"Daniel -- What a crock!"

A guy I hadn't seen for 30 years sent me an email criticizing my report on a post-2004-election rally. "Daniel -- What a crock!" he said, and took me to task for having bought into the "anybody-but-Bush" mentality. Well, he wasn't too gentle about it, but he did bring up some useful points and suggested a possible strategy for future elections. So I responded, and that's how our discussion started. Three other Nam era activists, two of them ex-GIs like us, also joined the debate which follows.

The article which sparked off this debate can be found on this website and also at http://lmno4p.org/articles/daniel/11.4.htm But it's not really central to the discussion here, other than for the fact that I mentioned in it that I had voted for Kerry.


authors/participants in the discussion:

Dave Ewing, San Francisco, California; veteran
Daniel Borgström, Oakland, California; USMC 1959-63
Ward Reilly, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; 1st Infantry Division 1971-74
Dave Collins, Johnson City, Texas; Viet veteran, USMC 1967-71
Catherine Jones, Berkeley, California


San Francisco, California
November 6, 2004

Daniel--What a crock! Do you remember how, the day before the election, Move On and the Democratic Party National Committee were proclaiming to the skies that, if Bush won, the USA would descend into fascism? And YOU believed it! You voted for Kerry! Somehow, the accomplishment of Bush's fascist coup was missing from Kerry's concession speech. All of a sudden, instead of Bush ruling a fascist state, Kerry says "we are all Americans" again, in the land of the free. Now why is that? Because the Democratic propaganda was a crock, that's why! The Democrats played up the absurd "fascist Republican" line to scare dumb liberals, and even dumber radicals, into working for Kerry. Both capitalist parties work together to exploit us. I voted for the Peace and Freedom Party ticket in San Francisco. The idiot liberals called off the anti-war demos last summer so as not to embarrass their candidate--the pro-war, pro-Zionist Kerry.

Then, when the inevitable defeat of Kerry's weak-kneed version of Bush occurred, the "solution" is to vent our rage at an RCP-NION-anarchist demo. The election was NOT stolen. The San Francisco demonstrators only believed the election was stolen because they have not yet awakened from the mental haze induced by a year of Democratic Party propaganda. The day after, they still believed the "Republican = fascist" nonsense the Democrats fed them--but they will wake up in a few days, forgetting all about the imminence of fascism. Most of them will quietly return to the Democratic fold ingesting the new lies about the need to rebuild the Democratic Party--having learned NOTHING from this election.

Bush's margin of victory in the popular vote was too high to overcome with any conspiracy theory. That's why Kerry had to capitulate. Instead of seeing this as the decisive defeat for liberal politics that it really is, the Rad-Lib NION nuts are whining on about how the people really wanted the liberal Kerry. Not true! Sorry. Now the liberals and Rad-Lib weaklings can spend the next four years working for an even more conservative Democrat--like the war-mongering "neo-lib" Hillary Clinton. A pro-Zionist woman candidate for President. Wow, now THAT'S PROGRESSIVE! Hey, and she'll do something for health care too!

Or, maybe we could stop kissing the Democrats' ass and build a radical Third Party to fight for OUR interests? Naw, too much work.

With a force of just five-million fundamentalist voters WHO WILL BREAK FROM THE REPUBLICANS IF THEY DON'T GET THEIR WAY, Pat Robertson can make the Republicans do what he wants. What if the Left had a party of just five million voters willing to break with the Democrats? If an organized Labor/Left had withheld its votes from the Democrats on November 2, the talk now would be about the need to move the Democratic Party to the Left to "recapture the base."

Instead, because of the capitulation of Labor and the radicals, the lesson is the same this cycle as it was last time--the Democrats must move to the RIGHT to capture the religious swing voters.

People who want better politics have to explicitly demand them -- and every demand must be backed up by a political/electoral threat to pull out our voters. The next cycle, we must not support the Democrats. We must build a left-wing electoral front, vote against the Democrats and work to wreck that pro-capitalist party. Our strategy should be based on a long-term populist platform to split the working-class voters out of the Democratic and into a labor-based Third Party.

Dave Ewing


Oakland, California
November 8, 2004


I don't think I've seen you since back in the mid 1970s, and I'm glad to hear from you -- even though you are criticizing me quite harshly. You do make some good points that I fully agree with. Nevertheless, let's start with where things are at, or at least where things were until last week's election. Consider the situation.

In the first place, I think Bush truly is dangerous, and I think it would've been a serious mistake for us to discount that. We all remember the German Communist Party saying, "After Hitler us!" And we know how that came out.

I don't think MoveOn was totally wrong in comparing Bush and Hitler; he's a very mediocre version of Hitler. The Democratic Party leadership picked up on that and hinted at it too; as you say, they were playing on our fears. But the fact that the Democrats say something doesn't necessarily make it false. After all, a thief may be very right in calling his fellow crook a thief.

As for John Kerry, I don't think we leftists were really all that fooled by him. Sure, I expected him to hold out for at least a week or more before caving in. And I'll concede that there was some wishful thinking about him, but I don’t think we were exactly starry-eyed about him. After all, we'd seen photos of the "Free speech pen" in Boston; razor wire, etc. We knew that antiwar stuff hadn't been allowed at the DNC, and that Medea Benjamin had been hauled out of the convention in handcuffs. We also knew that John Timony, the architect of the "Miami Model" was invited by the Democrats to arrange "security" for the convention. Above all, we knew that Kerry was beholden to his corporate sponsors -- even more so than Bush in my estimate. Personally, I was fearful that Kerry might actually have been even more police-state-friendly than Bush.

It was a game of "Bush, we lose" vs. "Kerry, they win." So what were we to do? What you say about the possibility of pressuring the Democratic party from the left with a block of some 5 million voters sounds like an very good plan. I like it, and I agree with you that that's what we should build for in 2008 (if we aren't all in some concentration camp by then.) Unfortunately, however, for this year's election there weren't large numbers of people ready to do what you suggest.

My feeling at the time was that half a million or more people at the Democratic National Convention in Boston could've accomplished much more than that number at the RNC in New York. People went to the wrong convention. And if I understand you rightly, I think that's basically what you'd say too. But it was pretty obvious from the numbers that showed up -- a few thousand in Boston vs. half a million in New York -- that people simply didn't see the necessity of pressuring the DNC. Not in 2004 -- it wasn't where people were at.

So given the situation as it was, I don't see what else we could've done, other than what we did. And I don't think we did that badly. We shouldn't be beating ourselves up when we did the best we could in a bad situation.

But maybe we've learned something. And that's what I was trying to say in my Nov 3rd report. We trusted the Democrats and we were left hanging! -- that's the message. We cannot trust the Democrats, and we'll have to do something very different this time. What? Now I like what you suggest about building a "left-wing electoral front." I think that people will now be open to such strategies, strategies other than following the Democratic Party leadership.

We have to start working on such strategies, and start presenting them at once.

At the same time, it appears to me that the 2004 election was indeed stolen, and we need to say that again and again and again. Deny Bush legitimacy! "Stolen! Stolen! Stolen!" -- that's got to be one of our slogans. And at the same time, we need to point out that the Democratic Party doesn't do anything, can't deal with the problem, and that we leftists are the ones who can, who have the will to act.

I think you're absolutely right in saying that the Democrats will try to resolve everything by moving even further to the right, by being nice and cooperative to the Neocons. A good many of them will be glad to help the Neocons privatize Social Security, and to involve themselves in every other bad thing. There's not much question about it. But we have to be there and point out how they sell us down the river even when they win. (And it appears that they DID win last week.)

As for the Nov 3rd demonstration, I do think it was a first step away from the Democrats. People got together and energized each other, showed each other that each of us is not alone in this. That while the Democrats sold us out, we have to go on without them, and I think that was the message of the Nov 3rd rally.

It's true that no strategy was put forward on Nov 3rd, or if it was, I didn't hear it since the sound system was pretty bad. But that's okay for now. We just needed to overcome our sense of despair and isolation. And that was what the rally did for us. That, I believe, was step one. Getting together and overcoming the despair.

Daniel Borgström
ex-Marine against the war
(USMC 1959-63)


San Francisco
November 9, 2004

to Daniel

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I still disagree with your view that the Left did the best we could by supporting Kerry. There is a lot of "happy talk" right now that is dedicated to obscuring the obvious lessons that we should be hammering into peoples' heads.

The Green Party lost its nerve and refused to challenge the Dems. "Media" Benjamin is one of the WORST offenders--she is a liberal sell-out who steered people to Kerry instead of using her considerable influence to back a Green challenge to Kerry. A single media stunt at the Convention, which was in contradiction to her own political line--but got her face in the news--doesn't overcome all the harm she did.

There is now too much nonsense about how great the electoral turn out was, how many young people voted, the many new people who were involved with the Democratic Party, etc. These things represent DEFEATS for the Left, not victories, because these masses sucked into the Democratic Party are rightly demoralized now and lost to us. The Left encouraged this demoralization.

Then there are the platitudes about how Kerry really won because of voter fraud. This is nonsense. Bush won the election with too high a margin for voter fraud to have been a determining factor. Kerry knows that no recount can hope to give him the four million popular votes he needs. A legal battle to win Ohio electors is doomed to fail because of the clear nationwide majority for Bush.

The worst thing the Left did was to support the Iraq War by giving a pass to Kerry's bellicose threats against Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. We should have attacked Kerry and exposed his pro-war positions, calling for his defeat. Hundreds of Iraqi's are paying today, in Fallujah, for the failure of the Left to slam the war for the past six months. I think we had a real chance to wreck the war effort had we not fallen for the Kerry scam. That will be much harder to do now that we've misled people into thinking the Left supported Kerry's positions. And now, of course, many liberals and leftists actually do support the war and the Kerry position that we have to fight the war better in order to "help" the Iraqi masses.

The AFL-CIO spent untold millions of dollars on the Kerry campaign. That is dues money that would have come in very handy for the major strike battles looming ahead in Airlines, supermarkets and the Hotels. The labor tops knew these battles were coming whether or not Kerry won. So why piss away all that needed cash! Why demoralize the AFL activists that way? Why not use the money for organizing workers? The left can only win by building up its own forces.

The proof that I am correct about this is the fact that all the panicky liberal bleating about how Bush was a fascist danger is ALREADY forgotten. Have you seen a WORD about this since the Bush victory? The new boogeyman for the DNC is the Left--Feinstein is blaming liberals--like Newsome--not conservatives.

David Ewing


Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) contact person in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
November 9, 2004


I saw your conversation with David on the VVAW contacts list...

We marched in New Orleans November 3rd....we didn't even want to give Bush a one day honeymoon....now we will get that fascist removed in Nixon-like fashion...hopefully..

Peace from Ward Reilly....S.E. VVAW contact person in Baton Rouge...here's a picture of our little action...fight on brother.

Ward Reilly
First Infantry Division, 1971-74


Johnson City, Texas
Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) contact person in Austin, Texas
November 10, 2004

to David and Daniel,

Introductions -- I am the Austin, TX VVAW contact. If I know either of you, other than through email, then it dates to my days as Oklahoma coordinator in 71 - 73 (pre-Bill Lemer era).

Each of you offer valid points in your analysis. My reply goes only to the two of you -- no Blind CC's.

The electoral system in this country has been on life support for some time. It can even be argued that it was ever thus; though I find too much evidence to the contrary. In the contemporary era -- our era -- I think the case is sound. The processes of party politics, consolidation of corporate power, increasing role of the media (post Kennedy-Nixon) along with corporatization of media all play major factors in this chronic illness.

Though I find few willing to agree with me -- perhaps for the damn good reason that I am wrong -- this election marks the point in our history when electoral democracy went flat line.

I am among those who rejected the argument that we must show our disapproval of the corruption and cowardice of the Democratic Party by taking our support elsewhere. While I agree that the comparison between Hitler and Bush to be inept and inaccurate, it is not because I fail to see a profound coalescence between what transpired in Germany and what we might call neo-fascism and plain old lust for power that I believe characterizes this regime. Bush is no Hitler and those who pull his strings not Nazis. That does not mean that a historical analysis of the exploitation of the middle, working and poorer classes during that era in Germany and our country today is without merit. So I saw, and see, a danger to the world and this country quite unique in our history. In my view this was the last opportunity for "heroic measures" to save the patient.

Side note -- the ad that depicted Hitler and Bush's image was submitted in the MoveOn ad contest and was pulled within hours of its submission -- so goes the domination of the media by the power elites and their distortions of the opposition.

I attended the VVAW meeting in Chicago three days before the election. I was struck by the position of some in attendance that we need not worry about a second Bush administration, hell we survived Nixon. Despite the obvious fact that Nixon was impeached for complicity in anti-democratic election practices far milder than those the 2000 and 2002 elections by a legislature not neutered by a dismissive majority from the President's party, the comparison does not pass my sniff test. There seems to be a state of denial that has gripped most elements of our country, Red and Blue, right and left.

Again the comparisons to Germany in the 30's seems apt -- nobody really can accept that these people never intend to surrender power just as the democratic forces in Germany never imagine that Hitler's gang would seize power as they did.

David argues that voter suppression and ballot fraud cannot account for the election results. I more than agree. Did suppression and fraud occur? Almost without a doubt. While it is not, as David argues, likely that there was something like 3.5 million votes that reflect some form of illegal manipulation, it is also true that it would not be necessary to over turn all of those votes in order to sway the Electoral College outcome. But in either case, it is a moot point. That so many have to grasp this straw in the storm is one symptom of the problem we confront -- the quest for simple explanations for complex situations is not the sole providence of one party or point of view.

So what is the way forward? Do we get out the paddles and shock the patient one more time as we see in so many really bad medical dramas? I don't know, that is certain. I will, over the course of the coming weeks or very few months, observe, analyze, seek the thoughts of engaged and thoughtful men and women (like you two men) and try to find the way that is most likely to halt this rapid slide into totalitarian empire -- a slide that will almost certainly bring huge pain and suffering to the peoples of the world and the planet itself. Then I will act.

My thanks to each of you for giving a damn.

Semper fi,

Dave Collins
USMC 1967 - 71


Berkeley, California
November 12, 2004

Hi, Daniel,

I was encouraged by the level of analysis and long-haul commitment and perspective coming from the anti-war veterans who responded to your article on the post-election demo in San Francisco. And also by your thoughtful reply to one of them.

Here, for whatever they're worth, are my thoughts on (a) the election results, (b) the labor party proposal, (c) the demoralization of those who campaigned for Kerry/Edwards, and (d) the post-election demo. Election results:

At this point I'm still not sure what to think. The electoral process in general has been compromised by the consolidation and bias of the major news media. Given this situation and the way the campaign played out, it's entirely plausible to me that a majority of voters supported Bush/Cheney this time around by a margin of several million votes. On the other hand, there were cases of vote miscounting and vote suppression, and the electronic voting systems are both unreliable and susceptible to tampering. I think the ongoing blackboxvoting.org Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and investigation is very important -- for future elections as well as this one.

Labor party proposal:

The anti-war movement needs to connect better with organized labor (as well as unorganized workers and other groups with nothing to gain from the current march to the right). While a third electoral party representing the interests of labor could put pressure on the Democrats, I'm not sure that labor-party pressure on the Democrats would prove as effective as fundamentalist pressure on the Republicans. For one obvious reason. Catering to fundamentalists may annoy and embarrass rich, urban, college-educated Republicans, but it doesn't go against their economic class interests. Catering to labor and the natural allies of labor does go against the class interests of those who control (often through campaign contributions) the agenda of the Democratic Party.

The labor party idea has great potential for organizing people around their genuine class interests and opening up political discussion. But the real power of a labor party -- at least in the short term -- might lie less in applying electoral pressure to the Democrats than in getting the more conservative parts of the union leadership to apply precious funds and energy to organizing the unorganized and to the support of critical strikes. Reforming the electoral system to reflect people's actual interests may take many decades. Meanwhile, as we work toward that, we need to remember that it's soldiers and workers who -- with sufficient organization -- have the power to stop a war in progress.

Demoralization of Kerry/Edwards campaigners:

I don't blame the Left as a whole for this. There are many parts of the Left, and most of the left-leaning people I know who voted for Kerry/Edwards (including myself) did so with an eye on international environmental agreements and on the court system and laws that protect the remnants of our civil liberties. All of us were well aware of Kerry's pro-war position and support for the so-called "PATRIOT" Act. I never suggested to anyone that Kerry was an ally, only that political organizing and physical/economic survival might become more difficult under Bush than under Kerry.

I don't have a clear image in mind of the typical young Kerry/Edwards campaigner (as opposed to, say, the typical young Howard Dean campaigner). It is a loss if these people become demoralized and politically inactive; I'd have to know more about how they got involved in the campaign in the first place, about who told and promised them what, before placing blame on the Left. Certainly outreach to Kerry/Edwards campaigners is important.

The post-election demo:

First, we need to distinguish the large legal permitted march from individual acts separated in space (and also time, I think) of some unidentified people who broke windows at Bank of America and Wells Fargo. I experienced that march not as venting of impotent rage but rather as coming together and pledge of continuing political activity by long-standing opponents of the American empire and the neo-conservative agenda.

Public demonstrations are a not an all-around solution to anything. But they are traditional and useful component of any political movement operating under conditions short of a complete fascist lockdown. Also, our right to public assembly persists only if we continue to exercise it.

Catherine Jones


Oakland, California
December 9, 2004

to Dave, Dave, Ward & Catherine:

I've been following electoral fraud investigation reports for a month now, and I continue to believe that Kerry won in Ohio and possibly in Florida as well. As for the popular vote, I am not so certain, but I remain skeptical of the official results. The evidence of electoral fraud is convincing. In addition, Bush has a long record of lie-cheat-and-steal. Bush seems to have stolen the election once again.

So why did Kerry give up so quickly? Well, notice that, right after he conceded, the stock market did well. Of course it's not certain that the stock market preferred Bush over Kerry, but it's a known fact that stocks don't prosper in times of political uncertainty. Had Kerry contested the election results, the presidential succession could've been in limbo for weeks or even months. The stock market might've suffered.

Business interests want political calm, and the Democratic Party depends on them for campaign funds. Although much of the funding came from small donors this year, it's still the corporations that the Democrats generally rely on. So, as long as the corporations are willing to sponsor Democratic candidates, the party can afford to lose elections. Naturally they don't want to lose, but they can lose and still be in the game. On the other hand, if they were to irredeemably offend the corporations, their funding would end. Even winning the presidency might not be worth it to them. After all, without corporate funding, it could be the party's last victory. Or at least, that's the way the current "leadership" of the Democratic Party probably see it. They're not risk takers. They're not fighters. They're part of the establishment.

I think that explains Kerry's abdication. He understood, perhaps without being explicitly told, that he’d better not rock the boat. I think the reliance on corporate funding also explains the Democrats' shift to the right. Do they really expect to win Republican voters by borrowing Republican platforms? Perhaps not always. But corporate sponsors must be treated with tender loving care, and when the party is forced to make a choice between voters and funders, they may choose their funders. Of course they do their best to make it seem as though they're responding to the wishes of the voters. They probably try to convince themselves of their good intentions.

Nevertheless, one must wonder how far they can countenance a losing streak before they lose all credibility with everybody, voters and funders alike. Will the corporations fund consistent losers? I don't know. The CEOs might decide to save their money.

If my guess is right, the Democrats have lost a huge amount of credibility this year. Kerry's abdication may have helped the stock market, but at what cost to the party’s reputation? He certainly seems to lack the courage of his convictions. I've even heard stories of Republicans asking their Democrat neighbors, "Why did Kerry just give up?"

Might the Democrats be facing a crisis? A crisis of such magnitude that could only be dealt with by last-resort measures, such as letting progressives into the decision-making process? If the party is truly on the brink of such a crisis, then it should be willing to allow an active role for progressives, one which could energize and redefine the party’s platform so as to assure a robust position for the future. In that case, it may be as Dave has suggested, that a block of five million progressive voters might be able to pull the Democrats to the left, and out of its evil marriage with the Republicans.

But if the Democratic Party cannot be budged, then progressives will simply have to go elsewhere. Perhaps, as Catherine suggests, there's some chance of forming a labor party. There are also the Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Party. We need to look closely at each of these alternatives.

For us progressives, we cannot simply tolerate the present situation. It's not only discouraging, it's downright demeaning to support a party that treats us like crap, asks us for our money, works us for what we're worth as volunteers, takes our votes, and then surrenders meekly, without even challenging the crookedness of the count.

Daniel Borgström
ex-Marine against the war
(USMC 1959-63)