Sunday, May 01, 2005

Why Greens Should Oppose “Progressive” Democrats


"Then in January, a brave minority of Democrats, led by Senator Ted Kennedy and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, advocated a timetable for withdrawal. Their concerns were quickly deflated by the party leadership." -- Tom Hayden

Tom Hayden's letter (posted below) is the perfect example of why I support Greens opposing any Democrat in any district no matter how progressive the individual Democratic candidate is as a person. Why? Because I think the "progressive" Democratic candidate has to be shamed into admitting where they stand in the party and stop deluding the public in the progressive districts that the Democrats are not a party controlled by the corporations.

In fact, The Nation's editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, is dead wrong when she says that Hayden's letter is "an eloquent and important document," because Hayden's letter is itself a continuation of the delusion that the Democratic Party can change, when in fact the party leadership will never change and will forever hold progressives in such contempt. Beseeching Howard Dean to change -- now that Dean has become a party leader himself -- is an exercise of pure futility. Hayden should be ashamed for his last year's support of Kerry, why does he continue to grovel in shame before Dean now? Hayden’s letter would be eloquent and important if he was saying goodbye to the Democratic Party exposing the make-believe they are perpetrating on the voters.

I'm in Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey's district and she has one of the most liberal/progressive voting records in the nation. I know that Greens here are afraid to run against her. But she deserves to be shamed into really admitting how weak she and the progressive caucus is within the Democratic Party. Just because at one time she was a welfare mother and is a woman and votes well on many if not most issues, she still needs to be shamed for being in the same party where the party policy supports the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, NAFTA, the new bankruptcy bill, etc.

The big picture is that she votes well on most issues because there are not very many big issues to vote on that rock the system, when most issues are disagreements over very narrow differences like raising the minimum wage zero cents, fifteen cents, or fifty cents, instead of looking at the whole system differently (such as a living wage or even making a ceiling on wages).

It should go without saying that the challenge has to be realistic and not take the juvenile Peter Camejo approach by saying that there are no differences between Repubs and Demos. I once saw a list of issues showing the positions of Republicans, Democrats, and Greens which was good at showing the Democrats true colors as a party: where they agreed with Greens and where they agreed with Republicans. (If anyone has a list like this please send me the link.) Progressive Democrats should be challenged on the basis that they are running against their own party and therefore are actually conning the public about what it means to be a Democrat.

When it comes to challenging the so-called liberal or progressive Democrats like Woolsey or Kennedy or Kucinich we need to emphasize how they are in the same party with those who supported all the negative positions that the Demos take. We have to expose the notion that Demos are a liberal party for the illusion it is, fostered by these very same ineffectual liberal Democrats. That is my definition of winning in a race challenging a progressive Democrat. If Greens can get enough Progressives to vote Green then even if the Republican wins the
election the Greens will have won the truth.

It is better for the emotional and intellectual health of the public to know what the political parties stand for rather than to live in delusion. It would be far better to have "ineffectual" Greens in
Congress as minority opposition voices for a political viewpoint that is known, compared to ineffectual Demos like Kennedy and Woolsey and Kucinich who perpetuate the delusions about the Democratic Party which actually has no political viewpoint.

Frankly, we have to find an effective way to communicate to people how it feels better as a person to live without delusions as a member of a "powerless" minority party and supporting politics based on humanitarian values than to live as a member of a delusional party which shares power based on corporate values, wealth maintenance, nationalism, and neo-fascism. It does for me, doesn't it for you? If so, then let your people know. And running against a progressive candidate with that simple message is "winning", no matter what the vote outcome, because I'm looking at the 100-year plan, not the one-year plan or the 10-year plan.

Greens have to get up in the campaign faces of progressive Democrats on the same stages and in the same debates with them with candidates who will say to them in front of an audience, "How can you stand there and pretend to be a progressive when the party you belong to does .......?" We have to inform the public in such campaigns that their so-called progressive Democrat is simply keeping them in the delusion that voting for a progressive Democrat in that district will change the Democratic Party.

As dangerous as it could be for all of us, I think the last two elections have proven that it will be better in the long run to simply kill the Democratic Party with the truth that it is a con game on the people, even if it means that Republicans will win in the short term. If the "progressive" Democrats in Congress stopped being Democrats (or even lost their seats) then the Democrats who remain in the party would be pretty hard to tell from Republicans. That would be a win too.

Gregory Wonderwheel

The following is from

Published on Friday, April 29, 2005 by The Nation
Open Letter to Howard Dean
by Katrina vanden Heuvel

"Now that we're there, we're there and we can't get out," Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean told an audience of nearly 1,000 at the Minneapolis Convention Center on April 20th. "The president has created an enormous security problem for the US where none existed before. But I hope the president is incredibly successful with his policy now that he's there."

I agree with Dean--a political figure I admire-- that the war in Iraq has put the US in greater danger. But the question facing us today is who will speak for the millions of Americans who believe that continued occupation increases the danger? Who will speak for the millions who believe that the US has gotten bogged down in Iraq? Who will speak out against the (majority of the) Democratic Party's silent consent to the Bush Administration's Iraq war policies? Who will speak out about the wrenching human and economic costs of occupation? Who will speak out in support of a clear and honorable exit strategy? Who will make a clear, unequivocal declaration that the US will not maintain permanent military bases in Iraq?

For those who believe that America needs to change course, Tom Hayden's open letter to Howard Dean appealing to him not to take the antiwar majority of the Democratic Party for granted is an eloquent and important document. Read it, share it. - Katrina vanden Heuvel

April 26, 2005

Dear Chairman Dean,

Thank you kindly for your call and your expressed willingness to discuss the Democratic Party's position on the Iraq War. There is growing frustration at the grass roots towards the party leadership's silent collaboration with the Bush Administration's policies. Personally, I cannot remember a time in thirty years when I have been more despairing over the party's moral default. Let me take this opportunity to explain.

The party's alliance with the progressive left, so carefully repaired after the catastrophic split of 2000, is again beginning to unravel over Iraq. Thousands of anti-war activists and millions of antiwar voters gave their time, their loyalty and their dollars to the 2004 presidential campaign despite profound misgivings about our candidate's position on the Iraq War. Of the millions spent by "527" committees on voter awareness, none was spent on criticizing the Bush policies in Iraq.

The Democratic candidate, and other party leaders, even endorsed the US invasion of Falluja, giving President Bush a green-light to destroy that city with immunity from domestic criticism. As a result, a majority of Falluja's residents were displaced violently, guaranteeing a Sunni abstention from the subsequent Iraqi elections.

Then in January, a brave minority of Democrats, led by Senator Ted Kennedy and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, advocated a timetable for withdrawal. Their concerns were quickly deflated by the party leadership.

Next came the Iraqi elections, in which a majority of Iraqis supported a platform calling for a timetable for US withdrawal. ("US Intelligence Says Iraqis Will Press for Withdrawal." New York Times, Jan. 18, 2005) A January 2005 poll showed that 82 percent of Sunnis and 69 percent of Shiites favored a "near-term US withdrawal" (New York Times, Feb. 21, 2005. The Democrats failed to capitalize on this peace sentiment, as if it were a threat rather than an opportunity.

Three weeks ago, tens of thousands of Shiites demonstrated in Baghdad calling again for US withdrawal, chanting "No America, No Saddam." (New York Times, April 10, 2005) The Democrats ignored this massive nonviolent protest.

There is evidence that the Bush Administration, along with its clients in Baghdad, is ignoring or suppressing forces within the Iraqi coalition calling for peace talks with the resistance. The Democrats are silent towards this meddling.

On April 12, Donald Rumsfeld declared "we don't really have an exit strategy. We have a victory strategy." (New York Times, April 13, 2005). There was no Democratic response.

The new Iraqi regime, lacking any inclusion of Sunnis or critics of our occupation, is being pressured to invite the US troops to stay. The new government has been floundering for three months, hopelessly unable to provide security or services to the Iraqi people. Its security forces are under constant siege by the resistance. The Democrats do nothing.

A unanimous Senate, including all Democrats, supports another $80-plus billion for this interminable conflict. This is a retreat even from the 2004 presidential campaign when candidate John Kerry at least voted against the supplemental funding to attract Democratic voters.

The Democratic Party's present collaboration with the Bush Iraq policies is not only immoral but threatens to tear apart the alliance built with antiwar Democrats, Greens, and independents in 2004. The vast majority of these voters returned to the Democratic Party after their disastrous decision to vote for Ralph Nader four years before. But the Democrats' pro-war policies threaten to deeply splinter the party once again.

We all supported and celebrated your election as Party chairman, hoping that winds of change would blow away what former president Bill Clinton once called "brain-dead thinking."

But it seems to me that your recent comments about Iraq require further reflection and reconsideration if we are to keep the loyalty of progressives and promote a meaningful alternative that resonates with mainstream American voters.

Let me tell you where I stand personally. I do not believe the Iraq War is worth another drop of blood, another dollar of taxpayer subsidy, another stain on our honor. Our occupation is the chief cause of the nationalist resistance in that country. We should end the war and foreign economic occupation. Period.

To those Democrats in search of a muscular, manly foreign policy, let me say that real men (and real patriots) do not sacrifice young lives for their own mistakes, throw good money after bad, or protect the political reputations of high officials at the expense of their nation's moral reputation.

At the same time, I understand that there are limitations on what a divided political party can propose, and that there are internal pressures from hawkish Democratic interest groups. I am not suggesting that the Democratic Party has to support language favoring "out now" or "isolation." What I am arguing is that the Democratic Party must end its silent consent to the Bush Administration's Iraq War policies and stand for a negotiated end to the occupation and our military presence. The Party should seize on Secretary Rumsfeld's recent comments to argue that the Republicans have never had an "exit strategy" because they have always wanted a permanent military outpost in the Middle East, whatever the cost.

The Bush Administration deliberately conceals the numbers of American dead in the Iraq War. Rather than the 1,500 publicly acknowledged, the real number is closer to 2,000 when private contractors are counted.

The Iraq War costs one billion dollars in taxpayer funds every week. In "red" states like Missouri, the taxpayer subsidy for the Iraq War could support nearly 200,000 four-year university scholarships.

Military morale is declining swiftly. Prevented by antiwar opinion from re-instituting the military draft, the Bush Administration is forced to intensify the pressures on our existing forces. Already forty percent of those troops are drawn from the National Guard or reservists. Recruitment has fallen below its quotas, and 37 military recruiters are among the 6,000 soldiers who are AWOL.

President Bush's "coalition of the willing" is steadily weakening, down from 34 countries to approximately twenty. Our international reputation has become that of a torturer, a bully.

The anti-war movement must lead and hopefully, the Democratic Party will follow. But there is much the Democratic Party can do:

First, stop marginalizing those Democrats who are calling for immediate withdrawal or a one-year timetable. Encourage pubic hearings in Congressional districts on the ongoing costs of war and occupation, with comparisons to alternative spending priorities for the one billion dollars per week.

Second, call for peace talks between Iraqi political parties and the Iraqi resistance. Hold hearings demand to know why the Bush Administration is trying to squash any such Iraqi peace initiatives. (Bush Administration officials are hoping the new Iraqi government will "settle for a schedule based on the military situation, not the calendar." New York Times, Jan. 19, 2005).

Third, as an incentive to those Iraqi peace initiatives, the US needs to offer to end the occupation and withdraw our troops by a near-term date. The Bush policy, supported by the Democrats, is to train and arm Iraqis to fight Iraqis--a civil war with fewer American casualties.

Fourth, to further promote peace initiatives, the US needs to specify that a multi-billion dollar peace dividend will be earmarked for Iraqi-led reconstruction, not for the Halliburtons and Bechtels, without discrimination as to Iraqi political allegiances.

Fifth, Democrats could unite behind Senator Rockefellers's persistent calls for public hearings on responsibility for the torture scandals. If Republicans refuse to permit such hearings, Democrats should hold them independently. "No taxes for torture" is a demand most Democrats should be able to support. The Democratic Senate unity against the Bolton appointment is a bright but isolated example of how public hearings can keep media and public attention focused on the fabricated reasons for going to war.

Instead of such initiatives, the national Democratic Party is either committed to the Iraq War, or to avoiding blame for losing the Iraq War, at the expense of the social programs for which it historically stands. The Democrats' stance on the war cannot be separated from the Democrats' stance on health care, social security, inner city investment, and education, all programs gradually being defunded by a war which costs $100 billion yearly, billed to future generations.

This is a familiar pattern for those of us who suffered through the Vietnam War. Today it is conventional wisdom among Washington insiders, including even the liberal media, that the Democratic Party must distance itself from its antiwar past, and must embrace a position of military toughness.

The truth is quite the opposite. What the Democratic Party should distance itself from is its immoral and self-destructive pro-war positions in the 1960s which led to unprecedented polarization, the collapse of funds for the War on Poverty, a schism in the presidential primaries, and the destruction of the Lyndon Johnson presidency. Thirty years after our forced withdrawal from Vietnam, the US government has stable diplomatic and commercial relations with its former Communist enemy. The same future is possible in Iraq.

I appeal to you, Mr. Chairman, not to take the anti-war majority of this Party for granted. May I suggest that you initiate a serious reappraisal of how the Democratic Party has become trapped in the illusions which you yourself questioned so cogently when you ran for president. I believe that an immediate commencement of dialogue is necessary to fix the credibility gap in the Party's position on the Iraq War. Surely if the war was a mistake based on a fabrication, there is a better approach than simply becoming accessories to the perpetrators of the deceit. And surely there is a greater role for Party leadership than permanently squandering the immense good will, grass roots funding, and new volunteer energy that was generated by your visionary campaign.

Tom Hayden

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