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When John Kerry emerged victorious a few months ago, two approaches for addressing voters skeptical of his principles lay at his feet: he could court them or try to break them. These are the folk, of several political stripes, fired up about war in Iraq, runaway corporate power, and the Patriot Act, among other issues. Kerry and his party have clearly chosen to try and break these skeptical voters, to show them that their only option is to vote against George W. Bush by selecting Kerry. This risky campaign decision will cost Kerry some votes. But the American People bear a greater risk because the strategy might succeed, leaving Kerry committed to being nothing more than not Bush. Such a hollow victory, however, is exactly what Corporate America seeks.
As work crews cleaned up confetti in Boston, they might as well have been cleaning up the tatters of Kucinich supporters’ dreams. Any mention of a Department of Peace was too much to hope for-but not even a substantive crumb? Yet Kucinich beamed up at the falling balloons there on stage and he has even urged Ralph Nader’s voters to support Kerry. A major score for breaking the wills of skeptical voters. Of course Bush himself had already stacked broken political wills on the left like a gift of liberal cord wood to Kerry.
The Democrats continue now, undemocratically, to try and break Ralph Nader’s voters. First come the Democratic corporate law firms to knock Nader off of the ballot. They’ve succeeded in Arizona-with a 600 page brief. Even in non-contested states, Democrats are trying to thwart voters who wish to support Nader. Second comes the Democratic smear operation. They claim that organized Bush Republicans are behind the Nader campaign, when Democrats meddle there far more-including endless cyber attacks-with much greater consequence. (Meanwhile, Rove and Company must be gleeful that the puny efforts by their backwoods political cousins are succeeding in both tainting Nader’s image and driving the Democrats to dangerous distraction.)
But what if Kerry had chosen to woo skeptical voters, taking issues away from Ralph Nader, as Kerry himself said early on? It was, on the face of it, the easier road to take. Kerry could have made substantive statements about cracking down on corporate crime, war profiteering and not renewing the Patriot Act, for example. The choice was not so easy, however. With such words, Kerry would have offended the corporate contributors who have sponsored his long political career. He would have damaged his standing in Washington political circles. Hence the choice to try and break skeptical wills rather than court the hopeful hearts alongside them.
Besides, Washington insiders know already that Kerry is no pushover. He won’t "cut and run" in Iraq. He, too, will throw the meager Department of Justice resources at egregious corporate crimes. He thinks drug companies charge too much. He means to improve fuel efficiency-eventually. He’ll do the roadless rule rumba, swing into an ANWR cha-cha-cha and mosh on the Bush energy policy. He’ll follow enlightened oil company executives in worrying about global warming. He will improve our image in the world. In short, Kerry will ride the cutting edge of Bush Disaster Mitigation; forget bold steps. This, of course, means that things will steadily get worse, from the War in Iraq and around the alphabet to the War on Drugs.
For those in the corporate world also know that their patronage has ensured that Kerry would never do the one thing that could keep them up at night. Kerry would never truly organize the people from the bully pulpit, to rally them around a real, single payer, national healthcare proposal, or a massive effort to crack down on the corporate crime that bleeds pensioners, or to publicly shame polluters. His performance in Boston showed not even Al Gore’s fake populism of four years ago. Without transforming leadership, Kerry will be on a short leash held in the powerful grip of big business. He will support the trade agreements crafted by corporate lobbyists, keep corporate tax rates low and leave defense pork alone. He may ruffle a few feathers, but he sure won’t be plucking any.
If Kerry wins, it won’t be the Anybody But Bush crowd that pushes him over the top. Rather, it’ll be the functional acknowledgment by members of the controlling elite that they will more easily achieve their goals under President Kerry than under President Bush. Bush is overloaded with baggage. Even from the corporate viewpoint, it is time for him to go-oil and gas dinosaurs and crooked power traders aside. But if Kerry loses, it won’t be because he tried to inspire the principled voter; it will be because he will have failed to break enough of those voters whose issues, far from being on the left fringe, belong to the most idealistic American traditions of competition, fairness, true freedom, true compassion and justice.
TAREK MILLERON cn be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org