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Regime Change Movement Picks Up Steam

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  • robalini@aol.com
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Regime Change Movement Picks Up Steam By Don
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 30, 2004
      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Regime Change Movement Picks Up Steam
      By Don Hazen, AlterNet
      January 27, 2004

      Last summer, I sat in a hotel room at the Campaign for America's
      Future gathering in Washington D.C and listened to four presidential
      candidates - John Edwards, John Kerry, Howard Dean and Dennis
      Kucinich - speak in rapid order. At that point, I didn't "have" a
      candidate, although I knew and admired Kucinich. But the issue
      already on my mind was electability; who among these candidates could
      go all the way come next November?

      I remember thinking as I listened to Kerry's speech, "OK, this guy is
      presidential, he's electable. I can live with John Kerry."

      The other candidates gave more rousing speeches and had more natural
      speaking talent, especially Kucinich, who brought the crowd to its
      feet a dozen times. John Edwards displayed the folksy charm developed
      in his successful career as a trial lawyer. But I came back to Kerry,
      who seemed to have the most gravitas - and perhaps electability.

      Much has happened since that June day more than seven months ago. One
      of the most dynamic insurgent campaigns in recent presidential
      history, by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, crashed and burned
      in the corn fields of Iowa and in the bitter cold last night in New
      Hampshire. But some things haven't changed; I still don't have a
      candidate, and I'm thinking about John Kerry. I don't have a
      candidate because I don't want a "candidate"; I want to see a new
      president elected, and he can be Anyone But Bush.

      For the first time in recent memory, many progressives - self-styled
      members of the "regime change movement" - are aligned with a broad
      cross-section of the Democratic Party electorate. We can call this
      alliance the ABBA party - Anybody But Bush Again. Analysis of voting
      in Iowa and New Hampshire underscores that electability reigns
      supreme as the chief overriding issue for many Democratic and
      independent voters, as it is for me.

      The reasons seem clear. George W. Bush and his radical right-wing
      agenda have traumatized many Americans. The Republican juggernaut
      threatens to undo much of what Americans have come to count on from
      their government. The result is a new strain of pragmatism and an
      unusual moment in American politics. Voters are seeking not the most
      passionate or progressive, or moderate or anti-war candidate, but
      rather the one who is most electable, who can stand up to the
      bullying, the war-mongering, the tax cuts for the wealthy, and the
      scare tactics that dominate the Bush administration.

      As Pradipto Bagchi, 30, a financial analyst from Manchester, NH told
      the New York Times: "It hurts to vote this way, but I think George
      Bush has been a disaster, and if my cat had the best change of
      beating Bush, I'd vote for my cat."

      Even the polls show that only 44 percent of the public want to see
      Bush reelected (even though large majorities expect him to be). It
      feels a lot like Iran in America, where the forces of reason are
      fighting the religious fundamentalists, and the deck, at first
      glance, appears stacked - in this case because of corporate media's
      collusion on behalf of the incumbent, which carries with it the
      expectation of defeat.

      This feeling of disempowerment was part of the Dean downfall.
      Corporate media's coverage of Dean's campaign was clearly unbalanced.
      The AP reported on Jan. 16 that Dean received significantly more
      criticism on network newscasts than the other Democratic candidates
      according to a study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs. The
      study also found that 51 percent of the coverage of Dean was
      negative, compared to 78 percent of the rest of the Democratic field
      receiving positive coverage.

      The Youth Vote

      There is a long history of insurgent presidential candidacies that
      temporarily caught the wave and then bit the dust long before the
      nominee was chosen. Gary Hart, Jerry Brown - particularly Eugene
      McCarthy's peace quest in 1968 in New Hampshire that sent Lyndon
      Johnson to the sidelines - are examples. Insurgencies can make a huge
      impact, as Dean's may yet. But they can also leave a lot people
      deeply disappointed.

      As Dean's chances for the nomination have shrunk, many are concerned
      about the huge expectations on the part of tens of thousands of young
      people who joined his campaign and decided that politics is cool.
      These are the troops counted on to help expand the electorate among
      younger voters. Even though they vote at a considerably smaller rate
      than adults, "the under-25 voter will constitute between 7 and 8% of
      the total vote in 2004," according to pollster Anna Greenberg.

      Hopefully the Deaniacs' insurgent effort will take a lot of credit
      for energizing the collective political psyche. Dean's in-your-face
      campaign motivated the other candidates, made them better and more
      assertive. After Iowa, Michael Moore wrote to Dean campaigners, "I am
      convinced that the electorate in that state was invigorated by the
      Dean campaign - whose entire message was that you can make a
      difference. Just the fact that you have people thinking this way is a
      gift you have given to America, a nation where the majority, in the
      past, have given up and refused to vote. I believe that you and
      Howard Dean will be credited with waking up a near-dead voting
      public. Thank you!"

      Yet in Iowa, a majority of young voters ended up supporting Kerry and
      Edwards. Once again, electability trumped popularity. That's why the
      talented and passionate Dennis Kucinich, despite lots of admiration,
      doesn't get any votes. It's why Gephardt is on the sidelines, and
      will likely eventually be joined by Dean and Clark. For Dean, the
      collective attack by the body establishment - media, pundits,
      corporate politicians and his opponents - took its toll before the
      first vote was cast.

      Anything can still happen as the primaries go south and west and
      spread across the land. But one has the sense that Iowa and New
      Hampshire expressed some collective wisdom.

      Good For Change?

      How is all this good for regime change? First, it suggests the
      maturity of voters who recognize that getting Bush out of office is
      paramount. Second, polls in Iowa and New Hampshire indicate that
      health care and the economy are more important in the national
      consciousness than the war, terrorism and national security - areas
      where Bush still polls relatively well.

      Even Iowa anti-war voters supported Kerry more than Dean, even though
      Kerry voted to authorize the war on Iraq. How could this be? Well,
      the war is turning out not to be the fundamental litmus test in the
      primaries, and it won't be in November. More importantly, John Kerry
      is seen as a critic of Bush's war, and he voted against the
      authorization of $87 billion for Iraq. For more moderate voters, the
      undecideds who are now deeply suspicious of Bush, the Kerry path is
      more like theirs, and in Kerry they sense someone who has stood for

      As Harold Myerson wrote in the LA Weekly, Kerry was a war hero AND an
      anti-war hero. "Kerry ... repeatedly put himself in harm's way,
      saving his comrades' lives and returning home to become the
      charismatic leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Wearing his
      fatigues, he went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
      concluding his testimony with a mighty question: 'How do you ask a
      man to be the last man to die for a mistake?'"

      Twelve Steps

      An article I wrote last fall, A 12-Step Program For Regime Change,
      attracted large traffic to AlterNet, and was reprinted in the Utne
      Reader. A number of readers wrote to say they were encouraged by the
      clarity of the concerns and optimism expressed.

      One of the key premises of the article was the need to have an
      independent force capable of registering, educating and mobilizing
      voters no matter who the nominee; a process that is clearly underway.

      Today, at the beginning of primary season, many of the concerns
      in "12 Steps" are being addressed. Leaders are being strategic;
      battleground states are the targets, while increasing numbers of
      people are feeling their strength and dedicating themselves to the
      tasks ahead. Substantial early resources are being invested in voter
      mobilization, particularly by strategic progressive donors like
      George Soros, Peter Lewis, Rob McKay and Rob Glaser, among others.

      There has been very little squabbling among progressives, while the
      independent media, particularly on the Internet, is providing an
      enormous amount of material that should sink the ship of Bush, if
      communicated far and wide. And people are even trying to understand
      how to frame a positive vision and message and not fall into the easy
      trap of always attacking the conservative message.

      Insiders report that the efforts of organizations, especially
      MoveOn.org, to raise fundamental questions about Bush's character are
      having an effect. MoveOn's television ads, tested in battleground
      states and produced with funds raised from their tens of thousands of
      donors, are having a powerful impact on voters, according to those
      with access to the follow-up polling results.

      In the meantime, according to Washington columnist Mike Lux, Bush's
      State of the Union address demonstrated that the president and his
      team are not feeling as confident about the upcoming election as they

      "It was both the most defensive SOTU I have ever seen, and the most
      nakedly partisan ... choosing the harshly partisan rhetoric you
      generally see on the campaign trail in October. Bush threw red meat
      to his supporters by vehemently defending tax cuts and the Iraq War.
      He threw symbolic bones to his religious right supporters on such
      earth-shattering topics as promoting abstinence and opposing steroid
      use by professional athletes. Bush's strategy remains consistent:
      First, scare the hell out of people; second, show his compassionate
      conservative side with (mostly unfunded) rhetoric on education, jobs
      and health care; finally, stoke up his right-wing base with culture
      war attacks on gays, peaceniks, trial lawyers and liberals."

      Increasingly, it seems, this strategy will not work. Bush's base is
      too small and the anti-Bush base too energized. The ABBA party has a
      challenging battle ahead, but there is a growing confidence that the
      Ayatollahs of fundamentalist America can be pushed aside for a more
      just and inclusive society.

      The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author
      and in no way reflect the opinions of AlterNet or the Independent
      Media Institute, which take no positions in elections.
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