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A Pat on the Back - Then Into the '04 Trenches
January 8, 2004
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

This year's general-election campaign is going to be a hellacious struggle: Bush will have nearly a quarter-billion dollars to work with, and already the big propaganda and dirty-trick guns are being primed by the Rovian forces in the GOP.

If Bush is defeated in November, we will have released the stranglehold of the far-right on the institutions of power, and can begin trying to undo the horrific damage carried out in the country and across the globe by the Bush&Co. neo-cons. If we lose, our country risks getting locked down in martial-law mode, and an imperial America will march on to Damascus and Tehran and other capitals, our young men and women in uniform turned into 21st Century Roman Legionaires.

As we don our political armor and head out into the electoral trenches, it might be useful to survey our own strengths, so that we remain cognizant of how far we've come and how much momentum we are bringing into the presidential campaign. Consider where the liberal/progressive forces were in January of 2003 and where we are today, one year later.

COUNTING THE WAYS

1. Bush seemed so vulnerable from the git-go that 10 Democratic hopefuls, virtually all from the liberal/centrist/progressive wing, jumped into the race for the party's nomination. At least five of those candidates could win the general election and each would be different enough from Bush to make a demonstrable change in the lives of ordinary citizens in America and around the globe. (I'm not saying they would move the country much forward in terms of progressive politics, only that the differences in approach between Bush and those five would be significant enough to warrant our liberal/left support.)

The five are Dean, Clark, Kerry, Edwards and Gephardt. None of them is my preferred candidate, but I would work for any of them, if it came to that, given the alternative - even for the last three named, who voted to give Bush a blank check to make war. (Unfortunately, Kucinich appears, at least at this point, to be out of the running. Moseley-Braun and Sharpton never had a chance. And Lieberman seems to be auditioning for the role of Bush's V.P. candidate.)

2. Two of the Dem hopefuls, Kucinich and Dean, had the courage early on to attack Bush frontally on the Iraq War, forcing most of the other Dems to join in the denunciations. As the U.S. began big-time bungling of the "post-war" phase in Iraq, and as the Dem candidates kept up their verbal fire, the polls began to show that more than half of the population was turning against Bush's war policies.

In short, while there was no meaningful Democratic war opposition in Congress, the prospective Dem candidates certainly provided a rallying point and anti-Bush backbone among peace/pro-democracy citizens. In addition, Dean showed that he knew how to use the internet to attract volunteers, build a campaign staff, organize "meet-ups," and raise lots of money; none of the other Dem candidates has come close to those internet smarts. Only the GOP has that kind of web savvy and clout.

3. MoveOn.org, the liberal organization born in the Clinton anti-impeachment era, has become one of the the most effective political groups and fund-raising outfits on the left. It reaches millions on the internet, and can raise millions in a flash, and has done so regularly for print and TV ads denouncing Bush war and domestic policies. (It makes conceptual mistakes on occasion, but its heart is in the right place.) Indeed, MoveOn is so efficient and politically potent that billionaire George Soros, looking for a vehicle to help bring Bush down, donated $5 million to the activist organization. So far, the GOP isn't quite sure how to deal with MoveOn, and other, smaller groups like it (Working Assets, True Majority, MeetUp, et al.).

4. Thanks to activists refusing to accept whatever the government hands out, more than 200 towns, cities and even a few states have voted not to honor the unconstitutional provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act - that police-state bill passed in fright and haste by Congress right after 9/11, hustled through without members having had a chance to even read the final Ashcroft draft. A curious, and momentous, alliance has been built on this issue (and other Big Brother-government power-grabs) between elements of the Left, Far Right, Libertarian and moderate Republicans, appalled by the extreme direction in which Bush&Co. are taking our country, in violation of our traditional civil liberties and Constitutional protections of due process of law and the Bill of Rights.

5. Federal judges and appellate courts have overturned many of Ashcroft's unconstitutional overreaches, and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed, over the Bush Administration's heated objections, to hear some of these controversial cases. (Chief Justice Rehnquist, anything but a bleeding-heart liberal, recently denounced the Department of Justice's attempt to keep prosecutors and judges from exercising their sentencing discretion.) In short, there is a developing consensus in the country, generated in large part by activists, that the Bush Administration has gone WAY too far in curtailing our liberties in the name of "anti-terrorism."

6. When the U.W. anti-war movement shamefully seemed to disappear from the scene after the war's initial victories, such important smaller organizations as Code Pink and others stepped in to keep the peace momentum active and building with their creative approaches to dissent. The organizations that had mobilized many hundreds of thousands in the streets of America (joining with 10 million abroad) to protest the impending Iraq war may be slumbering, but the movement lies just below the surface and is ready to rise again, assuming that national leadership emerges to help focus it. Much of that energy is now going into presidential politics, in preparation for November's election, and a good share of the peace/pro-democracy movement went into active, and successful, demos against the World Trade Organization, World Bank and other destructive behemoths.

7. A large, and growing, number of scandals involving the Bush Administration and its major supporters - kept alive by investigatory journalism from the liberal/left - have provided a focus for the progressive opposition: the lies that got us into Iraq; the corporate corruption of Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom, Halliburton, Harkin; the 9/11 pre-knowledge coverup; the secret Cheney energy report; the felonious outing by "two senior Administration officials" of CIA agent Valerie Plame; Tom DeLay's attempt to illegally re-district Texas to favor the GOP; turning over pollution-control to the polluters; giving away the store to the corporate wealthy, and on and on. It's possible that one or more of these scandals will boil over prior to election day, even though the Bush Administration is trying mightily to keep the pressure-cooker tightly sealed. If I had to guess, I'd say the 9/11 coverup and the Plame outing are the best bets.

8. Mainstream American writers and thinkers increasingly have taken on Bush&Co. policy big-time. The best of the lot include Paul Krugman of the New York Times - his cogent columns lay out the most powerful arguments against continued Bush government, along with colleague Maureen Dowd; Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker; Marie Cocco of Newsday; Nat Hentoff and James Ridgeway of the Village Voice; E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post; the incomparable White House correspondent Helen Thomas, and a few others in the New York/Washington nexus.

Other writers around the country also are weighing-in regularly with important, useful articles that nibble away at Bush legitimacy. A partial list has to include: Robert Kuttner, Thomas Oliphant, James Carroll, Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe; Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times; Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Ruth Rosen, Jon Carroll, David Lazarus of the San Francisco Chronicle; Cynthia Tucker, Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal Constitution; Robyn Blumner of the St. Petersberg Times; syndicated Texas columnists Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower; Joe Conason of the New York Observer, and many more.

Also we can't forget the American expatriot writers - among them Chris Floyd in Moscow, Eric Margolis in Toronto, William Pfaff in Paris, and Greg Palast in London - and the brilliant foreign reporters who so often provide news and analysis for U.S. readers ("The Voice to America") that doesn't appear in our corporate-controlled mass media: Tim Harper, Antonia Zerbisias, Haroon Sidiqqui in Toronto; George Monbiot, Julian Borger, Robert Fisk in the UK; John Pilger in Australia, along with the Scoop crew; and on and on. All these lists are only partially complete, to be sure.

Some of the most trenchant, hard-hitting reporting and analysis comes, as it usually does, from the alternative media - on the radio (Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, Pacifica Network, Free Speech Radio and numerous talk-show hosts around the country), and on the best progressive websites on the internet: writers such as John W. Dean, William Rivers Pitt, Michelle Goldberg, Cheryl Seal, Jonathan Turley, Greg Palast, Maureen Farrell, Jim Lobe, Lynn Landes, Geov Parrish, Jason Leopold, Jim Lobe, Noam Chomsky, Bev Harris, Elaine Cassel, Jennifer Van Bergen, Joshua Micah Marshall, Plaid Adder, Ernest Partridge, Karen Kwaitkowski, et al. If you're not familiar with the websites that publish these and other such authors, see The Dissenting Internet list on The Crisis Papers.

9. A goodly number of these provocative writers have authored recent books highly critical of Bush Administration policies and its strongarm methods of governance - and, lo and behold, there's a huge market out there eager to buy and read volumes by, among others, Al Franken, Molly Ivins, Joe Conason, Paul Krugman, Michael Moore, David Corn, Daniel Ellsberg, Sidney Blumenthal, Eric Alterman, and the like, and more are due shortly (including Big Bush Lies, for which yours truly and Crisis Papers co-editor Ernest Partridge are contributors). The fact that many of these books make their way to the best-seller lists is a good sign of the popular tumult in the body politic, eager for tomes that help explain what's going on and what to do about the mess.

SMILES AND TURBULENCE

In short, it's clear from the above instances and examples that - despite an overwhelming Bushista barrage of propaganda, lies, distortions, manipulations and general fear-mongering - half the population already is considering voting for someone other than George Bush and his extremist policies, thanks in no small measure to the work liberals, progressives, moderates and others have done over the past year.

We should feel good about all that. Take a deep breath, smile, take in the props... OK, that's enough. Now we need to stop patting ourselves on the back, and get back to work.

It ain't gonna be easy crowbarring George Bush and his radical cabal out of the White House; their pattern is to do whatever they have to do to reach and stay in power. However, united in our determination and by love of country, horrified at what is happening to our Constitution, appalled by a foreign/military policy that puts America security gravely at risk, we will prevail. You know it, too - you can feel it in your bones and in the air.

But tighten your seat belts; it's going to be one hell of a scary, bumpy ride.


Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught American politics and international relations at Western Washington University and San Diego State University. A writer/editor with the
San Francisco Chronicle for nearly 20 years, he now co-edits The Crisis Papers.

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