Against John Kerry
Posted 25 October 2004 - 08:15 PM
By Norman Madarasz
The 2004 US presidential elections are international in every sense of the word. This does not mean that the concept of nation-state is over, much less that the international stage has become democratic. The United States is still somewhat of a democracy, though its edges have frayed substantially. As for countries refusing democracy, far too many of them still tend to do so under the most brutal infringements and abuses of its citizensÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ basic freedoms and civil rights.
Unlike countries such as North Korea or Myanmar, however, the United States de facto runs a large part of the world, either directly or indirectly. Needless to say, this has many repercussions on what the citizens of the world expect from an American leader. That is also why, when elections are merely limited to its national borders, it only covers part of the political equation that adequately describes American rule.
As ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œCommander-in-chief,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? the American president exercises power over a considerable part of the world.1 But the world has no voting rights over the American president who will be leading it. ThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s why the United States is both democracy and dictatorship, since its political system is international in scope.
Internationally, the Bush administrationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s foreign policy is the most unpopular of any American administration in recent memory. It was not very surprising, then, to see a recent poll showing the international mood to be overwhelmingly aligned against the prospect of George W. BushÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s re-election, at 76 percent of those polled by the German Marshall Fund.2
As it has developed, the United StatesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ self-proclaimed ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œwar on terrorÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? has struck out in a fury of revenge at the families and kin of those surmised to have dared attack America. That the US command is unsure who it is killing is borne witness to by its usage of the term ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œillegal combatant.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? What is otherwise certain is that the deaths caused by this ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œwarÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? have mounted into the tens of thousands. Naturally enough, those who see innocent civilians paying for the war on terror with their lives favor Democratic Party candidate Senator John Kerry as the next president. At home and abroad, their banner is now familiar: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAnyone but Bush.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬?
It is true that for many American voters, political activists, and citizens, KerryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s persona exudes a breath of sanity over the future of international affairs. He fought hard in ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNam,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? got injured and won medals. Then he turned against the generals and war masters by denouncing the entire endeavor on humanist and moral grounds. More than ever before in recent memory, however, what the persona utters and what it represents on a television screen e automatic nature of political opposition in the United States seem moot at best.
This has less to do with the uncertainties, ambiguities, and confusion of KerryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s campaign that so many astute Republican pundits have festively observed than it does with the fact that one of KerryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s functions, as it were, is to calm the anti-Bush resistance in the United States itself. That job was reflected in his choice of an east- coast, white boy campaign set up, with John Edwards named as his vice-presidential running mate.
KerryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s VP choice has all but extinguished the flame of resistance simmering in the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œother America,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? with all of its cultural, religious, linguistic, and economic diversity. This is why any prescription to vote in favor of Kerry, if only to block Bush, amounts to an ill-conceived gesture in which something akin to hope in the goodness of the afterlife ends up replacing political wisdom.
Let me explain. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAnyone but BushÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? is an election fraud based on the misguided belief that voting actually matters in the United States. Convincing oneself of the legitimacy of voting for Kerry, even as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œreluctantlyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? as did Naomi Klein in a recent advocacy piece published by The Guardian, is an act of political nihilism, a dead-end.3
Klein opines that under the Democrats, Americans will be led to think about ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œpolitics, economy and HistoryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? again. She seems to have forgotten that the whole battle being waged by both the Republicans and Democrats aims at hammering the legal and moral facts surrounding the Bush administrationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s actions into a perpetual present, as if nothing the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œenemyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? does had a legitimate cause. Both the Republicans and Democrats picture the invasion of Iraq in the instrumental terms of managing a rowdy company, and breaking up its employeesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ trade unions.
A recent article in the New York Times claims that, in a bid to rekindle his flaccid presidential campaign, KerryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Senate colleagues are pressing him to take up broader issues.4 The Senate, however, has long been a thorn in the side of US democracy.5 As proof of its great concern for the fate of Americans, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to repeal a prohibition on ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œmini-nuclear bombÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? research in May 2003. Only two Senators, Kennedy and Feinstein, sought to block this motion, realizing it would be a spark to building bombs whose purpose would not be deterrence, but actual use. They lost their battle.6
As a Senator, John Kerry never distinguished himself by opposing what has been an essentially war-mongering Senate, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans. This is why the problem with the US government is as much the Senate as the Presidency.
There is nothing ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œvagueÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? about the candidateÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s positions. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s just a matter of opening oneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s eyesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âand preventing them from being shut. In the best of worlds, Kerry would have proven his worth by engaging Bush only in indirect battle over Iraq. Instead, he suggested escalating the war on terror until some supposed victory is achieved. Kerry should have strived to rally a majority of the roughly 55% of Americans who have effectively dropped out of the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œworldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s greatest democracyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? by simply not voting. Recall that recent presidents have been elected with ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œlandslideÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? victories that barely accounted for a third of the American voting population. There exists a wealth of voters just dying for a proposal, had Kerry known how to speak the language of those heterogeneous masses.
That is no easy task, especially when the language to be spoken involves terms that have now been deemed unsavory for the American media to voice. These terms involve higher taxation of corporations and the rich, not just in exchange for quality universal health and education services, but for something much more astonishing: food and housing for AmericaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s growing numbers of underprivileged and underserved.7
AmericaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s poor have no active voice by which to bolster their vote. In addition to losing political and purchasing power, most Americans have also lost the right to a representation-form that deals with the most basic necessity of their lives: their jobs. Today, trade union representation in the United States is not merely a dirty word; In many industry sectors it has all but become illegal. Why would the disenfranchised then want to participate in a process that strips them of their most basic rights?
Outside of political action, there has been a long process of translating social ills into religious solutions. At times, they have culminated in salvationist visions of UFOs. Meanwhile, real grassroots from-the-people-by-the-people political solutions and reforms have been swiftly side-lined by the ruling establishment as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œcontraryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? or ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œforeignÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? to the American way.
The Dems Blew It
In the run-up to the Democratic Party primaries, the media had ample time to rally progressive voters. Instead of tapping into this wealth of opposition votes, internal doings twisted Howard DeanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ascension into humiliation after he skyrocketed to prominence on an anti-war ticket. Since then, Dean has proved to be the imposter he always was. More seriously, his disgrace has left the anti-war ticket with a severe blow to its credibility, which has allowed Kerry to ape BushÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s war-mongering in speech after speech.
In the campaign Kerry has since led, blind faith is expected from a population reared on a local media that feeds them obscure explanations and guts history of critical consequences. Love of country should never be an excuse for blind rage and revenge. Understanding economic disparity as the single driving force behind the United StatesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ military might has fared even worse.
The bitter irony for Kerry supporters is this: After decades of chastising the shift in television news to a parade of talking heads and pundits, that is, to empty-headed fashion model look-and-sound alikes, opponents to Bush are now consolidating the idea that all of our politicians and pundits are and always have been those vacuous head-body assemblages. Their primary task? To keep the President on the tube day after day, night after night.8 There is a word associated with this thought: personality cult.
Narcissism is the dominant mood in the developed nations. Not self-love, as it is simplistically understood, but the love of a group-self in the midst of desperation. Until recently, only AmericaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s sternest critics have seen non-democratic societies as more desirable to live in. These political analysts bore out the deep, irreconcilable contradictions between the kind of life the American system provides for most of its citizens, and the hell it has often imposed on those unfortunate enough to live in nations falling within AmericaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s zone of economic and geostrategic interests.
The hell of US invasions and occupation is an ever unfolding list. At times, it has taken root in Iran, at others in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Vietnam of course, Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, East Timor, Cuba, Chile - and Afghanistan. Ronald ReaganÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s death was marked in the rightwing neo-liberal press as the passing of the man who ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œbeat communism.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? But it was Jimmy CarterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âa DemocratÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âwho sparked the final battle, providing the USSR with its own Vietnam in Afghanistan. And it was Bill Clinton who led the incessant bombing and UN embargo of Iraq that bled it for eight years. Under his presidency the US decided to assume the right to wage preventive war, all without BushÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s hoopla.9 The Democratic Party is no ally of progressives.
Being against Kerry is not tantamount to opting for Bush. I would be the last to suggest one actually vote for BushÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âalthough we might all have some stakes in letting him win.
Consider some of the hypocrisy around so-called Democratic ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œoppositionÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? in the United States. YouÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve heard the noise being made about the heroism of those who fought in Vietnam. ThereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s still the old bitterness around, of course, for those who fought and then went on to publicly denounce the United StatesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ criminal invasion of that country. But what of the many, many others who took risks to their lives and careers by rejecting the war, and refusing to go? In the American way, they demonstrated against Washington and organized. They interpreted Vietnam as being a political desire for world dominion. But these heroes have not been given space to voice their position. These heroes are still considered traitors for putting their finger on what both Kerry and Bush stand for: a political formula in which economic disparity is equated with political liberty. AmericaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s future lies in the hands of the anti-Vietnam war heroesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âthose who refused to go.
The upshot is that it is impossible to trust either of the two parties to stand for the kind of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œfreedomÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? that is harmonious with economic equality and a long term plan for international diplomacy, one that will set up a legal framework enforcing a moratorium on American military interventions. Where real change at home can take place is in a solid restructuring of the House of Representatives, and especially of the presidency and Senate. These days, the latter two are merely the windows through which AmericaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s wealthiest are able to rule, irrespective of the party.
Conservative America accuses the free spirits who set out on professional careers that have nothing to do with becoming the technicians of the petroleum-pollution-war society. When these free spirits refuse to surrender real liberty and submit to the StateÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s will, the State refuses to help them, leaving them with no health and retirement plan, and no means to pay for a quality education for their kids.
Bill Clinton had eight years to change the plight of those who refused the conservative agenda, and he did nothing. His successor, John Kerry, is even less inclined to. We should bear that in mind instead of the delusion that a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œboring guyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? like Kerry will guide us to smoother ground, let alone suggesting that it is ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œthanks [to Clinton that] the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“progressistÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ movements from the West began to pay attention to systems again.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬?10
Surely foreigners would object: AmericaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s streets are superbly paved, their hospitals are the best in the world, their cities glimmer as though the ConquistadoresÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ vision of El Dorado was a premonition of a future four hundred years after their invasion of the Gulf of Mexico, in the future states of Texas, Florida and Georgia. But the tourists do not know Pine Ridge, the Reservation of the Lakota Oglala Sioux. They remain oblivious of Oakland and the tattered remains of the Black Panther Party, while the South Bronx and South Central remain off limits due to high crime rates, attributed to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBlacks.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? The justice that rules in such economic disparity is uniformly built upon violence and subjection. The difference between rich and poor is the gleam and power of oneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s weapons.
As for the tiring question of Ralph Nader stealing votes from Kerry, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s simply that Kerry has not catered to NaderÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s voters. Judging by his campaign, it often seems as though KerryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s task has been to avoid them outright. WhatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s most likely is that many Americans will simply skip the elections instead of voting for an impostor. This is the presidential electionÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s greatest failure.
So for those who can actually vote in this dictatorial world system, some meager advice: DonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t vote for Kerry; just donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t vote.
Norman Madarasz, Ph.D., is a Canadian philosopher residing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He teaches and writes on international relations, political economy and philosophy. He is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch. You can reach him at nmphdiol2[at][img]"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.yahoo(contact admin if its a beneficial link)"]yahoo[/url].ca
1- As of February 2004, the US had military bases in 153 countries, involving some 350,000 personnel, with 250,000 deployed in combat, peacekeeping and counterterrorism operations. Its naval armada patrols all of the worldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s oceans. James Sterngold, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAfter 9/11, U.S. policy built on world bases,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? The San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 2004. ([img]globalsecurity(contact admin if its a beneficial link))
2- ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œLa Fracture sÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢aggrave entre les opinions europÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©enne et amÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©ricaine,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? Le Monde, September 9, 2004.
3- Naomi Klein, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œElections in the U.S.A.: Anyone but Bush,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? The Guardian, August 7, 2004.
4- Suzanne Goldenberg, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBushÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Foes want to back Kerry but heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s just too vague,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? New York Times, September 20, 2004.
5- Richard N. Rosenfeld, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhat Democracy? The Case for abolishing the United States Senate,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? in HarperÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Magazine, May 2004, pp. 35-44.
6- ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe Senate defeated the Feinstein-Kennedy initiative by a vote of fifty-five to forty [on June 15, 2004]. How many readers recall editorials condemning the Senate's action or news stories about the vote?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? Arthur Schlesinger Jr., ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe Making of a Mess,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? New York Review of Books, September 23, 2004.
7- Recent estimates put the number of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œworking poor AmericansÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? at roughly 60 percent of the population, if one uses a benchmark of $15 minimum hourly wage for a full time job as the income allowing a family to survive without going into debt. Barbara Ehrenreich, Entrevistada no MilÃƒÆ’Ã‚Âªnio (GloboNews), Brazilian Television, September 20, 2004. Cf. Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, Henry Holt, 2001.
8- J.F. Kennedy is reported to have said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI want the world to wonder not what Mr. Khrushchev is doing. I want them to wonder what the United States is doing.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? Cited by Eric Hobsbawn, The Age of Extremes, Vintage Books, 1996, p. 237.
9- Shoji Nuhuru, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œStruggle against US Military Bases,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? Dateline Tokyo, no. 73, July 1999, p.2. (Cited by Istvan Meszaros, The 21st Century: Socialism or Barbarity, Monthly Review Press, 1999.)
10- Naomi Klein, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œElections in the U.S.A.: Anyone but Bush,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬? The Guardian, August 7, 2004.
Posted 26 October 2004 - 03:52 AM
But don't vote for Republicans or Democrats. They're a wholly owned subsidiary of Conglommo, Inc. Dr. Madarasz is quite correct.
Posted 26 October 2004 - 05:31 AM
John Jackson and
Personally I think nothing much would change for Americans or for that matter the world if either one of them wins!!!
Posted 26 October 2004 - 11:24 PM