Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Center Cannot Hold for Kerry

One Harry G. Levine published an article in the Village Voice entitled, of all things, "Ralph Nader, Suicide Bomber" (May 3, 2004), knowing that Nader is an Arab American. In the article, Levine compares Nader's presidential campaign to suicide bombing: "my progressive hero had turned suicide bomber —- that Ralph Nader had strapped political dynamite onto himself and walked into one of the closest elections in American history hoping to blow it up" (May 3, 2004). Now, is it smart for supporters of John Kerry to use such an analogy? Is that a vote winner? Or does Levine think that no Arab or Muslim American reads the Village Voice? Seriously, if the Kerry campaign wants to send a coded message to Arab and Muslim Americans that Kerry does not want Arab and Muslim votes, I can't think of any better way than comparing an Arab American candidate to a suicide bomber.

In the past, Democratic Party candidates often insulted and rejected Arab and Muslim voters outright: "In 1984, for instance, Democrat Walter Mondale returned checks from Arab-American donors. Four years later, Democrat Michael Dukakis refused the endorsement of an Arab-American group" (John Hassell, "Arab-Americans May Be a Swing Vote This Year," Salt Lake Tribune, May 1, 2004). But do Kerry supporters remember that both Mondale and Dukakis -- to whom Kerry is often compared (e.g., "So far, the Kerry campaign has all the forward momentum of a Dukakis tank ride") -- lost? Before writing off Arab and Muslim votes, the Kerry campaign might want to retake Electoral Geography 101: "The likely Arab-American vote (about 235,000) in Michigan represents slightly more than 5 percent of the overall vote in that state, according to the Zogby poll. With 120,000 likely votes, it would account for about 2 percent of the total in Florida; in Ohio, an estimated 85,000 votes (just under 2 percent); and in Pennsylvania, 75,000 votes, or about 1.6 percent of total votes" (Jim Lobe, "Arab-American Vote Looms Large," Asia Times, April 30, 2004). Read the "Report on Arab American Battleground States Poll," conducted by Zogby International for the Arab American Institute. The proportion of Arab American voters who favor Nader ranges from 5% in Ohio, 12% in Pennsylvania, 14% in Florida, to 19% in Michigan; 20% of Arab American voters in Ohio, 11% in Pennsylvania, 11% in Florida, and 14% in Michigan remain undecided.

Besides, even those who do not intend to vote for Nader may be turned off by the sort of rhetoric used by Levine and his ilk, as Sam Smith's words attest:
While, as a matter of political tactics, I didn't think Nader's run was a good idea (and said so) it is grossly insulting to the principles of this county to argue he doesn't have the right to run or that his decision to do so akin to the act of a suicide bomber.

People who say things like that deserve not getting every vote they lose. ("Why Liberals Lose Elections," The Progressive Review)
Moreover, as the Anybody But Bush crowd have transformed themselves into the Anybody But Nader ideologues, they have lost sight of the political center which Kerry is after but is in the process of losing. Listen to Christopher Dickey: "John Kerry himself asked the question he’ll have to answer if he ever becomes president, and I, for one, would like to hear him answer it now. Way back in April 1971, when his memories of combat were still fresh, he sat in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and famously demanded, 'How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?' He was talking, then, about Vietnam. But he should give us the answer, now, about Iraq. Because however much you parse the differences between the wars, they share a central, inescapable problem: no exit. Or, more precisely, no exit that politicians talk about honestly" ("Exit Strategy," Newsweek, May 4, 2004). As the occupation of Iraq sinks into a quagmire, voices like Dickey's are sure to become more vocal and numerous. If the center cannot hold for Kerry, he can only blame his own lack of conviction.

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