Labor Advocate Online

With a Week To Go, Can the Comeback Kid Save Bush Lite?
by Bill Onasch

Watching the evening news on E Day-8 I felt, for the first time, that Kerry might have an outside shot at victory after all. My fresh assessment was based on Mr Flip-Flop taking perhaps his boldest step yet, bravely trying a tactic that Al Gore had shrunk from. He summoned, fresh from recovery from heart surgery, the man known as the Comeback Kid.

Gore resisted using his old boss not only because a lot of people were said to be upset with Clinton’s adulterous escapades but mainly because Slick Willy tends to steal the show. That threat to ego and authority was clear when Clinton accompanied Kerry at a massive campaign rally in Philadelphia. Clinton aroused the crowd in a way Kerry never has–and never will–on his own.

Bill Clinton–not to be confused with Senator Clinton from New York–is undoubtedly the most masterful Democrat politician since Harry Truman. Like all of the best con men, he has a winning personality and a genius for covering his tracks with reasonable sounding scams. He has always been particularly popular with the Democrat base among African-Americans and women that have felt snubbed by the current party standard bearer.

The fact that the Clinton years evoke such warm nostalgia is testimony to not only Clinton’s talents–give the devil his due–but also to the despair that blankets the American working class today.

The Clinton Good Old Days featured:

!The passage of NAFTA, launching the global restructuring that has devastated unionized jobs.
!Frequent bombing, along with trade sanctions, that brought so much death and misery to Iraq.
!Criminal military intervention in the Balkans.
!Decimation of the Social Safety Net for America’s poorest workers.
!Three Strikes and the War on Drugs that put more Black youth in prison than there are in college.
!Accelerated deregulation that made possible later disasters such as Enron.
!Reinventing Government, setting the table for the current attacks on federal workers.

But, in the absence of alternatives, the reactionary, arrogant incompetence of the Bush administration has many fondly recalling a mythical Clinton good times.

But workers aren’t the only ones that would rather see a Clinton type White House again. Many of our bosses would too. They did well on Slick Willy’s watch. Bush makes a lot of them nervous.

Many of the ruling rich view Bush as a dangerous screw-up who has needlessly caused dissension among traditional allies and whose backing workers into a corner can result in an ultimate backlash against the system.

That’s why we see Kerry endorsed by the New York Times, Washington Post, even the Kansas City Star. George Soros, who modestly claims to have "earned" his Midas-like fortune from hedge funds, has dumped tens of millions into support for Kerry. There are plenty more like him keeping a lower profile.

Kerry has carefully tailored his message to reflect this wing of the ruling class. He makes clear there will be no radical departures from the fundamental policies of the Bush White House. His pitch is that he is more competent, less abrasive, better suited for returning to stability rather than deepening crisis and confrontation.

While this nuanced alternative has been effective in raising funds and gaining media endorsements it has failed miserably in igniting needed voter support. Even as Bush’s approval has melted in the polls Kerry seems hopelessly stuck in a close second place.

It’s still too close to call. Perhaps the Comeback Kid can help pull off a narrow win. Mobilizing the traditional base seems the Democrats only hope.

But is it our only hope? Isn’t it time that those of us in the traditional base taken for granted by the Democrats consider mobilizing for a choice other than between a headache or a toothache? Since we are the big majority couldn’t we mobilize ourselves, around our own issues, through our own party? After this one last week of craziness we need to begin a serious discussion of how we can do just that next time.

10/26/2004