Are raucous protesters at the Republican Convention playing right into Karl Rove's hands? Readers write about the planned protests, Kerry's military record and more.

By Salon Staff
Published August 12, 2004 6:57PM (EDT)

[Read "New York Lockdown," by Michelle Goldberg.]

Though I am an angry anti-Bush citizen, I'm scared that people like Jamie Moran seem to have forgotten that there still is going to be an election in November. Do they think this show of seething hatred and violence is going to help? Do they think it's going to make people vote Bush out of office?

It's not. For whatever reason, people see the Republicans as tough on crime, and a major riot and crime wave in New York City will only fuel people's fears. The protesters won't just scare the Republican power structure, they'll instill fear into ordinary citizens -- you know, the voters?

Do they want to see four more years of this bullshit? Then they should go ahead and riot, loot and destroy property as Moran hopes they will. And then wait for W. to win. They may well go down in history as the rioters that put the worst president in a century back into the White House.

-- Daniel Petrie

Michelle Goldberg's article on the police lockdown during the RNC got my blood flowing and nostrils flaring. I'm rooting for the protesters to raise as much hell as possible (short of hurting anyone or causing too much damage) and show this president once again how upset his citizens are.

My only complaint about the article is that Goldberg focuses on the massive security force that will be assembled. That's a big story, sure, but the bigger story is this -- Bush just doesn't care. He didn't even pretend to care about the worldwide protests before the 2003 war in Iraq, so what makes the protesters think he'll be swayed one inch by criticism now? When your own citizens come out in huge numbers to send you a message and you shrug it off, that tells you all you need to know about the way this guy views democracy.

I know activism is important and maybe what might happen in New York is one more step on the road to an American regime change. If the protesters can live with being completely ignored by the silver-spooned imbecile they're targeting, then I say, have at it.

-- Ryan Ellis

In what way would petulant protests "stand up to" the Bush administration? Why not spend this enormous wealth of anti-Bush energy on trying to reach apathetic voters or sway the tide in up-for-grabs states? The Bush administration doesn't care how you feel. Republicans don't care how you feel.

While we're on the subject, Republicans should be allowed to be Republicans without being made miserable. Let them do their thing in NYC, and then vote against them. That's the only kind of victory that matters.

-- Haley Kish

As a native New Yorker born with a plastic spoon in his mouth, I'm getting tired of every person with a cause coming to my hometown to protest instead of doing it in their own hometowns. Don't the protesters know that all the corporate stuffed shirts are off on vacation for the month of August? I would appreciate it if the protesters would go to Martha's Vineyard and express their political views to the people who can actually make changes, not schmoes like me who are just trying to get to get to and from work each day.

The antiwar protests last year were fine on the weekends, but went nowhere on the weekdays, because the average working person does not care about the rights of others, they care about making their rent and food money. I doubt anyone with adult responsibilities will jump in and start protesting arm in arm with a bunch of college kids and homeless folks.

After having close friends killed on 9/11 by crazy people from another country wanting to make a statement against the U.S., getting stuck in subways by crazy Republicans who want to make their statement about our country, and on top of this, having crazy protesters from other states come to New York to make their own statement about our country, I am sick and tired of my hometown being a canvas for fanatics of all stripes. Please, please leave us alone!

-- John Feerick

I hope those who protest at the Republican Convention are out of jail in time to vote come November. While I wish them well and appreciate what they are expressing, this is a perfect opportunity for the Bush administration to not only rid itself of a large number of "undesirables" but to create an image of leftist extremism that can only help him come November.

-- Claire Ross

We shouldn't be the least bit surprised if the protests at the RNC are violent. What else do you expect when every nonviolent protester is either herded into a barbed-wire "free speech zone," arrested on a technicality, or too intimidated to even show up in the first place?

The police are arranging it so that the only people left on the streets will be those who want violence. I don't know whether the police are doing it out of incompetence or Machiavellian calculation, but either way it's frightening.

-- Alex Small

[Read "Republicans' Dishonorable Charge," by Joe Conason, and "Another Swift Lie," by Martin Lewis.]

I find it sad that a small group of swift boat veterans are so desperate to damage Kerry's reputation that they are willing to malign the reputation of all Vietnam veterans.

By claiming Kerry lied or exaggerated to receive his medals in Vietnam, they imply that one could get a medal just by saying any old thing. If their claims are true, and Sen. John Kerry lied to get his medals, how can I believe that no one else did?

Now, whenever I see a Purple Heart license plate or a veteran's proud display of his medals, am I supposed to think, 'Yes, but maybe they didn't deserve it?' The so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth want to smear Kerry, but they are using a very broad brush and are smearing everyone in our armed forces who has ever earned a medal.

-- Michael Ossipov

Before complaining that the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth are unfairly attacking Kerry's military record, it's worth remembering a statement of Kerry's from during the 2000 campaign:

"Those of us who were in the military wonder how it is that someone who is supposedly serving on active duty ... can miss a whole year of service without even explaining where it went."

Republicans did not force John Kerry to use his military service as a major focus of his bid for president -- he and his advisors chose to make it one. I could not care less about what happened 30 years ago with these guys (Bush or Kerry). But when you make claims about your own service while questioning the service of your opponent, you are asking for scrutiny. And scrutiny is exactly what Kerry will get.

-- David Bingham

[Read "Down and Out and on the Move," by Michelle Goldberg.]

I was glad to see Salon's coverage of Cheri Honkala and the Kensington Welfare Rights Union. I doubt anyone could argue anymore against the hard fact that there is enough money and food in the world for all, and that no one should be homeless or poor.

This country's history is steeped in the "Protestant ethic," which feeds the myth that anybody can make it in this country if they just try hard enough. Honkala's determination and the actions of the KWRU should humble us all and bring truth back to the forefront of all our lives.

-- Nora Madison-Thompson

Though I don't want to oversimplify the reasons why people may find themselves homeless, I have to wonder if Cheri Honkala and many other members of her movement could soon improve their lots by putting the same level of energy and time into a job, however menial, instead of marching around New Jersey asking for a free ride.

Society owes able-bodied, adult individuals nothing. If anything, the reverse is true and able-bodied men and women owe society (and their fellow man) their contribution of a solid day's work.

I believe that if the members of "the movement" individually set their sights on cleaning up their acts and taking the steps necessary to get back on track, a year from now they would find themselves much better off than after a year spent marching and bemoaning their fate and waiting for society to recognize their so-called "right" to a house.

-- Ed Viau

[Read "World Bank of Ideas," by Eric Weiner.]

The author of "World Bank of Ideas" fails to sufficiently appreciate why the American system of government has remained virtually unchanged for over 200 years -- longer than any other democracy in the world.

The Founding Fathers had a keener appreciation for history, human nature and practical political thought than any group of people in the world today. They meticulously sifted through Athenian democratic models, the government of republican Rome, and that of the republic of Venice for ideas on creating a stable system of government that allows for the happiness and freedom of the people. They built our system to last, and it has.

The number of tenured academics who are capable of intelligently discussing such practical historical models is vanishingly small. I doubt any modern career politician could, though there may be a few members of the judiciary capable of the exercise.

The idea of changing this venerable, glorious system out of aesthetic appreciation for making it "more democratic" (a word which doesn't even exist in the Constitution) is nausea-inducing.

-- Scott Locklin

As a South African citizen, it amazes me that American writers take for granted that the United States is the most free and democratic country in the world.

This is as baseless a claim as the Roman (and later the British) notion that their societies held the monopoly on ideals such as honor. Empires need their mythology far more badly than mere nations seem to.

South Africa is now acknowledged to have one of the most sophisticated democratic constitutions in the world, and we achieved democracy through negotiation rather than revolution. And while voter turnout could be better, after three democratic elections we are still excited by the democratic process. We attract immigrants from all over Africa and Asia for many of the same reasons as America does -- greater economic opportunity and political stability.

And yet, we are still humble enough to refer to our good fortune as "the miracle." I submit that in many critical respects, we and other new nations like us are at least as democratic as you. And unencumbered by the arrogant need to "export" our democracy, we are more free, too.

-- Nick Paul

While Eric Weiner's article on the wealth of democratic ideas to be found in other countries was welcome, he failed to mention the most important non-American idea of them all, namely proportional representation.

Most of the ills that Weiner mentions can be traced ultimately to the fact that in the U.S. we use the single-member, first-past-the-post, winner-take-all system of populating our legislatures, the result being that very large numbers of voters -- possibly even a majority -- can find themselves disenfranchised in the final result. People who feel they are not represented on a systematic basis eventually get tired of losing and drop out of the system. Our low voter-turnout rates attest to this.

-- Chloe Pajerek

Salon Staff

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