East Coast/Left Coast:
The Throbbing Political Pulse
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers.
December 2, 2003
Whenever traveling around the country, I (surprise!) talk politics with folks I
meet; it's often instructive and it serves as a way of taking the social pulse.
Last week's trip to the East Coast, to meet with fellow website editors --
mainly in New York, but checking in with Crisis Papers compadres in Washington,
D.C., as well -- presented me with both encouraging and dispiriting signs.
The Congressional Democrats scurry around like frightened rabbits, but out
beyond the beltway this trip re-affirmed for me that there are plenty of
ordinary Dems -- appalled at Bush&Co. policies -- who have more starch in their
spines. These Democrats seem willing to unite big time behind the party's
eventual candidate (providing money, energy and time), even if it turns out that
they might not agree with some of the standard-bearer's positions. I heard this
same commitment from supporters of all the major candidates. This is a hopeful
To a person, these citizens -- and even a goodly number of Greens, and
Republican moderates, angry at how their party has been hijacked by far-right
zealots -- are willing to put ideological considerations aside in the service of
defeating Bush in 2004. They know that this may be the last chance available to
break the back of the neo-con momentum currently wreaking such havoc on our
country, domestically and internationally. This may be the final opportunity to
stop the imperial war machine as it greedily eyes other countries in the
oil-rich Middle East and elsewhere. This may be the last chance to save and
protect our Constitutional form of government.
I did talk to one Democrat who vowed he would support any of the party's
candidates but Joe Lieberman, whom he described as "Rambo-lite." The overall
choice of the Dems I talked to on this trip was for Dennis Kucinich -- my
main-man as well -- but nary a one believed he had a snowball's chance in Hell
to get the nomination. They thought it would be Dean or (this one surprised me)
Gephardt, or, as a middle-range compromise, Clark.
But many of these same Democrats have told me that if and when the Dem nominee
wins the presidency, they are going to go after the party's Congressional
leadership with a vengeance. Watching the Democrats cave time and time again to
Bush's threats and demands makes them ashamed to be in the same party. The best
recruiter for the Greens is Tom Daschle.
The sentiment I heard again and again on this trip was that the Congressional
Democrats "just don't get it." By which was meant that the supposed Democratic
leaders, by and large, think their Republican opponents are just playing the
usual style of politics, and thus the Dems can deal with them in the same civil
way they've been used to for the past several decades. The Democrats, I was told
often, simply don't, or won't, understand what activist role a Loyal Opposition
is supposed to play in the current world of cutthroat Washington politics.
Because of this confusion and timidity, Democratic action translates all too
often into accommodation -- formerly called selling-out -- that tends to give
Bush&Co. whatever it is they want, whether it be a blank-check authorization for
war, a deeply flawed Medicare bill that is the first step in the elimination of
that all-important program, going along with the $87 billion to finance the Iraq
war and to continue paying off corporate behemoths like Halliburton and Bechtel,
and on and on.
In truth, the Congressional Democrats do NOT get it. "It" is the fact that the
Republicans these days are a different breed of political animal, operating from
an extremist neo-con locus -- an arrogant bullying approach to political
opponents, which has so discombobulated the Dems that even Congressional
Republicans that can't stomach the agenda are happy to participate. These
zealots are out not just to best the opposition but to destroy it, in order to
create what amounts to a one-party state.
The most obvious recent demonstration of this was the way the Administration's
energy bill was created and rammed onto the Congressional floor -- hammered out
in secret (both by Cheney and his fellow energy-company execs, and later by the
Congressional GOP leadership), with absolutely no input from Democrats
permitted. Or the GOP unwillingness at times to allow proper committee hearings
where Democrat objections can be heard, or to entertain Dem amendments to bills,
Add this movement toward one-party rule to the increasing militarization of the
country, where criticism of Bush policies and the incompetency with which
they're carried out is painted as support for terrorists; see the Republican
National Committee's TV ads currently running in Iowa. And then there's the
shredding of Constitutional guarantees of due process under the Patriot Act,
with even more being sought in Patriot Act 2, the so-called "VICTORY" bill.
The pattern is clear: under Bush&Co., we are moving more and more quickly toward
a kind of American neo-fascism, where one set of ideas is all that will be
permitted. (And you can bet that plans are being hatched already in Ashcroft's
office for censoring critical internet websites such as this one: "detrimental
to the war effort," you know.)
The progress made for most Americans under the New Deal and Great Society
programs of the past 60 years are being rolled back. Private greed, corporate
gluttony, more power to the powerful, imperial rampaging abroad, the polluters
making the pollution rules, the working/middle class (and minorities) taking it
in the neck -- all these and more help define Bush rule, and will only get worse
if the White House remains in GOP hands after 2004.
I'm not exaggerating. The handwriting is already clearly on the wall. War and
repression. It's that bad.
All those with whom I spoke on my East Coast trip, be they liberal Democrats or
traditional GOP conservatives, tended to see the Bush Administration in much the
same way as described above. But, we all agreed, by and large we were talking
about the more metropolitan "Blue" states, those on the two coasts that tend to
be more tolerant, more liberal in social outlook, more internationalist in
But what about the "Red," Bush-country, states in between the two coasts? How to
reach those citizens and convince them that voting for Bush again is not in
Several of the website editors I talked with noted that there have been
increasing signs, backed up by polling, that even in those Red states
disenchantment with Bush&Co. is palpable. Even in Kansas and Idaho, for example,
many small-government conservatives are deeply agitated by the extremist
politics practiced by the Bush cabal -- starting unnecessary wars abroad;
creating a huge, Big Brother federal government; damaging the economy and the
resulting enormous job losses; decimating Medicare, with Social Security next.
Similarly, when I was in Texas several months ago, I heard of lifelong
Republicans who already had announced that they would not vote for Bush again,
and many letters from moderate/conservative Republicans to The Crisis Papers and
other political websites, from a variety of states, echo that sentiment.
So fertile ground is open to Democratic plowing in supposed Bush country. Al
Gore vacillated back and forth in the 2000 campaign, but his initial
more-populist message did resonate with many voters; Howard Dean didn't handle
his position very elegantly on the need to talk sense to angry Southern white
males, but he, too, like Gephardt, is suggesting a campaign that takes it to the
Bush heartland on populist-type economic issues, especially in the
If the Democratic nominee can clearly articulate how it is in nobody's economic
or social interest to vote for the Republican candidate -- not even, in the long
run, for the corporate fat-cats -- then Bush country itself is put into play and
the Dems have a hope of taking some of those electoral votes. Especially given
the latent disenchantment with the Bush Administration among many true
conservatives in those states.
In short, the 2004 election can be won. Both because of the candidate the
Democrats will put up, and the scandals that hang like a putrefying collection
of road kill around George W. Bush's neck, most notably the cover-up of Bush's
pre-9/11 knowledge, the felonious outing of a covert CIA agent to punish a
political opponent, the massive lying to the Congress and American people that
led us into an unnecessary quagmire in Iraq, and so on.
So, yes, Bush is defeatable, but it ain't gonna be easy. Rove&Co. realize what's
at stake here -- their last chance to implement their far-right agenda, and set
up their repressive infrastructure, for another decade or two -- and already are
way ahead of the Democrats in terms of fund-raising and money available. They
are much more adept, for example, in how to employ the internet to their
advantage, with the Dems just getting started in playing catch-up. So that's a
big disadvantage one year ahead of the election.
Then, too, those opposed to Bush have to deal in a serious way with the
touch-screen computer issue, to eliminate the possibility of GOP fiddling with
the vote-counting software that currently is controlled mainly by three
Republican-leaning corporations. Since those corporations refuse to permit state
election officials to examine and test the software, the only way to ensure a
thoroughly clean, suspicionless balloting in 2004 is for the citizenry to demand
a postponement of computer-voting until the corruption and hacking issues can be
dealt with and resolved.
A major activist campaign should be mounted to convince the various Secretaries
of State -- who will be meeting in convention in February -- to REFUSE TO
PURCHASE computer-voting machines for their respective states from these three
companies until the software can be examined, tested and, if necessary, fixed,
ensuring that later manipulation of the results cannot be carried out.
If this process is not done, or cannot be done in time, the only method that
guarantees a fair and impartial election in November will be to use paper
ballots, hand-counted, with GOP and Dem representatives observing the tallying.
We've already had a tainted, controversial election in 2000; to restore faith in
the democratic process, the 2004 election must be fair, and be seen as fair, by
the entire electorate, untarnished by even a hint of chicanery.
If there is a fair and untampered-with election in November, the Democrat will
win. But that means that you and I need to start our work NOW, one year in
advance, to make that happen. The name of the game is active citizen involvement
that will build to a crescendo of democratic (small- and large-D) activism that
will eventuate in putting Bush and his dangerous cronies on the unemployment
rolls where they belong.
We'd love to get your sense of how you think things are going in your area. Send
us short reports on how the 2004 election is beginning to shape up in your state
-- not how you'd like it to turn out, but the way it seems to be moving
realistically. Send those reports to: >>email@example.com
Along with similar reports on other progressive websites, we'll begin creating
an electoral map. The national Democrats are targeting 17 swing states; let's
see if their map matches the picture you'll be providing.
Copyright 2003, by Bernard Weiner