FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why is Kerry Running Such a Lame Campaign?

by ALAN MAASS

 

GEORGE W. BUSH should be struggling to explain the disastrous invasion of Iraq and an economy that’s still sputtering three years after the end of a recession. But for the past month and a half, it’s John Kerry who has been on the defensive. Now, even those liberals most devoted to rounding up votes for Kerry–such as Michael Moore and Rev. Jesse Jackson–are beginning to express their frustration with the Democrats’ lame campaign.

Incredibly, even as the occupation of Iraq descends deeper into chaos, Bush is gaining support on this issue, according to opinion polls. For example, the percentage of Americans who said it was “a mistake” to send troops to fight in Iraq fell to 38 percent in an early September CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, down from 54 percent about only two months before.

Kerry’s liberal supporters blame this disaster on ineptitude–and desperately hope that Kerry’s advisers will get a clue before it’s too late. But there are more important factors at work.

Above all, Kerry and his chief advisers share a common political outlook that makes it hard to really take the offensive against Republican policies. Why? Because they largely agree with the Republicans on most issues.

Kerry’s staff has been through several well-publicized shakeups. But no matter who’s on top from one day to the other, the campaign remains in the hands of professional political operatives who came to prominence not because of any commitment to a political issue or agenda, but because of their skills in manipulating the media and crafting noncommittal sound bites, based on focus groups and polling information.

These high-powered strategists come from the same social strata as their Republican counterparts–which predisposes them toward pro-business policies and encourages the same condescending attitude toward voters. For the past year, the main figure in the Kerry campaign has been Bob Shrum, a well-known Democratic consultant who has grown rich off running the campaigns of well-funded candidates.

He has had a hand in dozens of campaigns, including the losing presidential bids of Ted Kennedy, Dick Gephardt, Bob Kerrey and Al Gore. But Shrum, it turns out, doesn’t discriminate–he also worked for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

By all accounts, Shrum was primarily responsible for the tone set at the Democrats’ convention in Boston–above all, the refusal to criticize Bush directly. Since Kerry started dropping in the polls, Shrum has apparently been shuffled off to the sidelines, while several new players–most veterans of the Clinton White House–have taken on prominent new roles.

Anyone hoping that the Kerry campaign would take a more populist turn was disappointed. “[T]he hires are typical of the revolving door that exists between those who run campaigns and those who lobby,” one political analyst told the Washington Post.

Michael Whouley is one of the new strategists. When he’s not running campaigns for Democrats who claim to have the interests of working people at heart, Whouley is raking in big bucks as a lobbyist, with General Motors, AT&T, the insurance industry and Microsoft on his client list.

Two Clinton administration vets, Joe Lockhart and Howard Wolfson, caused a stir among Washington insiders when they signed on with Kerry. The two are partners in a lobbying firm that works for drug giant Pfizer, Fannie Mae and the trade group representing regional telephone companies.

“With all these Kerry-hired hacks supping at the corporate trough, is it any wonder that the only slogan they’ve come up with so far is the oh-so-feeble ‘W stands for Wrong’?” concluded Doug Ireland, a progressive writer who supports Kerry and heaps abuse on independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Kerry and this bunch may not be “trying to lose.” But they certainly don’t want to win so badly that they are willing to upset the Washington status quo.

As Steve Perry, CounterPunch contributor and editor of City Pages put it, “Given the choice between winning what might prove an unruly victory and running yet another me-too campaign that will likely lose (but without upsetting their real base, which consists largely of the same funding sources as the Republicans), they take the second path every time. The Democrats are not stupid. They are cynical. They have no interest in changing the rules of the game, and toward that end, they are even more loath than Republicans to invite new people into the ‘process.'”

ALAN MAASS is the editor of Socialist Worker. He can be reached at: alanmaass@sbcglobal.net

 

ALAN MAASS is the editor of the Socialist Worker and author of The Case for Socialism. He can be reached at: alanmaass@sbcglobal.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail