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Commentary :: Environment
Dissecting the Electable John Kerry
12 Mar 2004

Dissecting the Electable Mr. Kerry

Revolutionary Worker #1232, March 14, 2004, posted at

It is hard to pin down John Kerry. You can slice and dice all his positions. You can lay them down on the table and compare them (inch by inch) with the notorious and hated wartime president.

But that approach doesn't get to the heart of the matter--which is that people are told to think that only two things really (supposedly) matter:

First, John Kerry is not George W. Bush.

And, second, John Kerry is electable, meaning he can (potentially, conceivably) beat George W. Bush.

And for some people, those two points settle everything. They have convinced themselves that it doesn't really matter if Kerry even agrees with them on important matters. They want the policies of Bush gone, gone, gone--and believe this can only mean getting themselves (and everyone else) to want Kerry in, in, in.

Let's get into why this logic is so dangerous and what this John Kerry campaign really represents-- starting with why he is considered "electable."

Who Decides Who Is "Electable"?

Millions of people just hate George W. Bush--his war, his Bush doctrine, his exposed WMD lies, his "homeland security" alerts, his crude catering to zillionaires, his rightwing religious madness, his strutting swagger and arrogant smirk.

And by last December, this gave rise to an "angry" candidacy within the Democratic Party. Howard Dean never proposed actually pulling out of Iraq--but he tapped into the mood and wowed the "Democratic base" by ripping into Bush and the lies that launched the Iraq war. And right before the primaries, the conventional wisdom was "this guy may have a lock on the nomination."

A prominent conservative columnist, Fred Barnes, spoke for a determination in the larger political establishment (of both political parties!) not to let this go down ( Weekly Standard , Dec. 18, 2003):

"The antiwar, Bush-loathing, culturally liberal left now has the upper hand. Its dominance will likely culminate in Dean's nomination. This is an event to be feared. Why? Because it will harm the Democratic party and lead to a general election campaign brimming with bitter assaults on the very idea of an assertive, morality-based American role in the world. And all this will play out as the war on terrorism, and the outcome in Iraq, hang in the balance. Gore's lurch to the left and Dean's likely nomination mean trouble.. For themselves and their party, and because others haven't the moxie to step forward, it's time for the Clintons to take on Dean."

Similar messages were suddenly heard everywhere--including within the Democratic Party. The gatekeepers of this political system simply decided that this was not the year to ALLOW such "bitter assaults" to have a voice within highly funded, TV powered, official discussions of this presidential election.

And, while all those who had put their hopes in a Dean candidacy watched, overnight, suddenly, it was over. Someone pulled the plug--and Dean was history. The Democratic Party apparatus "took him out" before the primaries even got started. The media climbed fully on board--and ran Dean's "I have a Scream" speech until he became a national joke.

Dean was simply not allowed to make it into the primaries.

How was this explained to the people? Everyone was told that Dean was just not "electable"--unlike the lumbering Senator John Kerry. And, equally overnight, the electable Mr. Kerry became the assumed nominee.

All this happened at the end of the Iowa caucuses, before a single vote had been cast. The primary votes of the Democratic base did not choose the Democratic nominee. Those primaries were used to confirm the pick of the party establishment and media .

What "Electability" Looks Like

"In the stump speech he delivers virtually every day, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) stirs the Democratic faithful by railing against current trade practices and slamming President Bush's policies on education, civil liberties and Iraq. But the Democratic front-runner does not mention how he, as senator, supported the president on all four issues, helping cement in law what he often describes as flawed government policies."

Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2004

A year ago, as the U.S. prepared to go attack Iraq, Senator Kerry rushed to defend this government's web of lies and threats. He said: "The President laid out a strong, comprehensive, and compelling argument why Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs are a threat to the United States and the international community."

In the end of August 2004, two days before he announced his candidacy on an aircraft carrier, John Kerry told Meet the Press he had voted for the Iraq war because "I supported the notion that we must as a country hold Saddam Hussein accountable."

His stand remains that this was a necessary conquest done in a flawed way: "And so I'm running because I'm angry at the mismanagement of how we worked with our colleagues in the world and how we, in fact, have conducted the war."

On his campaign website, John Kerry puts himself forward as the man to find victory in the occupation of Iraq: "What does it gain America to win a war and lose a peace? .What's needed now is leadership--to finish the job in Iraq the right way."

This is a position for pursuing the conquest and occupation of Iraq, defeating the Iraqi resistance and imposing a pro-U.S. government on the people.

On February 27, 2004, with his nomination increasingly secure, Kerry made a self- defining speech on issues of war and empire. Kerry insists he is the best man to carry the aggressive U.S. global offensive to victory.

Kerry said, "I do not fault George Bush for doing too much in the War on Terror, I believe he's done too little" (which should send a shiver around the world!).

He insisted the U.S. military does not yet have enough troops or equipment: "As President, I will add 40,000 active-duty Army troops."

He said he would "strengthen the capacity of intelligence and law enforcement at home." He calls for heightened intervention of U.S. agents into international banking channels to seize the funds of forces hostile to the U.S.

So what is his criticism of Bush's "doctrine of unilateral preemption"? Only that it has not, so far, succeeded in involving other imperialist powers in the invasions, threats, and offensives of the last years. In fact, Kerry insisted that (as president) he too would be willing to launch war unilaterally and pre-emptively. The Washington Post (Feb. 28) wrote: "Kerry appeared to outline his own preemptive doctrine in the speech."

And on Iraq? Here is what he said:

"Whatever we thought of the Bush administration's decisions and mistakes--especially in Iraq--we now have a solemn obligation to complete the mission, in that country and in Afghanistan. Iraq is now a major magnet and center for terror."

Later, in a debate in Los Angeles, he said pulling out of Iraq would be "disastrous."

Here is how the Washington Post explained the larger meaning of his stand (Feb. 29):

"President Bush's decision to run as a `war president' created a temptation for the Democratic Party to go down a misguided and ultimately self-destructive path. The opposition party might have decided to cast itself as the party of peace: to question whether the United States is at war, to accuse Mr. Bush of inflating the danger of terrorism for political gain, to demand an early withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq and other overseas engagements. Some Democrats have indeed succumbed to those temptations. To his credit, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, has chosen a different path. In an address Friday, he accepted the premise that the United States faces a fundamental threat--and accused Mr. Bush of being too soft in response.. The United States is at war; the threat is existential. The debate he proposes to hold with Mr. Bush is over how best to meet that threat."

What "Electable" Means

"Electable" means that the official gate-keepers of the U.S. political system have decided that this election will not be a referendum on the occupation of Iraq. They decided this before a single primary ballot was cast.

"Electable" is not about "what the voters want." It is about having a candidate that is acceptable to the U.S. ruling class , who THEY conceivably might allow to hold supreme power on their behalf and in their interests .

And this year, there was one clear stand that defined "electable": To be "electable" a Democrat had to be "believable" as the next commander in the U.S. drive to more fully and directly dominate the world.

This definition of "electable" means that "criticisms" of occupation details are being allowed--but that the overall righteousness of the U.S. crusade must remain unquestionable and the existence of a so-called "fundamental threat" must be assumed.

It reveals a consensus within the ruling class--a determination to press ahead with their offensive, and not allow this election process to give an opening to doubts and opposition.

It means that the Democratic nominee will now likely be a U.S. senator who directly voted to give Bush war powers to attack Iraq, and who voted for the police-state Patriot USA Act. Kerry can't even say the U.S. government lied to the world about the invasion of Iraq--without immediately portraying himself as a fool who was duped by the liars.

The Republican machine of Karl Rove, of course, will not accept Kerry as "electable"-- but will unleash a mounting "shock and awe" campaign against him and his past. It is a sign of the extremism of U.S. politics that even a John Kerry will soon be attacked as virtually treasonous, unpatriotic, and dangerously soft.

For now, one crucial defining fact is being locked in place:

Any vote next November (including any vote for Kerry) can be (and will be) portrayed as a vote for a "muscular" global policy of threat and war.

This is how the electable Mr. Kerry got this fast-track to nomination. This is how his "message" is being shaped and launched.

That is the game that has now been imposed.

And the question is:

Who will reject the straitjacket of that framework?

What will now happen to the "hate factor"--the justified anger of millions?

Will it be smothered within the strict imperialist boundaries that define the Kerry campaign?

Or will this rigged game get disrupted--by powerful defiant resistance in the streets and many other arenas of public life?

Will that righteous anger find its own voice in uncensored ways?

Will the great crimes of these last years and the great crimes of coming moments be forcefully repudiated and fought?

Will we forge a powerful, lasting, rising political force together that really opposes the ugly crusade and climate of modern America--and that refuses to be shut up and shut down by the deadening imperialist arguments about "electability"?

NEXT WEEK: The Rise and Fall of Howard Dean: Lessons in U.S. Democracy

For more commentary on John Kerry, see: - Revolutionary Worker Online -RW resource page on resisting the juggernaut of war and repression - Discuss revolutionary strategy and the RCP's Draft Programme

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