Wake Me When It’s Over

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has promised there will not be a change of course in Iraq if the Democrats take back Congress. Potential House leader Nancy Pelosi has assured voters that impeachment is not in the cards for Bush, either. Yet the liberal establishment is beckoning antiwar voters to clamor for the Democratic Party today. It seems like 2004 all over again.

I recently disparaged the positions of progressive media critic Jeff Cohen and The Nation magazine for not supporting independent antiwar candidates, and instead calling for more of the same: i.e., voting for the Democrats even though we disagree with them on the war and a host of other issues. If we want to take on Bush, they argue, the Democrats have to take back Congress, and only then can we start to build a genuine movement against the neocons.

In the meantime, however, the war will rage on and Bush will remain at the helm of Empire with Congress’ blessing. As the Washington Post reported on Aug. 27, of the 46 Democratic candidates in tight House races this year, 29 “oppose a date-certain to begin withdrawing troops.” That’s a whopping 63 percent of Democrats in hotly contested races who have exactly the same position on the war as our liar in chief, George W. Bush.

Even so, Howard Dean offers up his own deceptive promise: “[W]e will put some pressure on him [Bush] to have some benchmarks, some timetables, and a real plan other than stay the course.”

What? Who is going to do that? The 63 percent who oppose a timetable? And what plan are the Democrats going to offer up? They openly refuse to back Rep. Jack Murtha’s call for redeployment, and they won’t even acknowledge Rep. Jim McGovern’s half-baked plea to replace U.S. forces with another international occupation cartel.

Besides, even if a withdrawal plan made its way past the House, would the Senate, even if controlled by Democrats, ever consider putting forward an alternative agenda? It sure doesn’t look that way. There is not one Democratic senator who wants an immediate, unconditional end to this war.

Perhaps even more discouraging this election season is the way that the media and the mainstream antiwar movement have collaborated. They have both willfully ignored candidates running against war supporters from outside the Democratic Party.

Peace Action, the self-proclaimed largest grass roots peace organization in the U.S., has refused to supply antiwar activists with a guide to the midterm elections. They claim to not have the funds to print them, but still won’t put a voting pamphlet on their Web site to inform voters that they indeed have options on Nov. 7.

The Nation magazine, despite an editorial last year that claimed they would not support pro-war Democrats, has provided virtually no coverage of third-party antiwar campaigns. After an editorial staff meeting with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s antiwar challenger Howie Hawkins, The Nation still wouldn’t write a word about his campaign, even though a recent Zogby poll shows that he is receiving over 20 percent of the independent vote in New York.

Predictably, MoveOn.org and liberal bloggers like DailyKos would never engage in a debate about the legitimacy of building an independent antiwar movement, let alone a third party. Instead they’d rather throw their energy into campaigns like Ned Lamont’s disaster in Connecticut. Since Ned defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in the primary, he has changed his tune on Iraq from reasonable opposition to all-out war hawk. But that’s where working within the Democratic Party will get you.

So perhaps it is not “why” Peace Action and others in the liberal establishment have silenced antiwar candidates, but “how.” We know why: they are professional liberals who see the Democratic Party as an indispensable ally in the quest for grants, careers, and cocktail party networking.

Every election season is the same. In order to get what we want, we have to vote for what we don’t want. Well, that kind of thinking will never end a war.

Read more by Joshua Frank