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"When will it end?" asks my long-time friend and Nader supporter Tom –. "When will the cycle of supporting the lesser evil Democrat against the vicious, corrupt Republicans end in our liberation from the two-party trap?" I’m not in the business of predicting the future much so I shrug. I support the lesser of two evils philosophy and will vote for Kerry and will encourage others to do likewise; even more so, I will campaign for his election on November 2.
This has been a source of deep-rooted contention and near bare-knuckle brawling between Tom and I for several years now.
"I know that our immediate interest lies in making sure a sexist, homophobic, racist anti-union, war monger isn’t allowed to keep office," I chime in.
"And Kerry’s better?"
"Yes. I think he is more open to popular influence."
"But he voted for war, for the PATRIOT Act, for No Child Left Behind."
Just as the argument seemed to have crested and our tones were on the verge of returning to civility, it began again.
So I put down my mug of black coffee, put four dollars on the diner counter, picked up my jacket and bid Tom a good evening.
This is how it goes every four years. When will this vicious cycle end?
Of course I know Tom is correct on many points. Kerry is a representative of the capitalist class and shares many of their interests. He has voted incorrectly many times. Even the "cycle" argument rings logical. If we refuse to threaten to leave the Democratic voter base, why should they ever move their politics to the left?
Kerry’s campaign has gotten off to a weak start, and he has taken centrist positions and has even mimicked some right-wing positions such has his unnecessarily firm rejection of extending an olive branch to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Yet, polls show Nader capturing enough votes from his presumed constituency to cost Kerry the election. Will this push him to the left? Did Nader’s candidacy in 2000 (then with the support of an actual national political party) push Gore to the left? That’s up for debate.
Pro-third candidate activists say, "We don’t care what he does, or how many votes don’t go his way. We’re trying to win the election for Nader." Of course most of their talk is bluster as no one – even they, if they spoke candidly – would lay money on Nader getting more than two or three percent of the vote, let alone winning.
Still others on the pro-third candidate side claim to be building a movement. A laudable ideal, but will such a movement have credibility if it ignores the remaining millions of voters or even worse uses the rhetoric of insult to attack voters who are "duped" by the Democratic machine or who aren’t bright enough to see the truth as they do?
But overall, these two camps have to confess the role they play is as the protest vote. That ultimately they are attempting to influence the direction of politics by pressuring the Democratic Party to see things their way.
Of course there are the relatively small handful of socialist sectarians who attack the "lesser evilism," as they call it, of others while endorsing the lesser "lesser evilism" of the anti-Marxist, questionable working-class politics of the liberal Nader. Others of this stripe advocate boycotting the election, the complete abstention from participation in this crucial element of class struggle.
Taken alone, out of the context of our times, these arguments make a lot of sense. This is why a lot of well-meaning and very principled people, like my friend Tom, buy into them.
Eventually, it may make sense to buy into these arguments in one fashion or another.
But Kerry and Bush aren’t the same.
After using racist tactics to steal the vote in Florida in 2000, Bush has a proven record of planning and carrying out two wars of aggression for oil, for imperial power. Tens of thousands have been killed. He has planned and carried out two anti-democratic coups in the Western Hemisphere, one of which was successfully implemented by right-wing thugs funded by the Republican Party. The other thwarted by a massive uprising of hundreds of thousands. This administration pressured the Philippines government to suspend its Constitutional provisions against foreign occupation. Bush has supported to the hilt the assassination policy of the Sharon government in its dismantling of the peace process between Palestine and Israel. In Colombia, Bush supports with tax dollars an anti-union regime that has terrorized workers who seek to organize to improve their way of life. Everywhere, the Bush administration has threatened, cajoled, and pressured governments to toe its line with military and economic force.
In the U.S., Bush has worked overtime to strip workers of their rights. He has gutted environmental protections. He has appointed right-wing Christian fundamentalist ideologues to federal courts promising to erode the boundary between church and state, to undermine and ultimately withdraw a woman’s right to choose to be pregnant, and to heavily shift the balance of power to large corporations in numerous areas of civil justice from bankruptcy law to monopoly and the right to sue. On an unprecedented scale, Bush has redistributed hundreds of billions of dollars to the wealthy and shifted the already unjust tax burden more heavily on to the backs of working people. Even further, his policy of cutting taxes on capital and inherited property intensifies this disparity, especially for people of color who disproportionately more than whites earn their incomes through wages rather than capital or property. He plans to use billions of tax dollars to fund targeted religious fundamentalist groups to cultivate a far-right religious base for future Republican candidates.
This administration has driven racist, sexist, and homophobic wedges into the working class. He has steadfastly opposed affirmative action, has targeted schools in predominantly Black and Latino districts for "reform," and has shown an utter lack of concern for the issues – domestic and international – that people of color have repeatedly asked, urged, or demanded that he address. His immigration policy is a restoration of the old bracero programs of the early 20th century that turns immigrant workers into virtual serfs to their employers and uses the threat of deportation to keep low wages and deplorable working conditions. He has refused to address disparities in hiring, promotion, and unequal wage practices for women. His view is that the government isn’t in the business of providing even a meager means of lifting people out of poverty with subsidy programs for education or training.
Lately he has even refused to extend unemployment benefits for about 400,000 laid off workers. His philosophy is that people in these situations have to fend for themselves. Meanwhile his economic policies have targeted sectors of the economy that are heavily populated by union workers. Hundreds of thousands of union workers, not accidentally, have lost work since Bush took office. His Medicare bill has threatened to make access to prescription drugs and other services much more expensive for the majority of American seniors. His rule on overtime will cut deeply into much needed earnings of as many as 8 million workers. The Bush administration’s proposed budget for 2005 could cut a quarter-million families out of the federal Section 8 subsidized-housing program. Cuts he implemented to veterans healthcare programs prevented about 160,000 veterans from obtaining services they had been promised.
But this is the short list of the Bush administration’s record. It isn’t a secret either. He is proud of it.
So why should we reward him with another four years under the cover that Kerry will be the same? We should send a message to Bush – and to Kerry – that we won’t tolerate this kind of record. It isn’t enough to defeat Bush on November 2. Pro-third candidates are correct. We have to delegitmize and isolate Bushism. But we do have to start by ending the Bush administration.
JOEL WENDLAND is Managing Editor Political Affairs A Marxist Monthly check us out at: http://www.politicalaffairs.net