Personal Voices: Showing Bush the Door in 2004
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The times call for a paraphrasing of the famous Mary Oliver question from her poem The Summer Day: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious chance to get Bush out of the White House?"
As any informed person knows, the Bush regime is vulnerable on many fronts: the unprecedented national debt, the never-ending war in Iraq, the erosion of our civil liberties, etc. But perhaps the most insidious thing about this administration has been its environmental agenda -- a true weapon of mass destruction! The regressive Bush regime is waging a kind of relentless ecological jihad -- lowering the standards for our air, water and land while allowing corporations (which are obvious Bush campaign contributors) to profit from the weakened regulations. From the trashing of the Kyoto Accords, to stalling any action on climate instability, Bush has proved to be not only the most damaging President to the national interest since Calvin Coolidge, but an international menace as well.
So my best answer is to send both the Doctor and the General to Washington.
An early '04 announcement of a Howard Dean/Wesley Clark ticket would be a brilliant move, and it would suddenly free millions of hard-to-raise dollars to be directed where they should be -- against the Bush regime -- instead of being squandered in a protracted fight for the Democratic nomination.
A Dean/Clark ticket unites the two most prominent critics of the Iraq war, and gives countless millions who have vowed to vote for "anybody but Bush" a reason to believe he can be beaten. Watching the Democrats attack each other and waste their money through the primaries and all the way to the convention is a turn-off to the voting public, a powerful advantage to Bush and his $200 + million dollar war chest, and a sure strategy for a Democratic defeat in November. Every day that Lieberman, Braun, Edwards, Kerry, Sharpton, and the others remain in the race, the Bush regime benefits, as the money and energy bankrolling these pipedream campaigns is not being spent against Bush.
The Dean/Clark candidacy is a bold and surprising strategy that will generate a huge wave of publicity, and elevate Dean from "front-runner-with-major-caveats" to "it's his to lose" status. Adding Clark to the ticket also gives the Dean campaign at least a hint of a Southern strategy, as well as comfort to those who might fear that Dean is too soft on defense. Clark's "New American Patriotism" emphasizing compassion and service over anger and bombast adds appeal to those put off by Dean's sharper attacks. Clark also brings considerable foreign policy experience to the table.
But the notion, circulating in some quarters, that Dean should take the VP slot on a Clark ticket flies in the face of reason, and common sense. Gov. Howard Dean has risen like a phoenix from the American electoral ashes. The Dean momentum has carried him from unknown to front-runner in record time, and he has quickly amassed more money and volunteer support than has the entire Democratic Party itself. The grassroots of Dean's campaign are strong and growing, and endorsements from the biggest union in the AFL-CIO and prominent figures such as Jesse Jackson Jr. are coming at a steady pace. The big Democratic money has been betting against him, and it hasn't hurt him at all. Some point to his Internet strategy as his ace, and while it has been a huge plus, I suspect it is Dean's unusual ability to convince people he really believes what he says that gives him the critical edge.
While the General is affable and perhaps even more personally engaging than the Doctor, Dean represents much more closely (admittedly not perfectly) the liberal democratic traditions that are at the foundation of the Democratic Party. It has been reported that Clark would be a Republican if it weren't for being slighted by Karl Rove. The record might lend credence to that, with Clark having voted for the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush presidencies. But Clark isn't alone feeling the country has been betrayed by the man he voted for, and on several issues, such as "free-trade" and fiscal policies, Clark may be less conservative than Dean.
There is also the issue of experience in public office. While it may be a trend in California to elect someone with no previous experience, this does not often happen in Washington. It's also a stretch to compare Clark's military background with the heroic dimensions of an Eisenhower. In fact, while taking Clark onto the Dean ticket has many big advantages, including Clark's early involvement in the defense and foreign policy areas, it still may challenge Dean's ability to hit the ground running as President without an experienced Washington insider at his side.
Nevertheless, General Clark has proved to be an attractive candidate, and has that independent thinker/fighter spirit that both charms and inspires. Michael Moore's now famous preannouncement endorsement paints Clark as a thoughtful, kind, socially liberal, and tolerant character who feels that guns are for soldiers only. Generation Y'ers, a potentially critical slice of the voter pie, are also rather keen on the General. Given his impeccable military credentials, Clark can afford to go out on a limb, and take positions on policy that defy the usual labels of left or right. Dean may not be able to win without Clark, but it's equally doubtful Clark can win without Dean.
Finally, the need to remove Bush from the White House is a global imperative, a kind of revolution in itself. It is a mistake to see this "revolution" as needing to be squeezed through the Democratic Party system. Dennis Kucinich, whose policies I resonate with most, would have a far greater impact by dropping his bid for the nomination, endorsing a Dean/Clark ticket, and taking up a leadership role in this revolution. It is the global progressive community working together that should dictate who will be on the ticket, and not the Democratic Leadership Council, party bosses, pundits, or bankrollers. Vast resources beyond what is usually available in partisan politics -- from new media to volunteers to large sums of cash-- are poised and waiting for the right ticket to emerge.
A Dean/Clark ticket is the one to beat, and an announcement of it will enthusiastically unleash the energy and money necessary to accomplish the penultimate goal: the re-defeat of George W. Bush.
Allan Hunt Badiner is a writer, activist, and editor of three books: 'Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology', 'Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics,' and 'Mindfulness in the Marketplace: Compassionate Responses to Consumerism.'