Can someone win the presidency entirely on the basis of a negative asset? I wouldn’t have thought so, but here’s John Kerry, three months shy of election day, promoting himself as a man of presidential caliber entirely on the basis that he’s the Anyone in “Anyone But Bush.” Come next January the Anyone behind the desk in the Oval Office may be a bit taller. There’ll be medals on the bookshelf showing he killed Vietnamese in the service of his country. As for the policy furnishings, most everything else will stay the same. Kerry’s been pretty clear about that, letting his core constituencies know that as President Anyone he’s not going to cut them any favors.
The nation’s hungry, its underemployed, its jobless? In April Kerry announced that his economic strategy will be to wage war on the deficit, which means he’ll do nothing to alleviate problem number one in America today–the lack of jobs and the rotten pay for those lucky enough to have some form of work.
Women? Kerry, the man who voted for Bill Clinton’s savage assault, labeled “welfare reform,” on poor women, said he might well appoint antiabortion judges, adding magnanimously that he wouldn’t want such appointments to lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Kerry vows to put more cops on the streets, and there’ll be no intermission in the War on Drugs, which has played a large part in producing the memorable statistic issued by the Justice Department in late July, to the effect that the number of people caught in the toils of the criminal justice system grew by 130,700 last year. The grand total is now nearly 6.9 million either in jail, in prison, on probation or on parole, amounting to 3.2 percent of the adult population of the United States. In many cities a young black man faces a far better chance of getting locked up than of getting a job, since the lockup is the definitive bipartisan response of both Democrats and Republicans to the theories of John Maynard Keynes. Blacks have got less than nothing from Kerry, aside from his wife’s declaration that she too is an African-American; yet the Congressionial Black Caucus cheers the man who voted for welfare reform and devotes its time to flaying Ralph Nader.
The “Anyone But” strategy favored by most pwogs means that Kerry has never had his feet held to the fire by any faction of the Democratic Party. This has been the year of surrendering quietly.
War in Iraq? A majority of the country wants out, certainly most Democrats. Kerry wants in, even more than Bush. When the DNC told Kucinich to stuff his peace plank, Kucinich tugged his forelock and told his followers to shuffle back in under the Big Tent and help elect a man who pledges to fight the war in Iraq better and longer than Bush. Feminist leaders kept their mouths shut when Kerry flew his kite about nominating antichoice judges. Gay leaders didn’t move their lips to utter so much as a squeak when Kerry declared his opposition to same-sex marriage. Did we hear from Norman Lear and People for the American Way as Kerry, the man who voted for the Patriot Act, revived his Tipper Gore-ish posturing about the evils of popular culture? Of course we didn’t, even though Kerry voted for the unconstitutional Communications Decency Act, a piece of legislation that even the prudish Joe Lieberman couldn’t stomach.
Kerry told James Hoffa of the Teamsters in February that he wouldn’t touch the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but elsewhere would “drill like never before.” There wasn’t a bleat from the big environmental groups. He pledged the same policy again to the American Gas Association in June, throwing in the prospect of a new trans-Alaska-Canada pipeline for natural gas from the Arctic. Once again the big environmental groups held their tongues.
True, Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union, threw a gobbet of red meat onto the convention floor by confiding to the Washington Post‘s David Broder that another four years of Bush might be less damaging than the stifling of needed reform within the party and the labor movement that would occur if Kerry becomes President. After a couple of hours of being forced to stand on a milk crate with a copy of the party platform over his head and electrodes attached to his penis, Stern recanted and said he was “a hundred percent” for Kerry. Thus ended labor’s great revolt against a candidate who’s cast his share of votes in the Senate to insure job flight from America and whose commitment to the living standards of working people is aptly resumed in his pledge to raise the minimum wage to $7 an hour by 2007, which would be far below what its purchasing power was in 1968.
Contrast the lib-pwog refusal to raise any sort of trouble with the robust comment of the conservative organizer Paul Weyrich, who recently remarked, “For all their brilliance…Mehlman and Karl Rove…made a very serious mistake with this [Republican] Convention’s line-up. It is one that the rank and file should not tolerate. If the President is embarrassed to be seen with conservatives at the Convention, maybe conservatives will be embarrassed to be seen with the President on Election Day.”
For all the interminable thundering about the evils of George Bush, the man has done a very useful job of sabotaging the American Empire, which is probably why so many liberals hate him. They think he’s a national embarrassment, hurling Imperial America over his handlebars, landing on its ass amid world derision. But as Gabriel Kolko remarks in his contribution to Dime’s Worth of Difference, the new collection edited by Jeffrey St. Clair and myself (details on our CounterPunch website): “The United States will be more prudent, and the world will be far safer, only if it is constrained by a lack of allies and isolated. And that is happening…. Inadvertently, the Bush Administration has begun to destroy an alliance system that for the world’s peace should have been abolished long ago. The Democrats are far less likely to continue that process…. As dangerous as he is, Bush’s reelection is much more likely to produce the continued destruction of the alliance system that is so crucial to American power in the long run.”