"I'd rather vote for something I want and not get it than
vote for something I don't want, and get it."
- Eugene V. Debs
Six Grim Consequences of the Anybody But Bush Plague
- by M. Junaid Alam
The Anybody But Bush plague has infected the American left with ruthless speed and efficiency. Descrying how, why, and under what circumstances this or that particular leftist figure has fallen victim to it is a rather cumbersome and tedious task best left to the coroners of history. It seems far more prudent now to identify, in concrete terms, the most important consequences the ABB epidemic will have on our attempts to reshape society along more just and rational lines. Below, I outline six of them.
One: The first and most devastating consequence of ABB politics in the short-term is that it has resulted in total political paralysis on the burning question of war in Iraq. It is irrefutable that this issue more than any other currently occupies the full attention of the American public; polls have found that it ranks above any other foreign or domestic among the electorate, and that a continually growing -now majority - part of the population opposes the war. It is equally irrefutable that John Kerry and the Democratic Party have decided not to jeopardize the ruling-class consensus to continue and deepen the war effort: far from opposing the war, their goal is to appear as more efficient and responsible executors of the war than the Bush team.
For a left which has placed its neck in the noose of the Democratic Party the implication is obvious: the priority is to elect Kerry, not oppose the war. A major segment of the leadership and the rank-and-file they influence in the anti-war movement are currently scurrying about getting out the vote for John Kerry. The main intellectual and political firepower of the liberal anti-war left is and has been directed at whipping up the ABB frenzy, slandering Nader, painting Bush as Hitler reborn - in other words, not focused on Iraq. This represents a tremendous failure to capitalize upon an enormous opportunity: to galvanize and consolidate public anti-war sentiment into a powerful domestic movement to end the war at this pivotal stage of conflict. Instead, with the drive to vote for pro-war Kerry, all that is being built up is false illusions among the many who stand against war, and the pay envelope of the few who kneel before power.
Two: A second and related side effect of the ABB position is deafening silence concerning the Palestinian plight. Naturally, Kerry has heartily embraced the one-wall dungeon Ariel Sharon is building for the Palestinian people and has joined camp with Bush in heaping all blame on the politically enfeebled and isolated Yassir Arafat. Liberals have never spoken in defense of the uprooted, occupied, brutalized, and suffocated Palestinians, much preferring to cower behind the canard of "anti-Semitism" and hypocritical one-sided moralizing about suicide attacks. Nonetheless, since a major ABB theme is that removing Bush will oust the "dangerous clique" of Israeli-linked neoconservatives from power, it seems necessary to point out that these same liberals not only condemned those who identified the dangerous influence of neoconservatism before the war started as "anti-Semites", but have now adopted the anti-neocon mantra while failing to defend the actual primary victims of that ideology - the Palestinians.
Three: The third major repercussion of the pro-Kerry stampede includes the first and second ones, but goes far beyond them. For the issues of Iraq and Palestine are neither divorced from each other, nor from the broader political dynamic that defines our time: growing Muslim resentment of American foreign policy and America's aggravation of that resentment in the form of intensified perpetual war and war posturing against Muslim countries. What is called the "war on terror", "clash of civilizations" or "the new imperialism", depending on one's ideological convictions, is a conflagration fueled primarily by the dual crises of Iraq and Palestine. Therefore the Democratic Party endorsement of colonial occupation in both areas has consequences that reach beyond the problems exclusive to each conflict specifically, and are thus doubly damning.
The unavoidable truth here is twofold: continued pulverization of Iraq and strangulation of Palestine is a necessary consequence of American-Israeli projection of power into a region which will never willingly submit to conquest; and increasing Islamic hatred, anger, militancy, and terrorism against America is an inevitable consequence of that pulverization and strangulation.
Those liberals who fear the possibilities of a police-state, of interminable terror alerts, of the constant paranoia on the home front that comes hand in hand with the prospect of individual terrorism, would have done well to wise up and realize that none of this is really the result of George W. Bush: Islamist terrorism is on the rise not because of the president's poor syntax, but because Muslims are getting killed by American soldiers and American weapons. As long as this persists, the American public's suspicion, hatred, and contempt for Muslims will obviously rise as the Islamist backlash grows. Therefore the people will heartily welcome - even demand - increasingly racist and totalitarian measures so long as they are provided a measure of comfort and security, no matter who is in office.
Four: The fourth problem we will face in the aftermath of Anybody But Bush is increased difficulty in mounting a meaningful third-party campaign. With the gracious help of none too few ABBers, the two-party system has refined and honed its ability to ensure its monopoly in the electoral arena. So far this has included challenging signatures to get Nader on the ballot in various states simply to drain and sap his campaign's funding and energy, standing around pretending to sign the petition and giving the illusion that enough people are present and then running off at the moment of signing, using functionaries of the Democratic Party to prevent ballot signatures directly, and sending scaremongering letters to people who support Nader stating they could be thrown in jail if they supplied incorrect information. That much of this has been conducted by liberals without any direct funding or guidance from the Democratic Party is a crucial index of where they stand. All these underhanded maneuvers employed in sabotaging Nader's campaign will not simply expire the day after the election. They will remain in the ruling-class tool box to derail future initiatives, and serve to reinforce the atmosphere of antipathy towards third-party politics.
Five: The fifth consequence of ABBism is the internal implosion of what was the most viable third party, the Green Party. In a nomination process which very well may have been rigged and undemocratic (see the Greens for Nader analysis here), the party ended up rejecting the Nader ticket in favor of the essentially unheard of and unknown David Cobb. That no one knows who David Cobb is apparently the main strength of his campaign: its platform is to vote for the Democrats in "swing states" - that is, where it matters. The Green Party, which gained national recognition after backing a longtime fighter for important domestic pro-worker, pro-consumer reforms in Ralph Nader four years ago, which made huge strides in California with the leadership of the fiery Peter Camejo and popular Matt Gonzalez just last year, is now spearheaded by a man whose sole political purpose on the national stage is to encourage people to vote for an opposing political party. Such is the completely absurd and bizarre impact of ABB politics.
Six: The sixth and final ramification to contend with is the fact that ABB-lite arguments advanced by radicals result in complete disorientation and confusion about what the left actually is, what it is capable or willing of doing, and how it can act effectively. That there is in fact no monolithic creature known as "the left" should have been made clear by the obvious differences and fault lines in the anti-war movement over questions like the importance of Palestine, the nature of the Iraqi resistance, the meaning of the "Support Our Troops" slogan, the authority of the UN, and so on. Of course, political unity became important because the war drums were beating and getting people out on the streets was the priority; whether people opposed the war because they opposed the system producing it or merely the president launching it was not the point.
Now however, the inability and unwillingness to state the obvious - distinguishing what it means to be anti-capitalist as opposed to merely anti-Bush - is totally inexcusable. No purpose of unity is served by radicals lending cover to liberals with watered-down versions of the ABB argument, because the liberal opposition to the inherent flaws of the system will be silenced, tamed, and bought out if their supposed savior John Kerry wins the presidency. And then it's back to square one all over again.
M. Junaid Alam, 21, Boston, co-editor of Left Hook, feedback: email@example.com