Thursday, September 11, 2003

Dean versus Kucinich 

I had an interesting exchange with Dan, who posts on Daily Kos. I wrote him an email on Kucinich. I'll let the exchange speak for himself. I do intend to write him back again.


I've enjoyed your posts on Daily Kos, but I have to disagree with you on your assumptions on Kucinich, and, for that matter, the assumptions of the Socialist Worker online.
I will say that Kucinich never for once overestimated his chances for winning.

As hard as he is working to win, though, is testament to his openness to winning,
if you catch my drift. He certainly realized the odds were great when he started, and knows, I am sure, how great the odds continue to be. Did you watch the debate last night?
Kucinich is clever in how he words his "attacks" on the other nominees, in that he carefully points out differences in their pre-war stances, for example. This is a man running to win, not to elect a democrat who supported the war.

Because he stated in the Cleveland newspaper that he wants his candidacy to be a "big tent" for those alienated from the party, doesn't mean that he doesn't want to include, within that big tent, others who support his proposed policies. In other words, he doesn't want his tent to be a small tent for the alienated, but a big tent for everyone.

There is an awful lot of assumption in the socialist worker party article. By-the-way, I consider myself a Lefty with a capital "L". Perhaps though, according to your unexpressed criteria, I delude myself. I consider myself a socialist in that I want to see limits on the amount a person may earn as profit. I want to see the basic necessities of life guarunteed to every individual, as long as they contribute in some way, if they are capable of contributing, and I believe in the public ownership of those services necessary for life.

There is so much more to be said as far as beliefs and socialism. Suffice it to say that Mr. Kucinich more than meets my criteria, in this day and time, as a candidate who truly cares about people, and not profits.

Elizabeth Cook

P.S. I'll post this on Daily Kos as well. Thanks for your continuing hard work in regime change.

And Dan's reply:


Nice to meet you...I saw your reply in Kos, and while I agree in large part, and I agree with the general assessment of Kucinich as the most progressive candidate, here's where I stand in regards to "Big L" lefty-ism and electoral politics in general:

1) If a Lefty does choose to take part in the two-party electoral game, it should be with specific strategic and tactical goals aimed at achieving specific progress in terms of the overall Lefty political outlook.

2) No Democrat will EVER meet the criteria set by those standards -- they simply cannot do it and remain in the Democratic party.

3) Therefore, when choosing a Democratic (or Green, or Libertarian, or Independent) candidate to support, a Big L lefty must look at not what platform they put forward (Kucinich's is by far the best in terms of progressive politics, no question), but instead must look at who, how, and why that particular candidate is appealing to people, and how many of them...

4) Therefore, based on cold political/strategic calculation, this Big L lefty chooses to support Dean, not because of the man, but because of the campaign. Not because of the planks in the platform, but because of the makeup and dynamism of the populist/popular campaign.

Obviously, if Kucinich were running a similarly successful campaign, I would gladly support him over Dean. Not-so-obviously, if Kerry, or Gephardt, or Graham, or even Lieberman were running a similar campaign, I would support them!

Here's why -- when dealing with established political party politics, we must understand that the planks are essentially meaningless -- Bush, Clinton, Bush the elder, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, and so on have taught us that campaign planks and platforms are empty promises made for purposes of publicity, nothing more...not out of total mendacity, mind you, but as a result of the basic fact that campaign promises NEVER survive the reality of...ahem...bourgeois liberal representative systems and their inherent design - to promise the sky and deliver only more pain to the hoodwinked supporters in the lower classes...sorry about that...channeling Engels again...

When popular reform movements grow out of material political reality - anti-death penalty, gun control, civil rights, equal rights, abortion rights, and so on - Big L leftists must and do take part, in coalition or united front, with the various liberal, identity/issue, progressive groups that also fight for these reforms...while still recognizing that the reform itself will not change the inherent nature of the capitalist system, nor will the reform bring about real, long-lasting, structural change to our society and its profits based, stealing labor based, inequality and disinformation based mechanisms...

I view political campaigns the same way. I supported Nader in 2000, not because of Nader, but because of the nature of his campaign in its populist, "energize the so-far uninvolved" character.

Likewise, for the moment, and for the same reason, I support Dean over Kucinich...

Kucinich's policy ideas are much much better, but Dean is running a broad based campaign that is energizing a lot of people that were previously uninvolved.

It's a no-lose situation in several senses:

If Dean wins on that wave of populist support, and proceeds to hold true to his promises to that populist base and act on his statements and planks...then an era of progressive reform will ensue that will help, via success and progress, energize more of the working class than today...and the Left can only benefit.

On the other hand, if Dean wins on that base of support and proceeds to do what every other recent populist has done (betray that base) then those who were activated and energized by that campaign will be angry. Very angry....and they will look for an outlet to vent that anger. As a big L leftist WHO SUPPORTED THAT CAMPAIGN ALONGSIDE THEM, I (or my party) has a lot of "struggle credibility" if you will...and can say "look, I am pissed too, I helped get this guy elected even though my party's politics and his were so different, and now, he met my worst expectations, and betrayed us all, why don't you work with US and make a REAL progressive populist party that will REALLY change things!"

Finally, if Dean LOSES, then working alongside his populist base will only benefit "Big L" parties that do so, for similar "struggle credibility" reasons...

Cynical and calculating perhaps...but there it is.

Again, Kucinich says more of the right things, but his campaign is not a "reformist progressive populist" campaign...Dean is not a progressive populist, but his campaign IS...and therein lies the difference.

Frankly, neither one, if elected, will follow through on the promises and planks they are laying out - they can't.

Not unless there is a revolution...and campaigns don't make revolutions.

Big L lefties must choose campaigns to support based on how they benefit the growth in self-consciousness in the working classes, and how they build the potential for real revolutionary change, not in the specifics of the either empty, or unimplementable-within-the-current-system promises.

Peace, and thanks for your mail!