Portside Readers Respond

Readers’ Responses and Reactions — July 29, 2004

[The following readers respond to the Peacefile article below:
“From No to Yes on Kerry: Andy Stern Points to Health Care.”
The article and the responses were circulated via the Portside
email list on July 29, 2004.]

Re: Andy Stern Points to Health Care

Good points made, but I would also add, in Kerry’s first hundred days, he should first implement true labor organizing rights that include a card check process for union elections. We in the labor movement could then go about the task of organizing the unorganized without employer interference. That simple act would dramatically change this country. With a dramatic increase in the numbers of union membership, we could gain a single payer health plan, take out our medical benefits from the economic workplace, and organize the south. This simple act would dramatically change the political landscape in this country.

Edwin Herzog SEIU 250


Re: Andy Stern Points to Health Care

Andy Stern’s proposal that progressives work for Kerry “in exchange’ for a prospect of his (Kerry’s) fixing of the health care system within the first 100 days of his administration (if not, the “gloves come off”–i.e., progressives can organize themselves as a separate pressure group, delinking their hopes and visions from Kerry) seems rather tame and likely to reiterate the predicament of progressives: supporting centrist democrats only to be disappointed–over, and over, and over, and over again. (By the way, it is the election of people who are unwilling to or afraid of articulating for the American public a progressive agenda, and of standing boldly for it, except at certain moments of convenience, that reproduces the type of electorate that makes possible the increasing rightward tilt of American politics).

I believe progressives can and should follow a different track: while expressing their willingness and desire to support Kerry, they should make that support contingent not on a prospect that Kerry will fix the health care situation but on a hard promise/commitment (with teeth, negotiated by those in a position to do so) that he will do so. The idea that progressives can bargain with centrists is not in itself wrong. it is even necessary, and good. But if bargaining there must be, as there must, let it, then, indeed be real bargaining, not an unfounded hope that the Democratic Party will, this time, deliver out of its own bowls. it will not.

Progressives indeed need Kerry to win. But Kerry also needs progressives to win. If there is to be bargaining, let it be real bargaining.

Antonio Callari


Re: Andy Stern Points to Health Care

Greg Moses gave us a good analysis of the Left predicament vis-à-vis Iraq and health care. Andy Stern’s proposals on this issue are intriguing, but fraught with the dangers Moses brings up. I don’t think most Left activists “answer with a resounding no” to the question whether supporting Kerry will be worth it. I know lots of folks who subscribe to ABB (“Anybody But Bush”) and thus reluctantly support Kerry. His Iraq and related Defense budget proposals are worse than Bush’s, but holding his feet to the fire on health care will at least reinforce cynicism on the part of the US electorate, when he almost inevitably doesn’t deliver.

I don’t think the Left has the numbers or influence to make a difference, but we can at least try to keep the health care issue on screen. People are going to be upset when health care reform is not delivered and we sink deeper into our self-engendered Iraq quagmire. It’s not at all likely that a Kerry administration, when faced with the choice between the Iraq war and health care, will choose the latter. Their corporate sponsors would not approve. Then again, should the Iraq war continue to prove quite costly in terms of lost lives and public support, maybe the ruling class will turn against it. And maybe they’ll decide it’s time, finally, to do something about health care. It’s hardly likely to be universal health in a Canadian or a British or a Japanese sense, however. They’ll find some way to protect the profits of the insurance and drug companies. But Stern and Moses are right. They may decide Iraq is too costly and so is our present health care setup. And maybe that does mean we need to elect Kerry rather than Bush, the more reasonable instead of the recalcitrant.

But either way, we on the Left are not going to have much to do with the electoral outcome or its aftermath unless and until we rebuild our base. That means concentrating on organizing in our workplaces and our communities, while of course also lending a hand to slightly more rational candidates, on local and state, as well as national, levels. I intend to vote for Kerry and maybe help his campaign microscopically, not because of any illusions on Iraq or health care, but because a Kerry administration MAY attack the poor and civil liberties a little less enthusiastically than another Bush one.

Greg King

SEIU, Local 888

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