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Letters to the editor

November 19, 2004 | Page 12

Wrong on stem-cell measure
Kerry cashes in on Langston Hughes
The right turned out for Bush

Democrats blame voters for their failure

Dear Socialist Worker,
I want to take issue with Douglas Braaten's letter to the editor ("Stupid voters are to blame for Bush," November 12). Braaten tries to let Kerry off the hook for his miserable election performance by categorizing all Bush voters as right-wing numbskulls.

In the past week, I have met so-called "stupid" Bush voters who have offered me "justification" for their decision. Some of them are gloating conservative blowhards. But some are very upset with the war and occupation in Iraq. They know Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction, that the war is for oil, that people are killing and dying for empire.

But none of them thought John Kerry offered much of an alternative on the war--and I agree! They prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't.

None of the Bush voters had any illusion that electing him would help end the war, but many Kerry voters held that very hope. For months before the election, I would meet Kerry supporters who didn't know where their candidate stood on the issues: "I thought he was for gay marriage," "I thought he was against the war," "I thought he was for abortion," "I thought he was against the USA PATRIOT Act."

Braaten claims, "The blame for the present colossal defeat of progressive ideas by conservative politicians rests squarely on the shoulders of the voters who voted for them!" Does he mean when progressive candidates lost the Democratic primaries in the spring? Or the defeat of Dennis "roll-over" Kucinich at the Democratic National Convention? Is this a reference to the $4 billion that Democrats spent attacking opponents from the right, instead of attacking the bans on gay marriage?

The Democrats lost the election months before November 2. And for that, I think you can only blame Kerry for failing to pose a clear alternative or run a progressive campaign.
John Osmand, Providence, R.I.

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Wrong on stem-cell measure

Dear Socialist Worker,
In Eric Ruder's otherwise excellent article "Why anti-gay referendums won" (November 5), he mentions "some positive news in California, where voters approved a measure to fund stem-cell research." Unfortunately, Proposition 71 is nothing for socialists to celebrate.

While we absolutely support stem-cell research--and the element of Prop 71 that amended the California constitution to protect this kind of research is a step forward--the measure is a multibillion-dollar giveaway to the biotech industry. The people of California will be forced to pay close to $6 billion to fund this initiative.

As usual, important health research will be paid for by public dollars, but private industry will reap all the profits, with no guarantee that resulting cures will be accessible for those who need them. Provisions in the measure dramatically curtail public oversight, transparency and accountability.

While it appeared to be a progressive initiative and a blow against the Bush administration's anti-choice policies, Prop 71 is a giant handout of public money and oversight to an immensely profitable (and poorly regulated) industry. The Greens, many prominent global justice activists and a number of pro-choice activists all worked to defeat Prop 71. I was glad to vote against it and don't consider its passage good news.

However, in addition to the tax on millionaires to fund mental health care (Prop 63) that was mentioned in Eric's article, there were some other victories in California. Prop 62, which sought to effectively outlaw third parties by introducing an open primary where only the top two candidates advanced to the general election, was defeated.

And Prop 66, which would have limited California's three-strikes sentencing laws, nearly passed, with 47 percent voting yes. It didn't win, but nearly 4.5 million people in the state voted to reject the draconian sentencing of "three strikes." That's worth celebrating.
Derek Wright, Oakland, Calif.

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Kerry cashes in on Langston Hughes

Dear Socialist Worker,
Recently, I took a walk through my neighborhood bookstore and stopped in the poetry section, as I often do. It was there that I noticed a collection of poems by Langston Hughes entitled Let America Be America Again, with a preface by none other than John Kerry.

Hughes was perhaps the most famous poet of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. He was also a Marxist and dedicated revolutionary, as were many of the men and women involved in the Harlem Renaissance.

Kerry's preface is full of praise for Hughes' ability to describe the plight of African Americans in the early 20th century, as well as plugging his own "sympathy" for Blacks with phrases like "When America sneezes, Blacks catch pneumonia" and "America can't be America for any of us, until it is America for all of us."

What Kerry seems to forget, however, is that his own record speaks against his "sympathy" for the struggle of being Black in America. He often brags about how he was central in the Clinton-era gutting of welfare and touts his support for the racist war on drugs. He refused, along with all of the other Democrats in the Senate, to support an inquiry into the racism of the 2000 election in Florida. This man is no friend to African Americans.

Conveniently missing from the anthology are such radical Hughes gems as "I, Too," "Negro," "Elevator Boy" and "Ruby Brown." Missing is "Goodbye, Christ," in which Hughes declares "Make way for a new guy with no religion at all--/A real guy named/Marx Communist Lenin Peasant Stalin Worker ME /I said, ME!"

By the time this letter gets published in SW, the election will have already been decided, and we may have four more years of Bush, or four more years of Bushism under Kerry.

This opportunistic perversion of the legacy of one of America's greatest radical poets goes too far. Kerry stole a man's heart and soul from his life's work, and I hope that someday he truly feels what Hughes meant when he wrote: "The world is mine from now on-- And nobody's gonna sell ME/To a king, or a general/Or a millionaire."
Kris Jenson, Burlington, Vt.

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The right turned out for Bush

Dear Socialist Worker,
I was looking forward to an in-depth, careful analysis by the Socialist Worker to better understand the state of mind that led Bush to not only a technical victory, but to a popular one as well. Instead, all I read was blame of John Kerry himself.

The election this time had a majority vote that has not been as unified since Reagan: the white Evangelical Christian vote. Ninety percent of the 26 percent of registered voters in this demographic dealt a larger blow to Kerry than Kerry did to himself.

While it is true that Kerry's campaign got off to a late start in swing states, and that Kerry's issues did not inspire 45 percent of registered voters in this country to vote period, these had little bearing on Bush's success.

I tip my hat to Bush and his campaign that began since September 11. They have successfully injected a primal fear into the hearts and minds of the American people against the whole world and, because of that, Bush has been elected for his last four years. In effect, Bush is captain due to our paranoia against anybody out of the ordinary.
Toby Mendenhall, Portland, Ore.

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