Discussions of the 2004 presidential race often leave out the very important question of whether it is in the best interest of progressive movements for the Democratic Party to run someone for president. I believe that the Democratic Party should stand down in 2004. Here are 10 reasons why.
Reason No. 1. The Democratic Party was responsible for the election of George W. Bush in the 2000 election.
In the 2000 elections, the Green Party brought at least a million voters to the polls who would have selected the Democratic Party candidate as their second choice if they had been able to. For years, Greens have been advocating "Instant Runoff Voting," (IRV) which lets voters rank order candidates and, if their first choice is not among the top contenders, transfers their vote to another choice. Since the Democratic Party knew that IRV is used around the world and that Green votes could be the difference in a close race, they knew that IRV could be the difference between winning and losing the 2000 election. 
But the Democratic Party power brokers also knew that if voters had access to IRV, tens of millions would have shown their disgust with Gore by ranking him below Nader. Thus, they decided they would rather risk losing the election than see this happen.
Democratic Party bosses concluded they had far more in common with George W. Bush than with Ralph Nader. They intentionally kept Nader out of the presidential debates, despite more voter apathy and a lower turnout. They refused to aggressively challenge the illegal disenfranchisement of African-American voters in Florida or even to demand that every vote be counted. They consciously put George W. Bush in the White House as their "lesser evil."
Reason No. 2. The Democratic Party opposes Bush but does not oppose Bush's political program.
During the US slaughter in Vietnam, many commented that World War II defeated Hitler but fascism won. The 2004 Democratic strategy is the same . The Democrats want to replace Bush, the personality. But they do not care if someone else continues Bush's policies.
Their mantra "Anyone but Bush" blurs and confuses these two concepts. The average person thinks, "Stop the horrible things Bush is doing; anyone who replaces him will act differently." But smoke-filled Democratic Party plotting sessions will select a candidate who can capitalize on anti-Bush sentiment and what he would do in office would be irrelevant. In fact, "Anyone but Bush" ignores that the Democratic Party is responsible for each and every one of the atrocities associated with the one they demonize.
If the Democrats are against the Bush program, why do they wait until the election to fight it? Why don't they mobilize, as a party, [not as individual people, but as a political party] to demonstrate, strike, etc. to stop the Bush program now? Why would they tell us "Wait until the 2004 elections" to stop the Bush program?
Democratic candidates pretend to be less pro-war, more pro-labor, and more pro-human rights; then they move to the right to get the nomination, and further to the right to win the election. The Democrats only nominate a 2004 presidential candidate to lull voters into believing they are an alternative. Voters need an honest choice in 2004, therefore the Democratic Party should stay out of the presidential race.
Reason No. 3. The Democratic Party made Richard Nixon the most progressive president in the last 30 years.
The following occurred during the Nixon reign:
a. an end to the Vietnam War;
b. beginning of the Food Stamp program;
c. creation of the Environmental Protection Agency;
d. recognition of China;
e. passage of the Freedom of Information Act;
f. formal dismantling of the FBI's COINTEL program;
g. decriminalization of abortion;
h. creation of Earned Income Tax Credits;
i. formal ban on biological weapons; and,
j. passage of the Clean Water Act.
These did not happen because Nixon and Kissinger tiptoed through the tulips concluding that warm fuzzy feelings beat genocide in Southeast Asia. They happened because corporate heads and agents in government were terrified of the convergence of anti-war, Black power, women's and environmental movements and their potential impact on the labor movement. The Nixon years prove beyond a doubt that mass movements can force good things from horrible people in power.
The Democratic Party presidencies after Nixon prove that people in power without mass movements have no value no matter which party selects them.
No presidency since Nixon reaped so many progressive results. This is because the Democratic Party defuses mass movements and channels them into dead-end politics.
Reason No. 4. The Democratic Party is responsible for the non-stop attack on labor.
Lyndon Johnson was a Democratic President with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. For years the Democratic Party whined that this was what they needed to repeal the odious anti-labor provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act. Yet they did nothing when they had the chance.
Throughout labor history, struggles were led by rank and file activists supporting "social unionism," which is unions' taking a major role fighting racism, sexism, war and environmental destruction. Workplace victories have often been co-opted by thugs advocating "business unionism," the attitude that unions must be blind to society and restrict labor issues to wages, working conditions, pensions and health plans.
For over a century, the Democratic Party cultivated the business unionists, helped them destroy rank and file movements, and worked to extinguish any vision of social unionism in the minds of labor organizers. Backward union bureaucrats collaborate with the Democratic Party to create fake corporate "unions" in the third world which imprison, torture and kill social unionist rivals.
A symbiotic relationship exists between the Democratic and Republican parties. When elected, Democrats strengthen the labor bureaucracy, undermining the will of the rank and file to organize and resist. When Republicans are in power, they reap the benefits of the Democrats' work by attacking and crushing the weakened unions. Then business unionists tell their members Republicans are responsible, therefore they must vote Democratic. The cycle repeats and union activism and membership decline.
Reason No. 5. The Democratic Party is responsible for cutbacks in social services at the federal, state and local levels.
Cutbacks began during the final years of the Carter presidency, not during the first year of Reagan, as is often claimed. The Democratic Party, over decades, designed, voted for and implemented cutbacks that destroyed jobs, pensions, medical coverage, public transportation and schools.
St. Louis has a Democratic Party school board a Democratic mayor and a Board of Alderman with 27 Democrats out of 28 members. This Democratic Party machine closed 16 schools (14 in predominantly Black portions of the City), fired custodians, secretaries, and half of all teachers aides, eliminated bus routes, packed up to 50 students in a classroom, attempted to raid the teachers' pension fund, and paid over $6 million to management firms from outside the City to carry out the attack.
Many people with the best intentions work with the Democratic Party and some get elected to local and state offices. The Democratic Party sucks these organizers into accepting that "there are not as many funds as there used to be" and deciding which social services will be eliminated. The Democratic Party does not lead communities in linking up with others to demand an end to the destruction of essential services. It persuades local leaders to look out for their own neighborhood, and ignore other communities and the plight of the rest of the world by supporting candidates of war and plunder.
Reason No. 6. The Democratic Party is responsible for attacks on civil liberties such as the PATRIOT Act.
The Democrats wrote it. They voted for it. The PATRIOT Act was a bipartisan attack on civil liberties fully supported by the Democratic Party. It was a continuation of legislation from the Clinton years, and its history goes much further back.
The Democratic Party undermined civil liberties from Woodrow Wilson's attack on the Wobblies through LBJ's COINTELPRO campaign against Martin Luther King.
In the early 20th century, the Democratic Party was the party of Jim Crow. In the early 21st century, the Democratic Party is the party of prisons and the death penalty. Punching a card for the Democratic Party abets the execution of someone who cannot afford a good lawyer.
Reason No. 7. The Democratic Party is the Party of environmental destruction.
The Democratic Party co-opts environmental movements by cultivating Washington DC-based bureaucrats more interested in their own salaries than in stopping environmental destruction. Whether by supporting Clinton's "salvage logging" or fawning over genetic engineering or supporting nuclear plants, nuclear transportation and nuclear weapons, Democrats destroy any meaningful distinction between themselves and the Republicans.
In 1992 Al Gore promised to stop the East Liverpool incinerator, whose poisonous fumes blew directly into an Ohio working class elementary school. After the elections, the promise was history.
In the 1980s, a flood washed dioxin-laced oil onto the working class town of Times Beach, Missouri. It was the second dioxin poisoning for those exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and the third dioxin poisoning for many who had worked in industrial settings. Democrats Clinton, Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, and County Executive Buzz Westfall helped ensure that they would be poisoned a fourth time by a dioxin incinerator in the 90s.
Similar episodes fill volumes. If undeterred, the Democratic Party will turn the globe into a toxic wasteland.
Reason No. 8. The Democratic Party is the grand chef, the big cheese, the glory hog of international trade deals.
In the early 1990s, George Bush Sr. was not able to push NAFTA through Congress. So big business decided that a back-stabbing Democrat would serve its interests better than the iron-fisted Republican. Enough money poured into Democratic Party coffers to make Bill Clinton president.
Dick Gephardt of St. Louis supposedly led efforts to stop congressional passage of NAFTA. I wrote an article documenting that when Gephardt spoke in, Mexico, he said that he would help get NAFTA approved. It was a pleasant surprise when St. Louis' corporate paper, the Post-Dispatch, published it. I waited for Gephardt's denunciation. It never came. To this day, Gephardt has not refuted my documentation that he faked his resistance to protect his union base in St. Louis.
One can only wonder how many other "progressive" Democrats pretend to defend labor and the environment or oppose cutbacks in order to save their skins at election time while party bosses allow them to do so because enough votes are already lined up to win a victory for big business.
The Democratic Party spins the myth that, compared to the wicked Republicans, it is the "lesser evil" regarding labor, environment, and civil liberty issues and cutbacks.. Yet, no one doubts that Democrats bear primary responsibility for international trade deals such as NAFTA, GATT and the WTO. The point of these trade deals is to undermine labor and environmental protections and civil liberties.
The Clinton regime was so incredibly successful at pushing trade deals to subjugate the global South to the greed of the US, EU and Japan that it rushed ahead of the mechanisms of violence needed to enforce those deals. Bush's attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq warn the rest of the world that the US will back up the Democrats' negotiated control of trade and economics with violence.
Therefore the brutal assaults of the Bush Republicans are the natural outgrowth of the slick deals of the Clinton Democrats. It is false to claim that George W. Bush breaks qualitatively from the Democrat preceeding him or that his presidency is uniquely dangerous. One can only believe that falsity by ignoring what has gone on during Democratic administrations.
Reason No. 9. The Democratic Party is the party of war.
The Democrats are also more likely than Republicans to lead the US into war.
Those who disagree with this should remember Democrat Woodrow Wilson won reelection with the slogan "He kept us out of war" and then promptly went to war and jailed anyone who didn't like it. They should remember that the only leader of any nation who ever ordered the use of a nuclear bomb was Democrat Harry Truman. Democrat Truman bombed Hiroshima after ignoring Japan's attempts to surrender, and, just to see if plutonium worked as well as uranium, ordered the bombing of Nagasaki three days later.
Any who hallucinate that "progressive" Democrats are peaceful should remember that Democrat John Kennedy risked global nuclear war over USSR missiles in Cuba that were further from the US than US missiles in Turkey were from the USSR. They should remember that Democrat Lyndon Johnson won reelection ridiculing Barry Goldwater's promise to bomb Vietnam back to the stone age and then attempted to implement Goldwater's program.
The illusion of the peace-loving Democratic Party requires a failure to recall that the Clinton-Gore regime was responsible for the murder of 5000 Iraqi children per month by sanctions. As hideous as the current administration is, Clinton-Gore's silent slaughter exceeded the number of deaths caused by Bush.
Reason No. 10. The Democratic Party matches the Republican party in treason while exceeding it in cowardice.
Any who find it severe to charge the Democrats and Republicans with "treason" should ponder the fact that current international trade deals allow secret tribunals of bureaucrats to trump US laws. Though "treason" usually refers to service to a foreign enemy, it makes sense to apply the term to those who destroy their country by making its air too foul to breathe, poisoning its land so crops will not grow, making international waters too contaminated to support fish and producing enough nuclear material to create genetic diseases for eternity.
When these are combined with increased extinction of species, accelerated global warming and an explosion of genetic pollution of animals and plants, it is clear that, at some point, the world will not support human life.
Republicans may well eliminate humanity in 10 to 30 years. The Democrats claim that they are far more reasonable, which means that their policies might result in human life limping along for 50 to 100 years. This is what we are supposed to be excited about.
The Democratic Party warns that we must not campaign against corporate power and for the complete reversal needed to stop the advance of biodevastation. They suggest that a Green program will "scare people" and get Republicans elected. Their basic plan is to accept destruction of the planet but try to make sure it doesn't happen until we are all dead and gone, leaving the devastation for our children or grandchildren. That is the Ultimate Cowardice of the Democratic Party.
"A Seat at the Table"
The major parties differ in the way they dispense with opposition to corporate objectives. The Democrats co-opt organizational leaders to sign onto whatever they are maneuvering. They believe this will win wider acceptance. The Republicans believe it is more efficient to go directly to the public with rhetoric of nationalism and racism.
In outrage, the Washington lobbyist sobs, "Clinton and Gore heard us out, while Bush won't even give us a seat at the table." While they may be oblivious to the fact that both parties have the same ultimate goals, they are not blind to the bloated paychecks they get from Democrats for selling corporate programs to their constituencies.
There is no better example of the self-interests of Washington lobbyists than the seven "environmental" organizations that helped Clinton/Gore pass NAFTA. They preached to their members the necessity of accepting "regulated" clear-cuts, "acceptable" levels of toxic poisons, "the best-we-can-negotiate" labor give-aways, "unfortunate" slashes in social services, and bipartisan PATRIOT Acts.
A political party is more than the individuals it nominates for public office. A party is also its political program: both its formally declared program and its informal program consisting of its relationships with economic classes and social groups. The Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America.
One or two maverick Democrats campaigning for the presidential nomination do not alter the fundamental nature of their Party. One of them may get the nomination-if the country is desperate and if the candidate is sufficiently astute at promising left while delivering right. But if the mavericks do not get the nomination, they will still draw in local organizers committed to proving their sincerity by supporting the nominated Democratic candidate in the general election.
The huge social changes we need will not happen because people select the lesser of two evils whose careers depend on begging for financial contributions from the very corporations that profit from planetary destruction. To preserve life, we must replace corporate control. This includes building an electoral party outside the parties of big business. It means linking many movements against oppression with a vision of a new society. It means using elections as one of many ways to mobilize people and insuring that candidates belong to progressive movements and remain accountable to them.
The Democratic Party is not a vehicle for ending corporate control of our lives. It is an obstacle to building a new society.
This is based on presentations given by Don Fitz to a meeting of the Green Party USA at the New York Law School on November 8, 2003 and at Genesis House in St. Louis on December 3, 2003.
1. The implication by Democratic Party apologists that all 2000 votes for Ralph Nader would have gone to Al Gore is dishonest in the extreme. Exit polls showed that if Nader had not been in the race, then of the almost 3 million who voted for him, 25% would have voted for Bush, 38% for Gore, and 37% would not have voted. Two things are clear: [a] the net gain from Nader voters for Gore would have been 13% (=38% - 25%), not 100%; and [b] Nader brought at least a million voters to the polls who Gore could not bring out and whose votes the Gore machine threw away by not endorsing IRV.