by Troy Skeels
August 30, 2003
A few weeks ago I was in a discussion where the subject of moveon.org's first Democratic poll came up.
One woman said she'd voted for Howard Dean. She said he wasn't her first choice but voted for Dean because "he has a chance of winning, and I didn't want to throw away my vote."
Throw away her vote!? In a poll intended to find out what the people want? Not what they'll accept if they have to, but what they really want?
How did we get to this point where liberals and lefties will vote in a straw poll for the desultory middle simply because we are too tired, or scared or lazy to dream of a better world? Are we really so desperate that we'll live without hope of changing things, but only hoping to not lose any more than we have already lost? Do we really think that living this hopeless half-life is going to cure the sickness enveloping America? Do we imagine that it is going to help the even more marginalized and threatened people all over the world? Unless we are willing to dream, (at least in a straw poll), we are never going to get to that other possible world. We are only going to slide into the abyss -- four years at a time.
She explained that she didn't think that much of Dean, but was willing to vote for practically anybody just to get George Bush out of the White House.
Yes, of course, the "Anybody but Bush" strategy. The latest demonstration that the Democrats still don't stand for anything, still don't have an alternative vision. Another surefire recipe for electoral disaster.
Strange how no one seems to have noticed that the Democrats' painting of Bush as the evil man to be defeated whatever it takes is an exact parallel to Bush's own harangues about Bin Laden or Saddam being the evil man to defeat in order to make everything all right with the world (for a little while).
Just as Bush has Ashcroft to accuse folks who decry the loss of civil liberties under the Patriot Act as "giving aid and comfort to the enemy," the Dems accuse those who voted for Nader of doing exactly the same thing, only their enemy is Bush.
But Bush isn't the problem. Bush is a problem to be sure. But just as Bin Laden is merely a symptom of a greater problem, the same applies to the Bush Mafia. They are a symptom of a big, big problem. A problem that "anybody but Bush," isn't going to solve.
In George Orwell's 1984 the government had invented the language of Newspeak as the ultimate tool for social control. By excising dangerous words and their accompanying thoughts from the language they made those thoughts unthinkable. Taken to its logical conclusion the people, left without the ability to imagine anything outside of the narrow confines of what was officially permitted, could never imagine "freedom" much less fight for it.
Unable to imagine any solution to our predicament other than "anybody but Bush" we have become the sad cartoons that Orwell predicted.
Of course no truly progressive candidate has "a chance to win" if everyone is afraid to even think of voting for them.
But what indication have the "anybody but Bush," Democrats given that they will be able to win next time? If their strategy consists solely of frightening people away from a progressive or Green Party candidate, they aren't going to win next time either. (Fact: more Democrats voted for Bush in 2000 than voted for Nader; Fact: It was the massive vote fraud in Florida that got Bush into the White House, a fraud the Democratic leadership didn't have the guts to fight against.)
Even if "anybody but Bush," does win, how does that solve our problem exactly? Will President "Anybody But" unilaterally withdraw US soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan and help those states rebuild themselves into peaceful and prosperous nations? Will "Anybody But" repeal the Patriot Act and start actually observing human rights at home and around the world? If you think the answer is "yes," what evidence can you cite in the Democrats' recent record to bolster that assertion? If you just "hope," that they will, maybe you ought to think about your strategy some more.
There just isn't any way to get around the fact that if we want our country back we are each and every one of us going to have to risk dreaming of the world we want and then work to make it a reality.
As I expressed these thoughts, the woman who voted for Dean said she didn't want to work that hard. "That's all behind me now," she said.
And that's the key to the "anybody but Bush," campaign for an "electable" Democrat. We just want to fill out a ballot every four years and then quit paying attention, comforting ourselves that whatever happens, it's being done by a liberal (or at least by anybody but Bush).
But a real problem is that the world is rapidly running out of petroleum. And petroleum is absolutely essential to the economic and political dominance of the United States, that is, our "American way of life." Unless we eliminate our wasteful dependence on oil, unless we overthrow our need to dominate the planet to maintain our lifestyles, it won't matter in the long run which party runs the White House, there will be more oil wars, more terrorism, more official abuses of human rights. It doesn't matter if "Anybody But" says he'll protect the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from oil drilling. When oil gets scarce enough, protection or no protection, ANWR will be drilled.
It doesn't matter if "Anybody But" campaigns against the Patriot Act. So long as American corporate interests rule the world for their own benefit, American "national security" will be threatened by the discontented at home and abroad and the bought and paid for Democrats will be just as willing as the Republicans to do whatever they think necessary to keep the world safe for their political donors on the Fortune 500. (See the Clinton Administration's policies, from Colombia to Iraq to Seattle 1999 for examples).
The Greens, for all their problems, actually address these fundamental, underlying issues. Democrats meanwhile insist that "Anybody but Bush," is the most important rallying cry of the last two decades.
If Democrats had been an honest to goodness opposition all along instead of a rubber stamp brigade, the Bush Gang wouldn't have been able to enact their most heinous policies (from Patriot Act to the invasion of Iraq). Of course if that were so, "Anybody but Bush" wouldn't be much of a rallying cry.
That's not to say we can't vote for a Democrat when the time comes. But we ought to insist that the Democrats make it worth our while, that they put vision and guts into their party, that they renounce their ties to the most heinous purveyors of corporate corruption. We can insist that they start working for the vision of that other possible world. We can demand that the Democrats start vocally and openly opposing Bush now to prove their good faith. Otherwise, except for some cosmetic differences, we might as well have Bush for another four years.
If nothing else, giving everything up right from the beginning to "Anybody But," no questions asked, is a poor bargaining strategy.
Troy Skeels is an editor of Eat the State!, a feisty alternative publication from Seattle, Washington where this article first appeared (www.eatthestate.org).