How desperate is John Kerry? How desperate is the Democratic Party to win the White House in November? So desperate that Kerry is still all but begging conservative Republican warhawk John McCain to be his vice-presidential running mate, according to a front page article in the June 12th New York Times.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. This is the same John Kerry who was quoted in the February 9, 2004, New Yorker admitting that "we don't really have an opposition party in this country except during the brief period, every four years, between the nomination and the election." Apparently Kerry, who along with John McCain voted to support the war on Iraq, would erase even that narrow period of supposed differences to morph the Democrats into the Republican Party Lite version of the Bush/Cheney gang.
Why would Kerry embarrass himself and his party by courting a conservative Republican? The answer is easy: a recent CBS News poll concluded that Kerry/McCain could beat Bush/Cheney by 14%.
In our new book, Banana Republicans, Sheldon Rampton and I analyze how the far right first took over first the Republican party and now all branches of the federal government through decades of discipline, strategic funding, political organizing, coalition-building and a passionate far-right pro-business vision. For the first time since 1932 Republicans control all branches of the federal government and for the first time since 1952 they dominate at the state government level. Republicans have planted the myth of the liberal media firmly in the public mind, while moving mainstream news coverage to the right. They have created their own media -- right wing talk radio and Fox News -- and made it the most important opinion shaping force in the United States.
The progressive Democratic base of unionists, women, minorities, environmentalists, gays and others are rabidly anti-Bush and furiously mobilizing to win in November. The scores of leading progressives who publicly supported Ralph Nader in 2000 -- such as Michael Moore, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jim Hightower, PhilDonahue and Susan Sarandon -- are all supporting Anybody But Bush. Yet the image of Kerry courting McCain and declaring that America is essentially a one-party state has got to be troubling to progressives who are generally avoiding criticism of Kerry and the Democratic leadership and focusing their wrath on Bush.
Anyone who believes that the Republican far-right's ascendancy to power is going to fade away should Bush manage to lose in November is over-medicated. The powerful right-wing juggernaut constructed over the decades is just hitting its prime, politically. Sure, the Republicans are far to the right of most Americans on key issues such as tax fairness, health care, abortion rights and the environment. But that was true during the Reagan regime, too, and we've just had a non-stop, week-long, media love-in reminding us how little it mattered then or now that Reagan was way out of touch on policies, since his tough-love patriotic cowboy image still sells so well.
Bush may very well lose in November given his foreign policy disasters and growing questions over why 9/11 was not prevented. But there is very little indication that even a Bush defeat would be much of a speed bump for the Republican right's growing power. Until progressives in America roll up their sleeves and work to create real political power on the left in the sort of disciplined, long-term, visionary and well-funded way that worked for the Right, desperate ploys will accomplish nothing in the long term. Kerry/McCain anyone?
John Stauber is the Executive Director of the Center for Media & Democracy and the Co-Author of 'Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing Is Turning America into a One-Party State'