portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

government

Backing Democrats Has Pulled the Anti-War Movement to the Right

The gist of the article is the democratic party is part of the problem, along with its "anti-war" enablers,including Medea "media seeking" Benjamin,the Green Party,etc.
FOR OPPONENTS of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there was a big question hanging in the air in the wake of the 2004 election. How could George Bush--the man behind the war that so many people protested--be re-elected?

Unfortunately, many on the left have offered answers that are less than useful. For some, Bush's re-election showed that a majority of Americans bought the snake oil that George W. Bush was selling. Now, goes the most extreme of these arguments, they got what they deserved.

For others, John Kerry was defeated because he ran a poor campaign. The people who actually lead the Democratic Party--like Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean--think Kerry was "too far to the left." But at least on the question of the war and occupation, Kerry was as close to Bush as he could get.

Contrary to the party establishment's assessment, a section of the antiwar left now proposes moving the Democratic Party to the left, with antiwar forces taking it over and transforming it.

The strategy is supposed to run on two tracks: inside and outside. "Outside" means protests and actions that put pressure on the politicians to take a position against the war. "Inside" means supporting progressives within the Democratic Party in the hopes of shaping the terms of the debate.

For some, outside can also mean supporting non-Democratic Party candidates, but mainly in the hope that this would pressure the Democrats to move leftward.

Medea Benjamin, founder of the antiwar group Code Pink who helped argue within the Green Party against Ralph Nader in favor of party nominee David Cobb and his strategy of telling Greens to vote for Kerry in swing states, seemed to have a change of heart in the December 20, 2004 Nation. "Many of us in the Green Party made a tremendous compromise by campaigning in swing states for such a miserable standard-bearer for the progressive movement as John Kerry," Benjamin wrote. "Well, I've had it. As George Bush says, 'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me--you can't get fooled again.'"

But the change of heart wasn't complete. "Let's stop the infighting, though," she continued. "Dems, Greens and other progressives must not only respect one another's choices, we must start using these different 'inside-outside' strategies to our collective advantage. A strategically placed Green/progressive pull could conceivably prevent a suicidal Democratic lurch to the right."

What Benjamin and others haven't come to grip with is that the Democrats aren't in danger of lurching to the right--they're already there. The problem in 2004 wasn't that the antiwar forces neglected work with the Democrats. It's that the Democratic Party didn't listen to them.

At every step of the way, Democratic Party leaders could silence dissent with a simple threat: If you don't support Kerry, then you are to blame if Bush is re-elected. So progressives like Benjamin did one better than silence--and became loyal attack dogs of the Democratic Party against the explicitly antiwar campaign of Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo.

* * *

THE REALITY of the inside-outside strategy is that it stops being "outside" when there's an election going on. So in the months surrounding the 2004 election, there were no national protests against the war--even in the face of widespread disgust over the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

And when supporters of Dennis Kucinich--looked to by many activists as the antiwar candidate among the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination--arrived at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) last summer, they were surprised to find out that the "big tent" of the Democratic Party was a little too small for their antiwar views.

Antiwar signs were immediately confiscated by convention officials--who Kucinich delegate Charles Underwood called "the Kerry enforcers." "I am just very disappointed that there is no ability to express any hope for peace on the floor of this convention," Underwood told Amy Goodman in an interview on the Democracy Now! program. "We've had our signs confiscated...We've had people that tell us to sit down and be quiet. We've got no particular points for peace in the platform. This is becoming an extremely narrow Democratic tent."

He added, "It's just that we are off message when we talk about peace. It's that simple." And this is how the Democratic Party treats fellow Democrats. According to a poll by the Boston Globe, 95 percent of delegates to the convention opposed the war in Iraq, yet the party adopted a pro-war platform.


* * *

SADLY, THE lesson of the Democratic Party's unwelcome mat in Boston hasn't been learned very well.

Today, the Progressive Democrats for America (PDA) are organizing to bring left-wing and progressive activists into the Democratic Party, with the hope that it can be transformed from within.

But during the election, the PDA tried to keep antiwar voices in line. When Kerry announced during the campaign that he would have voted for the war in Iraq even knowing that there were no weapons of mass destruction, PDA board member Joe Libertelli issued a statement counseling silence from the antiwar movement.

"This curious statement infuriates progressives and others who opposed the war, dismays about 80 percent of Democrats who now oppose the war, and surely encourages some to consider supporting Ralph Nader or the Greens," he wrote. "It's tempting to issue the usual rallying cry to the effect that, 'Progressives need to demand,' and to urge all who will listen to threaten to withhold their votes if Kerry doesn't change his tune.

"But the truth is, merely demanding that John Kerry change his position will get us almost nowhere. Progressives have been making similar demands for years. And threatening to support Ralph Nader or the Greens will only alienate those who, at our founding conference, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) called 'future progressives.'"

In other words, the best way to put forward progressive ideas is not to raise them. Just who are these "future progressives" anyway? Is Libertelli referring to the slew of House Democrats who just voted to give Bush another $81 billion for his occupation of Iraq.

And now that the election is over, the strategy continues. For example, the national antiwar coalition United for Peace and Justice voted at its recent convention for a focus on lobbying Congress--read Democrats--to take more antiwar positions.

***

THE TRUTH is that rather than moving Democrats to the left, the inside-outside strategy moved our movement to the right.
Instead of coming to grips with the failure of the "Anybody But Bush" strategy last time, pro-Democrat progressives are focusing blame on the very people who maintained their political independence and their antiwar, anti-occupation stance.

For example, in reaction to Peter Camejo's recent criticism of the Green Party's "safe states" approach and the tide of lesser evilism among progressives, Ted Glick, the Dickie Morris of the Cobb campaign, leveled a new attack on ZNet earlier this month. "The last thing we need right now is the 'correct line' approach, individuals or small groups claiming to have all the answers or quick to jump on other progressives for their supposed failings," Glick wrote.

If there was ever a time for political clarity in the antiwar movement, it is now--for clarity won't be achieved if we wait until the next election.

The problem isn't that the Democrats have gone off course. War and occupation in Iraq are part of their agenda, too. And unlike Republicans, part of their job is to co-opt, soften or squelch the message of the activists and grassroots movement.

We have to build an antiwar movement that not only recognizes the Democratic Party's shortcomings, but understands that it is part of the problem.
we're fucked 23.Apr.2005 14:16

observer

the powers of oppression are much better organized. look how they buy some of us out so easily. we got just about ZERO chance of stopping the machine. the only thing we can do now is prepare for how to survive as things get worse.

Exactly 23.Apr.2005 14:32

Wallowed

The "inside/outside" Democrats have devistated the anti-empire movement in the US with their horrifying Kerry bomb, and the greens helped to some degree.

Thank you, ELIZABETH SCHULTE. Nice writing.

I meant... 23.Apr.2005 14:44

Wallowed

...'Exactly' to Ms. SCHULTE.

To 'observer', I know things look bleak, but caring people in the rest of the world are kicking the Cor-pirate-rulers in the teeth all over the globe right now. In some cases, virtually chasing them down the street in front of an angry mob. Check out what is going on in Central/South America.

There is a re-action for every action. I think the empire is beginning to gasp. Not a bad idea to prepare yourself, though.

uhhh 23.Apr.2005 14:55

Jason

"Today, the Progressive Democrats for America (PDA) are organizing to bring left-wing and progressive activists into the Democratic Party, with the hope that it can be transformed from within."

That is the lie that they tell themselves.

More like bring them into the Democratic Party in order to shut them up. They do not want those people in there in order to pursue their goals and visions, they want them as bodies but thir mouths closed. The Democratic Party mission is to steer true dissent into harmless channels on behalf of the one party corporate state.

S&B 23.Apr.2005 15:05

Hmmm...

...

Dems Need Unity 23.Apr.2005 15:15

Nightfly

The Dems need to unify as an opposition party, articulate an anti-war platform & not fall into the trap laid forth by the Bush administration -- i.e. attacking our own factions instead of focusing our efforts on the real enemy -- the RRR (Radical Republican Right). Bush & Co.'s approval ratings are at an all-time low -- while the GOP extremists continue to overreach, moderates are wondering where their party went. The RRR are vulnerable. We must stop our internal differences & define our party. We ARE an opposition party. How could we not be? There is SO MUCH to oppose. And so little time. Look what happened in 4 years.

evil ingredients... 23.Apr.2005 15:27

this thing here

directions:

1. watch the "left" tear itself apart from the inside, the large movements becoming small groups becoming splinters becoming tiny dust particles becoming nothing, all the while squabbling and whining and back biting.

2. watch the "right" chuckle and continue to knuckle down.

3. watch helplessly as fascism blossoms.

repeat, as needed, until fascism becomes standard.

Backing democrats? 23.Apr.2005 16:49

i need help

I'm trying to get republicans to get a spine and vote for those regular citizens that supposedly put them in office.

Sen Smith went on for an hour yesterday talking about what a great guy bolton is. Go figure?

I'm am afraid we are toast. Plain and simple.

Sounds good, BUT 23.Apr.2005 20:08

Progressive Democrat

What is the bottom line here? That we must limit ourselves by a strict injunction to have no association with ANY Democrats? So, whatever you do, don't trust Barbara Lee? (Lee is the California Democrat representing Oakland in the U.S. Congress who voted against the war authorization immediately following 9-11-2001.) Why and how will that limitation categorically further the anti-war effort?

Schulte's statement sounds cool, but is it REAL?

If progressive Democrats (in particular, the Progressive Democrats of America) are to be severely censured for "counseling" what Schulte terms "silence" -- and that was one person (Joe Libertelli) speaking for himself and only in the context of an impending and as yet undecided election -- then how can Schulte expect to get away with "counseling" in favor of what I term "blinders".

Blinders? Yes, because in effect Schulte is saying that the Democratic Party -- and the progressive elements within it, including the House Progressive Caucus -- should be shunned as though not even a part of the real world.

Schulte wears blinders that cause her to twist reality for the sake of her argument. That, I suggest, doesn't help her to further the cause of a third party or of the anti-war movement. For example, Schulte says that Howard Dean thinks that Kerry was "too far to the left" (quotes in Schulte's statement, implying that Dean actually said it). I googled on "howard dean 'too far to the left' Kerry" and EVERY LINK was about people saying that Dean was too far to the left. The ONLY link that suggested that Howard Dean has ever said that Kerry was "too far to the left" was a link to Schulte's article at

 http://www.socialistworker.org/2005-1/540/540_08_InsideOutside.shmtl

That's what is known as the false straw-man argument, a favorite of the Republican/corporate propaganda machine.

So, Schulte appears to believe that people need to be directed by misleading rhetoric to reach the right conclusions -- and that is typical of the elitism view-point of those who picture themselves as the intellectual "vanguard" of the masses.

However, I see no reason to discount the thrust of Schulte's argument -- that the progressivist inside/outside program has utterly failed. ("Inside/outside" means the idea that the progressive movement can work both inside the Democratic Party and outside it toward the same goals.)

As Schulte notes, Medea Benjamin (Code Pink leader) has pronounced the obvious: that the inside/outside program failed in 2004. That's because the anti-war movement did not advance, while Kerry lost the election -- the worst of two worlds. If Kerry had won, then the "inside" part of the program was to have gone into action "outside" in a series of protests against the war, targeting (President) Kerry in that regard. That was understood and accepted by progressives registered Democrat as well as by progressives not registered Democrat.

But then Schulte reverts to twisting for effect: she (Schulte) accuses Benjamin of back-sliding away from the true vision (Schulte's) when she (Benjamin) said, as follows:

"Let's stop the infighting, though," she [Benjamin] continued. "Dems, Greens and other progressives must not only respect one another's choices, we must start using these different 'inside-outside' strategies to our collective advantage. A strategically placed Green/progressive pull could conceivably prevent a suicidal Democratic lurch to the right."

Schulte's justification for her attack on Benjamin's statement? That the Democrats couldn't get any farther to the right than they already are. I think that idea is a dis-service and an insult to the House Progressive Caucus and to all progressives in the Congress, Senators Feingold and Boxer, for example. ("It can't get worse" you say, and then it does.)

Nonetheless, Schulte's remarks on how Kucinich delegates, and others, were treated at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 are accurate. What Schulte doesn't mention is that the underlying cause of the problem was the defeat of Kucinich in the Oregon primary -- where a victory for Kucinich could not have stopped or threatened the Kerry candidacy. In other words, the problem lies with the American people and corporate media. It would be stupid for us to waste our time and energy in fanning the flames of discontent for the purpose of building a fire around a stake labeled "Code Pink and Medea Benjamin". There's too much work to be done to waste time and energy on a project as counter-productive as that. For example --
____________

Check out Jesse Jackson, Jr., (NOT Jesse Jackson the elder), for a different vision of how progressives CAN work together -- including an important specific suggestion for how to move together in that direction! Jackson set forth his perceptions and proposal in his speech at the May 2004 NYU conference "What We Stand For Conference - Ideas And Values To Take Back America" -- "Where Do Progressives Go From Here?"

 http://www.progressivegovernment.org/phpws/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=7625

Jesse Jackson, Jr., (2nd Dist., Illinois), has called for Democrats to reach out to progressives outside the Democratic Party, forging a new alliance that would transform both the Democratic Party and what many progressives like to call, almost as nostalgia, "the movement". Key to Jackson's idea is a merging of the concept of "rights" -- specifically constitutional rights -- and the concept of "values".

There is nothing here to suggest that all progressives need or should register as Democrats or that any third party movement should be contained or undermined -- rather, "Jackson has emerged as the leading Democratic advocate for opening the fall presidential debates to make room for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader--introducing a House resolution that urges the Commission on Presidential Debates to include Nader and any other candidate whose participation is supported by a majority of voters polled." -- from CommonDreams.org

 http://www.commondreams.org/views/090800-106.htm

Admittedly, Jackson's speech ("Where Do Progressives Go From Here?") was from May, 2004, and no doubt Jackson would probably have some different comments to address the same question today. But the ideas that Jackson put forward about a year ago today are sound and deserve to be considered widely by the progressive community in 2005. I am working within the Democratic Party to promote Jackson's focus on rights as central to popularizing a progressive vision for the U.S.A.

Of course, you might say that there is no way that the idea of progressive constitutional amendments can be framed as central to the anti-war movement. Or could it? What about a constitutional amendment, (as a goal, of course, because it will take many years to enact), like this --

Right to Conscience Amendment

Section 1.

Congress shall make no law prohibiting any member of the military services of the United States from terminating his or her period of service upon statement of a clear objection of conscience as to the nature of his or her duty requiring him or her to participate in any war crime, crime against peace or crime against humanity.

Section 2.

All members of the military services of the United States shall have the right, individually or collectively, to terminate their period of service upon statement of a clear objection of conscience as to the nature of their duty as requiring them to participate in any war crime, crime against peace or crime against humanity.

Section 3.

The definition of war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity shall be the same as that stated in the Nuremberg Rules, ("for the Prosecution and Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis"), 82 U.N.T.S. 279, entered into force Aug. 8, 1945.

The definition, I believe, is what was used at the Nuremberg trials. For the exact statement --

 http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/imt1945.htm

Re: Sounds good , BUT 23.Apr.2005 21:11

?

Progressive Democrat. I'm beginning to have doubts about you. Are you a stealth dem "five O"?

ProDem is right about one thing 23.Apr.2005 22:50

.

The House "Progressive" Caucus does find the truth to feel insulting. Instead of whining about it, they should look at themselves honestly and change their behaviour. Another layer of tear-stained pancake make-up will not help.


Benjamin is right about one thing, too. It is time to stop the infighting, and move on to outfighting. They will never change. Arguing their-chosen issues, with their-chosen terms, serves only to advance their-chosen purposes.

The American People have had enough from the forked-tongue of the Democratic-Republican Party ... neither democratic, nor republican, nor even a party, but a bureaucracy. The American People don't want a third party; they want a second party. The American People don't want to hear a third party "influencing" the DemReps.

The American People want to hear a second party advocating new policies.

PDA 24.Apr.2005 00:42

Jason

"Blinders? Yes, because in effect Schulte is saying that the Democratic Party -- and the progressive elements within it, including the House Progressive Caucus -- should be shunned as though not even a part of the real world."

Keep open the door for the possibility of change from some of them, but do not move one inch towards them. They have to move this way, but what they do is attempt to seduce people into moving towards them by using the power at their disposal. It is a form of corruption, whatever good words they might mouth aside.

These so called progressive democrats showed their colors when they did everything in their power to undermine and destroy Nader, and when they used their power and influence to corrupt the Green Party process and push forward a candidate of their own choosing.

They charted a disasterous course with the 2004 election, supporting a pro-war candidate and displaying anti-democratic behavior that would impress any dictator. Now rather than admit that their elitism, and complete lack of faith in the many common sense based, progressive minded people of this country was a collossal mistake that set us all way back, they are doing the same thing once again.

. 24.Apr.2005 00:43

.

The American People want to hear a second party advocating new policies.



Amen

"infighting"? 24.Apr.2005 01:04

whatever

it's only "infighting" if you're on the same side.

i'm for community, not capitalism. freedom, not authoritarianism. health, not further pollution. i oppose those who are authoritarian capitalist polluters, and a helluvalotta them are Democrats. i also know that some of the people who want what i want are Republicans.

i ain't fuckin' uniting with anyone who wants capitalism, authoritarianism, or pollution. our aims are contradictory.

What's the bottom line? 24.Apr.2005 03:09

AA

Well, put simply...

Seccesion.

Seccesion of Cascadia, Dixi, The Lone Star and the Free North East.

Either we support the will of the Empire or we work against it.

There is no other way.

All options but violent revolution have been denied to us and we would all do well to remember that...

And to remind others of that.

It's strange 24.Apr.2005 20:53

Progressive Democrat

to me to read this statement --

"These so called progressive democrats showed their colors when they did everything in their power to undermine and destroy Nader"

I recall Kucinich being practically begged to criticize Nader and praising Nader instead, throughout the Kucinich campaign in 2004.

I recall Jesse Jackson, Jr. introducing legislation so that Ralph Nader would be included in the Presidential Debates in 2000.

WHAT IT IS -- YOU DON'T KNOW PROGRESSIVES FROM WHAT YOU PULL OUT OF YOUR OWN BUTTS.

When I say, "YOU," I mean the comments after mine.

YOU systematically ignore even the possibility that there could be true progressives in the Democratic Party. YOU have pre-formed judgments on the subject. That's just the reality of it.

But then you don't give a shit about that -- what you do give a shit about is looking more rad than somebody else. Okay, fine, you're more rad than me. (I don't give a shit about looking rad.)

AS FOR A "SECOND" PARTY

A good idea, sure. But if that's what the American people are looking for, they have a funny way of showing it by ignoring their opportunity to make such a statement by registering independent and bothering to vote for Nader in 2004. ?????

(Oh, yeah, I know -- that was all the fault of the Dems ???????)

BTW, I am agreed as to "i'm for community, not capitalism. freedom, not authoritarianism. health, not further pollution. i oppose those who are authoritarian capitalist polluters, and a helluvalotta them are Democrats." (YES, we know about that -- why do you think that votes in Congress are always seriously split on the Democratic side?)

BUT I am wondering WHO these people are -- "i also know that some of the people who want what i want are Republicans" ? ? ? Republicans who are not for capitalism? Republicans who oppose authoritarian capitalist polluters?

Not that it matters a whole helluva lot, but can anybody give an example of such Republicans?

AS FOR ELITISM --

They are ALL elitists, including Ralph Nader. In this celebrity culture, to be someone who gets known, you have to pass many tests, you have to have some kind of security, some kind of infrastructure, AND, by the time you have done all that, guess what?, you'll know that you're part of an elite!

AS FOR AM I ONE OF THE DEMS' NOTORIOUS "ATTACK DOGS"? --

No, but I am a dog. Been one all my life.

If there were any progressive Democrats 24.Apr.2005 22:17

.

they would be conspicuous
as progressives
not as Democrats pretending to be progressive

it is no longer sufficient to have a forked tongue

reply again 24.Apr.2005 22:18

Jason

"YOU systematically ignore even the possibility that there could be true progressives in the Democratic Party. YOU have pre-formed judgments on the subject. That's just the reality of it."

No doubt there are a few true progressives in the Democratic party. I don't think anyone said that is not the case. What is the case is that good intentions aside, they are causing harm when they try to pull people into the Democratic Party.

Kucinich talks and means well. His acions resulted in a net going backwards however. Is he an evil fascist? of course not! Is he in league with Bushco? No. That does not mean he is making choices that are benefitting us all. He should get out of the Democratic Party and stop letting himself be used to pull people into a party controlled by corporate fascists.

It is the lure of Democratic Party power that keeps people like Kucinich in it. He should admit that, and learn to have faith in something that is not guaranteed to betray him. He helps give it the veneer of respectability. Such progressives are used by the party. They may not intend it so, but that is the result.

The right and courageous act is to walk away from the lure of its power and create something fresh, clean and vital. When they do that, I will welcome them with open arms. Until then, they are working for the enemy, whether they want to admit that or not. When they step free of that power structure and its hold on them, then I will trust them, until then, I will keep them at arms length.

Thanks for a thoughtful reply 24.Apr.2005 22:55

Progressive Democrat

My opinion is that people like Kucinich happen to have been born in a time and place where it seemed natural to them to use the Democratic Party as a vehicle to try to make changes and (as Kucinich did when he fought privatization of Cleveland's electrical system) to protect advances that have been made in the past. I think -- I am sure -- that nearly all the progressives in congress see the Democratic Party in terms of working people that they grew up with and that they have known for years -- and who are all Democrats.

It isn't an ideological thing. It's like if you would accuse me of being part of a corporate conspiracy because my electrical source is PG&E.

The Democratic Party isn't an ideological party. It's actually rooted in a class thing.

The progressives in congress see that they need a party in order to run for office or to stay in office. They don't reject any other party except the Republican Party, that is, as an option for themselves. They just don't have the time and money to form a new party. I think it is certainly possible that at some time in the future progressives could exit the Democratic Party as a group, but it is just as likely that the Democratic Party will move significantly to the left so that there will be no need of that.

Meanwhile, many progressives (like myself) just don't get the wierd concept that salvation begins like some kind of conversion experience when -- and only when -- you admit your Democratic sins and ask to be reborn in the true light of radicalism.

I'm not saying that you don't have a point to make, or that you are categorically wrong -- I just don't get it. We use what's exists in the present in order to move into the future. Seems like you are suggesting that we use what maybe will be in the future to exhaust our resources in the present.

Anyway, many progressives think that the best thing to do about this argument is to ignore it -- that's the "inside/outside" thing. What about the war? Yeah, what about the war?

Do you really believe that the anti-war movement has shifted to the right (because of the Dems or for any other reason)?? I don't. I think that's rhetorical bullshit.

The Democratic party is collectively evil 24.Apr.2005 23:47

George Bender

The fact that there are a few good people in the Democratic party, trying to reform it, doesn't make the party any better. It just means that those people are stupid and misguided. It's a massive case of denial.


Oscar Wilde on the Democratic Party 25.Apr.2005 00:29

well, not exactly, though close

Wilde said about slavery, "the plantation owners who made slavery really intolerable were the one's who attempted to pretend it was humane and thus disguise its heinousness."

I would say the same about the Democratic Party. It's heinous. And the so-called progressives in the Democratic party are just like the Vichy French who cooperated with the Nazis.

Stop cooperating with the Nazis.

Bush Stole It 25.Apr.2005 15:37

a nony mouse

Liz- How did Bush win again? He didn't. He STOLE THE GODDAMNED ELECTION BY MANIPULATING THE COUNT. PERIOD. "I'm John Bolton. I'm here to stop the count". Kerry sucked, but Bush ONCE AGAIN UNDERMINED DEMOCRACY. PERIOD.

You are right, PD, you just don't get it 27.Apr.2005 02:40

.

Here is where you tell us you, and the Kuce, are our enemy : "The progressives in congress see that they need a party in order to run for office or to stay in office." And every sentence in that paragraph reconfirms it.