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What passes for "independence"

By Paul D'Amato | August 20, 2004 | Page 13

THE ZNET Web site recently posted a notice announcing a new project of the Independent Progressive Politics Network (IPPN) called "Democracy 2004." The goal of the Democracy 2004 initiative, according to its Web site,, is to "significantly increase the election-day turnout in November 2004 of the progressive-minded voters and past non-voters, particularly among youth, low-income and working-class people, and communities of color."

The visitor to this Web site will discover that Democracy 2004 believes that "The majority of people in the U.S. understand that the two major political parties are not focused on the needs of our citizens and our communities but rather on the unlimited greed of our multi-national corporations. People in the U.S. and around the world have been waiting for a long time for new opportunities in the U.S. political system."

And the parent organization of Democracy 2004, the IPPN, states in its principles of unity that it is "composed of organizations and individuals committed to the achievement of a national, non-sectarian, independent progressive political party, or an alliance of such parties, as an alternative to the corporate-controlled, Democratic/Republican system."

Figuring out what these people are about seems simple, then. Seeing as they reject the twin parties of American capitalism, they must want to register a million voters in order to win votes for... the independent team of Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo? Think again.

The list of participating organizations in this initiative gives it away:, the NAACP Voter Fund, Bands Against Bush, and so on--the "Anybody But Bush" crowd. If this wasn't a giveaway, the coordinator of the IPPN is Ted Glick. Glick opposes Nader's candidacy and is a supporter of the Green Party's "safe states" strategy led by its presidential candidate David Cobb.

At a recent Green Party convention, Cobb was chosen over Nader as the Green's presidential candidate. But Cobb is only a placeholder, not a real candidate. He was chosen because the Greens couldn't directly, with any self-respect, choose Kerry.

Nevertheless, choosing Cobb was political suicide, and here's why. The safe-state strategy stipulates that you should only vote for what you want if it's guaranteed you can't get it.

Therefore, in a state Kerry can't possibly lose, it's "safe" to vote for Cobb. Where Kerry's chances are tighter, vote for Kerry and against your conscience.

The safe states campaign slogan should be, "Make your vote not count." Or, in the case of Glick, vote for the other candidate that is "not focused on the needs of our citizens and our communities but rather on the unlimited greed of our multinational corporations"--John Kerry.

The only possible conclusion that can be drawn is that this Democracy 2004 initiative is a fraud. Presented to us as a means to build an independent political alternative, its true purpose is to win back people who have concluded correctly that the Democratic Party isn't their party.

All the talk about "grassroots," "movement building" and "independent politics" in this case is smoke and mirrors, a political bait and switch. Though the IPPN is careful not to say anywhere, "vote for Kerry," there can be no other possible message when the mantra is "register and vote."

In today's political climate, when even former Nader supporters, those who are convinced that Kerry is only marginally different than Bush, are still planning to vote for "anybody," i.e., Kerry, registering a million voters clearly isn't about giving the Nader-Camejo ticket a fighting chance.

Whether or not the IPPN began as a genuine independent organization, it's following a common pattern in U.S. politics. That giant sucking sound around election time is the "progressive independents" stampeding toward the Democratic moderate as the only "realistic" choice. This would be funny if it weren't so sad, so predictable and so damaging.

Imagine how confusing it will now be to explain to people that in some cases "independent" means exactly its opposite. The IPPN should at least change its name.

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