I recently wrote about a conversation  I'd had with a fairly typical Democratic candidate for Congress (O.K. perhaps he was below average) -- a former military officer who claims to be for peace, but whose every solution involves war. I asked him to make commitments on what sort of things he would vote for or against, and he evaded every such question, while maintaining that he held a desire for peace somewhere in his heart.
The suspicion might arise in a reasonable reader that candidates simply don't make commitments and perhaps shouldn't. Every situation is unique. Candidates can't know the details of a future bill or the context in which it might be brought to a vote. They can simply tell you what values they hold dear, what accomplishments grace their resumes, and how utterly worthless their opponents are. More than that one should not ask.
This suspicion can be set aside in one of two ways. The first would be a commonsense belief in democracy. How the hell can you elect people to do what you want done if they refuse to tell you what they'll do? If they won't tell you how they would have voted on past bills, or whether they would cosponsor existing bills, and if they consider looming wars that are constantly in the news to be "too hypothetical," you can bet they're hiding something, and you can bet that something stinks.
The other way to set aside the suspicion that candidates won't make anti-war commitments is to find candidates who do. I'd like to point out one who is probably at the top of the list. It's almost unfair to compare him with one of the worst candidates his party is fielding. Yet he is almost certainly the best example of a new candidate running for an open seat and making a commitment to peace a central part of his platform.
Norman Solomon's background involves decades in the peace movement. He's studied and written books and produced films about peace and war. He's traveled to war zones in an effort to prevent wars. It shouldn't be surprising that he would favor peace when he decides to run for office. Yet there is a widespread and growing notion that those who most favor peace and can best work for peace are members of the military, or retired members of the military. Electing these warriors for peace almost always leads to bitter disappointment, and yet the notion remains in the back of people's heads that the best peace makers are the experts on war. The idea that there might be experts on peace, that there might be value in the expertise that caused certain of those experts to draw the right conclusions about our current wars before they started -- this is all off the radar screen of our public discussion.
Norman Solomon, Democratic candidate in California's Second Congressional District (the north coast), is committed to supporting two bills that have been introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland. One of them, HR 780, which has 70 cosponsors, would limit Afghan war funding to paying for troop withdrawal. The other, HR 4173, which has 27 cosponsors, would create diplomatic talks with Iran and forbid (with narrow exceptions) any unconstitutional attack on Iran not authorized by Congress.
Solomon would not only have voted no on this year's National Defense Authorization Act and its provision of presidential power to indefinitely imprison, but Solomon publicly opposed it when it was up for debate.
Solomon would defund the current wars and has publicly lobbied Congress to use the power of the purse to defund immoral, illegal wars since the days of the war on Vietnam.
Solomon is committed to the struggle to restore to Congress its constitutional authority to declare and authorize war.
More can be found on Solomon's website at http://solomonforcongress.com  including this:
"Ending Perpetual War
"I favor – and have repeatedly called for – the swift and safe withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"As national co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign (along with Congressman John Conyers and Donna Smith of the California Nurses Association), I support significant cuts in unnecessary military spending – with commensurate increases in funding for healthcare, education and other human needs. . . ."
". . . Real national security involves shifting much of our perpetual military spending to programs that create sustainable jobs, expand education and opportunity, and rebuild our economy and our communities. . . ."
". . . I am opposed to any more pre-emptive invasions and attacks that cause enormous human suffering while further inflaming anti-U.S. sentiment. The United States should fully abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons. . . ."
". . . I support robust public investment in economic programs that create living-wage jobs. The government should invest directly in the nation's infrastructure, and in social services that help stabilize our communities. . . ."
". . . I strongly support H.R. 870 – the 'Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act ' -- introduced by Congressman John Conyers, which provides for a federal policy of full employment. With a one-quarter of 1 percent transaction tax on Wall Street, the bill would generate roughly $150 billion per year in revenues, creating millions of new jobs. . . ."
". . . For decades -- as an activist, author and nationally syndicated columnist -- I have detailed how big money in politics promotes everything from war and environmental degradation to economic injustice and unfair trade treaties to media conglomeration and corporatization of healthcare. In my largely volunteer-driven campaign for Congress, I have implemented a grassroots approach to fundraising: raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from several thousand (mostly small) donors, while refusing to accept a penny of corporate PAC money. As a member of Congress, one of my top priorities will be to back legislation and a constitutional amendment aimed at removing money from politics."
My recommendation to people who don't have decent candidates in their districts is to organize, educate, mobilize, focus on building pressure in between elections, and support Norman Solomon for Congress.
Full disclosure: I ought to oppose just that, because I have lost Norman as a colleague at RootsAction while he campaigns and will lose him permanently if he is elected. But what's best for my daily grind is in conflict with what's best for the country.
David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie ." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org  and http://warisacrime.org  and works for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org . He hosts Talk Nation Radio