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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.