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Democrats turn to scare tactics

December 12, 2003 | Page 3

THE PRESSURE is on for progressives to back a Democrat--any Democrat--to get rid of George W. Bush and his rotten policies. But from the shape of the debate so far, it seems like the likely Democrat will end up looking a lot more like Bush than people realize.

Take frontrunner Howard Dean, the candidate who is poised to scoop up left-wing voters looking for a "credible" option in 2004. After Bush's cynical Thanksgiving photo op in Iraq, Dean rightly went on the attack--but for all the wrong reasons. After accusing Bush of having "no understanding of defense" and lacking "the backbone to stand up against the Saudis," Dean added, "Mr. President, if you'll pardon me, I'll teach you a little about defense."

Meanwhile, he chided the administration for running up a huge budget deficit--not because he would restore Bush's cutbacks, he hastened to add, but because Democrats are more "fiscally responsible" than Republicans. After that, Dean tried to "teach" the Bush administration about secrecy--by refusing to allow records from his 11 years as Vermont governor to be unsealed.

Dean has been the target of national Democratic leaders for being "too far to the left." But this only shows how far the "party of working people" has shifted to the right--that a mainstream Democrat who considers himself more of a "triangulator" than Bill Clinton could be viewed as radical.

In truth, Dean is every bit as committed to the mainstream Democrats' priorities--above all, putting business interests first--as the "responsible" party leaders who caved again last month on the Republicans' Medicare "deform" scheme.

We deserve an alternative. But well before Ralph Nader has even committed to running for president in 2004, the Democrats were already circling the wagons--and hurling all kinds of abuse at the former Green Party candidate.

The argument has come from the left as well. With Bush in office, the argument goes, the stakes are too high for a third party to even consider running a serious campaign.

And the backlash would only hurt the third-party cause. "Running a presidential candidate in 2004 for the Greens is probably a quantum leap off a cliff," Monthly Review co-editor Robert McChesney told journalist Micah Sifry--both Nader supporters in 2000--in an article in the Nation magazine. "It is the Green's Jonestown."

What McChesney and Sifry are ignoring is that the Democrats' Nader-bashing isn't all about stopping Bush. Equally important for the other party of U.S. capitalism is squelching the development of a political alternative to the Republicans' and Democrats' joint stranglehold over the U.S. political system.

Anyone who doubts this should consider the mayoral election in San Francisco. As Socialist Worker went to press, the election was going down to the wire--between Gavin Newsom, a rich, pro-business Democrat who made scapegoating the homeless the centerpiece of his political career, and the Green Party's Matt Gonzalez.

There's no Republican in the two-way run-off. But the Democrats were still demanding a vote for Newsom over Gonzalez. In other words, they want a vote for the "lesser evil," even when there is no greater evil to whip up fear about.

In late November, Nader announced that his supporters were putting together an exploratory committee to look into a 2004 presidential run. He also said that he would hold a press conference outside the upcoming debate of Democratic presidential contenders in New Hampshire. This is a good sign that--after his long and disappointing disappearance after the 2000 election--Nader may step up as an alternative in 2004.

We need an alternative to the two-party duopoly in Washington. Don't let the Democrats' scare tactics pressure you into voting for the "lesser evil."

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