It is now clear that the presidential election will be very close. Much can happen for better and for worse between now and then at home and, especially, in Iraq; so much that no firm prediction can be made. But this can be said: If the election were to be held today, Bush would win it by a narrow margin; but that if Nader were not running, the result would be in favor of Kerry. In these times that try our souls, that should cause all of us to think twice before jumping.
Many among those left of center would be horrified by Bush’s re-election and say “anybody but Bush”; but a significant number of others say that it doesn’t that, after all, Kerry is as bad as Bush — even, in some sense, worse: Bush at least believes in what he says; Kerry waffles on virtually everything; Gore and Clinton all over again.
Such arguments already rage among lib/lefties, and will deepen and spread as November approaches. Much of the disagreement will be among those who, until recently, have been allies and often worked together. Here is my position.
I yield to nobody in crititisms of Kerry: Despite whatever he may say about “jobs,” “health care,” and the like, he is a centrist, a Clinton, looking always to the conservative wing of the Democratic Party for his stand. But we need not speculate; his long record in the Senate has been that of a centrist, with never even an argument in the Senate in favor of meeting basic needs, by whatever name.
He has been and remains worse on foreign policy; he is more interested in showing that he voted in favor of the war than against it; hedging this way and that about the UN or the $87 billion in an attempt to satisfy “both sides” and, like Gore, alienating both in the process. But his most disgraceful — and disgusting — performance has been that regarding Vietnam.
He not only volunteered in what was being seen as a dirty war by many of us, but stuck around long enough to know that it was unwinnable without nukes. OK; maybe. But now? Now he says he’s sorry that as a Vietnam Vets Against the war he said we (and he) had committed atrocities there. Note that he didn’t say we hadn’t committed them — that has been abundantly documented — he said he was sorry he had said so. Why? Guess.
So, to oversimplify but not too much: he’s more responsive to war lovers than to war haters; put differently, like Clinton and Gore, he assumes he can take the war haters and social softies for granted. He’s wrong; which is why I am writing this.
So we should vote for Nader, or not at all? No. Despite the above criticisms, and more of the same that could easily be added, I am firm in the belief that all who seek a sane and decent and peaceful world must vote for Kerry. And not only because he is the lesser of evils, and less odious than Bush (as who is not?).
No, there is something larger at stake than “the next four years.” We have already seen what the Bush gang will do even after an election in which they lost the popular — and probably, the electoral — vote. If Bush wins, that will be used as a mandate by the neocons, preempters, fanatic Christians, and anti-civil rights coalition to give new meaning to the term “run amok.” With nothing and nobody to stop them — in or out of Congress or the Supreme Court.
Led by a group whose arrogance assures their ignorance on the realities of other countries, whether one-time or chosen-to-be foe; a group fully-committed domestically to making the rich richer as the rest pay for it in small and large ways. With them in power, and their bought and paid for Congress and a Supreme Court in their pocket, the USA will enter its most perilous era ever — perilous to ourselves, our designated enemies, and Mother Nature.
This is no time for a third party vote in a presidential election. That time would/will/must come if and when those left of center have gotten their act together on the local and state levels as human beings and as wage-earners, going beyond intermittent demonstrations in order to constitute a movement,
The USA is unique in never having more than mere whispers of such a movement, one that works toward the solidarity required to fight for and win over the whole range of badly-needed social policies; a movement that would be able, as a third party, to get trustworthy people into office and policies into practice on those levels; able to make progress everywhere but in the White House. Then, and only then, can we seriously think of centering in on a presidential election.
For too long we have allowed ourselves to be drawn into the political game of choices between Tweedledee and Tweedledum on the local and state levels and, inevitably, on the national level as well. We have been suckered in, or remained lazy, in a rotten and dangerous society that needs us to be just that to satisfy the lusts of those now in power — and to become even more so.
I do not speak as a perennial opponent of third parties. As a very few of you might remember, in 1968 I was the reluctant running mate of Eldridge Cleaver on the Peace & Freedom ticket in New York State. Low comedy became farce when Cleaver was kept off the ballot because he was “too young”; that he had also skipped the country they did not know. And in 1948 I had been a main organizer of the Wallace IPP campaign in Berkeley and also managed a state legislative campaign for a third party candidate.
It should be clear that I am not against third parties; in fact, I see no other way for us ever to move toward genuine democracy. I am against make-believe third parties whose main effect in a national election is to play Santa Claus to the worse of two evils.
In what has been a long life in a century of the deepest crises ever in history, the present period is in my opinion surely the most dangerous, most threatening of all. At home the weakening or destruction of always barely adequate socioeconomic policies in health, education, jobs, wages, housing, welfare, civil liberties, and the environment will take an enormous and lengthy effort to reverse.
For such a reversal there must must be a national movement. Such a movement will be almost impossible to construct if, as, and when we shift further to the Right, further toward and then into what Bertram Gross presciently foresaw as “friendly fascism” in 1980.
This is no time for venting our spleen. It is very much the time to preserve what Howard Zinn has recently seen as “a ledge” from which we can hold on and climb toward what we need and want. That ledge that will be obliterated by a second Bush II administration.