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Progressives for Dean

To the Editor:

Norman 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 the media.

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 the left.

Keith Ammann

To the Editor:

I 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.

Peter Caracappa

To the Editor:

Your 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 candidate possible.

D) Help get out the Democratic vote on election day.

Steve Trimm

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

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