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Let’s be clear about the choices available to American voters in November. History – most notably the historical weakness of the U.S. Left – has dealt the cards. Yet a fraction of those who claim to be progressives – misreading history and oblivious to the evidence of their senses – pretend that there is no overarching reason to do everything humanly possible to defeat George Bush in 2004. They claim there is “no difference” between the contenders: it’s Tweedledum Bush or Tweedledee Kerry, and “nothing will change” whether one wins or the other.

Corporate media labor mightily to obscure the Bush Pirates’ historic departure from past methods of Rich Men’s Rule. It is their job to make what is singularly horrific, palatable to the public, as if nothing radically different has been happening in the nation and the world these past three years. Republicans also profit from the voices of those who willfully fail to recognize the uniquely rabid nature of the Bush regime. By proclaiming that there is no difference between the ineffectual, dishonest John Kerry and the Republicans, they are in practice preaching the futility of resistance to Bush. 

The Bush men and Kerry’s crew are profoundly different.

The Bush-Cheney regime is a criminal enterprise following a blueprint for world conquest and bent on liquidating what remains of the public sector and the domestic social contract in the United States. Its core electoral support is derived from the most racist and fascist-minded elements of society.

The Democratic Leadership Council, which now writes John Kerry’s scripts, is the corporate-financed faction of the Democratic Party, conceived as a mechanism to diminish Black and labor influence and to slow the defection of southern whites to the GOP. The DLC blunts the party’s ability to act as a counterweight to corporate power, domestically, and cultivates a mass base for “American” business objectives abroad. Through its role as dispenser of corporate (and corporate media) favor, the DLC wields decisive influence far beyond its membership.

After three years of Republican rule, it is madness to say that John Kerry’s DLC rump of the Democratic Party is even remotely equivalent to the rampaging Bush regime. The Bush men have a plan to “change the world”; the DLC have none. The Bush men are driven by a triumphalist ideology; the DLC have their hands out. The DLC attempts to obstruct and co-opt progressive ideas and movements within the Democratic Party; the Bush men are determined to snuff out all who oppose the absolute rule of capital on the Planet Earth, the U.S. included.

The Bush administration is a unique danger to human survival. There can be no more compelling call to action than that. They have also shown themselves to be fully prepared, if not eager, to abort the process that has passed for electoral democracy in the United States – thereby definitively mooting the Tweedledum versus Tweedledee conversation.

The more vocal elements of the “no difference” crowd objectively aid the Republicans. They assist the GOP’s voter suppression strategy, channeling white voters to Ralph Nader, a man with no party, and encouraging African Americans not to vote at all. (This is the real aim of GOP media campaigns targeting Blacks, which focus on white Democrats’ failures and “betrayals” rather than Republican policies.)

Just as destructively, the false analysis (or non-analysis) that equates the DLC with the Bush cabal – as if they are the same people, operating on the same imperatives – discourages discussion of what Blacks and progressives face if Kerry succeeds in capturing the White House. Our job is both to defeat Bush and to prevent Kerry from taking us where he wants to go – back to the Clinton era. There must be an opposition in place in January of next year, and no honeymoon. We must anticipate the political lay of the land under a Kerry administration, and quickly move towards a strategy for dismantling as much as possible of both the George Bush and Bill Clinton legacies.

That’s a mountain of work – too much for the “no difference” crowd to contemplate.

Clinton’s limits

Although President Jimmy Carter’s betrayals of Blacks and the cities opened the door to Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton’s corporate feast laid much of the groundwork for George Bush, Carter was not Reagan and Clinton was not Bush. Under both Carter and Clinton, African Americans and their allies allowed themselves to be first seduced, then neutered. Therefore, when we anticipate a Kerry administration, we must remember the Clinton years. Here’s how we described Clinton’s terms in our September 25, 2003 issue:

Bill Clinton humiliated, abused, bamboozled and, finally, eviscerated the base of the Democratic Party in the Nineties. His biggest victories were NAFTA and welfare reform, both achieved with overwhelming Republican support. Clinton’s tenure marked the triumph of the Democratic Leadership Council, the southern-born, white male-pandering, union-bashing, corporate wing of the Party. Republicans did a great service to Clinton and his Vice President, Al Gore, by labeling them “liberals” – perversely confirming that the DLC had succeeded in moving the national Democratic Party rightward. Clinton unleashed the dogs of Wall Street to inflate the speculative bubble that obligingly waited for him to leave office before bursting – a legacy of corporate mayhem, a marauding World Trade Organization, massive de-industrialization, merger madness, and obscene growth in CEO compensation that George Bush eagerly builds upon.

Yet we can be reasonably sure that Bill Clinton would not have invaded Iraq because, unlike George Bush, he had no plans to do so. The Bush Pirates had been plotting to begin their global conquest with the takeover of Iraq since before Bush Sr.’s defeat. There is a difference.

The Clinton administration was content to shackle Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in Haiti, but would not have toppled it in favor of a menagerie of criminals. That would have reflected badly on Clinton’s previous decision to bring Aristide out of exile in 1994. The Bush crew included the same people who overthrew Aristide in 1991. They simply reinstated their plan, which fit nicely with global conquest. There is a difference.

We can also assume that Clinton would not have transformed a huge federal surplus into an astronomical deficit. This is a safe bet, not only because Clinton amassed the surplus, but because the far-right wing of the Republican Party has for decades maintained that the only way to permanently prevent the growth of the people-serving public sector was to cripple the government’s ability to pay for it. The resulting tax bonanza for the rich was gravy. They had a long-standing plan. There is a difference.

Clinton weakened the political underpinnings of affirmative action with his equivocating “mend, not end” it position. However, it is inconceivable that he would have opposed the University of Michigan Law School program before the U.S. Supreme Court, because that would have shattered his base. Bush took the action because his base is “derived from the most racist and fascist-minded elements of society.” There is a difference.

Rightward, Ho!

Until he was assassinated by the corporate media, Howard Dean seemed poised to destroy the DLC’s corporate stranglehold on the national Democratic Party. Progressives (including ) focused their attentions on Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, the DLC’s most ideologically outspoken candidate. Kerry and North Carolina Senator John Edwards kept the DLC at a distance – in Edward’s case, almost in the closet. Now Kerry is flaming, as the Boston Globe reported, April 17:

''Fear not, I am not somebody who wants to go back and make the mistakes of the Democratic party of 20, 25 years ago," Kerry declared on Thursday, adding that he is not a ''redistributive Democrat," even though his $30 billion National Service plan had been regularly invoked in the Democratic primaries to trump a similar but less-generous tuition plan offered by Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

Kerry's decision to place deficit reduction at the heart of his campaign seems to settle the debate over whether the Democratic Party would ''change" for this election, reaffirming its progressive roots and moving away from Clinton's centrism. During the primaries, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean attacked the Democratic Leadership Council as ''GOP lite."

Yesterday, DLC president Bruce Reed declared, ''I think that Kerry has always been a reform Democrat and he's running a solid New Democrat campaign. The country's in desperate need for a return to fiscal discipline."

As Freedom Rider columnist Margaret Kimberley wrote on April 15, Kerry “declared in a speech on economic policy that he would eliminate portions of his own domestic agenda in order to have a balanced budget.” Thus, seven months before the election, Kerry falls into the GOP’s well-laid budget deficit trap. But he did not methodically set the trap; it was not part of any master plan, because he has none. A President Kerry might be pressured to change course, if progressives organize effectively. A second Bush term would advance the Hard Right agenda still further – if the world survives it. There is a difference.

A Kerry presidency poses particular challenges to the integrity and cohesion of Black politics. At a hastily arranged talk to Howard University students Kerry dismissed reparations for slavery (“I personally do not believe that America is going to advance if we go backwards and look to reparations in the way that some people are defining them…") and shamelessly abandoned his initial opposition to the coup against the democratically elected President of Haiti. "I think Aristide went astray. He was no picnic, but what we should have done was held him accountable. ... I will fight for democracy, but not a particular leader," Kerry said, unaware of the glaring contradiction.

Kerry apparently believes he is insulated from Black Democratic wrath by his best “friends” in the Congressional Black Caucus: Gregory Meeks (NY), James Clyburn (SC) and Harold Ford Jr. (TN). Kerry dropped their names in an April 7 session with members of the Black press. All three are members of the DLC, as is Black Los Angeles Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, who also endorsed Kerry during the campaign. (The only other Caucus member to support Kerry was Georgia Rep. John Lewis.)

Under a Kerry presidency, this faction would become the Black “go-to” guys on Capitol Hill – a daunting challenge to the future solidarity and effectiveness of the Caucus as a progressive force and, ironically, a boon to corporate influence in Black electoral politics that could not be duplicated under Republican George Bush. However, a Bush second term would allow the Pirates to complete their transformation of the federal government into the paymaster of a new class of bribed Black preachers, through subsidized Faith-Based Initiatives – just one item among the myriad Republican assaults against the Black body politic. There is a difference.

The biggest threat from the DLC at present is that its hold on Kerry may cause a second term to be delivered to George Bush, without the necessity of theft.

Readers may be surprised to learn that we are not overly concerned about Kerry’s vague promise to send even more troops to Iraq. Kerry is no more capable than Bush of sustaining the doomed U.S. occupation. The Iraqi people will shape their own future, independent of the American electorate, who have no right to a say in the matter. However, Americans do have it in their power to disconnect the Pirates from the reins of power in Washington. That would make a world of difference.



April 22 2004
Issue 87

is published every Thursday.

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