Vote Kerry (or Edwards, or Kucinich)

Voice Writers Make Their Pitches for the March 2 Democratic Primary

Unlike Bush—whose program continues to be the transfer of wealth to the wealthy and the transformation of welfare state into police state, and who looks forward to shrinking federal services to nothing—both Edwards and Kerry will want the government to survive. Nothing in the record suggests that either man will enjoy any significant edge in mitigating a hellish situation. The only question is who has the better chance of trying. Had he gulled the electorate, Joe Lieberman himself would have been an acceptable alternative, so thank Yahweh he's gone and consider your options.

John Edwards is from the South and, unlike Al Gore, of the South, where trial lawyers are popular heroes. Like most courtroom stars, Edwards is an inspired performer, a quick-witted natural rapper with a Clinton-esque touch. Early on he made class his identity marker, and class is what the election will be about if our side wins. Republicans and, lately, independents have decisively preferred him to Kerry. He has kept his sights on Bush, not other Democrats—even now he's attacking Kerry only on NAFTA and electability itself. Give him more chance than Kerry in North Carolina, Tennessee, and conceivably Arkansas or Georgia as well as Florida, and at least an equal chance in the Midwest. He deserves the opportunity to duke it out with the front-runner on Super Tuesday. Should he win, he's the best candidate, and the party should nominate him, hopefully with minimal bloodshed. Because our eyes should stay on November. Kerry has proven much less of a stiff than he once appeared, and should his fighting style prevail March 2, Edwards should, and likely will, withdraw. If vice-presidential candidates mean anything, he'd make a dandy. Pray he despises Bush enough to put pride aside and give it a shot.

—ROBERT CHRISTGAU


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Dennis Kucinich
photo: Cary Conover
Kucinich Pulls Left
The Strategic Vote for Progressives

After July, when the Democrats will likely name John Kerry as their presidential candidate, we all have to work with every ounce of our strength to get him elected. The doctrine of preemptive war, the erosion of civil liberties, the abandonment of the poor, the evangelical sway over social issues, the contempt for international law and community, the devastation of the environment, and on and on and on—Bush simply cannot be allowed to continue. The horrors that have avalanched out of the White House in three brutal years give the lie to those catastrophic Naderite claims that there are no significant differences between the two parties. In November, vote for the Democratic candidate. Early and often.

In the primary, however, New Yorkers have an opportunity to widen the differences between the two parties by using their votes strategically. To keep Kerry from drifting rightward, progressives must make themselves heard as an indispensable constituency demanding universal health care, immigrant rights, an end to the war on the poor, international collaboration in bringing stability and real democracy to Iraq.

There is one way to do that: Vote for Dennis Kucinich. A strong showing by Kucinich not only sends a message, it sends delegates to the convention, where they can fight for progressive planks in the party platform.

Along with Howard Dean, who made an enormous contribution by galvanizing a disaffected segment of the electorate, Kucinich has brought forward arguments that other candidates would otherwise not have engaged. Despite the almost universal media blackout on his campaign, Kucinich has used the debates effectively to pound such issues as the war in Iraq and the imbalances of NAFTA, helping to push Kerry and Edwards into stronger positions.

But unlike Dean, Kucinich is genuinely progressive. As a Congress member from Ohio, Kucinich opposed the war in Iraq and calls for a cabinet-level Department of Peace. He has sponsored legislation advancing rights for people with disabilities, stands up for gay marriage, demands a national living wage, and as he told the Voice in a phone interview last week, he's the only candidate who supports "universal health care, not universal health insurance."

He proposes a WPA-like jobs program that would rebuild infrastructure and "whole new industries" in solar and wind-generated energy and he wants to expand funding for the arts—which, he said, waxing rapturous over Shelley, Tennyson, Browning, and Keats, "put us on the path of human evolution."

In Congress, he bravely took a pass on a lopsided symbolic resolution of "solidarity with Israel," asserting, "The same humanity that requires us to acknowledge with profound concerns the pain and suffering of the people of Israel requires a similar expression for the pain and suffering of the Palestinians."

That doesn't make him perfect. Kucinich came late to supporting abortion rights and his delegate deal with John Edwards in Iowa was both dumb and unprincipled. He has failed to build any real grassroots base that can remain mobilized on the causes he champions.

The beauty of the strategic vote for Kucinich, though, is that you don't need to have any illusions about him, or even like the guy, to vote your conscience on the issues. Let's elect Kerry in November. But let's tell him now that we won't fall for Clintonian centrism again.

—ALISA SOLOMON

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