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Effective contributions and actions for Election 2004

Do you want to beat Bush in 2004? Then whatever you do, don't donate money to the Democratic presidential contenders this winter.

That may seem like an odd statement, but I'd like to try to convince you of the sense of it.

Let's start with the man who drives so many Americans to despair: George W. Bush. Conventional media wisdom has it that George W. Bush is winning the campaign fundraising race. After all, he's raised a whopping $84.6 million so far in 2003 (Source: Center for Responsive Politics). Wow! Nobody can possibly catch Bush, right?

Even on "liberal" NPR, Neal Conan could be heard in early November of 2003 exulting that Bush had raised more than all the Democratic contenders put together. Amazing!

The problem for that story is that during 2003 the Democratic candidates have raised a whoppinger $98.6 million so far. Go ahead, look it up. This is a fact that the media is almost completely ignorant of (Help Neal Conan get his story straight: e-mail him at

But behind the commonplace misperception that Bush has raised more money lies a powerfully disturbing truth: Bush is saving his money for later, determined to use it against the candidate that finally emerges. The Democratic candidates, on the other hand, are spending great gobs of money now and in the next few months to ensure that they emerge on top as the nominee chosen to face Bush. Unfortunately, many of the candidates have concluded that the best way to ensure that they will win the Democratic nomination is to make their fellow candidates look as bad as possible.

This too-popular King-of-the-Hill strategy is counterproductive in four ways.

  1. Because front-runners are the biggest target of this tactic, it makes those candidates most likely to win the nomination look the worst.
  2. Even if the current front-runners fall prey to the second-tier candidates' negative attacks, the act of engaging in mudslining makes the second-tier candidates look nasty, making them less appealing should they ascend.
  3. Such internecine battling wastes dollars that could be spent making Bush look bad.
  4. Every Democratic dollar used to dig up and air dirt on a Democratic candidate is a Bush dollar that won't have to be spent on the exercise and can instead be used for other pro-Bush purposes.

I firmly believe that most progressive Americans are less interested in seeing one particular Democratic candidate win the Presidency and more interested in making sure that Bush isn't re-elected. Does this describe you? Ok, then listen up: if we don't want Bush to win, then we have to keep our eyes on the prize. We have to prevent the particular personal interests of the candidates from getting in the way of the eventual nominee's chances of beating Bush. We have to make every dollar and every action make a step toward the goal of getting Bush out of office.

This means, my friends, that we must call a halt to every action and every donation that makes steps in another direction. This means:

If donating cash to a campaign and slamming competitors for the Democratic nomination are out, there are still a lot of positive things left that you can do. These include:

None of these activities is quite as easy as writing out a check to a candidate. They each require a discerning choice, and some require a commitment of time. This level of commitment could be seen as a burden, but I think it is better seen as a reflection of the democratic (and Democratic) ideal of people-powered politics. Cribbing from Gandhi, to make a positive change in this country, you need to be the change you want to see.

Reflect upon the Ribald Reign of King George the Second
Get a bounce on the ballot at the Anyone But W. Action Center

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