2004 US Presidential Election: Recapitulation

by Gilles d'Aymery

October 18, 2004   


"Only the ideas that we really live have any value."
—Hermann Hesse (Damian)

(Swans - October 18, 2004)   Time to recapitulate the various stands taken by this bevy of Swans in regard to the November 2004 US presidential election, with an eye firmly set toward the future (there will be a post-election era, you know...). Stands were taken to quite a degree, much wider than I would have hoped... We've published some 40+ essays in the past seven or eight months, representing many, often diverging, views, from calling to vote for Ralph Nader, or David Cobb, or John Kerry, or Anybody But Bush, and everything in between -- even not to vote at all. At the least we were spared the embarrassment and the predicament of having to publish a pro-Bush perspective!

You'll find below my own classification, in roughly seven categories, of the various positions that have been taken. Then, I provide a short summary of those views with links to some of the articles. Finally, for those of you interested in finding out how about we ended up presenting such diverse and disparate positions, I offer my own take on the process that led to this free-for-all (otherwise known as the management of complexities).

1) Classification of the various positions

- In favor of voting for Kerry:
Milo Clark
Ed Herman
Phil Rockstroh
Joel Wendland

- In favor of voting for Cobb:
Eli Beckerman
José Tirado

- In favor of voting for Nader:
Gilles d'Aymery
Jan Baughman
Louis Proyect
John Steppling

- Will not vote for either Kerry or Bush, but does not say who to vote for:
Frank Wycoff

- Will "go fishing" (won't vote)
Philip Greenspan

- Not in favor of voting for Bush or Kerry but will wait till the last moment to decide.
John Blunt
Manuel García
Gerard Donnelly Smith

- Have not peeped a word one way or the other
Michael Doliner
Richard Macintosh

Well, what to say? If you are looking for diversity, I suppose Swans offered some and more, and if your refuge is a chapel chances are you found your credo within any one of these seven categories (except, of course if you are a Bushite).

2) Summary of the authors' views.

Edward Herman considers the dangers of a second Bush administration so evident that he advises to follow Ricardo Levine Morales's Lizard Strategy, "Elect the Flake; Evict the Snake," all the while acknowledging that Kerry has sold out on many issues.

The Left And The Election Choices - 7/19

Milo Clark takes a different path to reach the conclusion that voting for Kerry is an absolute necessity. Not only does he remain outraged by 2000 Coup d'Etat and the privatization of the Commons, he has focused his attention in his state of residence, Hawaii, on the potential fraud inherent to the electoral system put in place by the Hawaiian electoral commission. Clark has written a lot about these issues.

A Summary From The Hawaii Political Trenches: Letter To The Election Commission - 10/18
A Day As Observer - 10/4
From Smoke To Fire: Is The GOP Stealing Another Election? - 9/6
Beginning Of The End Or End Of The Beginning? - 8/16
Rebalancing Power - 8/2
The Chicken Parable - 5/10
Coup d'État: A Platform Issue - 3/29
Privatization: A Platform Issue - 3/15

Phil Rockstroh's stand is quite simple: He's tired of seeing the smirk on TV and exhausted by the Christian fundamentalists. Rockstroh takes Ralph Nader to task, dislikes the Democrats, but joins Milo Clark and Ed Herman in his implacable criticism of Bush and his gang of fundamentalist ideologues.

God, The Ghost Of Richard Nixon, And The Demons Of Election 2004 - 10/18
From The Annals of Presidential Style: Do The Clothes Make The Mascot? - 8/2
Election 2004: A Plebiscite In Bedlam - 7/5

Joel Wendland contributes two pieces on the issue. As he said in a personal e-mail, he was kind of tired of having to keep arguing with those who did not agree with his views. He expounds the position of the PCUSA -- a vote for Kerry may not help the working class much but a democratic administration won't be as extreme as the Bush gang.

Regime Change Starts With Bush - 7/5
Bush Is The Stick-up Man For The Ruling Class - 4/12

Essentially, the four of them have taken a utilitarian approach. Only one of the two candidates -- Bush or Kerry -- will be elected. Accordingly, even if the choice is between bad and worse, the conclusion is self-evident: Vote for the lesser evil.

Others rejected this approach, either because they saw no substantial difference between the two candidates and considered that the evil/lesser evil proposition was a false one, and/or because they wanted to make their vote count in favor of an independent, third-party platform more in sync with their convictions.

Eli Beckerman and Jose Tirado are Greens to the core, very attached to the 10 values that have long been advocated. They both favor a vote for David Cobb and accept the Greens' safe-states strategy. And they both were stung by the acrimony coming from the Nader camp -- they can't be blamed, it's been indeed quite acrimonious and unuseful...though, if I may say, it was not a one-way street...

Vote for America, My Love - 9/20
Welcome To New York - 9/6
I Will Not Be Herded - 8/2
Whose Imperial Patriarchy? - 7/19

A Perfect Fit: Buddhists & The Greens - 9/6
Damned If We Do? Damned 'Cause We Didn't! - 8/2

Then comes the charging brigade of the Naderites, which rejects the safe-states strategy.

Both Jan Baughman and I like the substance and the policies offered by Nader and have been particularly offended by the viciousness of the attacks against Nader coming from people who, to add insult to injury, called themselves his friend. (I've also consistently thrown light on the fallacy of the spoiler syndrome.)

Ralph Nader: A Vote For Sanity - 10/18
Err, Mr. Carville, No Picture? - 3/29
Err, Mr. Bush, What Went Wrong? - 3/15
Ralph Nader: If Not Now, When? - 3/1
Another Friendly Blow To Ralph Nader - 1/19
Disquieting Green Politics - 9/1/03
The American Caliphate: US Establishment Bipartisan Strategy - 8/18/03
Peter Camejo-Cynthia McKinney: A Green Presidential Ticket? - 7/21/03

Louis Proyect eloquently and thoroughly debunks the baloney (from our, Naderite point of view), makes the case for Nader, and shows the forces at play in the anti-Nader camp, both in one article and two book reviews.

Jeffrey St. Clair & Alexander Cockburn: Dime's Worth of Difference - 10/4
The Case for Nader-Camejo - 7/19
Behind The Anti-Nader Attacks - 5/24

And don't ask John Steppling, you'll get a mouthful!

Kerry And Electoral Illusions - 7/5
See also his reviews of each Swans issue in the Letters to the Editor, starting May 24, 2004, in which he often addresses the presidential election.

Frank Wycoff for his part does not tell who to vote for but his advice is clear: Get out of this helluva system, and vote for whomever you want so long as you do not vote for the Minotaur.

Bush Lied! - 7/19
Jobs And Janet Jackson - 3/15
Do You Feel Represented? - 2/16

The old man and the sea decided to go fishing... Philip Greenspan has been telling us to agitate and protest for as long as he has graced Swans with his camaraderie and his loyalty. Phil, in his latest piece, tells us all why fishing is a better aphrodisiac than Viagra. Seriously, Phil explains why not voting makes sense -- and darn does he make sense (even if I still disagree with him -- not the first time, he'll tell you).

Why Vote? - 10/18
The Continual Election Winner - 9/20
Hooray For The DIS-es -- The DISobedient And DISsenters - 9/6
Dubya's Elixir: Bigger And Brighter Same Old Crap - 8/2
Legislative Process In The US Two-Party System - 7/19
ABB a.k.a. America's Bizarre Bunko - 7/5

Then comes the no-man's land where critical evaluation and flexibility walk hand in hand. John Blunt and Manuel Garcia have not much affinity left with the Dems and obviously none whatsoever with the Reps. When the dust settles, they will do as they see fit, including possibly voting for Kerry. (Gerard Donnelly Smith expressed similar views but mostly internally).

Letter To John Kerry - 6/21
Evangelical Democracy: What Gunboat Salvation Won't Fix . . . - 5/10

What Your Vote Means - 9/20
Outline For Revolution - 8/16
The Imprisoned American Mind - 8/2
McCain Versus Kerry? - 6/21
Election 2016: The Issues - 3/29
Why Howard Dean Will Win In 2004 - 1/19

Michael Doliner and Richard Macintosh did not bother with this entire diversion -- or charade. They kept writing about what they thought matters.

We proposed. Now, you decide.

3) How did we end up presenting such diverse and disparate positions?

Let's first clarify the way I operate since I've been accused of being spineless, not serious, puerile, egotist, extreme, wishy-washy, radical, commie, petty bourgeois, traitor, un-American, anti-American, all over the place, etc... (From the amount and the variety of the criticisms I've received, I guess I must be doing something right!)

My position has long been crystal clear: the bicephalous system must be broken -- one could say beheaded, but for the gruesome images of actual human beheadings -- which means, within the realm of electoral politics, building a movement that wants to break away from the destructive follies planned and executed by the duopoly -- that is, build a third party strong enough to compete with and overcome the institutional machineries of the Democrats and the Republicans. Whether in the U.S. or in Europe, and everywhere in the world where the wealthy elites control our destinies, we need to go beyond the status quo. It is that simple...and that difficult.

In the 2000 US presidential election, if memory serves, we were much more unified in favor of Ralph Nader who was running on the Green ticket. It was a no-brainer for most of us; and we had few or no dissenters; and if we had, they remained mostly silent -- and, of course, no one knows what happened in the voting booth when all was said and done... But, over all, there was unity.

On March 1, 2004, co-editor Jan Baughman and I did not think twice and wrote an editorial, "Ralph Nader: If Not Now, When?" Nothing particularly surprising, coming from someone who had poked fun at the Designer Left, the Cruise Line Left at The Nation, and their pontificating democratic socialist friends -- from Doug Ireland to Leo Casey and Katrina vanden Heuvel, from Michael Bérubé to Marc Cooper, from lib-lab Paul Loeb to the benign assembly of we-are-all-Democrats-now, all ABBers; someone who had called for a Peter Camejo-Cynthia McKinney Green Ticket, in July 2003; or someone who had questioned Norman Solomon, Ted Glick, and Michael Albert for their "safe-states" strategy in September 2003 (I took a lot of flack from Michael Albert on this one! -- in "private" of course...you would not want to acknowledge the competition, would you?); and someone who has been quite emphatic on this issue in several other articles.

So, you'd have thought that that editorial would pretty much set the tone for everybody on Swans, and that we would be sailing in unity from there on to November 2....

Big mistake! Right about that time, I had a short e-mail exchange with Ed Herman, who expressed the view, I am paraphrasing, that Bush was qualitatively worse that anything we had known and that one should vote for a Democrat; that to vote for a third-party candidate was not a responsible action for it did not take into consideration the fact that the Bush gang was destroying the working class and that a poor showing of a third-party candidate could end up being more destructive to the future of progressive politics. Almost concurrently, Milo Clark made known his dissatisfaction with the position taken in the editorial by submitting his own views in the very next issue and thereafter.

Concurrently, the schism between the Naderites and the Greens was simmering in the wider world.

It became obvious to me that the editorial did not reflect the position of all the contributors. It was and remains my (and Jan Baughman's) position, but it should not have been published as an "editorial."

Now, Daniel Okrent, I am not. Neither is Swans the Gray Lady evidently; or ZNet, or Counterpunch, for that matter (we are a teeny-weenie bird). But I should remind loyal readers, and more recent ones, that I have always considered Swans to be a vehicle for presenting ideas, opinions and thoughts from as wide a spectrum as possible, within reason and an array of objectives (hence the predicament I would have had to face had one of our contributors -- all volunteers -- come up with a pro-Bush piece!). I've always compared myself to the engine of a vehicle that would essentially be useless -- or remain idle, or spurt his perorations on some blog, alone, full of himself and the infallibility of his views -- without all the other components of the vehicle.

I forgot who said, "I wanted to be their leader, so I followed them," but that is exactly how I function, within my own frame of references -- or convictions. The collective must supersede the self. As Mikhail Bakunin once said, "I want society, and collective or social property, to be organized from the bottom up through free association and not from the top down by authority of any kind.... In that sense I am a collectivist and not at all a communist."

My job is to make sure the pieces come on time, are properly edited and formatted, do not spew hate, and withstand a minimum of sanity. My allegiances are three-tiered: my convictions, the readers, and the contributors -- in no specific order. I want the readers to come to Swans for the diversity and the quality of its views; I want that the contributors be able to express their opinions with as little restraint as possible; and I endeavor to remain faithful to my convictions.

So, how to manage the complexities?

Here is Milo Clark who has been advocating for years that the only way not to play a game is to not play it, and that you don't use the tools and thought processes that have created a problem to solve it (Einstein said the very same thing...); here then is Milo Clark suddenly playing the game and using the tools and thought processes that have created the problem to tentatively solve it. Wow!

Here is Ed Herman who has consistently and without mercy cut down to size the "Cruise Missile Left" (Ed coined the expression, I think) and other soft lefties who have no left left in their left lobe -- his analysis on the Yugoslav tragedy has been flawless; his debunking of officialdom and its propagandists is hors-pair, etc. Here then is Ed Herman turning around and joining the Cruise Missile Left et al., as well as his "petit camarade" and loyal friend, Noam Chomsky, in recommending in no uncertain terms to vote for Kerry. Wow, again!

Indeed, what to do? Ignore them? Accuse them of betrayal? Tell 'em they are simpletons, their logic flawed? Be holier than thou? And who am I, may I ask, to pass judgment? When people you deeply respect strongly disagree with you, it tends to raise your attention, not lead to rejection (what if they are correct and I am not...?).

By the same token, others were raising their voices on Swans' private ListServ, and I could hear the cacophony loud and clear. There was no consensus, period.

I could have tried to shut the debate or to avoid it as much as feasible. But, it was neither feasible nor very wise for someone who refuses all chapels and fears the specter of sectarianism as much as Christian Fundamentalists fear Satan (and all of us included). So, I did what any properly-Jesuit-educated fellow would do. I embraced the non-controllable process, and I tried to channel it as far away from personal animosities and antagonisms as possible.

By early June 2004, I offered all the contributors to have their say in their own words and according to their own convictions, with only one request, that of not going after each other's throat. Again, there will be a post-election era when the damages done to the antiwar, anti-globalization, pro-justice movements, and the wounds, some self-inflicted, within the various political sensitivities of the Greens and other self-defined progressive groups will have to heal, if we all want to move forward again (after two years of campaign backwardness), and that, independent of who will occupy the White House in January 2005.

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Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.

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This Week's Internal Links

God, The Ghost Of Richard Nixon, And The Demons Of Election 2004 - by Phil Rockstroh

Ralph Nader: A Vote For Sanity - by Gilles d'Aymery

Anyone But Bush? - Cartoon by Jan Baughman

Why Vote? - by Philip Greenspan

A Summary From The Hawaii Political Trenches: Letter To The Election Commission - by Milo Clark

Liberty's Century - by Gerard Donnelly Smith

Never Buy a Cat in a Bag: Poland, a Country that Asked for Freedom...but Got "Democracy" - by Anna Kuros

Herman Melville's Typee: a Peep at Polynesian Life - Book Review by Louis Proyect

Usus Fructus - Poem by Gerard Donnelly Smith

Blips #4 - From the Editor's desk

Letters to the Editor


Published October 18, 2004
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