2-party system, presidential politics: a Green view

Dayne Goodwin dayneg at aros.net
Fri Jul 25 05:10:58 MDT 2003


[I apologize if this has already been on marxmail list; it is fairly
long but i haven't posted anything for some time.
	Howie Hawkins is one of the most respected long-term builders of
Green Party in the U.S.  He has also has consistently expressed his
socialist views.
	FWIW, i agree with German comrades on this list that (certainly
based on worldwide experience so far) there is no reason to believe that
Green Party - a largely middle-class reform movement - will play an
important role in organizing workers to make a socialist revolution.
	i do find that some Green Party campaigns and views are useful in
educating activists about the nature of the capitalist's two-party
political system and the need to build a politically independent
revolutionary workers movement.  dayne]


For a Green Presidential Campaign in 2004
By Howie Hawkins, Syracuse Greens

Presented at Regional Greens Meeting, Freeville, NY, June 28, 2003

Progressives are running scared today. They are scared of Bush and are
demanding that the Greens not run a candidate and back a Democrat, or that
the Greens backhandedly support the Democrat by not campaigning in the
swing states.

To be sure, Bush is scary. Constitutional rights restricted. Unilateral
presidential war powers. War budget hiked. International treaties
abrogated. Tax cuts for the rich. Worker safety and environmental
regulations gutted. Pandering to corporate interests in the midst of a
corporate crime wave. An anti-consumer bankruptcy bill. Invasions of
Afghanistan and Iraq, with threats of future invasions or proxy wars for
regime change in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba,
and who knows where else.

But the Democrats are scary, too. The majority of congressional Democrats
have let Bush have his way on every one of these issues.

If the Democratic Party won't resist Bush's policies in Congress, why
should progressives support them for the presidency?

The Democrats didn't even resist Bush when he stole the Florida vote in
2000. We now know that Gore won Florida handily from the recount done by
the media consortium that included the Wall Street Journal, New York
Times, and Los Angeles Times. But the Democrats, far more interested in
preserving the system's legitimacy than fighting its racism, refused to
make an issue of how the Republicans cut blacks from the voter rolls
through computerized racial profiling.

The Congressional Black Caucus gave the Democrats a second chance after
the Supreme Court selection of Bush, when it appealed to Senate Democrats
to object to accepting the Florida electors. The objection of just one
Democratic Senator would have forced an investigation of the racial voter
profiling and a recount of the Florida vote. But not one of them -- not
Wellstone, not Kennedy, not Feingold, not Boxer, not Clinton, not Kerry --
not one of the Democratic liberals objected.

And the Greens are supposed to stand down and leave it to the Democrats to
fight Bush?

Yes, a Democrat might beat Bush. But no Democrat is going to beat Bushism.

Just as electing Clinton did not beat Reaganism, but took Reaganism far
beyond what Reagan and Bush Sr. could accomplish, so electing a Democrat
will not defeat Bushism to change the basic foreign and domestic policies
of the US.

What was called Reaganism (to scare us into voting Democratic) was really
a bipartisan consensus around neoconservative militarism and neoliberal
economics. That bipartisan consensus was initiated under Carter, supported
by the majority of Congressional Democrats during the Reagan and Bush Sr.
administrations, carried far beyond what Reagan and Bush Sr. could do by
Clinton, and is now being taken even further by Bush, again with the
support of the majority of Congressional Democrats.

These policies were initiated under Carter, who increased the military
budget beyond Ford's projections and got the US into covert military
operations in Afghanistan with the hope, successful as it turned out, that
it would provoke the Soviets to invade. The US began in 1978 training the
Islamic fundamentalists who we now know as Al Qaida. Bush's military
occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq is the Carter Doctrine in practice,
which stated in essence that the US would go to war for oil in the Middle
East.

Neoconservative militarism is the post-Vietnam foreign policy of the
corporate rulers as they reasserted their post World War II policy of
dominating the capitalist world. With the fall of the Soviet bloc, Bush
Sr. declared a New World Order in which the US would dominate the whole
world and make it safe for capitalist exploitation. The Clinton
administration continued this policy through NATO expansion and its
intervention in the Balkans without UN authorization, as well as the
complex of trade and credit policies administered by the IMF, World Bank,
WTO, and numerous corporate-managed trade agreements on the model of
NAFTA.

Both parties are committed are just as committed to economic policies of
neoliberal austerity. Again, these polices were initiated under Carter,
who slashed social programs to increase the military budget and re- assert
US interventionism with the development of the Rapid Deployment Force,
adopted monetarism as fiscal policy with the appointment of Volker to the
Fed, and began the attack on organized labor by refusing to support the
common situs picketing law he had pledged the AFL-CIO he would support.

Neoliberalism includes cuts in social spending, hikes in regressive taxes,
cuts in progressive taxes, privatization, deregulation, corporate- managed
trade, union busting, and corporate welfare. In a nutshell, it means the
stick of austerity for workers -- on the theory it will makes us work
harder and raise productivity -- and the carrot of welfare for the
corporate rich -- on the theory they will invest and the benefits of
increased jobs and tax revenues will trickle down to the rest of us.

Neoliberal austerity is the post-Keynesian economic policy of the
corporate rulers as they ran into the internal limits to profits and
growth under the Keynesian welfare/warfare state.

The new ruling class consensus is the austerity/warfare state of
neoliberal economics and neoconservative empire.

And that ruling class consensus is the pro-war, pro-corporate bipartisan
consensus.

What is now called Bushism is not radical departure, but a continuation of
this bipartisan consensus, with the majority of Democrats in Congress
voting for Bush's key programs: the tax cuts, war budgets, war powers, and
USA PATRIOT Act.

Worried about Bush's global empire building? Empire building is a
bipartisan geopolitical strategy of using military basing and control of
oil in the Middle East and Central Eurasia to keep Western Europe, Russia,
China, and Japan from challenging US hegemony. This geopolitical strategy
is as prevalent in the pronouncements of Democratic national security
advisors like Zbigniew Brzezinski as in those of their Republican
counterparts like Henry Kissinger. The Bush administration's particular
intellectual framework for empire coming out of the Project for a New
American Century is authored by Democrats as well as Republicans, such as
Clinton's CIA Director, James Woolsey, and Paul Wolfowitz, the former aide
to the late Senator Scoop Jackson (D-WA). The Clinton administration's
imperialist motives for supporting Star Wars were stated quite openly in
the Air Force's "Vision for 2020": "dominating the space dimension of
military operations to protect US interests and investment."

Indeed, the Democrats' unadulterated support for empire goes back before
Carter, before Kennedy and Johnson's Vietnam War, to another Democratic
administration, that of Truman, with Dean Acheson's Cold War strategy of
building alliances of US satellites to contain the Soviet bloc and make
the "free" world safe for corporate exploitation. With the demise of the
USSR's own empire, the US geopolitical strategy switched, "From
Containment to Enlargement," as Clinton's first National Security Advisor,
Anthony Lake, declared in a 1993 speech of that title, adding in words
that sound like Wolfowitz's that US-led alliances would accomplish this by
"Diplomacy where we can; force where we must."

Worried about Bush's militarism? Remember that the post Vietnam hikes in
military spending were initiated by Carter, taking them above the levels
Ford had projected, and that the post Cold War military spending hikes
were initiated by Clinton, taking them well above Bush Sr.'s projections.
Bush Jr.'s further hikes have been supported by the majority of
Congressional Democrats. The current mantra among the Democratic Party
political consultants and pollsters is that the Democratic presidential
candidate must be as "strong on national security" as Bush to be
competitive in the 2004 election.

The Clinton foreign policy team was frustrated by the military's cautious
Powell Doctrine. As Clinton's Secretary of State and then UN Ambassador,
Madeline Albright, angrily told Colin Powell, now Bush's Secretary of
State and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "What's the point of
having this superb military that you've always been talking about if we
can't use it?"

What about Bush's unilateralism? Wouldn't Democratic imperialism be a
little softer, more "globalist." Not hardly. It was Clinton's Secretary of
State and Brzezinski protege, Madeline Albright, who told the UN Security
Council in 1994 regarding Iraq: "We will act multilaterally when we can,
unilaterally when we must." And thus under Clinton the US bypassed the
Security Council to impose regime change by military force on Iraqi
Kurdistan, Kosovo, and Serbia.

How about Bush's domestic repression? The Clinton/Reno anti- crime and
anti-terrorism bills instituted more than 50 new death penalties,
emaciated habeus corpus, militarized domestic policing, gutted posse
comitatus, legalized FBI and CIA domestic political spying, expanded the
drug war, and subsidized expansion of the prison/industrial complex. The
Clintonites sent in Delta Force to make sure the heads of anti-WTO
demonstrators were cracked in Seattle. The post 9-11 detention of
thousands without trial, any kind of hearing, or access to lawyers was
done under the statutory authority of Clinton's Anti-Terrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act on 1996. The USA PATRIOT Act just expands this
repressive authority further, again with the votes of the majority of
Congressional Democrats.

Well, maybe the Democrats aren't as extreme about as Bush on domestic
economic policy? Here again there is a basic bipartisan consensus. Carter
initiated the neoliberal turn as the bipartisan consensus switched from
military Keynesianism to military neoliberalism. Though neoliberalism is
cloaked in the egalitarian sounding rhetoric of free markets, the reality
is state enforcement of greater inequality: welfare for the corporate rich
(investment incentives in theory) and hardship for workers (to motivate
higher productivity in theory).

Today's corporate scandals are a legacy of Clinton's financial
deregulation, media monopolization a legacy of his deregulatory
telecommunications act, the loss of 2 million jobs a legacy of NAFTA and
the other trade deals Clinton made that are sending US manufacturing and
backroom service jobs to cheap labor markets overseas. Bush's biggest
contribution to the neoliberal agenda has been his tax cuts for the rich,
which the Democrats enabled by declaring it a "victory" to pair down their
size somewhat.

This bipartisan consensus is forged by the corporate ruling class through
its media ownership and financing of publications, broadcasts, think
tanks, and its two political parties, Democratic and Republican. To be
sure, there are tactical differences within this consensus. No doubt the
ruling class is split about Bush. Many of them are worried about the
economic irrationality of the latest tax cuts, the destabilizing
consequences of throughout the Middle East and Europe of the military
occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Bush's pandering to the
domestically destabilizing social agenda of the Christian fundamentalists.
And this faction of the corporate rich will support a Democratic version
of the bipartisan consensus, the Slick Soft-Right of a Clinton rather than
the Crude Hard-Right of a Bush Jr.

But that is their fight, not ours!

Our fight is to get our alternatives into public debate in the 2004
election: -- cooperative security instead of the US as global occupation
force, -- renewable energy instead of oil imperialism, -- economic
security through national health care, guaranteed income above poverty,
jobs for all at living wages, fair trade, and progressive taxes instead of
the neoliberal regime of motivating the poor with hardships to work harder
and the rich with corporate welfare to invest, -- economic production in
an ecologically sustainable balance with nature instead of endless growth
through environmental marauding by the military-industrial complex; --
repealing repressive laws to restore civil liberties and dismantle the
prison-industrial complex instead of PATRIOT Acts and drug wars, -- a
multi-party system founded on proportional representation and public
funding of public elections instead of a state-sanctioned,
corporate-financed two-party system with two right wings.

Our fight is to get as many votes as we can for the Green Party candidates
for the Presidency, House, and Senate. The more votes we get, the more
seriously our alternatives will be taken by the public and the more we
will be able to further organize and mobilize around them.

One thing is certain. These alternatives will not be heard without a Green
campaign. We will not have the vehicle needed to organize people around
real alternatives. If the Left tails the lesser-evil Democrat again, which
has been the dominant strategy of what passes for a Left in the US since
most of it collapsed into the New Deal coalition in 1936, the whole debate
will shift further to the Right again.

Let us clear up some fantasies about Kucinich. The other candidates are
clearly pro-war, pro-corporate candidates. But Sharpton and Kucinich sound
progressive.

Sharpton, as we in NY know, is playing for patronage. That is what he did
with his senatorial and mayoral campaigns. He wants to be the black
political broker for patronage to the black political class. We know from
his history that he will more likely support a Republican to spite
Democrats who snub him than a Green. We should definitely keep the door
open to his supporters and even to Sharpton himself, but let us not be
naïve about what his objectives are in the Democratic presidential
primaries.

Kucinich sounds like Nader on his policy proposals. But he is not running
for president. He is running to build his national stature and fund base
to get ready to run for US Senate from Ohio. He will pull out no later
than Super Tuesday next March 2 in order to file in Ohio in time to run
for re-election to Congress in 2004.

But Kucinich is not like Nader in that he opposed independent politics and
the Green Party.

"I have no interest in a third party candidacy. None," says Kucinich. "I
want to do it the other way -- bring third party candidates into the
{Democratic] Party and get support in the primaries." -- Ruth Conniff,
"The Peace Candidate," The Progressive, April 2003

[Kucinich] recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "The Democratic Party
created third parties by running to the middle. What I'm trying to do is
to go back to the big tent so that everyone who felt alienated could come
back through my candidacy." -- CounterPunch, April 2003

The second quote is particularly important to think about. He does not say
take the Democratic Party away from its corporate rulers. Rather he wants
to bring the wayward Greens into coalition with the Democratic Party's
corporate rulers in a "big tent." The whole point of the Greens as an
INDEPENDENT party is our independence from the corporate rulers. We want
to build a coalition of all of the popular constituencies that are
exploited and oppressed by the corporate rulers. That's a big enough tent
to win elections. But it's a different tent than the one Kucinich wants to
build.

Inside the Democratic Party, the Left enters into coalition as subordinate
partners with the very corporate rulers who are violently committed to
maintaining the system the Left presumably wants to transform.

When the Left supports the Democrats, it commits suicide and disappears.
The Left surrenders its voice in the election to the Democrats, who will
then triangulate Right to cut into the Republican vote. The Left
surrenders its very identity as an alternative for a different world by
supporting a (hopefully) lesser evil administration of the status quo.

We cannot rely on the Slick Soft-Right Democrats to fight the Crude
Hard-Right Republicans. The Democrats haven't done it during the first two
and half years of the Bush administration. There is no good reason to
start relying on them now. The best defense against the Hard Right is not
defensive support for a Softer Right, but a strong offensive around a real
campaign for a progressive alternative.

The minute the Greens fail to mount a serious campaign (whether by openly
supporting a Democrat as the lesser evil or doing it backhandedly by
staging a "strategic" campaign of not competing in swing states) is the
minute the public will stop taking the Greens seriously. What little
leverage Kucinich and Sharpton may now have to push the debate to the Left
will vanish as the Democrats are then free to take votes to their Left for
granted.

Cynthia McKinney is the future of progressives in the Democratic Party.
She is the poster child for what Democrats do to their progressives. When
the Democratic Leadership Council and the AIPAC (American Israeli Public
Affairs Commission) targeted her for defeat because she had the temerity
to call for justice for Palestinians, the Democratic leadership ran away
from her, from Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, and John Lewis in her home
town of Atlanta to Jesse Jackson Sr., Terry McAulliffe, and Bill Clinton
nationally. They let a Republican judge who supported right-wing
fundamentalist Alan Keyes in the 2000 Republican primaries re- register as
a Democrat and beat McKinney with Republican votes in Georgia's open
primary system.

The spoiler argument against a Green run for president is garbage. The
Democrats spoiled the election by, first of all, offering a phony
alternative to the Republicans. And then the Democrats spoiled their own
election by not fighting for what they had won in Florida. Contrary to the
Nader-Elected-Bush refrain of the Anybody-But-Bush Democrats, Nader
probably helped Gore beat Bush in the popular vote. Analysts as different
as Alexander Cockburn on the Left and Al From, chair of the Democratic
Leadership Council, on the Democratic Right, note that exit polling data
show that Gore did better with Nader in the race than he would have
without Nader. While From uses this data to preposterously counsel
Democrats to ignore their Left and run to the Right, Cockburn's
explanation is obviously more persuasive: Nader's campaign forced Gore to
articulate some populist, anti-corporate themes that brought many
disillusioned Democrats back into the fold. Without Nader in the race,
these Democrats would not have voted, and many of Nader's voters would not
have voted either.

A Green campaign in 2004 doesn't have to win the presidency to define the
debate, move it to the Left, and begin to undermine Bushism, which is to
say, the bipartisan policy consensus. Truman made his remarkable comeback
to beat Dewey by stealing Wallace's thunder and campaigning on the
Progressive Party's economic and social agenda. Perot's 19% in 1992 made
budget balancers out of both corporate parties and set the course for
federal budget policies in the 1990s. To define the debate, the Green
campaign just has to be serious about getting every vote it can in every
state.

At the least, that kind of campaign makes the Greens a threat to "spoil"
the Democratic side the two-party charade and thus compels attention to
our campaign. Much better would be a double-digit vote percentage, which
could leverage some reforms during the next administration and lay the
foundation for further gains at all levels in future elections.

Nothing would be more dispiriting for progressives than a self- defeating,
defensive campaign for a pro-war, pro-corporate Democrat. And nothing
would be more inspiring than an all-out Green presidential campaign for
what we believe in. That kind of Green campaign could be a rallying point
for progressives and social movements and begin to turn the tide against
the pro-war, pro-corporate bipartisan consensus.






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