The New Veep? Surprise Us, Senator!

July 6, 2004

Dear Senator John Kerry,

You may have already chosen your running mate, but I’d like to ask you to reconsider.

Do you remember when the pundits who pass for journalists in this country said that you’d have to vote for an illegal aggressive war if you wanted to run for president? Do you remember that they were wrong, that you had to campaign against your own record during the primaries and tie yourself in knots to explain your vote against more funding for the same illegal aggressive war that you did and did not support?

Those same pundits are now telling you who to pick for a running mate. They pretend to be simply reporting on the people you’re considering, but they choose which ones to report on, which ones to omit, and which ones to label “the safe choice.” I read in the New York Times that Gephardt would be a safer choice than Edwards. The Times wasn’t arguing that point, of course, just informing us of it. These are the same morons who sold half the country on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and we still allow them to play us like this, slipping all their key claims in as unargued assumptions. That Edwards went further in the primaries than Gephardt is completely irrelevant to this sort of faith-based reporting.

The media stuck by you in the primaries, it’s true. Candidates who opposed the war or free trade or health insurance companies were completely obliterated. But you were not the only candidate whom the media treated with respect. Two others were Gephardt and Edwards. And they lost to you. Gephardt lost because he could not campaign against Bush after having led Democratic support for Bush, after having joined Bush in the Rose Garden to promote the war, and after having managed to lose the Democrats seats in the House in an off year with an unelected criminal occupying the White House.

Don’t you get it? Don’t you see why Kucinich was able to persuade two-thirds of the Democrats in the House to vote against their leader and the war? Don’t you see why people got excited about Dean when the media called him “the antiwar candidate” and yet still acted as if they were going to allow him to run?
Gephardt is a loser, Senator. He represents the two-faced timidity of the Democrats of the last quarter century. Unions didn’t abandon him because he supported the WTO and undermined the future of working people everywhere. Unions have always been happy to undermine their own principles. No, they ditched Gephardt because he has an established record as a loser.

What about Edwards? He doesn’t have an established record as anything. He did all right with his populist rhetoric, and yet the substance of his proposals, when there was any, was completely acceptable to the media. Edwards wouldn’t turn off as many people as Gephardt, but he wouldn’t attract many people whom you haven’t attracted already. And if you absolutely must pick a white male heterosexual Christian who supports free trade, private health insurance, and illegal wars, it seems to me that picking a millionaire and a Senator may be overkill. Do you need two of those on your ticket?

Well, what about Tom Vilsack, the Governor of Iowa? I don’t know him. I suspect that many people don’t know him. So, of course, I’m tempted to assume that he couldn’t be worse than the other guys and that he would bring with him the perspective of the states, which is badly needed in Washington. But a review of his record indicates that he is not someone who would excite the half of the country that hasn’t been convinced to vote in recent years, and that he is not someone who would persuade people to vote for you rather than Nader.

By the way, you and Democratic leaders really must stop asking Nader to pull out. That only encourages people to support him or other third-party candidates. He will never drop out, but if you oppose the war his support will almost all come to you.

If you do something that the media considers “safe,” such as naming Vilsack or Edwards or Gephardt your vice presidential candidate, you will be playing their game, not your own. What they mean by “safe” is demonstrably not “likely to induce excitement in a majority of Americans.”

You’ve got the moderates and swing voters locked up, Senator. Pick a Veep who can attract the progressives. Pick a candidate who will give now the sort of speeches Al Gore is giving four years too late. Pick a candidate who will help you to go out on a limb and oppose Bush’s weakest position, his war.

Pick a candidate with fire, a candidate with passion, a candidate devoted to democracy. Open yourself to considering candidates outside the acceptable race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and wealth. There are countless individuals in the country who could help you win this. Surprise us, Senator!

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