Issue 104 - September 9 2004



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“There is still time” for John Kerry to reverse his slippage in the polls, said Rev. Jesse Jackson on CNN, this week, but this will require a “shakeup” in the Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Kerry “has been distancing himself from his base,” which “is not smart.”

That’s an understatement.

It is now generally recognized that, unless your name is Barack Obama, the Democratic National Convention in Boston was a disaster – a launch pad to defeat. Kerry “and his DLC handlers neutralized all of the constituent groups of the Democratic Party,” said Black Commentator Co-publisher and Editor-in-Chief Glen Ford in an August 27 Radio BC commentary. “He made the party bland, projecting generalities and banalities, and focusing all attention on his own personal character and history. He refused to take up the cause of a vast majority of Democrats – and now, a clear majority of Americans – by presenting an exit strategy from Iraq.”

Then came the New York GOP convention, a gathering of howling, happy savages. The Republicans inside Madison Square Garden knew they faced a eunuch who could not – would not – fight back. Rev. Jesse Jackson: “We hit Bush with velvet gloves, they give us the brass knuckles.”

Outside the convention, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators representing the heart and soul of Democratic activism were cordoned off – by Democratic Party leadership! “The Democratic base is crying for help but has been left to its own devices in fighting the Bush administration,” writes Margaret Kimberley in her current Freedom Rider column. “While their party’s nominee did not utter one word of even qualified support for their actions they continued to hold marches, vigils, and other actions while the convention took place.”

Blacks and progressives cannot help Kerry win the election on “our own devices” if we have to fight the Democratic Party machinery every step of the way. After the Republican Convention, a TIME poll showed George Bush with a substantial lead over Kerry: 53 to 41 percent.  The most recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll rates the contest at 52 to 45 percent among “likely” voters, although much closer – 48 to 46 percent, with Ralph Nader at 4 percent – among registered voters. This means Kerry can win if he energizes the Democratic base and gets voters to the polls – that is, if he can whip up enthusiasm among the Democratic Party’s various constituencies.

The Zogby poll shows Kerry in better shape in the states that he needs for victory in the electoral college, but with Bush “slowly advancing.” Pollster John Zogby concluded:

“Kerry has lost ground – either in the size of his lead or in the outright lead itself – in several states. Noticeably, the President is now doing better among Republicans in more states than Mr. Kerry is among his own Democrats. Mr. Bush has also made gains among Independents. In addition to the Senator leaving voters cold on his personal characteristics, he is not contrasting himself with the President on the war. Mr. Bush has clearly defined himself…as the clear, decisive war leader. All Mr. Kerry has done is say he is ready for duty and would do exactly the same. With Democrats angry over the war, they will need to hear more from the challenger.”

This week, the gulf between Bush and Kerry will likely widen. Saturday marks the 3rd anniversary of September 11, 2001.

The straightjacket Kerry wears bears the Democratic Leadership Council label. The DLC, in its quest to immobilize and silence the party’s core constituencies – Blacks, labor, peace forces – in search of a mathematically constructed “swing” and “center” cohort, succeeds only in paralyzing and muting both the party and the candidate. Kerry has penned himself in as tightly as the demonstrators in New York during GOP convention week.

The strategy is a model of inflexibility, a chief cause of Kerry’s inability to respond quickly or effectively to Republican barrages. The DLC attempts to position candidates as closely as possible to the Republican opposition’s political space, so that barely a ray of sunlight shines between them. In theory, this strategy allows the DLC candidate to claim all of the larger political territory to his left. But in practice, that territory is populated by very frustrated folks who watch Kerry constantly speaking from their right. That’s why, despite more than adequate funding and a wealth of potential issue advantages over Bush, Kerry was never able to move decisively ahead. The DLC’s hug-the-enemy strategy (sometimes called “me too-ism”) inevitably cedes the initiative to the opposition.

More fundamentally, Kerry’s DLC does indeed harbor the same general foreign policy goals as do the Bush’s Pirates: global U.S. economic and military hegemony. Their October 2003 manifesto, “Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy,” published in the New Democrat’s journal, Blueprint, calls for a “smarter approach to the use of military power.” The DLC’s strategists agree in principle with Bush’s invasion of Iraq, but they would have avoided wrecking U.S. relations with the rest of the world in the process – as if that were possible. And although the manifesto blathers endlessly about encouraging democracy in the world (“The way to keep America safe and strong is not to impose our will on others”), the DLC is determined to hold on to the ground it thinks the Bush men have gained in Iraq: “We will maintain a robust military presence in Iraq for as long as it takes to help that country to achieve security and stability.”

The basic difference between the DLC and the Bush Pirates is, the New Democrats seek U.S. military and economic domination of the world through both weapons and the cooperation of international institutions such as the United Nations, NATO and other treaty regimes, while the Bush men attempted to discard the whole game board to impose American rule by fiat. This leads the DLC to a mish-mash of policy statements. For example: “The administration has disproportionately relied on military strength” but “this is no time to cut the Pentagon’s budget.” U.S. intervention capability would be strengthened: “The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that we need to enhance our ability to project power with deadly accuracy over enormous distances.” Thus, Kerry’s call for 40,000 additional troops.

John Kerry treats the October DLC manifesto as his Bible. That’s why he sounds so incoherent and contradictory to Democratic audiences that are seeking a quick exit from Iraq. As the September 7 New York Times reported:

Asked his timetable for pulling troops out of Iraq, Mr. Kerry told a few hundred people in Canonsburg, Pa.: "My goal would be to get them home in my first term. And I believe that can be done." He said he would make it clear that "we do not have long-term designs to maintain bases and troops in Iraq."

In other words, he will keep U.S. troops in Iraq, as the DLC manifesto vowed, “for as long as it takes to help that country to achieve security and stability.” To accomplish that over a period of up to four years, of course, the U.S. would need to harden its already existing bases in Iraq, despite Kerry’s avowal of having no “long-term designs to maintain bases.”

Kerry’s pronouncement gives no comfort to the overwhelmingly anti-war Democratic majority – and in fact, could have easily issued from George Bush’s lying mouth. Kerry has effectively surrendered Iraq and foreign policy in general to the Bush men, and the polls show it. His mush-mouth DLC-speak has allowed the slim leave-Iraq-now-or-soon majority of early summer to shrink to 37 percent, although we doubt there has been any substantial change in African American sentiment on the subject. In a July CBS/BET poll, only 8 percent of Blacks thought the Iraq war has been “worth the cost.”

Black American opinion is in line with world opinion. Although African Americans consume the same corporate media fantasies as the rest of the country, our history has bequeathed us a deep skepticism of white intentions and has largely immunized us from the madness of American Manifest Destiny – whose premises are the default position of most white Americans. Absent a coherent voice for peace at the top of the Democratic Party, the War Party will always prevail among whites. Kerry and the DLC have made this far more likely in 2004.

The most important public opinion resides in Iraq, where Muqtada al-Sadr is the second most popular man in the country. U.S. corporate media routinely refer to al-Sadr as a “renegade” – proof of the media’s utter detachment from reality. How can the second most popular person in a nation be a “renegade”? The most influential personality, Ayatollah Sistani – whose intervention in the siege of Najaf rescued both the holy shrine and al-Sadr – shows no inclination of tolerating four more years of American occupation. U.S. withdrawal is a fatwa away. The cities of Ramadi, Samara and Fallujah are in the hands of the resistance. U.S. forces were supposed to withdraw from Najaf, under the terms of the puppet Iraqi regime’s agreement with Sistani. Baghdad’s Sadr City slum, home to 2 million Shi’ites, is Sadr country. Four more years?

What will Kerry do? Better to ask what the Iraqis will do. They are at the pivot of history, and will take care of themselves.

Vote for Kerry for domestic policy reasons; we understand the differences, there. It is also vitally important that the Bush regime, whose assault on world order was stopped in its tracks by the Iraqi resistance, be dismantled.

Kerry and the DLC are no more, and no less, dangerous than Bill Clinton – a founder of the DLC, along with Al Gore. Don’t consider your decision to be a choice between the “lesser of two evils.” Instead, think of a Kerry vote as a return to the status quo ante – a small step back from the Apocalypse.

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