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  • Thursday, November 04, 2004


    Another Assessment of the Election

    I'm currently making the rounds, collecting views on lessons to be learned from the election and perspectives for future action.

    I wanted Kerry to win. I would have vastly prefered him in office than Bush. But. I disagreed strongly with Kerry's positions on a vast array of items. However, Kerry would probably be open to negotiation and adjustment; Bush definitely is not. Coalition building in politics is important but that doesn't mean everyone in the coalition has to agree with everyone else on all positions.

    From Sharon Smith: Right Wing Republic?:

    Much of the ABB [anyone but Bush] left will scornfully conclude that Americans got what they deserved--four more years of George Bush. Many in the mainstream of the Democratic Party will conclude that the Democrats have to move further to the right to appeal to the conservative majority in the U.S. After the election, Kristof argues, '[T]he Democratic Party's first priority should be to reconnect with the American heartland.'

    The self-fulfilling prophesy of lesser evilism

    Both of these conclusions rest on the assumption that most Americans are incurably conservative--and that the U.S. left is doomed to remain a tiny minority in a sea of conservatism for the foreseeable future. On this basis, the left backed Kerry in 2004 as the most 'electable' Democrat.

    The entire supposition of lesser evilism, of course, is that the best we in the U.S. can hope for is the election of a slightly better version of the Republican candidate. The logic of lesser evilism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when no left wing party ever gets built to challenge the two-party system.

    The 2004 election exposed the reverse logic employed by the ABB left--when Kerry's 'electability' (that is, his similarity to Bush) failed to get him elected. That is how, in a country where a majority of the population views the Iraq war as a mistake, the man who led the country into that war on false pretenses managed to eke out a victory.

    Using the same strategy as Gore and Clinton before him, Kerry abandoned the Democratic Party's traditional base to appeal to swing (i.e., white middle-class) voters. That meant that Kerry allowed Bush to define the framework of the debate, which in this case was terrorism. Kerry did not even pay lip service to the labor movement, while distancing himself as far as possible on abortion rights and opposing gay marriage outright. His opposition to the Iraq war was so conditional,
    contradictory and confusing--since he was a pro-war candidate--that he squandered the enormous opportunity to congeal the massive antiwar sentiment into a coherent electoral opposition....

    If the ABB left is looking for anyone to blame for Bush's victory, it should take a long hard look at itself--and its own unconditional surrender to a candidate as right wing as Kerry. Instead of pressuring Kerry from the left, the ABB left devoted most of its energy attacking Ralph Nader and those who tried to build a genuine left alternative to the Democrats.

    In addition, campaigning for Kerry required the antiwar, women's, gay and labor movements to abandon any meaningful struggle. This was not only because they devoted their time, money and energy to campaigning for Kerry, but because struggle would have required criticism of Kerry's own pro-war and other backward positions. The torture at Abu Ghraib, which should have led to angry mass demonstrations of antiwar activists, barely elicited a peep from the antiwar movement--or John Kerry.

    Thus, this election was conducted without an opposition to the Republican status quo, allowing the mainstream political debate to continue on Bush's terms--that is,
    on a right-wing basis. For example, the debate over gay marriage was not between
    two sides, one supporting it and one opposed, but between two candidates who both opposed it. And these parameters framed the gay marriage debate for the mass of the U.S. population.

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