By Joshua Frank
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 beaconing antiwar voters to clamor for the Democratic Party next Tuesday. 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 progressive movement.
In the meantime, however, the war will rage on and Bush will remain at the helm of Empire with Congress’s blessing. As the Washington Post reported on August 27, of the 46 candidates in tight House races this year, 29 oppose a timetable for troop withdraw. That’s a whopping 63% of Democrats in hotly contested races who have exactly the same position on the war as George W. Bush.
Even so, Howard Dean offers up his own deceptive outlook, "[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% 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 won’t even acknowledge Rep. Jim McGovern’s half-baked plea to replace US forces with another international occupation cartel.
Besides, even if a withdraw 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 in which the media and 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 grassroots peace organization in the US, 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 website to inform voters that they indeed have options on November 7.
The Nation magazine, despite an editorial last year which 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 he is receiving over 20% of the independent vote here in New York. Nor would the magazine discuss Kevin Zeese’s antiwar unity run in Maryland, where Zeese has brought together a unique alliance of Green, Populists and Libertarians. Then there is Aaron Dixon, an ex-Black Panther who is running perhaps the most electric antiwar campaign in the country against Sen. Maria Cantwell. Dixon’s camp has been met with utter silence from the liberal antiwar movement — perhaps because several progressive philanthropists like Dal LaMagna, support her campaign. And the list of forgotten candidates goes on.
Predictably MoveOn.org and the liberal blogsphere 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. 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: nowhere.
So perhaps it is not “why” Peace Now 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.
However, the more theoretical among these liberal careerists have a popular front philosophy: where they align with the liberal bourgeoisie against the reactionary capitalists. But when push comes to shove the liberals of the ruling elite always prefer repression to democracy — something ol’ Karl Marx recognized during the 1848 democratic revolutions in Europe and the Left in the US should have recognized when the industrial wing of the Republican Party sabotaged Radical Reconstruction last century.
But that may be a bit too analytical for such an obvious crisis: the Democrats and their patrons are part of the problem, not the solution.
-Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, and edits http://www.BrickBurner.org