A: Kicked out of the race by the Democratic Party leadership
By RJ Schinner, 11/1/06
As we get closer to Nov. 7th and millions of people look forward to casting a vote against the war and the Bush agenda as a whole, it’s important to look at why this option, like Nancy Pelosi recently said about impeachment, is “off the table”. From the beginning of this election season, the Democratic Party leadership dictated just what candidates would be running and what the terms of debate on the war would be (“who can wage it better” rather than actually ending it). A look at what Democratic candidates were picked and the process of selection provides insight into just what it will take to end the war and stop the Bush regime (hint: whoever wins, the 2006 elections aren’t going to do it).
The Hatchetting of Hackett’s Campaign
Back in February, an Iraq war veteran vying to be the Democratic Senatorial candidate in Ohio was garnering popular support for his denunciations of the war and the Bush administration’s promotion of Christian fundamentalism in government policy (he even made a comparison to the rule of the Taliban). In 2004, Paul Hackett had nearly unseated a Republican in a heavily Republican Congressional district. But alas, an Iraq veteran critical of the war with a proven ability to get high numbers at the polls was not the top pick for the Democratic Party leadership. In fact, they were behind the scenes telling donors not to fund Hackett. Chuck Schumer, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, personally worked to convince Hackett to drop out of the race.
After all was said and done, Hackett summed up, “For me, this is a second betrayal. First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me.”
Talk About Unfair Advantage
In the district of entrenched Republican Congressman Henry Hyde, Democrat Christine Cegelis managed to get 44% of the vote in her 2004 bid to unseat him. Her secret: Cegelis is critical of the war, was opposed to it before it started, and now supports a timetable for withdrawal.
Sound like a good Democratic candidate in a tough race, able to galvanize the deep frustration among most people with the continuation of the war? Not to Rahm Emanuel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). He put his weight (which included a million dollars and campaign appearances by Lieberman, Obama, Kerry, Edwards, and Hillary Clinton) behind Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth’s position on the war is to stay the course until victory, even after being in a wheelchair from having both her legs blown off in the Iraq war. After the weight Emanuel and the DCCC threw behind their pro-war pick, guess who won the primary?
Where’s the Debate?
Jonathan Tasini made a rare challenge to Hillary Clinton. Tasini stands out for actually calling the war unjust. Such a position is sacriligeous inside the Democratic Party; when the war is criticized, it’s generally for being “mismanaged” (never mind the rising body count, the torture, or the unjust nature of the invasion and occupation).
So what did Hillary Clinton do? She didn’t even bother to acknowledge Tasini’s challenge, refusing to debate him publicly or answer his criticisms in the media. The Democratic Party machinery, including most of the liberal blogosphere, overwhelmingly went along with the silent treatment.
Cynthia McKinney Ruled Out of Bounds
Rep. Cynthia McKinney is a rarity inside the Democratic Party. For starters, she actually voted against the resolution authorizing Bush to start the war on Iraq. She was one of only three members of the House to vote for Murtha’s resolution calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. And she has refused to hold her tongue about the crimes being committed by the Bush administration.
Last spring, when a Capitol Hill security guard “didn’t recognize” McKinney and grabbed her, a rather racist villification campaign in the media argued that McKinney should be charged for assault for being racially profiled on her way into work. The Democratic Party completely turned its back on McKinney, essentially feeding her to the lions. When time came for the primary race, McKinney got no support or funds from the Democratic Party establishment. MicKinney was defeated by a conservative opponent who promises not to stick his neck out. The fact that McKinney not only argues about the immorality of unjust war, but actually sticks to her positions when it’s time to vote put her out of bounds of being a respectable Democratic candidate.
So What Incumbent Did the Party Leadership Support?
Joseph Lieberman is in many ways the personification of the Democrats’ unity with Bush, and is rightly detested for it. He has been an ardent supporter of the war and the Patriot Act and has a good relationship with the President. Thus, Ned Lamont’s victory over Lieberman in the Connecticut primary represented something of a popular mandate against the pro-war Democratic Party leadership.
Despite public opinion, the Democratic Party leadership stood by Lieberman throughout the primary until he was defeated. They even brought in heavyweights like Bill Clinton to campaign for Lieberman. California’s Senator Barbara Boxer, who is widely perceived as one of the Democrats most critical of Bush, was even brought in to lend Lieberman more credibility. Even with all the attempts to get behind Lieberman by prominent Democrats, anti-war sentiment was too strong.
While this primary does indicate the ever widening gap between the Democatic Party leadership and its voter base, it does not illuminate a way to end the war. Lamont does not support immediate withdrawal, instead saying there should be some sort of timetable for redeployment. He wholeheartedly stood behind Israel while it slaughtered innocent people in Lebanon with US funded bombs. And Lamont argues that America needs to win the “war on terrorism”, just that Bush isn’t doing it right. This can only lead to an escalation of war on the peoples of the Middle East, as the “war on terrorism” is nothing more than a war for empire (more on this below).
That the Democratic Party did everything to stop Lamont, despite his at best mild position against the war on Iraq, from winning the primary is indicative of just how limited the choices are on November 7.
Do you see a pattern?
The outcome of these primaries fits into a larger pattern in which the Democratic Party leaderhip has chosen to run largely pro-war candidates in the midst of an election where so many people are hoping for a chance to vote against the war. As John Walsh documents in his article “How Rahm Emmanuel Has Rigged a Pro-War Congress” on CounterPunch.org:
In contrast to voters’ sentiment, 64% of the Democratic candidates in the 45 closely contested House Congressional races oppose a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Note carefully: not only do these Democrat worthies oppose the Murtha or McGovern bills for rapid withdrawal or defunding the war; they oppose so much as a timetable. (The number of Dem candidates supporting the Murtha or McGovern proposals is vanishingly small.) The position of these Dem candidates is indistinguishable from that of George W. Bush.
Walsh goes on to show that of the “22 candidates hand picked by Emanuel to run in open districts or districts with Republican incumbents”, 9 say we must win the war on Iraq, 1 says that more troops should be deployed, 6 demand that Bush develop a plan or timetable for withdrawal (but don’t put forward their own), 1 is for Sen. Biden’s idea of a 3-state solution in Iraq, 3 are explicitly not for immediate withdrawal, and 1 candidate in Vermont is for withdrawal in 2006 (as Walsh puts it, “In VT, you could probably not get elected dog catcher without calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq”). And these are the candidates who have received large funding and campaigning support from the DCCC as part of their strategy to take back Congress (by running candidates who won’t do anything to stop the war).
Where’s This Headed?
A centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s election rhetoric (besides “we can wage the war on terror better”) has been that “America Needs a New Direction”. But on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s website, when it talks about this “new direction”, it talks about needing “a plan for success in Iraq and the broader war on terror” (http://www.dccc.org/had_enough/dem_majority/). On the same page, in a list of what will be done “With a Democratic Majority”, there’s not even a mention of the Iraq war, let alone ending it. There you have it; they’re telling you straight up that even if they retake Congress, stopping the war is not on the agenda.
If these political terms are accepted, and the “choices” being offered Nov. 7th are the only form of political activity you can partake in, how is the war and the whole fascistic trajectory of the Bush regime going to be stopped?
It must be said that too much of the so-called “opposition”, from anti-war organizations, progressive magazines, and anti-Bush groups have poured all their efforts into what amounts to getting pro-war Democrats elected, even if they had originally promised to support only anti-war candidates. All this does is foster delusions among the many people looking for a way to stop the war and the Bush regime that somehow getting a Democratic majority in Congress will take care of things.
There is a logic that sets in where at first hope is offered in the form of some candidates who at least sound like they’re opposed to the war. The leadership of the Democratic Party then decides who’s “electable” and who’s not, what are respectable criticisms of the war and what are not, and what candidates get the funds, support, and ability to run. Come the fall, we find our options narrowed down to fit within these terms, and lo and behold there’s no way to actually vote for the very reason so many people want to get the Democrats back in Congress (to end the war).
If this scenario sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a repeat of what happened in 2004. Candidates like Dean and Kucinech gave people a glimmer of hope and got people enthusiastic that we just may be able to change things in November. Next thing you knew, Kerry was “reporting for duty” to be the next “commander-in-chief”, and promising to continue with the same agenda of global conquest, perhaps with some minor adjustments. And you got told to suck it up and throw your energies into getting him elected, all the while getting roped into accepting the terrible politcal terms that framed the election. Are you willing to let yourself get played again?
The fact of the matter is, the Democratic Party leadership cannot be relied on to end the war or stop the Bush regime. If you listen to what all the leading Democrats say and look at what their actual positions are, you can see how they identify the key mission of the United States as winning the “war on terrorism”, and the electoral debate and candidate choices are set by that. The “war on terrorism” means nothing more than an endless war to fortify and extend empire, and the Middle East is the first stop along a path of pacifying, through brute force, any opposition to the rule of empire. Since it is by nature unjust, it will undoubtedly involve unjust methods, from bombing of civilians, massacres, torture, white phosphorous chemicals, and all the other horrors seen in Iraq. And Iraq is not a “detour” in this war on terrorism. You see, it doesn’t matter whether there are actual terrorists in the countries identified for attack. Whatever stands in the way of the unchecked rule of empire is in the Bush regime’s sights. Moreover, even while the US is experiencing real big problems “winning” in Iraq, the reason the Democrats aren’t for immediate withdrawal is because that would weaken the rule of empire, and that’s what they are vested in. And that is why, despite the fact that the majority of those voting for them want an end to the war, they refuse to oblige.
If you’re still having trouble accepting this reality, consider this: where are the Democratic campaign commercials denouncing the killing the 655,000 Iraqis as a consequence of the war and promising to end this death toll if elected?
So what are our options?
The choice before us is not limited to what’s being offered (and in many ways dictated to us) on November 7th. Whether or not you will be voting, the point is that what is needed right now is massive political resistance that does not take its orders from the Democratic Party. Massive resistance that calls out the war for what it is: unjust and murderous. Instead of constantly tailoring its message to be contained within more moderate and ultimately ineffectual terms, this resistance could spread the truth about the war crimes being committed in our names, and reach out to and win over millions more who right now do not know what is really going on in Iraq. This could draw forward resistance among the soldiers who are being ordered to commit war crimes. And instead of the situation now, where outrages like torture being ratified as law pass by with all too much silence, imagine student strikes shutting down campuses, religious congregations voicing a pole of moral opposition, and the streets filled with protest. It is in this way, through a movement determined to drive out the Bush regime that takes action outside of the political terms and limited options being offered by official politics, that the war and the whole fascistic direction this is part of can be stopped.