Who will be the peace candidate in 2008? In a desperate era, that is the question on many lips. The answer flows from another question: Are anti-war Americans ready to support a peace candidate? In 2004, most did not. Prominent progressives pledged support to a candidate who did not represent them. Now, that choice seems to have left a bad taste.
This week, Molly Ivins declared she’d had enough, warning that she, “will not support Hillary Clinton for president.” Arianna Huffington asked, rhetorically and in all caps, “What The Hell Are They Thinking?” And in November, The Nation pledged that it would, “not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign.”
These statements are understandable. The Democratic leadership has been nothing if not consistent. They abandoned their voters a month after the 2000 elections; they held out for just six hours in 2004. They voted for the “PATRIOT Act.” They voted for the invasion of Iraq. They voted for John Roberts. They voted additional funds for the occupation of Iraq, and against an immediate withdrawal. They knew of Bush’s wiretapping, and did nothing. They have undercut efforts to filibuster Alito. And they have stalled the drive for impeachment.
Millions of American progressives knew better, know better. A few dozen members of Congress knew better, know better. And what’s worse, recent developments within the Democratic Party all but guarantee that it will not back anti-war candidates in 2006 or 2008. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is withholding support from local and state-level ant-war candidates. The D-triple-C would rather support a losing pro-war Democrat than a winning peace candidate. No wonder there is a shift within the progressive community.
Backing peace candidates is a matter of principle. It is also a matter of practicality. Rodham Clinton this week called for sanctions, and possible preemptive strikes, against Iran. The failed politics of “Anybody But Bush” have produced a Democratic presidential frontrunner running to Bush’s right. No wonder progressives are pining to get their surrendered independence back. No wonder so many have vowed to reclaim it.
Having vowed their independence, some in 2008 may yet look to a candidate running in the Democratic presidential primaries, the theory being that what failed for Kucinich in 2004 may yet work for Feingold in 2008. Reasonable people, however, will remember the history of the Democratic presidential primaries, littered with the gravestones of Jackson, Harkin, Sharpton, Dean, and Kucinich, among others. Reasonable people will expect that after the primaries, the pressure to close ranks will come to bear; the once insurgent candidate will become the party loyalist and back the pro-war nominee. Will those now vowing their independence do the reasonable thing? Will they make their anti-war pledge matter?
In the wake of over 100,000 Iraqi dead, 2,200 American dead, nearly 20,000 walking wounded, and $2 trillion on route to the dump, a majority of Americans are in the anti-war camp. And according to Zogby International, 52% say Bush’s warrantless wiretapping is grounds for impeachment. With the Democratic leadership demonstrating that once again, it is an obstacle to popular sentiment, anti-war Americans must look elsewhere. And what alternative will there be, but that offered by the Green Party?
The Green Party is the only significant progressive party that is united against the war and for immediate withdrawal. The Green Party need not make any pledges to back only anti-war candidates; running anti-war candidates is the party’s bread and butter.
But if the Green Party is to run a strong anti-war presidential candidate, an end-the-war candidate, it must have the support of the broader anti-war movement. The Greens may not be a party of the political establishment, but they field state party organizations in most every state, hundreds of elected officials, and hard-won experience with restrictive ballot access laws. There is no need for the anti-war movement to start from scratch.
There is not yet a clear standard bearer for the Green presidential nomination, but party activists are committed to recruiting a candidate. Support from the anti-war movement will make that recruitment effort much more likely to succeed. The Greens are a base for organizing; but it will be up to the broader anti-war movement to call forth a serious anti-war candidate.
Anti-war activists are recognizing that they cannot again back a pro-war candidate. But being against something is not enough. There must be an alternative for there to be an effective opposition. Light a fire, spread the word, begin to beat the drum for a peace campaign. Pledge not only to withhold your vote. Let those who could potentially top that peace ticket know that if they build it, you will come.
Ben Manski is a former Co-Chair of the Green Party of the United States. He currently serves as a Fellow with the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution.
Dean Myerson is a former Political Director of the Green Party of the United States. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Green Institute.