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Lessons from 2004 for Building the Green Party
by David Kennell
To justify a third party, there is a need to demonize the Democratic Party. This blanket indictment, however, ignores the diversity that exists in any large population. Diversity can often be represented by a bell-shaped curve of frequencies verses the extent of progressive views. For the millions of Republicans, Sen. Snowe of Maine might fall among the lower limits of the left side, while Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Ashcroft fall among the most reactionary and criminal elements on the far right. The latter are especially dangerous because, like many past tyrants, they claim that they represent God (Christian Right), so their decisions are based on faith, which by definition is not open to reason.
Within the broader bell-shaped curve of Democrats, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone and others have taken consistent positions for people’s rights and welfare. To equate them with Bush et al is naive and divisive at best and, at worst, is consciously disruptive of any unity among progressive forces. Kerry has been characterized by both progressives and Bush as being among the Democrats on the far left.
Kerry worked with Dr. Helen Caldecott, founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, to disarm the thousands of nuclear missiles aimed at US and Russian cities, and has opposed the Nuclear Defense Initiative (Star Wars) to control space. He has a long record of sponsored legislation (58 have passed the Senate as opposed to only nine by Ted Kennedy, considered the most accomplished senator) for clean air and water, fuel efficiency and renewable energy and would have us rejoin the Kyoto Treaty which Bush quit. Kerry opposed Arctic National Wildlife drilling and was supported by the major environmental organizations.
To limit support only to a candidate who proposes all the progressive changes of a radical minority [ . . . ] is naive, divisive, and disruptive of any mass movement.
As a Catholic, he had courage to support a woman’s right to abortion, is against school vouchers and privatizing education or Social Security, sponsored an increased minimum wage opposed by Bush, has an excellent lifetime AFL-CIO rating and voted for every civil rights bill. He would greatly expand health care coverage, paying for it by rescinding Bush tax breaks to the wealthy and over $100 billion to corporations. On the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, Kerry’s basic proposal is to internationalize a peace-keeping mission with bidding for building contracts open to all countries. In the last weeks he made more belligerent proposals for the war on terrorism, which generated a barrage of charges that Kerry is a war hawk worse than Bush.
Of course, we would have liked Kerry to propose Single Payer Health Care and withdrawal from Iraq. Kucinich did so and had zero chance to win. Commentators noted that Kerry gained support near the end (with the brain-washed public) with his more get-tough approach. Fed a steady stream of lies, a majority of the American people still believe Iraq was involved in 9/11 and has WMD.
Given Kerry’s earlier statements that it is the wrong war, it makes sense that this was “posturing” to win support, but we will never know, while Bush-Cheney wars to control world oil are definitely for real. We also wish Kerry could have noted that the greatest terrorists, and terrorism promoters, are the servants of US corporate interests. Could he have done so even if he knows it’s true?
History is replete with examples of moral contradictions between stated policies in the short term verses long-term goals. Young Abraham Lincoln navigated the Mississippi River and wrote that he witnessed the “monstrous injustice of slavery itself . . . it is a continual torment to me.” Lincoln took the position of the conservatives within his Cabinet and nation opposing the strong stand of the Abolitionists to end slavery, stating in his inaugural address he had no intention of interfering with the institution of slavery. Why this apparent contradiction? Lincoln desperately needed volunteers from the North. Until late in the war, the majority of Northerners did not want to interfere with slavery.
Other cases in history occurred where the mass movement for change was so overwhelming that the President could openly embrace it, e.g., Roosevelt and the New Deal during the Great Depression.
To limit support only to a candidate who proposes all the progressive changes of a radical minority in a country of a misinformed, brain-washed, and brain-dead vast majority is naive, divisive, and disruptive of any mass movement. One may feel that the only solution is a socialist society—fine. It could be a worthwhile educational exercise, but don’t expect your candidate to win any major election with the indoctrinated public.
This same “tunnel vision” that excludes cooperation with diverse groups also accounts for the extraordinary disharmony among Greens. Greens who cannot accept members of other groups sooner or later cannot accept each other. It reflects the same mindset. For some, it includes the anarchist philosophy applied to institutions, as well as governments, that every institution but their own is bad. Whatever the motivation, this mindset serves the interests of reactionary forces opposed to unity among progressives as well as agents of the reactionary forces themselves.
For the Green Party to become the mass organization it could be, Greens will have to work with all progressives from labor, religious groups, political groups, and even other political parties. We have to recognize the hard facts of politics: to get elected, candidates, especially for higher offices representing millions of people, have to communicate messages that bridge to people’s level of enlightenment. A Kerry victory would have made a difference for raising the level of enlightenment in the next four years.
Instead, we can look forward to a mandate to sink enlightenment to even lower levels with continuing wars, further transfer of wealth from poor to super-rich, major assaults to destroy Social Security, Medicare-Medicaid, education, and community services; to kill us with more polluted air and water, open public lands to oil-mining, increase consolidation of media by corporate giants, stifle the great potential for advances in embryonic stem cell research, and spend trillions of dollars for hi-tech weapons of mass destruction.
Don’t forget, if Greens, or any other groups, get too threatening to these “God inspired” programs, Patriot Act II is in reserve to keep such groups irrelevant or out of business entirely.
David Kennell is Professor Emeritus, Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, and is a member of the Gateway Green Alliance in St. Louis
[4 feb 05]