The Failures Of The Antiwar Movement, Summer ’06

Summer is quickly winding down. President Bush is off to Crawford for his usual R&R. Cindy Sheehan, who just purchased a piece of land near the Bush ranch, is setting up camp in hopes of drawing Bush out from his dark quarters and into the light. The war in Iraq, even though it’s bloodier than ever, has taken a back seat to the crisis in Lebanon, where Israel has opted to target and kill innocent civilians to brandish Hezbollah. Conflict in the Middle East is worse than it was just one year ago.

The only visible opposition to all this madness here in the US is Cindy Sheehan and her followers. If it wasn’t for her bravery and commitment it’s certain the antiwar movement would still be sitting here without a voice or a conscious. But for all the wonderful things Sheehan has done for us, I still don’t think she understands the importance of breaking with the Democratic Party — the two-faced warmongers that they are.

Granted, Sheehan doesn’t support the warmongers. She hates Hillary Clinton and her West Coast apparition Dianne Feinstein, both of whom want to “stay the course” in Iraq and support Israeli aggression at all costs. But frankly, Clinton and Feinstein, just two of the Democrats Sheehan denounces, are easy to dislike. They are feckless, trigger-happy and exceedingly corrupt. If they called themselves Republicans their constituents wouldn’t even consider voting them into office. The “D” next to their names is their only saving grace.

In Clinton’s Senate re-election campaign, Sheehan has opted to put her weight behind Jonathan Tasini, a progressive Democrat who is doing all he can to change the path of the Democratic Party. But Tasini is a dud. Not because he isn’t right on the issues, but because he’s waging his battle against the establishment from inside the party. And like so many do-gooders before him, Tasini will end up failing with little to show for his efforts but a few campaign buttons and news clippings.

Sheehan certainly should have known better, for Tasini is playing in a rigged match. Here’s an example: The Tasini campaign has been hoping all along that they could land a debate with Hillary before the primary vote in September. It seems to make sense. He got on the Democratic ballot with ample signatures and is even polling in the double digits. But, as one might expect, Tasini (much like Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan in years past) will never step into the ring to debate Hillary Clinton.

NY1, the New York City TV affiliate has offered to host a debate between Hillary Clinton and Jonathan Tasini at Pace University in late August, but has opted not to as Tasini has yet to raise $500,000. Tasini’s camp has cried foul. But what can you expect from a Party that continually turns its back on its grassroots? They never wanted a debate to begin with. Tasini, whether the majority of Democrats agree with him or not, will never pose any genuine threat to the party brass as long as he remains a Democrat himself. That threat will only blossom when his following, like Howard Dean’s and Dennis Kucinich’s before him, up and leave the Democratic Party which refuses to represent them, let alone hear their pleas.

Tasini should have seen it coming. NY1 is owned by Time Warner, who just happens to support Hillary Clinton and has even given her campaign over $100,000. Time Warner clearly has their own reasons for not broadcasting a debate between Hillary Clinton and her well-intentioned opponent.

And this gets to the heart of why Cindy Sheehan and other antiwar activists shouldn’t support Tasini or other Democratic reformers.

Thinking a progressive Democrat can ruffle the feathers of a party bigwig in the primaries is like betting on Shoeless Joe Jackson to reappear in an Iowa cornfield this summer. It ain’t going to happen (and no, Ned “I support Israel” Lamont doesn’t count). And after the September primary vote, which Hillary will easily walk away with, Tasini’s bid for US Senate will be over. Most New Yorkers will not have had a chance to vote for his candidacy because the Democratic primary is a closed primary. Meanwhile all his money and support could have been going to a genuine antiwar candidate who will be on the ballot in November when it matters most, like Green candidate Howie Hawkins.

But I’m afraid Cindy Sheehan and the rest of the antiwar movement are missing an important opportunity to challenge Hillary Clinton as she makes her way toward the White House in 2008 because of their uncritical support for Jonathan Tasini. And I ask, how many times will we have to be let down before we realize that working with the Democrats only impairs our movement against the war?

By Joshua Frank

09 August, 2006

Joshua Frank, author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, edits


~ by r7fel on August 9, 2006.

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