Outside Perspective: The So-called Progressive Candidate

[Preface: I am not an American citizen and will therefore not be voting in the upcoming 2004 US presidential election. However, given the hegemony of the US hyperimperion, the outcome of the US election will have repercussions for most of the planet’s inhabitants. As such outside commentary on US politics, I believe, is fair game.]

Sometimes when the situation is dire and you yearn for something so much, your desire can become so overwhelming as to transform the closest approximation of your desire into what it is that you want.

President Bush has proven to be such a destructive wrecking-ball force to the liberal gains won painstakingly over the years that progressives desperately seek regime change.

Indeed the misdeeds of Bush administration are myriad. Among them are:

  • Plunging the nation into to provide massive tax relief for corporations and the rich
  • Abnegating international treaties and undermining international law
  • War mongering and increasing the risks of terrorism
  • Waging an undeclared war on labor and dissent
  • Spawning the re-emergence of a new McCarthyism

For many progressives the 2004 presidential election is not the time to squander an opportunity to oust Mr. Bush and his cabal. A Green Party presidential candidate at this juncture is viewed by many as a threat to the greater aim of ousting creeping fascism in Washington. So the search is on for a credible Democratic alternative to take on Mr. Bush and the Republicans.

Of the Democrats vying to become the party’s presidential candidate, four are considered to have progressive credentials. Tapped as the lead candidate out of this pack is Vermont governor Howard Dean. The other three are Representative Dennis Kucinich, Carole Moseley Braun, and Reverend Al Sharpton.

The corporate media has downplayed the candidature of the three real progressives to the point where they scarcely receive mention. They hadn’t raised many funds either. The premises insinuated were that if you can’t attract media attention then you are not a viable candidate and likewise for fundraising ability. Mr. Kucinich had, however, rated attention in the progressive media and following the MoveOn primary poll, where Mr. Kucinich polled second to Mr. Dean, had managed to attract a more respectable level of campaign financing.

Is it really surprising that corporate America ignores progressive candidates?

The premises are faulty and insofar as they maintain a semblance of cogency, this can be attributed to the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Troy Skeels hinted very much at this when he wrote of the government’s Newspeak deluding the people of their freedom to dare aspire to an alternative vision — something, as Mr. Skeels delineates, is embodied by the Democratic Party.

Nico Pitney, on the contrary, buys into the assumptions of inevitability espoused by the corporate media. Therefore, he avers that Mr. Dean is the candidate to back, despite Mr. Kucinich’s platform most closely matching his own progressive views. He questions Mr. Kucinich’s electability.

John Turri contends that Mr. Kucinich is electable. More importantly he makes the case that Mr. Dean is not a true progressive.

Mr. Dean appears to have learned from former President Bill Clinton about building political constituencies, one of those constituencies Mr. Clinton staked as his own was the liberal left of the Democratic Party. His presidential record belies description as liberal leaning.

It is interesting to analyze how progressive Mr. Dean is. Mr. Bush has staked his popularity on his foreign policy record so it is interesting to compare Mr. Dean’s viewpoints on the international hotspots. From the text of his speech outlining a new direction for American foreign policy Mr. Dean’s political leaning can be gleaned.

Mr. Dean did, importantly, come out against the war in Iraq. Mr. Dean, however, says that he would bolster the occupation forces in Iraq. Spoke Mr. Dean: “If I were President, I would reach out to NATO, to Arab and Islamic countries, to other friends to share the burden and the risks.” So he would bring in the international community and offload some of the burden of occupying Iraq; this hardly separates him from Mr. Bush of late. But he is mute on relinquishing command to the UN. In fact his foreign policy speech only mentioned the UN once inconsequentially.

On North Korea, Mr. Dean credibly argues for dialogue.

On the intractable US-funded Israeli occupation of Palestine he contradicts himself and attaches conditionality to dialogue. His tract differs little from Mr. Bush again. He cites the Palestinians solely for terrorism and he shuns the elected (albeit long overdue for renewal) Palestinian head Yasser Arafat. That he views Arabs as foes is affirmed when he states the US “must have a President who is willing to confront the Iranians, the Syrians, the Saudis, and others who send money to Hamas, and finance a worldwide network of fundamentalist schools which teach small children to hate Americans, Christians, and Jews.” It is hard to ascertain where Mr. Dean differs from Mr. Bush.

Mr. Dean tellingly supports the aggression on Afghanistan. This hardly qualifies him as a progressive.

That leaves progressives with the dilemma of behaving according to self-fulfilling prophecies and abandoning a progressive candidate because of the fervently felt need to oust Mr. Bush and his neo-conservative cabal or to remain true to their progressive ideals. A progressive breakthrough is highly unlikely until progressives feel free to vote according to these ideals.

It is indeed a sad day for the progressives in the US, if to defeat George Bush they have to back another wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.