Solomon’s analysis of the primary season [“Who Will Serve
the People?,” Sept. 4] is right about Ralph Nader (and I say
this as someone who voted for Nader in both 1996 and 2000)
but shows an almost willful cluelessness about Dennis Kucinich
and Howard Dean.
To all progressives, however pure your ideals and lofty your
intentions, I implore you: Forget about Kucinich. Kucinich
is the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with progressive
politics. As mayor of Cleveland, he was a dismally poor executive,
unable to compromise and bilious toward people who disagreed
with him, even political allies and appointees. As a legislator,
he’s a lightweight. He’s further out of his league than any
candidate in the race except Al Sharpton, and he doesn’t possess
the charisma to make up for any of his other shortcomings.
He’s weak, inexperienced and unlikable, yet progressives remain
enthralled by him because of his ideological consistency.
Which isn’t even all that consistent: While Solomon was dissecting
Dean’s lapses of litmus, he neglected to mention that as recently
as last year, Kucinich was consistently anti-abortion in both
his speeches and his voting record. Only upon deciding to
run for the Democratic presidential nomination did he decide
he was in favor of abortion rights. The right platform isn’t
enough—it has to be backed up by the right personality.
Dean, I happen to believe, has the right personality. Solomon,
amazingly—remember, this guy is a professional media watcher—has
completely bought into the idea, promulgated by the Democratic
Leadership Council and the Republicans, that Dean is supposed
to be some kind of McGovernite pinko. It’s true that the first
two things most people have heard about him is that he opposed
the Iraq war resolution and that he signed Vermont’s civil-unions
bill, but he’s never pitched himself as being outside
the mainstream. That’s been the work of his opponents and
So the Dean platform isn’t to Solomon’s liking or that of
other zealous progressives. Consider this: First, if Dean
weren’t in the race, do you think John Kerry, Dick Gephardt
or John Edwards would have been emboldened to speak out openly
against the Bush administration’s policies? None of them had
the nerve to dissent during the congressional election season
in 2002. It took Dean’s unhesitating, outspoken opposition
to the Iraq war resolution to get the emperor’s bare ass into
the headlines in the first place. If you want to start taking
apart the ultraconservative machine that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld
and Rove have built, first you have to be able to say out
loud that it’s a bad thing.
Second, if you want to win, you have to get people to take
you seriously (something Kucinich will never be able to do
and frankly doesn’t deserve). There have been many times when
I’ve gnashed my teeth because the media didn’t give my favorite
candidate his due. But the media are giving Dean his due,
and you know why? Because he’s earned it. He’s gone out and
gotten both the SUV- driving soccer mom and the vegan, pot-smoking
bike messenger to reach into their pockets and give what they
can, because they realize that there is something in
his platform for each of them, because they want to start
taking apart that Republican machine and because unlike the
other Democrats in the race, he understands that the only
way to win is to take the fight to the Republicans.
Bush will go into the 2004 general election season with more
money, more guaranteed electoral votes (hard-core Republican
states comprise 162 EVs, three-fifths of the 270 needed to
win, while hard-core Democratic states comprise only 67),
a bigger media machine and an electorate still a little nervous
about its security. Caution won’t cut it. The Democratic candidate,
whoever that turns out to be, will have to be the abler candidate
and wage the better campaign, set the terms of the debate,
seize and hold the initiative, grab those undecided votes
faster and even snatch some away from Bush when his team overplays
its hand. Do you see anyone who can do that? I do.
The first step toward realizing the progressive agenda is
to get Bush out of the White House, and the first step toward
getting Bush out of the White House is to help put his strongest
opponent in the best position to fight him from, even if that
person hasn’t promised to slash the Pentagon’s budget.
In 2000, progressives were in a position to send a message
to the Democrats that we were tired of being ignored. At least
one candidate has finally gotten that message. Dean may not
agree with us about everything, but I feel pretty confident
in saying that he won’t forget us, and electing him president
will help us get the political pendulum moving back toward
To the Editor:
cannot understand why Mr. Solomon accepts as the premise of
his article the idea promoted by the conservatives and the
media that Howard Dean is trying to represent the issues of
the far left in the campaign. In doing so, he implies that
Gov. Dean has been disingenuous, that he is “using” the left
to get elected. I believe that the record shows that Dean
has been consistent in his message. Although Solomon’s tone
suggests he is revealing the truth about Howard Dean, there
is not a single quote from Dean or his campaign that Solomon
purports to refute.
The conservatives try to paint Dean as too liberal. The liberals
try to paint him as too conservative. He is who he is, not
a slave to ideology and not pigeonholed by it. To me, that
is the sign of an intelligent and thoughtful candidate. Furthermore,
he has the ability to communicate these ideas to people in
a way that is intelligent without being condescending, and
folksy without being obtuse.
To pretend that there is a presidential candidate that you
will agree with on every issue is a fantasy. Supporting a
candidate that you disagree with sometimes does not mean that
you must change your positions on those issues. But people
should be reminded to find out for themselves what that candidate
stands for, and not to let those with their own agenda try
to “surprise” them.
To the Editor:
cover story of Sept. 4 looks at the upcoming presidential
election and asks, “What’s a progressive to do?” I’m a progressive.
Here’s what I think we should do:
First of all, we’ve got to admit that the regime in Washington
is more extreme, depraved and dangerous than anything we’ve
encountered before. The Bush-Cheney administration is not
what we’re used to. That is, it’s not made up of conservatives.
It’s made up of reactionaries blinded by, and trapped within,
their own ideology, who are creeping toward fascism. Progressives
are used to challenging administrations that harm the environment.
This administration is truly and literally decimating the
environment. Progressives are used to challenging administrations
that harm the economy and undermine social justice. This administration
is ruining the economy for generations to come and is boldly,
relentlessly and shamelessly assaulting the Constitution itself.
It’s true that some Democrats have aided and abetted this
horror show. But in all seriousness, can anyone imagine an
administration headed by centrist Al Gore going to these extremes?
In this election cycle, progressives must have as their absolute
first priority stopping the fascists. Another four years of
Bush-Cheney and we will have never-ending war abroad, economic
depression at home, and dissidents being rounded up and secretly
imprisoned. Progressives must face the truth that the only
organization capable of defeating and replacing the Bush-Cheney
administration is the Democratic Party. It goes without saying
that the Democrats will not nominate a progressive as their
presidential candidate. Nevertheless, only the Democrats are
capable of stopping the fascists.
I concede that a mainstream democrat in the White House would
be no friend to progressives. At the same time, I assert that
policies coming out of a Democratic White House (other than
a Lieberman White House ) would not be as rabidly right-wing
as Bush-Cheney policies. Odds are that a Democratic White
House would return to the Kyoto Accords, recognize the value
of the United Nations, keep a fundamentalist zealot like John
Ashcroft out of the Justice Department, let much of the Patriot
Act sunset, appoint middle-of-the-road jurists to the Supreme
Court, and renounce the concept of preemptive war.
Is there any guarantee that with a Democrat in the White House
any of these changes would come to pass? No. But if Bush-Cheney
are reelected, it’s guaranteed that either nothing will change
or that all changes will be for the worse.
In 2000 I was a Green Party member who was delighted to vote
for Ralph Nader. Nader and the Greens still provide the most
perceptive analysis of how corporate power subverts democracy.
In 2000 I totally agreed with the Greens that “you should
vote your hopes, not your fears.”
In 2004, I say we’ve got to listen to our fears. Voting for
the Democrats might be voting for the lesser of two evils.
So be it. I firmly believe the Bush-Cheney crowd is far, far
more evil than the Democrats. The Democrats may be maddening
and corrupt, but Bush and his cronies are bent on eradicating
civil rights and liberties at home and creating an empire
abroad. Progressives might have a slight influence on the
Democrats, nudging them in decent, humane directions. Under
Bush-Cheney, they will be lucky not to jailed in the name
of homeland security.
What are progressives to do?
A) Have as Priority No. 1 stopping the fascists.
B) Recognize that the Democratic Party is the only entity
large enough to be capable of stopping the fascists.
C) Work for the nomination of the most liberal/left Democratic
D) Help get out the Democratic vote on election day.
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