April 23, 2004

A realistic election strategy the Left can really get behind

By Stephen Gowans

Seeing as how my campaign to dissuade the US Left from endorsing the wholly un-Left-like candidacy of John F. Kerry has about as much hope of succeeding as my parallel campaign of getting Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake re-united for next year's Super Bowl, I've decided to pursue a new tack.

And this one has all the elements the "Oh my gosh, Kerry is an atrocity Go Kerry Go!" cheerleaders can really feel comfortable with. So, who knows? Maybe it will work.

Before I draw back the veil, let me tell you why I think it's a winner.

1. My proposal allows the Left to participate in the upcoming election -- something leftists clearly want to do. Oh sure, between elections, they'll carry on about elections being bought, about how the two main parties are simply separate wings of the same party, about how capitalist democracy is a sham, and about how non-electoral activism is far, far, far more important that the sixty-second democracy of the ballot box, but that's for lecture halls and speaking tours and David Barsamian interviews.

As election day draws nearer, all that stuff becomes passé -- hardly the kind of thing realistic, hard-nosed people, with their feet firmly planted on the ground, would waste their time on.

2. My proposal allows the Left to participate in the election in a way that will really make a difference in the outcome of the vote. And that's important, because not only do leftists want to vote, they want to vote for a party that clearly has a chance of winning. Politics is a team game, and it's good to be rooting for the winning side.

3. My proposal will give ample opportunity to leftists to hold their noses, something they need to do to establish their credentials as hard-nosed realists, and to show how they're not dumb enough to let principles get in the way.

4. With my proposal, leftists can say, "Sure, the candidate is atrocious no question about it," and really mean it.

5. My proposal will let liberals, progressives and radicals justify voting for a detestable candidate by invoking their favorite fantasy: "Once we get our guy elected, we'll mobilize to pressure him to move to the Left."

So, here it is.

The US Left should decide today to become the most vociferous, activist constituency of the Bush campaign.

Yeah, I know, it's a gobsmacker and jaw-dropper, but don't react think. And consider: Bush has a good chance of winning. You want to back a winner, or a loser? Be realistic.

And yeah, I know -- Bush is almost Hitler-like. No doubt about it. I hate him as much as you do. But do you want Kerry, an ardent militarist, and the richest man in the Senate, in the White House? He says he's going to spend more on the military than Bush, add 40,000 more troops to the Army, and insists the US remain the world's preeminent military power. He wants to exercise US power boldly, says he won't wait for a green light from allies or the UN to use military force, and has articulated a doctrine of preventive war. That sounds pretty Hitler-like to me.

Bush, on the other hand, is only "almost" Hitler-like. A slight difference, but important.

What's more, Kerry's an admitted war criminal. He was in Vietnam, shooting up peasants in free-fire zones. Bush isn't much better, but at least he stayed home, and kept his hands clean. There's no Vietnamese blood on him. That makes Bush marginally better. And while his hands are indeed stained with the blood of Afghan peasants and Iraqis, Kerry, who voted for and approved Bush's wars (but thought the French and Germans should have been invited along for the ride) hasn't escaped the same taint. So, the way I see it, Kerry has more layers of blood to scrape away.

And yes, Bush represents the other wing of the business party, but at least he's open about what he's up to. There's no beating around the Bush with Bush. The Hitler-like Kerry, however, would hide his zeal for the bold exercise of US power behind a veil of moral authority and behind words like "muscular internationalism." At least Bush says, "Look, we want total control, and we've got the firepower to get it." It's nice to know what you're dealing with an incompetent incapable of putting a pleasing gloss on the expansionist logic of US capitalism. For that reason, he's slightly better. And you know, these guys have so much power, a slight difference can have an enormous impact (or so I've heard it said.)

There are, then, two choices this November. You can vote, or not vote. If you don't vote, there's a chance the militarist, war criminal, Hitler-like Kerry will become President. Or you can be realistic, and vote for the one candidate who has a chance of stopping him: Bush.

And with Bush in the White House, his new Leftist constituency can mobilize and agitate to make clear the militarist, bold exercise of US power proposed by the other guy won't be tolerated. If it's possible to bore within the Democratic Party, to push it to the Left, why not with the Republicans? Give it a try!

What's that? The proposal strikes you as dumb, reactionary, misguided, absurd, silly, dangerous and totally fucked-up? I guess you're right. It is.

But look. Is it really any different from the dumb, reactionary, misguided, absurd, silly, dangerous and totally fucked-up policy proposed by Chomsky, Zinn, Parenti, Herman, the four geriatrics of the US Left, as well as the Communist Party, ex-high class muscleman for US capital Stan Goff, and Mr. Society's Pliars, Michael Albert? The only difference is that I've replaced Bush's name with Kerry's, and offered a more realistic assessment of the latter, as opposed to one straight out of a university seminar on how the Democrats are slightly better. (Must be they're Democrats! And no specific examples, please. We like to keep this on a purely abstract level.)

Is the US Left so confused, tentative, gutless and completely under the spell of the Democratic Party that it has lost touch with reality and believes, still, after all this time, that the Democrats are slightly better than the Republicans, and can be shifted to the left? It must be so, for the Communists, the Socialists, Z-Net and Michael Moore's fan club, operate as little more than recruiting branches for the Democrats and have for some time. Last I checked, US politics had shifted about 10 more degrees to the Right, after doing the same four years earlier, and four years before that, and four years before that. It kind of looks like the plan isn't working.

I could pretend it is, or that it has a chance of working soon, but Chomsky exhorted me to be realistic, so realistic I'll be. Face it. The four geriatrics have grown old at the head of a US Left that's been as successful as Pat Boone trying to sell himself as a bad-ass rocker. So give my proposal a try. It has about as much chance of working as the old one. And who knows? Maybe you'll prefer being an elephant's tail to a donkey's ass.

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Stephen Gowans