Back in 2007, the Congressional Progressive Caucus helped organize 90 Congress members to commit to voting against war funding. Most of them turned around and voted for war funding. That was a high point for the CPC. Since then, its commitments — such as to vote against corporate healthcare — have hardly been taken seriously, and so it’s hardly been news when most members have gone back on their commitments.
The CPC has shifted in recent years away from pretending to take a stand on things, and instead toward issuing statements full of non-committal rhetoric. That, too, is now a stage in the devolution of the CPC to which we can look back with nostalgia.
The CPC, on the question of a new war on Syria, is choosing to do nothing at all. In fact, one of its two co-chairs is actively promoting war. Compare this whip list with this list of CPC members. You’ll notice that virtually no members of the House of Representatives have taken any position on whether or not to attack Syria. That includes most of those who claimed they wanted the president to allow a vote, as the Constitution requires. The same is true for the CPC: virtually nobody has a position.
Those firmly committed to attacking Syria, in the House, include four Republicans, five non-CPC Democrats, and CPC Co-Chair Keith Ellison. Those firmly committed against this madness include 10 Republicans, three non-CPC Democrats, and four CPC Democrats.
Ellison was first elected as an opponent of war and an advocate for impeaching George W. Bush for the crime of war, but reversed his positions immediately upon election. He just recently responded to pressure from Veterans For Peace in Minnesota and introduced into the Congressional Record acknowledgment that the Kellogg-Briand Pact bans all war. He then turned around and threw his support in behind the next war.
The other co-chair of the CPC, Raul Grijalva, is listed as “leaning nay,” along with nine other Democrats (two of them in the CPC) and 15 Republicans. We’ve learned, however, what solid commitment means to these weasels, so you can imagine what “leaning” signifies.
The CPC has no requirements for membership. A member need not hold any progressive positions. There are no required actions. A member need not oppose even the worst atrocities our government inflicts on us or the world. The CPC doesn’t fund its members’ elections in this corrupt buyer-takes-all system. A CPC member is exactly as dependent as any other Congress member on the bosses of a party, for funding, for committee positions, and for pork in a district. The CPC offers no serious megaphone for progressive views, leaving members as susceptible to the manufactured militarism of the corporate media as anyone else.
Perhaps, at long last, it’s time for Congress members Grayson, Nolan, McDermott, and Rangel to establish a Congressional Peace Caucus, which would differ from the Congressional Progressive/Pentagon Caucus. Congressman Grayson has pointed out that the Chemical Weapons Convention requires criminal prosecution for its violation — not the bombing of a country, which is itself, of course, a crime. That ought to be a simple enough position for any elected official in favor of the rule of law to grasp. If drones get to have their own caucus, why doesn’t the rule of law get one? This is, after all, the legislative branch of government.
Nearly a century ago, if a woman wanted to join the Women’s Peace Union, she had to sign a pledge, including this:
“We affirm it is our intention never to aid in or sanction war, offensive or defensive, international or civil, in any way, whether by making or handling munitions, subscribing to war loans, using our labor for the purpose of setting others free for war service, helping by money or work any organization which supports or condones war.”
A Congressional Peace Caucus, were there such a thing, might use a pledge like this:
“We affirm it is our intention never to aid in or sanction war, offensive or defensive, international or civil, in any way, but to actively oppose all war, and to seek to deny all funding for war or war preparations, and to treat the waging of war in violation of treaties to which the United States is party as an impeachable offense.”
If someone joined that caucus, even if it were just one person, I would begin to see the value in elections and caucuses that others manage to discern through the mists of pretense and sycophancy that currently enshroud Capitol Hill.