First, you cite Bush’s “inept, reckless foreign policy.” But you’ve agreed with him on every major policy decision along the way. You voted for the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. You said, “I believe we must always have a preemptive right” to first strike, which is illegal under the UN Charter. You have blamed the Palestinians for Israel’s refusal to abide by UN Resolutions calling for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. You were right behind Bush in condemning US abuse of Iraqi POWs -- and rightly so -- but you also joined Bush in declaring the problem to be limited to a few “bad apples”, and not the pattern of abuse that the evidence shows (the kind you once seemed to recognize in Vietnam). I’d expect a reversal of these positions.

You also voted for the “USA PATRIOT Act”, the “Visa Entry Reform Act” and other draconian legislation, much of which was on the Republican wish list for years. You seem to agree with the President that the only way to protect our lives is to trash the Constitution, the same document you would have to swear to defend if you’re elected -- just the opposite of what I look for in a candidate.

True, as you say, millions live in fear of losing jobs, healthcare, pensions, etc. But these are more than academic issues to many of us who have not had the benefit of your personal wealth. My own family has experienced unemployment, layoffs, lack of healthcare and other benefits, underfunded education, children raised in poverty and abortions out of desperation. My mother, who is disabled and recently suffered a major heart attack as well as gall bladder surgery, may be about to lose her Medicaid. These are issues I personally, along with millions of other Americans, need to see addressed in reality not just rhetoric. You say you want to replace “doubt with hope,” “fear with security,” and “broken promises with a real plan.” But mostly what I see coming out of your campaign so far are doubt, fear and not much of a plan.

On jobs, you called the idea of pulling out of NAFTA and the WTO “disastrous,” even though these kind of so-called “free trade” agreements are in fact draining off US jobs at a “disastrous” rate, not to mention the devastating effect on neighboring economies. You haven’t promised to stand behind unions when their employers lock them out or permanently replace strikers. You haven’t come out in favor of penalties or other consequences for corporations that “cut and run” from communities that have subsidized them for years, leaving unemployment, poverty and despair in their wake. (They could pay the money back, for example.)

On healthcare, you haven’t spoken in favor of a single-payer plan, of the kind that eliminated the problem of the uninsured in Canada, or national healthcare as in England. My wife is from England, and, sure, they complain about the National Health, but when they learn how America’s system works (or doesn’t work) they can’t believe their ears. To them, no civilized country would tolerate the US healthcare system. In Canada, too, their healthcare system is the single favorite government program of all time, and it works. That’s why so many Americans now are crossing in Canada to buy their drugs. As far as I know you haven’t spoken out in favor of “free trade“ in pharmaceuticals, however.

And I’m not clear at all on what you plan to do to save pensions, or Social Security, from the common theft of bosses and government budget policies. I know you voted against the Republican “lockbox” bill, but I haven’t seen your “real plan” to protect either of these.

I’m glad that you oppose school vouchers and support abortion rights, which does distinguish you from the President. But you seem vague on these points, too. The real problem with education funding now is that most public schools are funded by property taxes, so the poorest kids get the poorest education. The current problems with abortion rights, too, are mostly economic. Federal funds pay for many medical procedures, but not abortion or proper reproductive counseling. On the other hand, many women feel driven to have abortions because of the prohibitive costs of day care, or because they are forced to work by Clinton-era welfare cuts. I haven’t heard you offer to help with these problems.

Your letter asks for my help in waging “a campaign in which we stand up for what we believe in” -- but what do you stand for? You mention “our cause,” but you don’t seem to have one -- except getting elected. If I’m wrong, I apologize, but your campaign seemed to start off center-right, and since you sewed up the nomination you have jogged further right. We don’t need another Republican in the White House, Mr. Kerry; that’s supposedly why we have the Democrats. You need to offer us a genuine alternative if you want to inspire us to turn out and vote for you, much less work on your campaign or give you money.

Maybe you will win despite the problems I point out, and nobody will be happier than I would be to see George W. Bush’s policies repudiated. I’m just not clear that voting for you, or sending you money, represents that kind of repudiation. I sincerely hope you can prove me wrong.
Open Letter to John Kerry
By Ricky Baldwin

I received your fundraising letter the other day, saying you’d “fight for every vote,” and asking for money. So I’m writing to let you know what it would take for you to win my money and my vote. Your letter and your campaign seem to focus on voting against George W. Bush, instead of why we should vote for you. But some of us expect better than that. I for one want to vote against what Bush represents -- not just against the man -- and I’m not sure that you’re giving me that chance.