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The Importance of Being Careful of What One Wishes For
by Kim Petersen
September 25, 2004

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Soon after Senator John Kerry emerged as the likely Democratic Party nominee to challenge for the presidency of the US, the bull ring was hooked on by President George Bush’s advisor Karl Rove. Bush defined the campaign agenda as security. It was an area in which his performance was dismal, but his economic record was equally or more abysmal. Besides Papa Bush had, according to some pundits, been defeated after one term as president because of a lackluster economic record. Kerry appears to be a man having his campaign priorities set by his opponent. He saw red when Bush risibly presented himself as the only one who could ensure US security. Kerry protested and began to define himself according to the Bush agenda. Whatever Bush would risk for US Empire, Kerry would up the ante. Gradually he was being pulled ever rightward. That didn’t much matter to Kerry though as he has disavowed any liberalism.

There is a community out there that is so disgusted by the lunacy and violence of the Bush White House that they find the thought of a second Bush administration thoroughly anathema. They became known as the Anybody-but-Bush (ABB) movement. However, the continuing rhetoric of referring to an ABB movement should have been trashed long ago because it is not so.

Literally, ABB implies that the end objective is the defeat of Bush. It should not matter who defeats Bush as long as Bush is defeated. The ABBers quickly jumped on Kerry’s Democratic bandwagon since they believed that he had the best chance of defeating Bush. Other candidates, such as Ralph Nader who posed a threat to siphon off votes from Kerry, were subject to the scorn of the ABBers. At this point the ABB label should have been replaced with KBB, for the movement was Kerry-but-Bush and any other contenders would be subject to unrelenting criticism.

Lost in the maddening desire to oust Bush was the answer to who Kerry actually was, or at least how he was portraying himself to be. Some progressives of the KBB persuasion realized early that Kerry was hardly a dream candidate and called for a nose-holding vote for Kerry. Some even admitted that Kerry was Bush-lite. Yet this designation was soon revealed to be a misnomer. Kerry was actually out-Bushing Bush. He was going to outdo Bush in the imperialist occupation of Iraq and he was going to outdo Bush in his support for Zionist colonialism in Palestine. So far to the right had Kerry been yanked that he was becoming virtually indistinguishable from Bush. At this point even the KBB label is absurd and the movement finds itself caught in a tautological bind. It is actually an absurd BBB (Bush-but-Bush) movement. But the BBBers persist in their self-mocking adherence to the pathetic Bush-clone candidacy of Kerry.

But in reality it is much worse because if the pronouncements of Kerry are representative of his actual positions, then Kerry is no Bush-lite but rather Bush-extra. The election of Kerry would result in the replacement of Bush by a hyperbolic version of Bush. The members of the B+BB movement would be confronted by their worst political nightmare, a self-inflicted wound brought about by an obduracy to abandon a candidate who was openly mocking them. Moreover, a sad capitulation to the self-fulfilling prophecy as dictated by Corporate USA is underway.

Kerry has taken the progressive vote for granted and has pursued a corporate-militarist constituency. Progressives outside the Nader fold have acquiesced in this regard, failing abysmally to press Kerry to include progressive planks in his platform.

If progressive voters are going to participate within the so-called democratic structure, then at the very least it would seem prudent to cast their votes for candidates who embrace a similar ideology. Progressive thinkers usually rail against the self-fulfilling prophecy; so it is a form of hypocrisy to cave in to the self-same prophecy. Further, it militates against independentism. An independent movement by definition dares to go against the prevailing views, and it is therefore vulnerable to being dismissed as fringe. Part of the progressives’ struggle is not to be defined by others but by their own platform.

Among the B+BBers are a number of professed progressives whose opposition to the candidacy of Nader exhibits glaring anti-democratic tendencies. Progressivism is not about exclusion but rather inclusion. Nader has a right to present his views in the political arena, as do the other candidates. Furthermore, voters should not be bludgeoned into voting for a particular candidate but be permitted to give thoughtful consideration to the candidates, their record, and their platform before casting their ballot.

The tactics of some progressives reaching compromise with corporate cronies is poisonous to the progressive movement. The examples around the world are myriad. One look at the US’ northern neighbor should drive this point home. It used to be that Canada’s political parties had a fairly centrist or leftist orientation in comparison to the US political duopoly. Then in the 1980s, patronage abuses by the governing Liberal Party saw it chased out of power; the right-leaning Progressive Conservative Party nabbed majority government status. The Conservatives unleashed an unpopular neoliberal agenda that saw the Canadian electorate turn apoplectically against them, and they were relegated to near political oblivion. Unopposed, the Liberals began to implement their own even greater neoliberal agenda on Canadians. Canadian politics has shifted rightwards and the left option is based with the struggling worker-oriented New Democratic Party. It is repeated elsewhere.

In the UK, the Labour Party used to be just what its name signified. Tony Blair had Clause IV of the Labour Party constitution obliterated. This progressive clause bound the Labour Party to “secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production.” Blair has instead focused on an adjunct-of-empire position for the UK. Another leftist option slid off the political landscape. In much the same manner as Tony Blair steered the Labour Party rightward in Britain, in Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, fended off the socialist faction of the Social Democratic Party led by Oskar Lafontaine, and has since strived to implement neoliberalism in Germany. The Green Party corrupted by power has abetted the Schröder agenda. The Washington Consensus has effectively spread worldwide and its rise is concomitant with the political surrender of progressives.

Insofar as world politics has a connection to the political trends in the US, it would seem paramount for adherents of progressivism to stand steadfast by their political principles to actualize the progressive vision. The sacrificing of such principles has seen the demise of progressivism; it is time to reverse the pattern. The building of a progressive momentum will ease the way for the urgently-required societal revolution towards a world in which such values as egalitarianism, liberty, peace, and justice can flourish.

Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at:

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