Hard to “debate” when there’s so much in common.

Kerry and Bush chase the same audience — businesses. Kerry already has the votes of those who are so desperate to get rid of Bush that they’ll support the same pro-war, pro-corporate, anti-universal health care, anti-equality for homosexuals policies which Bush favors.


Kerry says he’s for a woman’s right to choose but few on the Left know that he voted to confirm Antonin Scalia. Some say Scalia is favored to become the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The pro-choice crowd says Scalia poses a real threat to abortion rights. Kerry joined the other senators to confirm Scalia even though he didn’t have to. Scalia would have been confirmed without Kerry’s support, but Kerry would have been able to tell his pro-choice voters that he worked to preserve the power which Roe v Wade grants. Kerry doesn’t chastise his party, eleven members of whom voted to confirm Clarence Thomas, another Supreme Court Justice who doesn’t like abortion. Thomas was confirmed 52-48, so those 11 votes to confirm made the difference. The issue here is not about my views on abortion. The issue is how much the Left will give up on to support a policy many on the Left disagree with.

Health care

Kerry has a health care plan that gives nothing to the unemployed and ostensibly will encourage businesses to help their employees pay for health care. He relies on the mythical power of freedom of choice to encourage people to support his plan. Bush wants more privatization of health care. Neither candidate wants to challenge their corporate HMO campaign contributors. Multiple alternative (or third-party) and independent candidate for US President supports universal single-payer health care. We can’t afford to placate HMOs any further and I don’t see how it’s beneficial to vote for a health care plan most people don’t want.

Killing Arabs

Kerry tells us that he would fight the war better than Bush. The debate centers on how many tens of thousands of troops to add, not ending a war based on lies. But ABB supporters will vote for Kerry even in safe states (the letter many anti-war intellectuals on the Left signed makes no mention of voting anti-war in safe states). I look forward to seeing the anti-war marches pick up again, but if they restart only after the election is over their legitimacy may vanish — how to explain challenging the legitimacy of the war by voting pro-war? How to reconcile the Democratic Party’s history on killing Arabs — Clinton’s sanctions killed over 500,000 Arabs and Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright went on “60 Minutes” and said that killing 500,000 children with the sanctions was a tough decision but ultimately worth it. By comparison, Bush’s invasion and occupation have not yet killed half as many Arabs (Iraq Body Count.net, which tracks “civilian deaths in the Iraq war and occupation”, puts the total at 15,357 as I type this). So is it fair to conclude that withholding chemicals to clean water is a far more effective way to kill Arabs than invasion and occupation? If so, we really should take Kerry at his word when he repeatedly tells us in the so-called “debates” that he will fight the “war on terror” more effectively; he doesn’t object to the “war on terror”, but he will govern the empire better than Bush. Is that the crux of the bipartisan choice so many millions are faced with?

Debating others

The Republicans and Democrats share a desire to keep alternative policies out of the public view. The third-party debates which ran on C-SPAN late night this week (featuring Socialist, Green, Libertarian, and Constitution Party candidates) are more instructive and have twice as many candidates than the bipartisan press conferences run by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The third-party debates were moderated well and they offered the viewers interesting explications of real differences between the candidates on issues that matter. Most people won’t see this debate. Most people will continue to buy into the circular argument telling voters that third parties and independents don’t count because they’re not popular.

2004-10-14 Update: Listen to Howard Zinn simultaneously support voting for Kerry in the swing states and maintain that who’s in the White House matters less than who is outside the White House (almost a quote). Listen to Zinn explain how giving Kerry his support without a demand is appropriate, yet quote Frederick Douglass (one of America’s best writers) in his famous letter to an associate:

“Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

“This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.”

–Frederick Douglass, 1857

Also, the three so-called “debates” are over and Kerry is being celebrated for doing well. If he did so well, why is he now neck-and-neck with Bush in the polls? How should I reconcile the way the Left paints Bush as intellectually stunted yet Kerry can’t do better than halfsies in a rigged debate format which excluded any real competition on the issues from alternative parties?