by Ran Prieur Tuesday, January 6, 2004
Right of Nixon? Absolutely! The present military budget is much higher now than anything Nixon asked for, and Dean does not want to reduce it. Dean does not favor raising the minimum wage to anywhere near what it was (adjusted for inflation) during the Nixon administration. Dean says he will get US forces out of Iraq, but Nixon did get US forces out of Vietnam. Dean strongly supports global corporate rule (under the propaganda terms "free trade" and "globalization") through organizations and agreements that are far more anti-democratic than anything Nixon dared support. Howard Dean does not support rebuilding the safety net, or reducing the prison population, to levels that Nixon was apparently satisfied with, nor does he favor an environmental policy that would restore old growth acreage, threatened species populations, or the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere to Nixon era levels.
But these comparisons are unfair. We chastise Thomas Jefferson for owning slaves, but we also forgive him as "a man of his time," and recognize that in the context of that time, he was a great champion of freedom. We're used to making this adjustment as we go back in time -- now we'd better learn to make it as we come forward.
In the last 25 years, the USA has plunged so far to the right that from the perspective of 1940, or 1970, the Democratic party is ultraconservative, the Republican party is fascist in the strictest sense, and the news media bounce in between and call it "neutral."
If you found yourself suddenly transported to the planet Grok, where almost everybody was in prison camps manufacturing poisons, and the Regrok party wanted to double the workload and the poison output, and the Degrok party wanted to increase them by only 10%, would you even bother to vote? Would you try to destroy the prison camps, if they called that "terrorism"? Would you support the "leftist" candidate, Dennis Kugrok, who wanted to reduce workload and poisons but had no chance of winning?
I went to a Kucinich rally in November, and between the tired, sleepwalking crowd and the embarrassing opening performers, it was so lame I went home early and caught a cold. I'm not going to support someone who's to the right of me and has such a lifeless campaign, no matter how good the candidate himself is.
In 2000 I enthusiastically backed Ralph Nader, and not for some puritanical stand on principle. I think that's a myth of the right-wing Democrats. The liberal puritans were voting Socialist Workers because Nader was too corporate, or backing Gore to stop the impurity of Bush. The Nader supporters I saw were motivated by a combination of hard tactics, a sane perspective on the issues, and an understanding of the emotional dimension of politics that is never expressed in the cartoonish dominant media.
The emotional dimension is this: the Nader campaign was allied to courage and excitement, to a sense of purpose and strength, to a positive vision for the future, while the Gore campaign was allied to cowardice, to the pure cringing fear of a broken torture victim who will do anything, anything, but please don't hit me with the Bush. If Gore had become president, the victory for the tamer move to the right would have been less important than the victory for cowardice, which would have given a third of America positive reinforcement for sucking up and backing down.
The sane perspective on the issues is this: the only place where the Democrats are definitely better than the Republicans is on a handful of relatively unimportant cultural issues. All the talk of "pragmatism" is a mask hiding the fact that typical urban liberals are willing to look the other way as nature is exterminated and billions of people are ground to hamburger in global engines of destruction, in exchange for medical benefits for the domestic partners of gay people rich enough to have jobs with medical benefits, and abortion rights for women rich enough to afford abortions and to live in the urban areas where they're available.
And the hard tactics are this: In the long term, the mild and palatable rightward motion of the Democrats is probably worse than the brutal righward rush of the Republicans, because the latter is too visible and painful to be sustained. We're like the frog in the pot, who will be cooked to death if the water is heated slowly, but will jump out if it's heated quickly. I campaigned for Nader with the explicit intention of funneling off Gore votes and getting Bush elected. I made flyers and mailed them at my own expense to all the swing states, including Florida. No apologies here -- I think we dodged a bullet.
I think of the Bush coup with great relief because Gore would have ended up doing the same things but worse: gutting the Bill of Rights after 9/11, starving and bombing Iraq with UN approval and no protests, just like Clinton, killing just as many Iraqis but without squandering the US military's death grip on the world in a foolish occupation, and appearing reasonable because the Republicans would be spurring him to do worse and the Democrats would be shushing dissenters because we have to support Gore or we'll lose the Supreme Court and have to look at ten commandments monuments and other tasteless Christian art.
I love Bush! If 43 men line up and rape your mother, and most of them are very quiet and discreet, but #43 keeps shouting "yee-ha" and waving his cowboy hat and attracting all kinds of attention, some people will be disturbed, but I'm thinking, "At last! Now maybe there won't be a 44th."
So, given all this, why am I supporting Howard Dean, who is so conservative on the issues? Because the "issues" are a long way from the whole story.
For one thing, the Dean campaign has all the excitement that the Nader campaign had in 2000 -- and this time the candidate can win. Already it's creating the one thing that a pseudo-democracy cannot tolerate, the feeling that the people are actually influencing the government and not just cheering from the stands. The "Democratic" party establishment is horrified, because Dean is winning without their bland institutionalized assistance and without their strategy of compulsive caution. I think they'd rather run Gephardt and lose to Bush than permit the Democratic party to become democratic, and admit they've spent their careers getting in the way.
Also, the ruling corporate system has been so pampered under Bush that it has become fragile. So many powerful twisted people have gotten so exactly what they wanted, that it doesn't take much of a shift to bring a lot of little empires down. And Howard Dean represents not just a shift but a shock, because unlike Clinton, Gore, Gephardt, Kerry, or Clark, he's an outsider. The USA is not really ruled by the politicians -- that's just a TV show. On one level it's ruled by trends of mass psychology, and on another level it is ruled by an east coast elite, a few hundred people who all know each other and scratch each other's backs. And Dean's positions on the "issues" are trivial compared to the fact that he doesn't know these people and doesn't owe them anything.
I'm assuming that Dean would thrash Bush in a fair fight. He's clearly the most electable Democrat. Any of them would have the Iraq fiasco and the collapsing standard of living on their side, but Dean has the most public passion behind him, and he's a former state governor with a name ending in "n", both of which have proven popular with voters.
So if Dean gets the nomination, the rulers have three options. One is to let him be president and control him, and that possibility is the great risk we take by supporting him. In that scenario, he'll be another Clinton, backing off to the right for four years, not shaking anything up, getting bashed as a "liberal," and in addition taking the blame for the depression, and the Republicans will come back so strong in 2008 that it'll be like Nazi Germany on meth. If by November I think this is likely (or if one of the insiders gets the nomination), I'll endorse Bush.
But Dean is stubborn and a scrapper. His alleged "anger" is a code word for courage, which is the deepest taboo in a land where so much depends on fear. There are ten thousand ways he can step on delicate toes that are far beneath the notice of the "liberal" vs "conservative" media spectacle. So if they can't tightly control him, or if they even think they can't, they have to go to the second option: stealing the election.
Here we either get another disastrous Bush term, which will so discredit the right wing that we can start recovering already in 2008, or the election rigging comes out in the open and Dean comes in after the scandal, and then we're back to whether he's controllable, or whether they have to use the third option.
The third option is assassination. If you don't think they did it to John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Ronald Reagan (not quite sucessfully), and probably Paul Wellstone, then you must not enjoy looking at that sort of evidence, and you probably think they would never do such a thing in a nice free democracy like America. I don't think they'd even blink. After adjusting for the political climate, Howard Dean is every bit as radical and dangerous in 2004 as Robert Kennedy was in 1968. If he gets the nomination, and there's enough media attention to prevent vote-rigging, I think they're going to kill him.
Then we'll have a revolution. Not the kind of revolution with ten million people rioting in the streets, because of course they'll make it look like an accident or "terrorism," but how about the kind of revolution where a hundred million people feel like they've been punched in the gut, like the world has been pulled out from under them, like that's the last time they ever waste their infinite strength in a system designed to suck it down the toilet. A Dean assassination could do for leftward motion (or saneward motion) what the 9/11 psychological operation did for rightward motion, or what the JFK assassination did for leftward motion.
Of course I don't want Howard Dean to die. I want him to become president and clean out all the bullshit so that this terminally ill country can see to do some good in its final years. I want us all to wake up from our trance and work together to dismantle every authoritarian system and habit. But the rulers are not going to let go so easily. So I see Dean's candidacy as a great chess move: Advance that piece, and if they don't take it, we win, and if they take it, we win.