can be more on the offense under a Kerry rule. Under a Bush rule, we'll continuously be playing tug-of-war, and, of course, with them having all the power, we'll have far more misses than hits.

Face it. Under Kerry rule, either way, we both win to some extent, rather than under Bush, we both lose big time.

Should Kerry prove to be a more able president, and pull us out of Iraq as he is making a goal in his first term, abolish the Patriot Act, begin restoring the damage the Bush Administration did to the environment, and improving our economy, there we may have a rejuvenated hope or faith in our democracy. Of course we should still do our part in getting an ITC ballot enforced, encourage smaller government, etc. but far fewer will be complaining.

Should Kerry prove to be a mediocre president, we still have an opportunity. That the liberal majority could more loudly proclaim "We've had enough, this is not democracy!" and then the general public as a whole can heed our call and a window can be opened into establishing a candidate who represents the general liberal interests of America. That's where our collected progressive voice comes in and finds an isthmus into mainstream.

The following is clear: Nader cannot win, and knows himself he can't win. This is a two-way race. A majority of those supporting Kerry don't think highly of him personally but support him because they understand Bush is a far greater threat to democracy. The liberal majority understand this election is about whether democracy remains true to definition or if it will be a democracy only by name.

Say what you want. Your ideologies are much appreciated and are of their value. But there is a far greater value at stake also, the power to the people. And we must stand as the people, not as individuals, in reigning victorious.

Sincerely,
Noah Eaton