Lessons from the Democratic Party's nomination contest

So, you and some of his 700,000 website followers gave Howard Dean $50 million(1) and he lost New Hampshire's 2004 primary for the Democratic nomination for president after spending most of it. Judging by people who forked over money, Dean had the support of a broader mass of people than Kerry. Out of candidates Bush, Edwards, Kerry, Lieberman, Dean, Clark, Kucinich and Sharpton, only Dean and Kucinich received most of their money from people giving less than $200 a piece.(2) Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman and Sharpton all received less than 20% of their campaign money that way. In fact, Bush and Kerry both received exactly 12% of their money that way. That's another way of saying big money was on the side of Kerry and Bush, but money from middle-class people was on Dean's side.

Adding insult to injury, and as suggested by the breadth of your monetary support, you Deaniacs outnumbered Kerry's volunteers in Iowa and New Hampshire more than 100 to 1, but Kerry still won. The Boston Globe even insulted your taste in television ads, as if you should have known that network TV still rules--not Internet bloggers and snot-nosed kids campaigning on snowy streets. Perhaps most sleazy of all was the Boston Globe poll just before New Hampshire. The Boston Globe has much readership in New Hampshire. The poll showed Dean going down steadily: "There was no evidence that Dean's debate performance Thursday or his interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC's 'Prime Time Thursday' had slowed his slide. 'He's still going down,' Chervinsky said."(3) It turns out just as Dean had said, that his poll numbers were going up and that he had already bottomed out, which is why he ended up with about double the votes the Boston Globe predicted when New Hampshire actually voted.

You should have given us at MIM $5 million instead of giving Dean $50 million and you would have accomplished much more, if opposing the war and corresponding repression like the Patriot Act were your aim. Now the only chance for Dean is if Kerry implodes and resigns in scandal before the Democratic Party convention.

The Democrats including Dean are trying to tell you not to bolt for a third party(1) just because they call it realism to support John Kerry, who voted for the Iraq war intensification and authored part of the Patriot Act. That may be realism--realism for the enemy. The enemy gets everything and you get nothing.

Kerry said what people wanted to hear, even when it went against basic principles. When Dean said Osama bin Laden should get a fair trial if captured, Kerry said, "'What in the world were you thinking?'"(4) That's the sort of thing Kerry did to gain ground on Dean. The only people who intend to oppose war and the Patriot Act that will buy the donkey's b.s. do so from a lack of understanding power and how it works. Kerry understands the job of politician. The question is now whether Deaniacs understand the job of creating change.

Lesson #1: Bourgeois politicians do not create change: at best they reflect it and usually they deflect it. The real task is to change public opinion first.

Howard Dean did not lead any anti-war movement before running for president. He saw that his main competitors Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman had all voted for the war in Congress and so he jumped on the anti-war bandwagon--no anti-war bandwagon, no Dean anti-war "movement."

Dean and Trippi did not create anything: they leached off an anti-war movement that was not strong enough to force the rulers to offer to let Dean win as an anti-war candidate. Since all the major Democrats running for president and the Democratic Party leaders had supported escalating the war on Iraq as Bush asked, u.$. imperialist politicians proved their bias toward war. The task is not to support Dean, but to build a political space that he and other politicians will find attractive to jump into as all bourgeois politicians are opportunists. Then to win, the movement must be strong enough to force through change, not just put up politicians taken down by professional handlers.

Lesson #2: If the truth would be unpopular, a bourgeois politician will not say it, even if s/he knows it very well.

That goes for telling Amerikkkans that they imprison more people percentage-wise than any other people or that the Clinton administration used the UN to infiltrate CIA spies into Iraq, for example. Very often the problem is that what needs to be said would offend Amerikkkan nationalists.

Conversely the more unpopular one is willing to be, the more truth one may utter. The result is that political truth is in short supply in our electoral politics and media, because by definition successful politicians that receive media coverage are popular.

Anyone who violates this rule for bourgeois politicians fails as a politician, because there will always be those willing to abide by it. However, this truth is also the reason that an independent activist can be more powerful than a senator. In fact, Kerry has the trappings of power but no power himself. He is only a cog in a machine--someone who has to play within set parameters or be ousted. For those opposing the war and the Patriot Act, Kerry has no power to offer, only the trappings.

As a result, leaders and politicians are usually not the same thing. People join Leninist vanguard parties, in order to abandon the logic of saying what people want to hear instead of what they need to hear. Movement leaders create change, not politicians. It is not possible to support a bourgeois politician for change. Those politicians support you only after you have made the truth popular. Sometimes they even bring a Trojan horse when a movement gets too popular.

If for some reason a potentially unpopular subject can no longer be avoided, the job of the professional bourgeois politician is to water down the truth till it is unrecognizable. As a result, getting politicians to handle issues is not an advance, but a setback.

In rare instances, a politician may succeed with backward people by posing one unpopular idea as better than something even more unpopular. For example, a politician may tell southern voters that the state should certify Black nurses, because otherwise white wimmin will be tending to Black men in hospitals. Allowing Blacks to be nurses is an advance, but it comes at the expense of legitimizing racism. That's typical of politicians and an example of the best one can hope for from them.

Lesson #3: Except for 10% of the population, the u.$. public is not issues-driven in political decisions.

Persynality and reasoning concerning psychological motivations preoccupy the public, if politics is of any account at all. Monica Lewinsky is important, but the war in Iraq is not according to most voters in practice, whether they admit it or not.

For example, Sharpton, Kucinich and Dean claimed to oppose the Iraq war. Polls show that 60%, 70% or even more Democrats claimed to agree on that issue, but the combined Sharpton, Kucinich and Dean vote was less than Kerry's in Iowa and New Hampshire. War-voting senators Kerry and Edwards took 69% of the vote and the supposedly anti-war candidates took 19% in Iowa. It was only a few percentage points better in New Hampshire.

Although we did not support any of the candidates, it's important to understand why Democratic Party voters did or did not vote for Dean/Kucinich/Sharpton by their own reasoning. We at MIM look at practice, not what people say. Those people participating in electoral politics become corrupted by the process even if they do not intend it. They say one thing and do another shortly thereafter.

The reason for that is even the issue of war and peace is still not central in Amerikkkan voter minds. In Iowa, "Just 14 percent said the war in Iraq had shaped their final decision, even though 75 percent said they opposed the war."(5) The same New York Times poll showed that 50% of voters claimed to "strongly" disapprove of the war. This is not an example of politicians or pollsters lying. It's the bourgeoisified public lying to itself--vacillating and calling that a "strong" stand. In truth, the opposition to the war is watery, not strong, not informed by Marxist analysis and experience, and there are very few foreign policy issues that will show up much more strongly than the Iraq War. Almost all the other issues are the same way or even less important to 90% of the population.

A proof of this general fact is in the open in professional Republican strategy this year regarding John Kerry: "'He is a liberal Democrat who has voted in such a way that kept liberal people from Massachusetts happy with him,' said Grover Norquist, president for Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group that advocates tax cuts. 'What else, in a busy world, do you have to know about somebody?'"(6) The u.$. population is not going to go deeply into issues and the professional operatives know it. The two-party system has the purpose of creating an impression of consent, not regular political participation.

The CIA can carry out coups and the military can distribute pornography in Iraq and no decisive portion of the bourgeoisified population will notice. This fact causes terrorists to carry out spectacular acts, because they notice Amerikkkans are not paying attention any other way.

The problem is that the Amerikkkans do not care to think about issues in general and when they do, they believe they have to compromise with the existing powers to such an extent that they vote for people with exactly opposite stands even on war questions. The rationalizations for why they abandoned Howard Dean, Sharpton and Kucinich even by their own reasoning are an expression of the voters' adjustment to the power of the rulers, and their own short-run petty- bourgeois class interests, rather than a statement of shrewdness.

Lesson #4: The u.$. public opposes negative issue advertising because of lesson #3, not from some hidden nobility of purpose.

Kerry and Edwards won in Iowa, because negative advertising by Dean and Gephardt left themselves tarnished. In a multi-persyn campaign field, the Amerikkkan voter often rewards the one being least attacked and least attacking. The New York Times found a typical example: "'He's [Edwards--ed.] the only one I heard so far who hasn't blasted the other candidates,' Mr. Buttrey said. 'I don't want to hear what the other guy's doing. I want to hear what you're going to do.'"(7) The true reason for this is that Amerikkkan voters--petty-bourgeoisie that they are--try to evaluate individual candidates, not issues, not questions of class, nation and gender. The petty- bourgeoisie tends to believe that classes and the existence of group oppression are a fiction anyway. For them, there really are no "issues," only individuals struggling to do this or that and make their own individual meanings. That's why voters fixate on candidate biography much more than issues.

Lesson #5: If you want a salary from the government for brokering between rulers and already existing public opinion, become a politician. If you want change, you should seek to become a revolutionary with professional methods or give your resources to revolutionaries with professional methods.

What matters is what the public demands and how intensely with what willingness to take action. Creating the demand is the job of the professional revolutionary.

Lesson #6: You can spend your whole life as a professional politician, reach the height of power and not accomplish anything that came specifically from your own will.

Although Kerry and his competitors have not become president yet, even the president and his cabinet fail to achieve what they originally intended. As one of 50 senators, Kerry had to argue that Bush fooled him and that is why he voted for the escalation of the Iraq War--one of the most powerful men in the country simply fooled and powerless. Kerry has the nerve to tell the public that he thought Bush would negotiate through the UN; thus, being a senator is no better than being a voter.

The reason for that is that politicians must follow the rules of the system or lose. Even a president can be weakened politically into almost uselessness. Clinton faced a Republican Congress after his second year in office and then came the Monica Lewinsky debacle.

Those who have spent their lives conforming to the public, campaign donors and media expectations do not know how to lead toward solutions to social problems. When they become political leaders, they go on doing what they were doing before.

Deaniacs, there is a bitter truth to learn. Kerry's professionals outclassed you though you outnumbered them. Part of the reason is that contrary to two-party dogma, political effectiveness is not about spending a year figuring out how to swallow war and repression and a few seconds voting in a voting booth. With that focus, the anti-war and anti-Patriot Act activists will never learn the skills necessary to overcome the Establishment. That's exactly what the Democratic Party wants.

Deaniacs, the Boston Globe is offering you Kerry and his leadership "in advancing AmeriCorps and other service programs" as a way to "reach out" to you.(8) We suspect some Deaniacs will fall for that. We are hoping that at least some Deaniacs do not seek government jobs and really do see a difference between supporting the war and the Patriot Act and not supporting them-- based on the issues and not the candidate, because Dean himself says they are not important enough to break from the Democratic Party. The choice is yours Deaniacs, the issues or the bullshit. We hope you make a commitment to regular political action on behalf of the issues independent of the Democratic Party.

1. See for example, "A bridge to Dean Nation," Boston Globe 24Feb2004, p. a19. On February 24th, the Boston Globe sent a lynch mob against Nader on its editorial pages. The only pro-Nader piece sounded "Republican" in saying Democrats don't have an agenda other than hating Bush.
2. New York Times 31Jan2004, p. a14.
3. "As Kerry extends lead, plans shift," Boston Globe 24Jan2004, p. a6.
4. "Shift in strategy fueled Kerry turnaround," Boston Globe 8Feb2004, p. a24.
5. New York Times 20Jan2004, p.1.
6. The Sun (Baltimore) 27Jan2004, p. 9a.
7. New York Times 20Jan2004, p. 15.
8. Boston Globe 19Feb2004, p. a14.