The Road Ahead After 2004: Building a Broad Nonpartisan Alliance Against Bush and the Far Right
By Carl Davidson & Marilyn Katz

We have been through a hell of a battle with the Bush regime in 2004. Each and every one of us engaged in this unprecedented electoral insurgency did all that we could to defeat him. But, by hook and by crook, George Bush narrowly pulled through. We didn't win it, but losing by slightly less than three points is still no mandate for the Bush agenda, however they try to spin it.

We have nothing to be ashamed about. We gave Bush and the hard right a good fight, discovered some of our weaknesses, but also gained important strengths for the struggles of the future.

This is not to say that the Kerry Campaign, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) shouldn’t be called to account. Relying on a formula that has lost elections over and over again for the last quarter century (It is now 0 for 8! They didn't even really win Clinton’s race; he won the first time out because Ross Perot was in the race.), the Candidate and the Party lacked compelling vision, discernable message and significant organization. The Republicans, on the other hand, skillfully combined an organizational apparatus built on fundamentalist churches with a message that brought out their core voters in larger numbers than expected.

Green activist Medea Benjamin put it well in an interview in the current issue of Progressive Magazine:

“Kerry lost because he never provided a clear message or an inspiring vision about the direction this country should take. And we have to admit that Bush's fear mongering and gay-bashing worked. Bush kept on message, while Kerry didn't. On Iraq, Kerry had a terribly mixed message. It was very confusing to people to understand where he stood on that issue.”

Or as we have often said: It’s hard to be a pole of attraction if you don’t stand for something. Over the next months there is sure to be great debate within the, DNC and DLC about ‘notes for the next time’, but there is an equally important discussion for those of us who came to the elections from a peace and justice perspective – a discussion of plans for our future.

From Protest to Politics – A Look at What Has Been Gained

Very early on, when Chicagoans Against War and Injustice (CAWI) first started our electoral work, we knew the country was sharply and narrowly divided. We told our people, "Look, we may or may not win this election. Obviously we believe that unseating Bush is critical for the well-being of the world, but winning that prize is not the only important thing. If we do it right, whatever the outcome, we will gain new skills, new strengths and new organization.” And it appears we were correct.

The 2004 election, from a national perspective, was remarkable for the new and creative forms of self organization that emerged throughout the country. While some of the unprecedented organization was directed by old elites, and while most was poorly utilized by the Kerry Campaign, there was an extraordinary flowering of mass participation and organizing, much of it generated independently, with few resources but great imagination. For example:

The “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.” This was the rallying crying of the Howard Dean campaign, which energized a large number of new campaign workers motivated mainly by opposition to the war in Iraq and the need for national health care. Based mainly among young people and the service worker unions, the “Deaniacs” served as an opposing pole to the center-to-right DLC within the Democratic Party. After losing the primary and then backing Kerry, Dean is now working to regroup these forces into a new formation, Democracy for America. Added to the fact that a majority of the delegates to the Democratic Convention were antiwar, this sets up an explosive conflict within the Democratic Party which, if properly developed, could provide an important ally to the overall peace movement. More >>


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