on the Back - Then Into the '04 Trenches
By Bernard Weiner, The
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
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
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