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Progressives for Progressives

To the Editor:

A recent cover story in Metroland by Norman Solomon asked what progressives should do in the upcoming presidential election [“Who Will Serve the People?,” Sept. 4]. The author complained that Dean was not even a liberal, and that the electoral chances of the Green Party or Dennis Kucinich were slim.

The short answer is that progressives must organize. Most progressives—as opposed to the media and national advocacy groups—understand that the day after the election is usually more important to the progressive agenda than election day itself. Regardless of whatever political party wins the election, those who are concerned about a progressive agenda will need to keep agitating in order to have an impact. The success of the progressive agenda is not dependent on who wins the presidential sweepstakes but on our ability to mobilize popular and critical support. Real change will come outside of the election booth, not in it, especially without proportional representation.

The best-case election scenario under the lesser-of-two-evils, vote-Democratic strategy is that we will elect a right-of-center Democrat who will be more conservative than Bill Clinton was, as the Democrats continue their decades-long rightward shift in search of campaign contributions.

A Democrat elected president will be far closer to the corporate interests and their agendas than he will be to the peace, anti-corporate, women or environmental movements. While it will be a relief to evict the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Ashcroft clique from the White House, the reality is that the grip of the permanent political-corporate party over Congress and the federal government will be as strong as ever. We will be no closer to a single-payer universal health care system or public campaign financing or ending global warming or a living-wage job for all. There will still be more Americans in prison than any country in the world. The war on drugs will continue and twice as many American children will live in poverty than in any other industrial country.

Most progressive reforms in this country—the right of women to vote, child labor laws, social security, minimum wage, unemployment insurance—were all initially championed by third parties. Only when it was clear that progressives would take their votes elsewhere did the major parties finally adopt them. Why would the Greens or other progressives heed the annual call of Democrats to abandon our issues and be silent on election day? So the Democrats can control more patronage or raise more contributions?

Some Dems like to advise Greens to join the Democratic Party and make it a progressive force from within. Leaving aside the fact that many Greens left the Democratic Party precisely because they found that to be impossible, it amounts to telling the Democratic Leadership Council, “Go ahead, push the party as far to the right as you like. You can always count on our votes.” That is not a road map to a progressive future, it’s a road map to exactly where we are.

The great irony of course is that as the DLC moves the Democratic Party ever rightward, Democrats themselves are the losers. On the day President Clinton took office in 1993, Democrats held a majority in the U.S. Senate and House, and 31 governors were Democrats. Following Clinton’s passage of NAFTA, his radical cuts to welfare for children and single moms, his mishandling of health care, his various military escapades, and his failure to take action on global warming, all those majorities had been swept aside by the time he left office.

The day we needed the Democratic Party was Sept. 11, 2001. On that day the Green Party called to treat the murder of 3,000 Americans as a crime against humanity, not as a declaration of war against all those who disagreed with us. We called to avoid the scapegoating of Muslims and people of color; to avoid curtailing our civil liberties; to avoid raining down our bombs on the Middle East; to strengthen the rule of law at home and abroad. The Democrats instead joined in the cry for war, in the shredding of our constitution, in approving more corporate welfare and tax cuts for the wealthy.

When the Democratic Party once again abandons progressives in next year’s presidential election, we trust that progressives will stick to their principles and do the same.

Mark Dunlea
Chair, Green Party of New York State

To the Editor:

TINA or AWIP, which is the progressive choice? TINA—There Is No Alternative—is the mantra of political realists, like Maggie Thatcher or Thomas Friedman and of Democrats who today ask who is “electable.” AWIP—Another World Is Possible—is the mantra of progressives who have not caved in to the inevitability of corporate domination of the world via WTO, IMF, NAFTA, and FTAA, or of U.S. empire through monopolization of weapons of mass destruction and preventative wars.

If I operate from “realism,” I have to expect that George Bush will again steal the election by any means necessary, whether by fixing touch-screen voting machines, a last minute attack on Iran or North Korea, or just plain purchase of votes: that there is no “electable” Democrat. When I operate from the hope that keeps us alive, however, I have to believe that Another World Is Possible and have to support every effort to imagine that world. It is from that hope that I will work to promote the ideals and platform and candidacy of Dennis Kucinich for president. That work, win or lose, is far more effective at promoting the world we would like to live in than the self- censorship of those progressives who are seeking the “most electable” Democratic candidate for president. Such pursuit of our vision of a viable world may even inspire and bring to the polls some of the 50 percent nonvoters, and support for Kucinich may exert a meaningful pressure on whomever the Democrats nominate in the end.

Michael Rice

To the Editor:

Keith Ammann’s false and vicious attack on Dennis Kucinich [Letters, Sept. 11] deserves a reply.

Ammann describes Kucinich as “unlikable” and “bilious toward people who disagreed with him,” but never gives one concrete example to demonstrate these scurrilous charges. We Capital District Kucinich For President supporters talk about issues. We don’t need to resort to ad hominem attacks on Howard Dean’s character.

As mayor of Cleveland, Kucinich was “unable to compromise” when he refused the banks’ demand to privatize the publicly owned power and light. Over the years, that act of courage has saved ratepayers millions of dollars.

Yes, we Kucinich supporters are “zealous progressives” and proud of it. Ammann argues decisively, and we accept, that Dr. Dean is not.

Kucinich is not considered a weak, lightweight legislator by his House colleagues who have chosen him as leader of the progressive caucus.

He showed leadership when he got two-thirds of House Democrats to vote against the Iraq war resolution.

He showed leadership as the only Democrat presidential candidate to vote against the Patriot Act.

He showed leadership by sponsoring legislation for single-payer national health insurance in Congress.

Dean, who favors an incremental approach to health-care coverage, once characterized Kucinich’s stand in favor of universal coverage by taking the profit out of health care as “tilting at windmills.”

Ammann asks rhetorically, if Dean weren’t in the race, would the other candidates speak out boldly against Bush administration policies? The obvious answer is yes because Kucinich has forced all the candidates, including the centrist Dean, to debate the WTO, NAFTA, single-payer health insurance, the military budget, gays’ and lesbians’ right to marry, and Bush’s supplemental request for Iraq.

Barbara Ehrenreich, and thousands of other Feminists for Kucinich, will vouch for Kucinich’s commitment to a woman’s right to choose.

Who is in the mainstream and who should be taken seriously is what election campaigns are all about. If all the voters who prefer Kucinich’s platform over Dean’s would support Kucinich, he would have a good chance to win the Democratic nomination.

Kucinich is not all things to all people. He is a principled man of the left. We in the local Kucinich campaign believe a real alternative to George W. Bush is the only way to salvage the Democratic Party and energize the electorate to defeat Bush in 2004.

Gene Damm

Fit to Print

To the Editor:

I would hate to be on a survival mission with you guys [Survival Guide and Student Handbook, Sept. 11]. Helloooo? That was my gym in the picture in your survival guide, but you failed to include our name anywhere!

Andrea Spungen
Owner, Fitstop

Editor’s reply:

How embarrassed are we? In the Health & Fitness section of our annual Survival Guide, the gym in the photograph is indeed Fitstop—but Fitstop is not included in the listings. Here’s what happened.

Fitstop is brand-new, and therefore was not in our database. A freelance photographer—on assignment to deliver images to correspond with various sections of the Survival Guide—decided to take a photo inside Fitstop. He knew about it, but we didn’t—and since the photos were intended to be somewhat generic, and uncaptioned, it never occurred to us to ask which gym it was.

We apologize for the oversight.

By the way, the Survival Guide is available online at—with a listing for Fitstop included.

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.

Send to:
Letters, Metroland, 4 Central Ave.,
4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210
or e-mail us at

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