McCain Versus Kerry?

by Manuel García, Jr.

June 21, 2004   


(Swans - June 21, 2004)  If "The Board" decides that the Bush team cannot lead the Republicans to victory in November, will they substitute a new team under a new CEO, say McCain, and then transfer the Bush campaign funds to that purpose? McCain is "the most popular man in the country" (1) and could carry the Democrat right -- Kerry's core -- saving the Republicans from ignominious defeat and the prospect of a two-term Kerry administration with majority Democrat control of Congress.

McCain Versus Bush

If enough Republicans see that to "stay the course" will lead to a train wreck in November, they might decide to scoop Kerry with McCain rather than risk a two-term Kerry administration with majority control.

Loss of Congress is in the wind. Democrats have made advances in local races, appointments and polls, and enough caskets, amputees, embarrassments, and exposed lies have come home to make the Iraq War a detriment to local Republican reelection prospects. A catastrophic loss, like Goldwater's in 1964, could reduce the Republicans to a fractious minority party fragmented into a neo-con/fundamentalist faction, at war with its core constituencies of Eastern Establishment/business and the military.

McCain could carry the Democrat right -- Kerry's core -- as witnessed by the calls to draft McCain as Kerry's running mate. Of course, this would dead-end McCain electorally, and end his competitive threat to future Democrat Presidential campaigns. McCain is too ambitious to be sidelined in this way.

Is there any legal barrier in transferring the $200M Bush war chest to a McCain campaign? Is the money simply internal to the Republican Party already, and thus free for such use? Given the stakes involved, and the porosity of US campaign finance law, I have complete faith that "the money" will gravitate to the candidate of choice, unimpeded.

Kerry is the best Democrat candidate against Bush -- and today, he would be a sure winner. So, as Dick Nixon used to say, "when you start losing, change the rules," ergo, retire Bush and field McCain -- a new game. Perhaps the Republicans will have an exciting convention in New York, and John McCain will pop out as the August Surprise of the campaign season.

Bush Versus Bush

A savvy politician like McCain would probably require some internal "reeducation" of the wayward neo-confoundamentalists, as his price for fronting the Establishment's reorganization of the Party. If the Republicans did replace the Party CEO and his retainers, they would be purging their own ranks to instill party discipline and unity, necessary for victory, even if one faction is left smarting and resentful for the spanking. McCain would have unified support once obedience was established. This would mean some small concessions on policy, like a bit less stridency against McCain's slightly-populist initiatives regarding campaign funding, and possibly less Holy Roller Bible Babble.

But, with the military and CIA in revolt against the Bushites (2), and with those agencies as the chief implements of The Establishment's foreign policy, drastic action is required. The centrality of the CIA and the military to US foreign policy is clear to see on recalling just what that policy is: grab the world's oil and tamp indigenous nationalism, to ensure "stability" for business, so it can invest in foreign "privatized" assets and yank out its profits without "social fees" for Third World development, environmental clean-up, or any local or moral considerations.

Would Bush and his circle willingly retire, especially in favor of McCain?

It would not be a matter of choice. Bush and company would be told to "resign" in the same way that Tenet was told to exit the CIA, and in the same way that Richard Nixon was told to exit the White House. A spokesperson for the powers behind the throne, like a Goldwater in Nixon's day, would bring the news. In the case of Bush the son, it would probably be Bush the father.

If the Bush group did not comply, they would lose all support from their corporate patrons, and be hung out to dry in the inclement weather of the many gathering legal charges that are being prepared against them. Those stemming from the Valerie Plame/CIA exposure investigation are likely to inflict the most damage. Without any deep pockets from "contributors" for defense funds, for cushy jobs, and for the many back-channel and insider deals that could be made in support of their situations, these neo-con politicians and officeholders could find themselves with significantly reduced quality of life for some time to come. Ultimately, they would comply, the message would be "an offer you can't refuse."

From The Board's perspective, replacing Bush now would be straight business. When you have too many quarters of losses, you comb through your operations to identify "the dogs" and "the winners." Then, you shoot the dogs, and back the winners.

Kerry Versus Bush

In a recent news item "Nader also questioned why Democrats still complain about his 2000 presidential candidacy when millions more Democrats voted for George W. Bush in 2000 than voted for Nader. "I don't understand how deeply, arithmetically challenged these people are," Nader said. (3)

It would seem that the key to victory for a Kerry candidacy would be to win back the Democratic RIGHT wing. If that is the case, then his rhetoric will of necessity repel all liberals, progressives and leftists.

Let us consider Kerry, assuming that George W. Bush is the presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 2004. The case for Kerry was made recently by Chalmers Johnson (author of Blowback in 1999), see his speech printed as an op-ed, "Our First Victory Was Zapatero." (4)

Numerically, pushing right would seem to be the logical course for Kerry. He has to out-Bush Bush by being for the same basic policy (corporate America), but demonstrate that he will be competent in the execution of that policy (e.g., Iraq management), and restore both fiscal stability (control deficits) and Western alliance (G8) stability. Business desires stability of investment climates above all. Part of stability will be mollifying the public about its major fears, usually over job losses, housing tax breaks, retirement and health insurance financing. This can be thought of as "labor management" on a national level. Business wants a reliably static social system, which makes business planning and forecasting easy. This is why business hates war, revolution and flux where it operates (remote wars are OK).

So, Kerry will not sacrifice his overtures to his own party's right wing on the chance of picking up Naderites and pure leftists. His calculation must be along these lines:

1. Grab the Democratic right wing, that is now the center of the country;

2. Those Republicans shaken enough by the post-Fallujah catastrophes of the neo-cons will be hard pressed not to vote for Kerry, on business, money, foreign policy and security grounds, if they can overcome some particular domestic obsession, like abortion or Holy-Rollerism;

3. The Democratic middle all the way to the extreme left don't want Bush, and Kerry can carry them without concessions, as the ABB (Anybody But Bush) crowd;

4. The ABB consolidation will extend pretty much all the way left into Nader's core constituency, which will be reduced because of a split between "lesser evil" versus "build progressivism" camps;

5. The Nader-loyal fraction of committed pure leftists will be smaller than the now-receptive prodigal Democrat hard right (Democrat corporatists, military people, bureaucrats e.g., CIA, federal, state and local government employees).

Bush is assured of his right wing and the Republican center (which is to the right also). However, Bush is no longer assured of the many stakeholders in federal subsidies who formed much of the Democratic right wing, and which he carried in 2000.

In this analysis, the Left just doesn't matter, and so it will not be offered anything. It will only be ordered and frightened into "getting in line" as the ABB crowd, and the leftists who do this will add to Kerry's margin of comfort. Democrat strategists have no doubt calculated that the anti-Bush fear level is sufficiently high to vacuum in all the leftists they will need, so long as they can be assured of Democrat solidarity all the way to the right edge of the Party.

The libertarian types who may have voted for Bush (this is a sliver) and are now repelled by his war and deficits might instead vote for Nader, via Reform Party connections (populism). This anti-Bush protest vote would boost Ralph's support, helping to make up for his losses due to leftist flight into ABBism. But, such a libertarian-independent-Reform party sliver of voters would never have been in Kerry's pocket under any circumstances, he being the big government corporatist and they being anti-tax, anti-government, anti-corporate-subsidy populists.

If Bush had turned out to be a "good" Republican (fear McCain, progressives!), then he'd pull in both the libertarian-independent-Reformers AND the Democratic right. Then, Ralph would get back all his normal supporters, since there would be no ABB lock-up, but the Republican win would be a landslide, like Reagan's over Carter, and Nixon's over McGovern. So again, Ralph makes no numerical difference on the outcome.

One can see why Kerry speaks and acts as he does, and why he will not make any move to the left however loudly the left partisans implore him. In fact, his cold shoulder to the left may help reassure the Democrat right and help him hold onto the core constituency he needs. If so, then the rewards they will expect for backing him will be a redirection of the fabulous federal subsidy stream (as Kerry says: "modernize the military," "reduce dependence on Middle East Oil.").

Nader Versus Kerry Versus Bush

Clearly, the Nader agenda is not on the table, whatever the seating arrangements.

A vote for Nader helps build progressivism incrementally, by definition. Whether it also helps or hurts Kerry or Bush, that's another matter. Success for Bush hurts progressivism catastrophically in the near term.

And if Bush wins, what happens to progressivism in the longer term?

1. Bushism is voted out next time, like Bush I being pushed out by Clinton because of the recession (general suffering), and possibly the progressive message becomes more popular; or if a Bush win leads to a long period of regression, then the possibilities are:

2. Progressivism is doomed and we evolve to terminal fascism, or

3. Social conditions deteriorate under Bushite regimes to the point of popular revolt, and we relive an experience like 1789, or 1917, or 1949 but with our 21st century technology; the ensuing civil war eventually produces a "people's state," unless it fails and we return to 2.

Radicals in the 1960s would say: "bad is good" because it would hasten "the revolution." Maybe a second term of George W. Bush is what we need before appreciating potential leaders like Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich.

Handicapping The Horse Race

Predictions are always risky; here goes. If the Republicans stick with Bush, Kerry will be President; if they reorganize behind McCain, Kerry will remain a senator.

By the way, the actual best candidate is Ralph Nader, but this is still a Flat Earth.

Nader? Kucinich? ABB? What's A Progressive To Do?

Kucinich has not been able to move the Democrats leftward to a more progressive position that Greens and Naderites might be able to abide. His campaign is sincere, but his impression is no bigger than Nader's, and probably smaller. Kucinich is being used by the Democrats to suck away progressives and Greens into the ABB crowd. The Democrats will not make any policy concessions for ABB support, which they know is scared loyal and doesn't need to be rewarded for that loyalty. All this does is to weaken real progressive movements; see the analysis by Martin Zehr on the Democrats' assault on the progressive third parties. (5)

Hence, the only opportunity for building progressivism in this election is to vote for and fund third parties: Nader's and the Greens, so they approach the magic 5% necessary for big-league matching funds, and so they have organizations that remain intact permanently, able to continue organizing between elections. As a candidate and voice for progressivism, Nader will not be restrained by "party loyalty," as Kucinich will be, to line up behind Kerry after the July convention -- that's why Nader is the progressive choice in November.

My Voting Plan

My voting tactic (at this time) will be to vote for Nader if California (my state) is certain to go for Kerry, and to hold my nose and vote for Kerry if California looks like a Kerry-Bush or Kerry-McCain toss-up (this particular judgment being made as late as possible). If Bush -- or McCain!!! -- looks likely to sweep California, then I'll vote for Nader. No matter what, I CAN'T vote for Kucinich (no write-ins for me), though I did in the primary.

Four months to go.

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Notes, References, and Resources

1.  According to Mark Shields, the syndicated columnist and resident Democrat on the PBS NewsHour (TV news program).  (back)

2.  Ronald Brownstein, "Retired Officials Say Bush Must Go," Los Angeles Times, 13 June 2004, reprinted at http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/061404A.shtml (active 14 June 2004).

Michael Ruppert and Wayne Madsen, "Coup d'Etat," FromTheWilderness.com, 8 June 2004 - http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/060804_coup_detat.html (active 14 June 2004).  (back)

3.  Boston.com, 4 June 2004 - http://www.boston.com/news/politics/president/nader/articles/2004/06/03/nader_remains_skeptical_about_kerry/ (active 4 June 2004).  (back)

4.  Chalmers Johnson, "Our First Victory Was Zapatero," Nation Institute/TomDispatch.com, 11 June 2004 - http://www.nationinstitute.org/tomdispatch/index.mhtml?pid=1486 (active 14 June 2004).  (back)

5.  Martin Zehr, Letters, Swans, 7 June 2004 - http://www.swans.com/library/art10/letter43.html (active 14 June 2004).  (back)

US Elections & Democracy on Swans

America the 'beautiful' on Swans

Iraq on Swans


Manuel García, Jr. is a graduate aerospace engineer, working as a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He did underground nuclear testing between 1978 and 1992. He is concerned with employee rights and unionization at the nuclear weapons labs, and the larger issue of their social costs. Otherwise, he is an amateur poet who is fascinated by the physics of fluids, zen sensibility, and the impact of truth.

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Published June 21, 2004
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