|On The Election
By Doug Dowd
ZNet Commentary - June 17, 2004
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 it 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 it doesn't (matter),
after all, Kerry is as bad as Bush -- even, in some
sense, worse: Bush at least believes what he says; Kerry
waffles on virtually everything; Gore and Clinton all
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
I yield to nobody in criticisms 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
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
I do not speak as a perennial opponent of third parties.
As a 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
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 will be obliterated by
a second Bush II administration.