Each day I log on to my progressive news sites perform my daily
reading. There's GNN, Alternet, Common Dreams, and when I'm feeling
less completely subjective - Salon. What I've seen a lot of recently
is a troubling trend amongst progressive writers. While the country
seems deeply split on a macro level between issues of Liberal and
Conservative, the progressive movement is also evenly split between
Liberal and More Liberal. Or Dean and Kucinich. Though I normally
welcome this healthy debate, our democracy is not healthy today. We
are being led by a President that is universally regarded around the
world and by many in this country as the most dangerous leader we have
ever had. Therefore, consider the following a call for unity.
The mainstream press has given Howard Dean the mixed blessing of
magazine covers with headlines like "Destiny or Disaster?", the
progressive press seems to be engaging in the same public thought
process. Perhaps this was best marked by two articles recently, one
titled "The Progressive Case for Howard Dean" while the other responded
"A Progressive Case for Dean? Not Yet, Kucinich is Still Our Man."
Whether it's Newsweek or Guerrilla News, the message is clear: "Once
the progressives learn who Howard Dean really is they will run from him
faster than Dick Cheney fleeing to his 'undisclosed location.'"
Truth be told, I'm still waiting for a minority radical feminist who
puts renewable energy above everything else and guts the military
budget to invest in renewable state-of-the-art public schools
(including free college education). But you know what? I'll be
waiting a little while longer. While I could write articles saying
Dennis Kucinich isn't my dream candidate - "After all, one need not
point out that our candidate of hope is not EVEN a minority radical
feminist." - while I could do this, I don't. And why? Because today
there is a bigger fight to be fought.
Two years ago, France faced a similar crisis. An unpopular Prime
Minister led to a record low Primary election voter turnout of 73%.
Can anyone imagine an 73% voter turnout here. It would be like nothing
we've ever seen in our lifetime. A triumph. In France, it was
catastrophe. Not just because it showed a real civil detachment from
the political process, but also because this weakness was seized upon
by Jean-Marie LePen. LePen was a fascist in the truest sense of the
word. I know we all get fired up and call Bush a fascist, but really,
this guy was a self-described fascist. He meant every word of it.
With his election success, France now faced a tough decision.
Apathetic voter turnout allowed the country's favorite candidate,
Jospin, to lose in the Primary. France now faced a general election
between the hated Jean-Marie LePen and the also hated (though now that
word was put into new context) Jacque Chirac.
What did the French do? Did they publish article after article
exposing all the positions where their Socialist party leader just
wasn't socialist enough? No. They rolled up their sleeves and fought
the good fight. They knew that if they tried to run an independent
candidate they would lose the country to a Fascist who's fondness
towards blaming foreigners for poisoning the country's economy sounded
a little too familiar to that of another Fascist that visited their
country only 50 years ago. No, with this election it was time to
swallow pride and put aside political differences to save the country.
European TV all over the continent showed coverage on election day of
the French, in a moment of great national humor, casting their ballot
for Chirac and then stepping forward into a shower to cleanse
themselves. And guess what? Chirac won. Was it a triumph for French
politics? Absolutely not. I think the French will be the first to
tell you though, that sometimes averting a political disaster is
Can you accurately imagine the disaster of Dubya having four years to
operate without fear of reelection. He could do virtually anything he
wanted. Heck, he could create laws that allow him to spy on all of us
without any probable cause. He could lock up thousands of people
without charging them and deny them access to a lawyer. He could make
deals with his business cronies to open up our national parks to a
buffet of abuses. He could invade other countries and steal their
resources. Oh wait, that's his first term.
And that's my point. I don't think any one of us could have imagined
this first term. Now, from that starting point, imagine the next four.
It should keep you up at night.
In reality, from the mainstream viewpoint a win by Howard Dean in the
general election would herald a new era in American politics. It would
seem that America was operating, overall, on a liberal foundation.
After all the statements to the contrary, constituents wanted MORE
progressive candidates and not more centrist candidates. Right wing
radio wouldn't know how to spin it. Politicians would throw out their
old playbook and start over. And that's where the progressive movement
can really be effective.
Do I love Kucinich despite the fact that he's not a minority radical
feminist? Yes. Does he look like he's going to win the general
election, let alone the Primary elections? I don't think so. We
should really take our cue this time from France. Election cycles are
not about enacting 180 degree radical political shift. Change takes
time. The Republicans didn't take over in one election. George Bush
is not the 1960s republican. Even Nader frequently laments that he's
nostalgic for conservatives like Nixon. George Bush represents a
gradual takeover (albeit one that was accelerated by illegal voter
fraud in Florida).
The key is to unite. In its most crude terms, the Democratic wing of
the Democratic party can be broken down into two camps: The Deans and
The Kucinichs. Can we all please unite around one of them? I am more
than willing to throw full support behind Kucinich if he were setting
the record for fundraising, grassroots turnout, and media coverage.
All I ask is the same from you because right now that person is Howard
Ryan Harlin and Lisa Eriksson live in Los Angeles, CA. Their entry
into political activism was awakened from passive admiration to active
participation after the attacks of September 11.