Politics Mondays: Minister Farrakhan, Michael Moore and Howard Stern - When Anti-Bush Isn’t Pro-Kerry (Or Democrat)

At a certain point during the movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11” an individual who has grown to become critical of the war states that in response to their disillusionment, they will begin to work with the Democratic Party. In the sold out, left-leaning theatre where I watched the movie in Baltimore, Maryland, the comment drew only sparse applause.

For several weeks now since the major Democratic primary and caucus season ended, I have had several conversations with some of my closest political friends – many of whom are young Black professional Democrats – who openly admit and lament Senator John Kerry’s anemic campaign. Most of my friends, all of whom know campaigns and candidates, at a professional and personal level, recognize that John Kerry lacks charisma and is wrong on some domestic issues, but most importantly that he does not offer a courageous message on the war in Iraq that would clearly differentiate himself from President Bush. Most agree that he does not necessarily have to be like Howard Dean on the war, but in addition to presenting a workable exit strategy, he has to display the ability to speak the more controversial and obvious truths impacting this war – many of which are covered in “Fahrenheit 9/11”.

I essentially agree with them, but go a step further in offering role models and case studies on how this can be done. While I have great respect for Senator Kerry’s campaign strategist Bob Shrum, I think that Senator Kerry could do himself a favor if he would fire all of his pollsters and strategists, and just absorb the phenomenon of three men who have taken positions opposite President Bush on the war: filmmaker and documentary ace Michael Moore; “shock jock” Howard Stern; and the Nation Of Islam’s Minister Louis Farrakhan. All three men represent how civil society is speaking against the State, on the war in Iraq, in ways that bypass electoral politics.

Minister Louis Farrakhan did not vote in an election until he was just over fifty years old. But the man who called for one million men to meet him in Washington D.C.; and saw close to two million men join him in the nation’s capitol primarily for a spiritual and cultural act of atonement, is way ahead of most political leaders, having, for months now, spoken about his belief that the military draft will be back, reinstated by next year. He just recently made a detailed talk regarding the 2005 draft. But it was his historic address at the National Press Club on May 3, 2004 (and the reaction to it – it is ranked as one of C-Span’s most watched programs ever), where the Minister weaved prophecy from the scriptures, American and world history, and a dissection of the neo-conservative forces guiding U.S. foreign policy; which displayed how the most powerful arguments against President Bush are coming from cultural and not political leaders.

Michael Moore’s new movie, Fahrenheit 9/11 essentially connects some of the dots that the corps of mainstream political journalists have failed to tie together, for a variety of reasons. In a movie, Michael Moore does what the Washington Post, New York Times, and a Beltway full of writers with access to official files, off-the-record sources, and the three branches of government have spectacularly failed to do. The maverick film director shows what the power of one person in civil society can do as a researcher and distributor of information, leveraging technological and financial resources. Who needs the Democratic Party if they are as anemic, spineless, and timid as they appear in Fahrenheit 9/11? One can get more political activity done with a camcorder and microphone, and the private use of the Internet.

In Howard Stern, this year we witnessed an almost over night conversion of a witty, but disinterested political observer who suddenly realized that it was in his self-enlightened interest to become politically active and outspoken. When the Bush administration’s FCC used the “indecency outcry” that arose from Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl performance to intimidate radio stations that broadcast controversial, offensive and explicit material, Howard Stern not only knew that his professional career was in danger, but he decided to do something about it, borrowing from his enormous popularity as an entertainer in civil society, to become a de facto political science professor, informing his listeners, on a daily basis for weeks it seemed, about the nefarious relationships between the Clear Channel conglomerate and the Bush administration, the role of the religious Right in politics, how the FCC worked, and how voting President Bush out of office would affect the lives of his listeners. The shock jock was able to enlist the help of members of Congress, who appeared on his show, and he became so "political", that the influential political newspaper on Capitol Hill, The Hill wrote a story on Howard Stern's potential to impact the 2004 election.

For almost a year now it has been clear to me that the soul of political activity was no longer in electoral politics, and had spilled over, or returned to the streets. In some respects the Left is experiencing its own version of what the Right has undergone for decades. I once heard Dr. Fred Newman say that fascism is the soul of the Republican Party while socialism is the soul of the Democratic Party. Some of the most ardent Believers on the Right have long left partisan and electoral politics and have taken to their own form of activism in the streets and hills. One aspect of this are the militias and White supremacist groups that do not trust any politician to communicate and obtain their interests from the State. The Left, now, with the rise of some anarchist groups, radicals, and increasingly disenchanted progressive organizations is experiencing a similar exodus from electoral and partisan politics.

My friendly acquaintance, the late- Lt. Colonel Fletcher Prouty - wrote the part of the script in the movie JFK where Donald Sutherland says that the State has no greater organizing force than its war powers. No American leader, with the possible exception of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has shown the truth of this statement better than President George W. Bush, since the events of September 11, 2001. A careful reading of Patriot Act I and II makes this abundantly clear. This concentration of power in the hands of a central authority is increasingly frightening to those on the Right and the Left. Once the Left catches up to the Right in opting out of electoral and partisan politics, this country could be on the brink of civil war. This process will be accelerated if the electorate continues to believe that a John Kerry candidacy for president has absolutely no power to reverse the factors that led to the war in Iraq, nor the concentration in the organization of American society around the war.

Instead of asking people to vote for him, John Kerry (and the Democrats) might want to consider voting for Minister Farrakhan, Michael Moore and Howard Stern, if victory is really the goal.

Cedric Muhammad

Monday, June 28, 2004