Well, history has repeated itself and, just like the saying goes, this time around it is pure farce. In this instance, I am referring to the attempt by Kucinich supporters to attach an antiwar plank to the Democratic Party’s 2004 platform. As anyone knows, of course, these platforms don’t really mean much of anything, but the fact that the Kerry people fought even the inclusion of a statement that called the Iraq war wrong from its inception proves once again how little difference there really is in the campaigns of the two men running for president of the United States this year. It also proves the pointlessness of any group of left-leaning Democrats who still believe that their party is capable of redemption along McGovernite lines.
The original hope of the Kucinich campaign–a campaign that voiced clear opposition to the war and ran on a demand that the US withdraw from Iraq–was that the Democratic Party platform for 2004 would include language that included a timetable for the withdrawal of all US military forces from Iraq and also made clear that the party considered the war on Iraq a mistake from the beginning. What the Kucinich campaign got instead was “a commitment to begin the process to talk about bringing the troops home;” according to Kucinich’s campaign manager, Tim Carpenter. In short, they got nothing, since the conversation Mr. Carpenter is referring to has already begun in the streets and workplaces of the nation.
To add injury to insult to those Kucinich supporters who supported Dennis because of his supposed opposition to the war, Kucinich called some supporters and told them that this retreat was some kind of a victory. If I were one of those supporters, I would have hung up on Mr. Kucinich’s quicker than I do on a solicitor. This is no victory. If anything, it’s further acknowledgement as to the bankruptcy of the two-party system. Not only have the remaining antiwar forces in the Democratic Party been relegated to the sidelines at the party convention, they’ve convinced themselves that their silencing is a victory. All of this done, of course, in the name of party unity and a desire to beat George Bush.
In 1968, there was a much larger antiwar contingent within the Democratic Party. This contingent was represented by the McCarthy and Robert Kennedy (later McGovern, after RFK’s murder) campaigns. Despite the failure of these campaigns to win the nomination, the antiwar forces that propelled them fought to the bitter end to get their antiwar plank into the party’s platform. They failed, in part due to manipulations by the pro-war forces in the party represented by Hubert Humphrey. Once their failure became apparent, most of these Democrats either left the Convention Center and joined their fellow peace activists in the streets of Chicago or they continued to search for ways to get their message out to the American people from the convention floor. Of course, those who did the former were gassed and beaten and those who attempted the latter were shouted down or physically removed from the convention floor.
How times have changed. After 1968, the antiwar forces briefly took over the Democratic Party and ran George McGovern in 1972. Thanks to a lack of support from the party’s corporate backers, an uneven campaign strategy, and a Republican campaign that included a number of dirty tricks, McGovern lost and the progressive forces within the Democratic Party moved back into the shadows. Since then, these forces have played a role that revolves primarily around keeping progressive independents from running a third-party campaign (a role ironically now also played by the third party Greens) . By performing this role, these forces have prevented the progressive voice in US electoral politics from being heard in any effective manner and have helped create the current political situation in the US where most people don’t vote and those that do have a choice that only represents the American right wing.
Which brings us to today, a mere two weeks before the Democrats hold their party convention in Boston. Their nominee, John Kerry, represents the less conservative wing of America’s right-wing establishment and might win the November election if it is held and if his campaign can motivate enough voters to bother voting. As has been the case since 1972, progressive Americans have no one whom they can vote for, only someone to vote against. It is these voters that Kerry is counting on and it is these voters who Kucinich and Nader try to represent. Unfortunately, Mr. Kucinich refuses to leave the Democratic Party-a decision that rendered his campaign moribund from the beginning, and Nader cannot get the funds a national campaign requires in today’s America. Not that it would matter much if either of these men’s campaigns actually had a chance of winning, since the moneyed interests who really elect this country’s presidents would never allow anyone with their opinions move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Given this, one would think that Mr. Kucinich would not give up so easily on his desire to get some antiwar language into the Democratic platform. After all, what does he have to lose? Instead, his supporters and the rest of the Anyone-But-Bush mindset are left to vote for John Kerry, a man who not only supported the Iraq war from its beginnings, but also hopes to expand it to NATO if he’s elected. How is that any different from George Bush?
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org