James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

ABB isn't enough to restore this country

Don’t get too excited folks.

On July 6, John Kerry announced that Sen. John Edwards will be his running mate. Like most liberals, I’m sure, my wife and I did a high five and uttered the obligatory “Yessssss!” She had been fairly sure Edwards would get the nod, but I feared the Democratic National Committee types would saddle us with hollow Dick Gephardt.

OK. Celebration over. Time, seven minutes – possibly more than it deserved.

Edwards is the best of the bunch considered by Kerry, but not the best person available to run. Good reporters say Kerry is “uncomfortable” with Edwards, which means the North Carolina senator probably will be nothing more than window dressing for the campaign. I’ve seen no explanation of that reported discomfort, but fear it is because Edwards has some genuine liberal leanings, although they’re mostly well under control.

Some pundits say he has the potential to draw votes in the South, but it would be naive to overestimate that appeal. In fact, it seems likely he’ll be more attractive to liberals and independents among blue-collar and middle class voters in the Midwest. The ignorant and macho South is going Republican all the way. Edwards won't even put his own state into the Democrat's column.

Happily, he is one of the few high-profile Democrats who have talked openly about our two-tier economy – everything being wonderful for the super rich, life getting ever harder for the other 90 percent of us. That provides some appeal for us liberals, obviously. But, as I said, don’t look for Edwards to have much influence on policy; he’s not going to be the blessed opposite of the vile Dick Cheney. DNC-style retro Republicans are sure to have more influence.


I hate to keep harping on this, but we have to keep it in mind: If Kerry/Edwards should win in November, despite Republican dirty tricks, the almost certain vote fraud in Florida, Ohio and at least two or three other states, and possible interference again from corrupt, right-wing courts, liberals may feel justified in devoting up to a week for celebration.

Then it will be time to really get to work.

Anybody But Bush is a tremendous motivator for people who have both conscience and the ability to reason, but there’s a very strong possibility that most of those who are so motivated will quickly fade away if Kerry wins in November, and that scares the hell out of me. If it happens, as seems likely, change in American policies, domestic and foreign, will be small. The right will continue to rule on most issues, and it probably will regain the White House in four years, almost certainly will in eight.

If people really want change – genuine progress toward better education, health care, social justice, a rational economy, a restoration of our international standing, a return to openness in government and a decent foreign policy – then they’re going to have to ride Kerry and Congressional Democrats like monkeys on a circus pony. They’re going to have to write letters and e-mails and make telephone calls with irritating (and effective) frequency, and let the Dems know that further support comes only at a price, which is serious attention to liberal ideals. The Democrats' party structure will have to be overhauled, relationships with big-buck lobbyists will have to change greatly.

Up to now, people, the Democrats aren’t showing any tendency to be a whole lot better than the Republicans. Some examples – not covered or hardly covered by your local news outlets – of what’s going on even as we go into the election season:

*You’re probably aware that nominal President Bush recently made it even more difficult for Americans to travel to and communicate with Cuba and any of its citizens. You may have missed what little coverage there was of the fact that, during a campaign trip to Florida, Kerry backed that move. It was to be expected of Bush. It was a shallow, gutless and essentially useless thing for Kerry to do.

Both candidates were, of course, playing to the rich, older Cuban exiles in Florida – because they vote but much more importantly because they contribute serious money to candidates who cater to their hatred of Fidel Castro.

Some basic facts: Cuba is the only Communist country to be treated in such a way by U.S. political leaders. The people to whom the pols are playing are by and large a nasty bunch. They’re the people who stole their own country blind, kept most of their countrymen in poverty and ignorance, often in virtual slavery. Many of them played cozy with Mafia dons and American corporate bigwigs who turned Cuba into the whorehouse of the Americas.

As a practical matter, the passionate Castro haters are a fading bunch; their offspring and many of their own generation who aren’t looking to go back and take over again want closer ties with the island nation; they want to be able to visit and help their relatives in Cuba. And as well as being stupid and cowardly, Kerry’s endorsement of the stiffer policy was pointless. The Cuban fat cats in Florida are solidly and forever in the right wing/Bush camp.

It also was stupid from a policy point of view; as students of Cuba and of international affairs have been saying for decades, the way to bring about desirable change in Cuba is the same method used with China and eastern Europe: engage the Cubans, help them develop and draw them more firmly into the international community.

* On June 23, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 407 to 9 for a resolution sponsored by the right-wing nut Tom DeLay to “strongly endorse” Bush’s April letter to Ariel Sharon. The Bush letter backed Sharon’s “disengagement” plan, which in effect will allow the continued existence of almost all of the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and leave Palestinians with a bunch of scattered enclaves that can support neither a decent economy nor a workable political structure.

The resolution supported Israel – or rather the right wing in Israeli politics – in imposing its will on the Palestinians, and failed to even suggest that Israel abide by many United Nations resolutions that would give Palestinians some reasonable control over their own fate. Sharon’s hugely flawed plan would, among many other egregious actions, allow Israel to conduct military operations within Palestinian areas whenever and however it chooses.

There’s much more – it’s a complex situation – but, in essence, it continues the Bush policy of allowing Sharon and his rightists to do whatever they choose to the Palestinians whenever they choose. The reason for that – and the reason for the overwhelming Congressional vote – is akin to the stances taken by Bush and Kerry on Cuba: It is purely a matter of votes.

(It’s interesting to note that craven American pols, and the Americans voters to whom the play, ignore the fact that a very substantial portion of the Israeli public is disgusted by and ashamed of Sharon and his extremist backers.)

Stephen Zunes, a professor of politics and chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco, who has several other credentials, wrote a solid analysis of the Congressional resolution and the situation that brought it to pass. It’s available at www.fpif.org.

* In a situation far too complex to explain here, Kerry again has joined with Bush in siding against the people of another country and with the rich and powerful who traditionally have used and want still to exploit the country’s assets and people for their own enrichment. The country is Venezuela.

Bush, Kerry and most other American pols take they same stance they traditionally have taken Latin America: Against a government (led by President Hugo Chavez) that actually is delivering on some promises to improve the lot of the broad population and for the traditional oligarchy. A clear explanation of the situation is made in the July 12 issue of The Nation.

Sadly, such examples of Democrat perfidy are not hard to find. The party and most of its leaders remain in thrall to the super rich and corporate elite, despite the fact that the money favors the far right side of the Republican Party.

If anything really is to change, American liberals have to lace on the spiked shoes and jump all over the Democrats, all day every day, beginning almost immediately after this year’s election, if not earlier.