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9/26/2005

More on the "other" war party

The problem of the Democratic party leadership's inexcusable (and somewhat inexplicable) refusal to vocally oppose the Iraq war has become something that anti-war activists need to confront. Counterpunch's Joshua Frank thinks that since Democrats are fleeing the peace protests, those who are anti-war ought to flee the Democrats:
Just this past weekend antiwar rallies were held across the country and the Democratic leadership was nowhere in sight. They had high-tailed it out there. They hid in their holes and were afraid to be seen.

In all fairness, a few elected Democrats did show face, mainly two: Reps. John Conyers and Cynthia McKinney. But I wouldn't constitute either as party leaders. The better-known Democrats, like Senators John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, two likely candidates for 2008, were nowhere to be seen. Even more striking were the absences of DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Russell Feingold and Ted Kennedy -- all occasional critics of the Iraq war.

Of course the Democrat's collective criticism only goes so far. They certainly don't want to be photographed with any militant protestors. By God, that would taint their reputations! They've got campaign contributions to worry about here. No, the Democrats aren't about to take to the streets. They'd rather sit back and project the illusion that they care.

...This isn't to say that the Democratic grassroots don't oppose the war. The majority does--but then so do nearly half of all Republicans. So this begs the question: why are anti-war activists so loyal to a Democratic Party that supported Bush's war and still refuses to oppose it?

Much of the Democrat's cognitive dissonance has to do with the success of Howard Dean at the DNC. He's been able to corral anti-war Democrats into the fold, making sure they don't flee en masse over the war issue even though they should. Many still see Dean as a sign of future hope, where party leadership stays in touch with the grassroots. Plus, Dean's early criticisms of the Iraq war earned him significant street-cred with party advocates.

It was un-deserved. Dean, like the rest of the Democratic leadership, is pro-war and pro-occupation, and it couldn't be more damaging for the peace movement to continue putting faith into this futile party. If Democratic activists really want to make some change -- the best thing they could do would be to get up and leave their party. Only then will Democratic leaders start to think twice about the monstrous policies they endorse.
I hesitate to fully endorse Frank's conclusions, though not the significance of the problems he addresses, in part because I don't really know quite what it would mean for anti-war people to "leave the party." Does he mean they shouldn't vote Democratic? That brings up a host of problems, a la Nader 2000, which I'm not particularly interested in re-hashing, and anyway isn't particularly relevant in a non-election year.

Maybe he just means that if the anti-war movement is actually going to succeed, it is going to have to do so by mechanisms other than the Democratic party. This certainly seems plausible. There's really no indication that the Democrats, as a party, are at all inclined to stop the war, at least no more so than Republicans (as Frank notes). Some Democrats have actually called for stepping up the war (Biden, Kerry, Clinton), though I've noticed that not much noise has been made on this front recently.

Personally, I'd like to see a takeover of the Democratic party by its progressive, anti-war rank and file - but then, I'd also like to see George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, et al. put on trial for war crimes, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. Barring this kind of dramatic development, I think we have to come to terms with the fact when it comes to the war, the top brass of the Democratic Party is on the other side, aligned not with Cindy Sheehan but with Dick Cheney.

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