You Backed Kucinich or Sharpton or Dean: Now What?

So, you backed Dennis Kucinich or Al Sharpton because of their progressive platforms, or you backed Howard Dean because he stood up to Bush – Now what?

President John Kerry? We have to hope so, given the alternative, but how can we get excited about a Democratic nominee who has so much in common with the Republican incumbent? One way would be to recognize the strength we have and force John Kerry to get excited about us and our demands.

Some say that progressives will be taken for granted in the general election because they can be expected to vote for anyone but Bush. They’ll be treated the way Bush treated right wingers last time around: he counted on their hatred for Clinton-Gore. He let black folks on the stage at the convention and babbled on and on about compassion, but the wing nuts voted for him anyway, in nearly large enough numbers to win the election.

Why can’t Kerry take progressive, popular, anti-corporate voters for granted? After all, the media told them to vote for him in the primaries, and many of them obeyed. And they obeyed in greater numbers as the primaries progressed, demonstrating an apparent desire to vote for him precisely because their votes weren’t needed, a desire to avoid influencing the nominee’s platform by voting for a candidate who supported their views.

Kerry won’t win easily by running on his record. And if does, it won’t be much of a win for us. He needs to run on his proposals for change, and we need to help shape those proposals.

Remember when the media was telling everyone to vote for Dean and depicting Kerry as tangling himself in knots with his support/opposition to the war? In several of the Democratic candidates debates, Kerry has indeed seemed to tie himself in knots. At other times he’s fumbled around to fill his allotted time because he clearly hasn’t had anything he was eager to say.

Kerry says he supported the war because Bush lied to him. Well, I didn’t believe Bush. Did you? Kucinich didn’t. Sharpton didn’t. In a new twist to this game of pass-the-buck, author Jonathan Rauch says it’s not Bush’s fault because Saddam Hussein lied to Bush (and also because the war is worth it to annoy the French; I kid you not: )

Kerry’s record on the Iraq War may not hurt him with some voters, but with those of us who’ve been actively working for a candidate for peace it presents a problem. Were Kerry to advocate ending the war, however, then perhaps we could really get behind him.

Of course he knows most of us will vote for him no matter what. What leverage do we have? One thing we have is the ability to reach out to the 50 percent of Americans who don’t vote. If we can convince Kerry that by promising to work to immediately end the war he will motivate us to register new voters for him, we might get somewhere. The same goes for other issues as well, but unless we end the war the problem with many other issues will be the shortage of money that isn’t being spent in Iraq.

Why not send the Kerry campaign a note at that says something like:

Dear Senator Kerry,
We have to vote President Bush out, and I plan to vote for you toward that end in the general election. I am hoping that you still carry with you the lessons of Vietnam. Iraq provides an additional lesson. We spent money on weapons manufacturing in the United States during Vietnam, and it – together with wiser domestic policies — helped our economy. We are pouring money into Iraq this time with no benefit at home – and no clear benefit in Iraq. If you will commit to quickly ending this drain on our resources and on the lives of our young men and women, if you will stop this war that is destabilizing the Middle East and making all of us less safe, then I will commit to personally registering at least 20 new voters and to personally persuading at least three people to each register 20 new voters.

And after you send that note, if your state primary or caucus has not happened yet, you should think hard about whether you want your primary vote to send a message.

In any case, whomever you vote for, you should stand outside the polls and help promote the nearest March 20, 2004, march for peace:

Plan to use those marches as opportunities to organize people for the task of making John Kerry a candidate we can get excited about and help elect, not to mention the task of keeping him that way after the election.

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