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WHAT WE THINK
Behind the "progressive" case for supporting John Kerry
What's wrong with "Anybody But Bush"

August 6, 2004 | Page 3

"I'M JOHN Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty." This was how Kerry greeted the Democratic Party convention--complete with a snappy military salute--before accepting the party's presidential nomination.

It was a sickening display--not just because of the relentless celebration of Kerry's contribution to the killing of innocent Vietnamese during his time in the military, but because of the rotten policies he stands for. All week long, we heard Democrats proclaim that they stand for a stronger America, a prouder America, an America with "values."

For those who've studied Kerry's campaign so far, it wasn't a surprise. After all, the election-year "conventional wisdom" is that Kerry can't worry about the party's traditional liberal base--he has to go to the right and peel off Republicans who might vote for Bush.

Yet a lot of people who don't agree with Kerry's flag-waving appeals to conservatives are willing to look the other way--as long as he has a chance of stopping George W. Bush from winning a second term in the White House. "There is no greater political imperative this year than to retire the Bush regime, one of the most dangerous and extremist in U.S. history," begins "An Open Letter to Progressives" issued by activists such as Medea Benjamin, Tom Hayden, Norman Solomon and eight others on July 23.

"The only candidate who can win instead of Bush in November is John Kerry. We want Kerry to replace Bush, because a Kerry administration would be less dangerous in many crucial areas, including militarism, civil liberties, civil rights, judicial appointments, reproductive rights and environmental protection."

It's understandable that millions of people desperately want to see Bush beaten in November. But what exactly does it mean--to beat Bush? For the Democratic Party establishment, it means beating Bush on his own terms--in other words, defeating the Bush the individual, but not necessarily the policies he stands for.

There are differences between Bush and Kerry, of course, and on important issues. Contrary to the claims of the Anybody But Bush crowd, no one on the left--certainly not Socialist Worker--has ever said otherwise. But what stands out about this year's election is how much Bush and Kerry have in common, not their differences.

The reality that the Republicans and Democrats represent two wings of a single political establishment has never been clearer. The war on Iraq? As no less a committed supporter of the Bush administration than conservative columnist George Will pointed out, "I cannot slip a Kleenex between the Bush and Kerry positions on Iraq."

Improving the economy? "On the economy, they're all governed by the same international flows of capital, the same bond market anxieties," Will added. The "war on terror"? Kerry promises to win the war by stationing 40,000 more U.S. troops around the world.

Homeland defense? Kerry and Edwards will make our country strong, strong, strong. Military spending? Spend, spend, spend. Even the Republicans aren't talking about being tough on crime, but Kerry bragged in his convention speech about "putting 100,000 more cops on the streets" when he voted for Clinton's crime bill.

And on the issues where the Democrat is supposed to make a difference, Kerry is a question mark. Abortion? Kerry recently stated that he believes life begins at conception. Social spending? Kerry believes in "paying as you go"--in other words, if the money runs out, a Democratic administration will make cuts. Decent jobs? Rather than go after corporations that have cut workers' wages and benefits, Kerry will reward them with tax breaks as long as they don't outsource jobs overseas.

People like Benjamin and Hayden talk about how dangerous and destructive another four years of Bush would be. They're right. But they're wrong to think that John Kerry would be less dangerous and destructive. Kerry and his fellow party leaders proved this at their convention in Boston.

Despite the talk about their "differences" with Bush, they showed just how far the Democrats have moved to the right to adopt the Republicans' conservative agenda. And they showed their utter indifference to their supporters to the left.

Like the Republicans, the Democrats are committed to carrying out the same agenda of defending corporate power and expanding U.S. imperial domination. A vote for Kerry and his "stronger America" is a vote to continue the same agenda that the Bush administration has pursued--under a different name. We shouldn't give the Democrats a blank check. There's no telling what they'll do with it.

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