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Debating the Dems

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DEMOCRATIC BUSINESS AS USUAL

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Saving the venerable NYPL… cooperation, not capitalism… a jewel in the dross… you could look it up…

Portland, ME

Holy cow! Somebody in the media gets it.

I live in Maine, where John Kerry neglected to campaign on the day of the caucuses. Maine gave Dennis Kucinich 15 percent of the vote, and possibly his first delegates. When you add this to Howard Dean's 26 percent, you get a segment of the population nearly as large as the one that gave their votes to Kerry. We here in Maine understand that Democratic business-as-usual is a BIG part of the political problems we face right now.

Some of us will not go back to sleep after the next presidential election, regardless of who wins the White House. Regime change at the DNC begins at the grassroots level, with a base who no longer accepts the skewed representation and lack of opposition to conservative onslaughts presented by Democratic leadership.

Thanks for Bruce Shapiro's excellent article.

SUSAN SHROPSHIRE



DEBATING THE DEANIAC DILEMMA

Long Island City, NY

The "Deaniac Dilemma" that Marc Cooper talks about in his February 4 article is really the dilemma of the Democratic Party. An exit poll from Mini-Tuesday's primaries that was published in the New York Times shows that even in states where Howard Dean barely campaigned, a majority of voters believes that he is someone who stands up for what he believes, in rather dramatic contrast to Kerry's rating on the same candidate quality. (In South Carolina, for example, 50 percent of the voters thought this was true of Dean, but only 12 percent thought it true of Kerry. The only quality on which voters ranked Kerry high was on the illusive issue of "electability," which has been trumpeted ad nauseam by the media and the Democratic Party leadership. Howard Dean has made a convincing case that the reason we Democrats keep losing elections is that voters don't know what we stand for. If even our own party membership doesn't believe Kerry stands up for what he believes, I wonder how "electable" he will really be come November.

LOWELL FLANDERS


Philadelphia

I empathize with Howard Dean's supporters, as I was a bit taken with him myself for a while, then with Clark, then with Edwards, but when Kerry showed promise, I went all out for him. Not much of a loyalist here. Anyone who can beat Bush will do for 2004. Then we can get idealistic. But of all the candidates, my heart goes out to Dennis Kucinich. Yeah, he can't win. It makes me very sad. Kerry has a lot going for him. One, he can hit on Bush as a deserter, which someone who hasn't served can't do effectively. Two, he's a lot taller than Bush. Three, he's quick to rebuff criticism. Four, he has a really interesting and good-looking family!! Salon has a great article on them. One of the boys dated Gwyneth Paltrow, one of the girls is in medical school and the other is a raving beauty. Five, his wife is quite the personality, not to mention being rich, and their marriage is functional! Bush's family is scandal-ridden.

Kerry will make a fine opponent to Bush in 2004. All we need now is a great running mate. Edwards would be the best, as a Southerner would complement a New Englander well and he has lots of charm. Clark wouldn't work as well; we don't need two military men in the White House. Dean wouldn't work with Kerry, as we don't need two New Englanders. But I'd go for any one of the candidates, even those who have dropped out, except for Lieberman, who simply turns me off.

CLAIRE DIFRANCESCO



THE PROGRESSIVE CHOICE?

Philadelphia

Thanks to Joel Rogers for the great article ["Progressives Should Vote Edwards," Feb. 8]. I'm a liberal who's been volunteering for Edwards for several months now (I traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire, and have phoned voters in South Carolina and Tennessee). I wouldn't be working my heart out for the guy if I simply thought he was our best shot against Bush (which I do, of course)--I genuinely believe that an Edwards presidency would shift the direction of our country powerfully to the left by making progressive ideals sound like plain common sense.

In his stump speech Edwards usually talks about FDR, and how, when he came to office during one of the worst periods of American history, it was FDR's optimism and creativity that got the country back on its feet and created much of the social safety net we still enjoy. I would contend that it was also Roosevelt's ability to connect to the hearts and minds of regular people and bring them along with him that allowed his administration to accomplish so much.

I believe Edwards has a similar gift for reaching people and inspiring them--and that his election would lead to the creation of broad new programs that would benefit our country for years to come. Thanks again to The Nation for so thoughtfully presenting multiple viewpoints.

SARAH KOWALSKI


San Francisco

I'm sitting here scratching my head. What's so progressive about John Edwards?

Is it that he co-wrote and voted for the Patriot Act? Or is it that he is the least supportive of all of the Democratic candidates when it comes to gay rights?

Maybe your definition of "progressive" is to suppress the rights of certain American citizens, but it's certainly not mine.

JAN CADORET


El Paso, TX

Joel Rogers's recent article posits Dean's "meltdown" as a justification for backing John Edwards. Howard Dean is not in meltdown. Rogers is pushing the same media-created mumbo-jumbo that has caused Dean to lose supporters.

Rogers assumes the title of progressive, and yet every true progressive should know better than to buy into anything the press is saying, especially when they are saying it repeatedly; for example, "Dean is in meltdown! Dean is in meltdown!" Governor Dean is, as we speak, attempting a comeback. When we consider the corporate media's bombardment of Dean's campaign, the fact that he still came in second in Washington, Michigan and Maine speaks volumes. If he takes Wisconsin, Rogers will have to eat crow.

As for Rogers's assertion that Edwards should be the logical choice of progressives, I have to disagree. Edwards is unproven. Moreover, he keeps playing Johnny Reb, which is a tactic that should be loathed by true progressives. He voted for the Patriot Act and the action in Iraq. Really progressive! In this election year it is too important to wage our freedoms and security on anyone from Washington, including Kerry (who accepts money from people such as Richard Scaife). Dr. Dean has been the logical choice from the beginning, and contrary to bandwagon Democrats and the press, he still is. To twist one of the media's own coinages, "Dean is the anti-Bush."

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAM DALZELL
President, Students for Howard Dean, University of Texas, El Paso



COMPARING FUNDAMENTALISMS

Medford, MA

David Hirst's article ["Pursuing the Millennium," Feb. 16] is so rife with error that I have trouble deciding where to start correcting it. For the sake of brevity, I will be brief.

The main concern is that it attempts to equate Israel to the fundamentalist Islamic nations. This is highly dubious. Israel is a democracy. Clearly, it has a strong religious element, á la Turkey, a NATO member and responsible member of the world community. However, Israel is still pluralistic, is dominated by civil law and has a large secular majority. It is not a Wahhabi regime, nor does it endorse ancient religious law. A large majority of its citizens would find this intolerable, as do other Westerners.

A more sound comparison could be made with the American religious right. The differences between the American extremists are numbers and ability to hold power. Hirst got his numbers wrong: Israeli radicals comprise 20-25 percent of the population. A study in the political science magazine Campaigns and Elections found the percentage of self-identified Americans on the religious right to be in the teens. The numbers aren't much different, especially if one remembers that Israel is a beacon for the rabidly religious, while America is not.

The other key difference is that a parliamentary system of government, such as Israel's, gives the group more power than it would have in a presidential system, such as America's. These extremists can elect their representatives to the Knesset, and they can negotiate to be part of the ruling coalition. American radicals do not have that option. This gives outlying groups an exaggerated degree of power.

ERIC NEWVILLE


Coeur d'Alene, ID

Thank you very much for David Hirst's insightful exposé of "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel."

It is about time that the same sort of no-holds-barred scrutiny that is cast upon Islamic fanatics is also beamed upon Israeli ones, particularly in light of the fact that the latter comprise an influential constituency in a state that possesses a huge arsenal of "weapons of mass destruction," including nukes.

MICHAEL HOFFMAN

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