December 06, 2003

- -A Difficult Decision - -

With sadness and trepidation, after much consideration, I have decided to withdraw this blog's support for Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign and endorse Howard Dean's candidacy. There - done . . . dammit.

Let me be clear. In my opinion, Congressman Kucinich is the better man. His world vision is clear. His spiritual grounding is obvious. His commitment to leading this country from the moral sewer to truly realize its potential is unshakeable. He has integrity, depth, and character. He should continue to be the best spokesman for the resurgence of a progressive populist force.

But these are dangerous times. Our federal government has been hijacked by a group of thugs and thieves who have a power base of resources that is ubiquitous, feral, and hungry. I fear that they will pull out all the stops to continue in power a year from now. Now is not the time, therefore, to put resources into building the progressive body politic . . . now is the time to remove the cancer and stop the bleeding.

Governor Dean will fill the bill - and he can (must) win. For the first time in many years, I feel that the choice will not be between "the lesser of two evils," but between a decent man and evil personified and incorporated.

In August of this year, Nico Pitney wrote a pretty good analysis in AlterNet. Excerpts:

The goal of progressives in the coming months, then, should be to continue what we're doing now – organizing, developing alternative social, economic, and environmental programs, and working to raise the national profile of our allies in the public sphere – while supporting Howard Dean and helping him win the primary and general elections. We have to keep close in mind what our country and our world will look like if George W. Bush's administration captures another term and can carry out its agenda without being restrained by reelection considerations. In what will likely be the most divisive and bitterly contested presidential election in decades, let's not use our precious energy and resources on candidates with no chance of defeating Bush. Rather, let's make sure to elect a candidate who, like Dean, at least supports publicly financed elections, instant run-off voting, and a constitutional amendment declaring that political contributions are not free speech, so that we directly strike at the structural stultification of our electoral system that forces us to limit our choices in the first place . . .

There is, in fact, good reason to believe that progressive supporters of Dean are well aware of his record, and are choosing to support him despite its flaws. As American Prospect senior editor Garance Franke-Ruta points out, "the most important part of the Dean message is that it makes [supporters] feel that they have the power to control their own destiny. ... This sense of renewed personal power and hope seemed more important to most posters [to Dean's weblog] than any specific policies that Dean supports or does not support, and few on the threads agreed wholeheartedly with the former governor on all his positions. Most recognized that he is a centrist who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal."

Critically, Dean's progressive supporters share a visceral passion to purge the White House of George Bush and his dangerous administration. They seem to agree with Bernard Weiner of the Crisis Papers, who admits that "from a long-term historical perspective, the Democrats and Republicans look and behave virtually alike. But in the real world, where most people live, there is just enough of a difference to justify a vote for a reasonable Democratic candidate for President. One's sense of personal 'purity' might be slightly compromised by voting for the Democratic candidate and thus helping to perpetuate a system that is not as uncorrupted as we would all like. But I don't think we can afford that self-involved luxury in 2004; this election decision is simply too vital, a matter of life and death for so many around the world."

Yesterday, Molly Ivins, also writing in AlterNet, clinched it for me. Excerpts:

It is the bounden duty of bleeding-heart liberals like myself to make our political choices based on purity of heart, nobility of character, depth of compassion, sterling integrity and generosity of spirit. The concept of actually winning a political race does not, traditionally, influence the bleeding heart liberal one iota – certainly not in the primaries.

Over the years, I have proudly voted for a list of losers only a lily-pure liberal could love. I am rather surprised not to find myself in the camp of the Noble Dennis Kucinich this year. (And believe me, there are supporters of the Noble Dennis who are plenty upset about it, too.) In fact, I initially passed on Dean precisely because he looked like one of my usual losers – 2 percent in the polls and the full weight of Vermont behind him ... wow, my kind of guy . . .

I know, he's even less of a liberal than Bill Clinton was, but I don't think Dean is a moderate centrist. I think he's a fighting centrist. And folks, I think we have got ourselves a winner here.

The Dumbopublicans have too much of a history of beating each other's brains out on the way to and during the convention. That must be avoided in this election cycle. Whoever is opposed to The Cheney Gang needs to unite, early and forcefully, behind the one candidate who has shown he has the strategy, financial backing, mostly right (er, left) ideas and sensibilities, and balls to save our asses.

The best thing Dennis Kucinich, Carol Braun, and Al Sharpton can do for the progressive movement now is to get out of Dean's way. I believe that if Dean wins big in New Hampshire, Iowa, and one or two other early contests, he will have more momentum than any Democrat since Carter.

This blog will not cease its progressive scream. In fact, it may get more strident. Because I don't see Howard Dean as "the answer." I just don't want the question to be "why didn't we put EVERYTHING into ousting Bush?"

Be at peace.