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The Hunt For The Dem That Can Beat Bush

by Alexander Cockburn

Dean and Kucinich vie for progressive votes
Don't think the antiwar movement has dropped off the political map. A lot of those people, and there were millions of them, are thinking: Who should I vote for in 2004?

This brings us to the Democratic candidates vying for the honor of running against G. Bush in 2004. Senators Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, Bob Graham, John Kerry and Rep. Dick Gephardt all supported the war with varying degrees of enthusiasm

Firmly antiwar were one white, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and two blacks, the Rev. Al Sharpton and former U.S. Senator Carol Mosely Braun.

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, now vying with Kucinich for the support of the progressive crowd, stood by his position that any attack on Iraq should have the explicit blessing of the UN Security Council.

The logic of Dean's position is that if the UN Security Council had approved, war would have been justified. By contrast, Rep. Dennis Kucinich has always taken the position, as has Rev. Al Sharpton, that the UN inspectors should have been allowed to do their work. In consequence, across the past few weeks, Kucinich's newly minted candidacy for the nomination has flourished among the white Left.

Barbara Ehrenreich and Marcus Raskin, both with solid credentials when it comes to issuing Democratic candidates with visas to campaign for the left vote, have issued an urgent advisory to the Left that Kucinich is The One, the best hope for progressives, a rallying point for those who might have given up on the Democratic Party.

Aside from the backing from Ehrenreich, Raskin and the Institute for Policy Studies, which is writing many of his position papers, Kucinich has backing from a slice of liberal Hollywood, in the form of Peter Coyote and Lindsay Wagner, the Bionic Woman.

As an aspirant for the nomination, Kucinich is in the odd position of having come back from the dead even before he declared himself a candidate. Six months ago, his long-standing opposition to abortion seemed an insuperable barrier inside the Democratic Party.

Kucinich, like Gore before him, duly finessed his position by saying that his personal antipathy to abortion would not stand in the way of his appointing pro-choice justices, and like manner heeding to the concerns of the pro-choice lobby. This hasty bargain with his principles got him into progressive good odor.

Among Kucinich's Hollywood supporters is Shirley MacLaine, an old friend who's godmother to Kucinich's daughter. MacLaine is most definitely in Hollywood's New Age quadrant, high priestess in the groves of wu-wu, with political obsessions mulched with conspiracies such as the official suppression of evidence about UFOs and chemtrails.

MacLaine introduced Kucinich to Chris Griscom, a New Age high priestess from Galisteo, New Mexico's answer to Delphi. Griscom's Web site pipes her institute as "an enchanting center for spiritual healing and multi-incarnational explorations." Kucinich has spent time at Galisteo, no doubt exploring itineraries for campaign trips to the age of Akhnaten and ur-Atlantis.

In New Mexico Kucinich met up with another big name on the New Age circuit, in the form of Marianne Williamson, the (extremely attractive) spiritual guru to out-there Hollywood stars. Williamson dispenses a conflation of Tibetan Buddhism, Christianity and self-realization, and has exercised a powerful influence on the vegetarian congressman from Ohio.

Williamson's group, the Global Renaissance Alliance, inspired Kucinich to make his prime plank The Department of Peace, which is a pretty silly idea. Better he campaign to have the Defense Department renamed the War Department, which is what it was until 1949. The way things are in Washington, any Department of Peace would soon be awash with arms-control types from Brookings, then probably captured by Special Forces from the hawkish National Endowment for Democracy.

Though he's hotly touted across the progressive spectrum, Kucinich hasn't a prayer of becoming a serious contender, and I'm amazed to see people like Ehrenreich acting as the Pied Piper, calling all the erstwhile Greens, the Natural Law Party and other exiles back under the Big Top. Kucinich has no money, no name recognition and didn't do any of the advance legwork that Dean embarked on long ago.

Kucinich is no opportunist, but I can't say the same for those who see his candidacy as a come-along to haul people back into the Democratic Party. Here we are, just under a year away from the first primaries, and already orders to march in lockstep are being issued. Take Marty Jezer, a well-known leftish Vermont journalist who writes a weekly column in the Brattleboro Reformer. Jezer has always held the position that the Left was irresponsible in not rallying to Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Last week, Jezer announced that "a Third Party presidential challenge from the Left would be reactionary and traitorous in the 2004 election."

The same sentiments have been put forth by, the promoters of Win Without War, a left front for the Democratic Party.

There's a current across the entire liberal Left exercising a powerful pull on people to unite to put out George Bush. This is understandable. Bush is awful, far more so than anticipated. Ashcroft is awful. Rumsfeld is awful. The Bush crowd has used 9-11 as the lever to put through a truly nightmarish political agenda both at home and overseas.

But does that mean that in the spring of 2003 everyone across the left-green-anti-Democratic Party spectrum has to hunker down and pledge support now for any and every Democratic candidate, like Dean whose economic program is wholeheartedly reactionary and whose foreign policy is only a few scant degrees athwart that of Bush; like John Kerry, who applauded the war?

Here we are in a world, half of whose population of 6,000,000,000 lives on less than $2 a day. At home the economy teeters on the edge of long-term recession. A dip in the housing market and it'll be a fast downhill slide. We've barely heard a single Democratic candidate address any major problem with anything other than rote rhetoric, though Dick Gephardt has come out with a health plan that deserves discussion.

"Traitorous" to call for a few new ideas? I don't think so.

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor April 30, 2003 (

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