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Dems and the Anti-War Movement


By Joe Libertelli, PDA

An April 22, 2005 article by Elizabeth Schulte entitled "Why Inside-Outside is Getting Nowhere/Backing Democrats has Pulled the Anti-war Movement to the Right" was recently resurrected and forwarded to the UFPJ list by Dave Silver. In it, Ms. Schulte pulled a long quote from my very short article, "Transformation of the Democratic Party: John Kerry's Statement on the Iraq War; Political Ecology 101" yet still managed to get it completely out of context and reverse its meaning. Its full text can be found at http://www.pdamerica.org/articles/news/kerry_position.php.

I argued - then and now - not for silence and inaction as intimated by Ms. Schulte, but that there is simply little point in attempting to push or pull the Democrats in any direction - that's just the wrong paradigm. I wrote, "Historically, the Democratic Party has supported militarism (dare we say 'imperialism?') on a scale similar to the Republican Party. Demanding that such a leopard change its spots, on the spot, is a futile strategy," and went on to propose that the best course of action was to set about the very long and hard road of educating and mobilizing enough of the electorate so as to, "... out-organize the corporate interests that now create the Party's internal and external political environments." In other words, there's no point making demands - we have to roll up our sleeves and do the work of making it impossible for the Party NOT to support our progressive agenda. When we can provide a couple of hundred thousand trained activists to a progessive presidential candidate, and tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions, THEN and only then will we see the change we seek. Until the electorate is ready to elect progressives, demanding the Democrats move to the left will backfire as often as it succeeds.

However, current events provide the better refutation of her central thesis. Since our articles were written, we have seen the rise of the Out of Iraq Caucus, led by Maxine Waters in the House - completely comprised of Democrats - and a spate of tough legislation from Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich and others. Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) (www.pdamerica.org) is proud to count Rep. Waters, Rep. Conyers, Rep. Lee, Rep. Watson, Rep. Grijalva and Rep. Woolsey as members of our Board of Advisors. We think that the fact that these courageous progressive Democrats - who chose to formally associate with an organization that explcitly challenges the hegemony of the military-industrial complex (see http://pdamerica.org/policy/vision.php) - prove that it is indeed possible to be simultaneously a principled progressive and an elected Democrat.

Neither I nor anyone I know who is associated with PDA labors under the impression that the current Party as a whole is progessive, even if we believe, as we do, that it is materially less awful than the Republican Party. The question is, "How to we get more progressives into power and into Congress?"

PDA's answer is that we work with all willing allies to build the progressive movement inside and outside of the Democratic Party. We feel that we're making good progress. We wish luck to our sisters and brothers in activist groups and coalitions like UFPJ - with whom we were proud to partner in recent anti-war lobbying efforts. And we wish similar luck to all wings of the Green Party and other progressive parties and look forward to continuing our work together on the war and on other progressive causes.

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Out-organizing the corporate interests is insufficient: witness the last few elections. Perhaps you mean out-raising the corporate interests ... but fat chance of that.

Unfortunately, the Out of Iraq Caucus, as well as the Progressive Democrats, are small minorities. The problem is, and continues to be, the influence of money on politics. Until elected officials feel the need to answer to their constituents, rather than the financial backing of the military-industry-infotainment complex, things will not change.

The campaign finance reform we've seen has been meaningless. Leave any hole open - no matter how small - for contributions, and industry will plow billions of dollars through.

I have issue with the statement, not because it was incorrect when you wrote it, but because it is not dated and some information in it (such as Kerry's position on his Iraq vote) is largely outdated.

I would feel a lot more comfortable if the release was dated, showing that PDA wants to change the Democrats and their direction, starting by giving them an honest and uptodate information, and not just in a power struggle with the DLC.

Always mis-quoting John Kerry out of context is supposed to anger and motivate our base. Kerry has never supported going to war without being in imminent danger from WMDs and never unilaterally without the UN. He has been vocal throughout about the difference and against the war and the rush to war. However, PDA and other groups continue the primary battle and wrong information.

The IWR a Rovian trap either way meant to divide the Democrats, and it did, and Kerry felt taking it to the UN might stop the runaway train. Many others who knew Iraq, and not neo-con, felt there was something that had to be dealt with. He has been quoted many times, and especially recently, regretting the vote, but again, Bush took us to war against what Congress agreed to as reasons.

John Kerry has been truthful, strong and eloquent lately about where we were and where we are on many issues, but particaularly Iraq at Georgetown 10/26 and at the Council of Foreign Relations recently. The PDA should not rely on cheap and wrong history and histrionics to get us out of Iraq and grow the organization.

I was there from your first conference after the inauguration, so I'm inside and outside in spirit, wishing my community a little more fact-based reality.

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