By David Swanson, AfterDowningStreet.org
The Democratic leadership in Congress wants the war to be around in 2008 so that a Democrat can win the White House by “opposing” the war. Congressman Rahm Emanuel has explained this to the Washington Post. The ONLY way to convince the top Democrats that this calculation is wrong is to promote in the presidential primary the only candidate who is trying in every way possible to end the war now. If we do that, the Democrats will understand that they cannot wait until after November of 2008 to end the war.
We’ve tried Congressional elections. We won a huge mandate for peace and resistance to Bush-Cheney. Then the White House escalated the war, and Congress played along. We’ve tried marching. On January 27th a half a million people encircled the U.S. Capitol demanding peace. We’ve tried lobbying, public forums, protests, sit-ins, counter-recruitment, and refusal to serve. We’ve tried media activism and exposure of the lies and the crimes that make up the war. We could always do more, and we should do more of all of these things. And what we have done has prevented worse horrors and won minor victories and grounds for hope. There is always hope. But we have not yet tried using a presidential election to achieve peace.
The media claims that it is now election season. Coverage of the November 2008 presidential election gives the impression that the day of the vote is almost upon us. This cheap journalism is a massive drain on citizen participation in our democracy, most of which should have nothing to do with elections. But what the media says in this matter goes, and it is therefore undeniably election season. And yet, we have not been informed and never will be informed what the candidates in this election would do if elected. The media stories are all about money, polls, and fluff.
But that fact actually makes things easier for us. We don’t have to leave our homes to have a major impact on the movement for peace. If the 500,000 people who marched, in D.C. alone, in January were to each give (or in the case of children ask their parents to give) $50 to the presidential campaign of the only candidate who voted against the war, has voted against funding it, favors ending it immediately, and opposes an attack on Iran, that $25 million (in unprecedented and unimaginable small donations) would be the top news story for months. And whether or not it determined the Democratic nominee, and whether or not we even want it to do so, it would have a decisive impact on the positions of all the candidates, not to mention members of Congress. They ALL speak the language of the dollar.
Do you think John Edwards is handsome and wish he’d oppose an attack on Iran and be willing to join the majority of Americans on more issues? Then back Kucinich now. Do you think Barack Obama makes an attractive blank slate and wish he’d stop voting to fund the war, support ending it, and take a nuclear attack on Iran off the table? Get behind Kucinich right away. Are you impressed by Hillary Clinton and wish she’d admit she voted wrong, stop funding the war, support ending it, and oppose a new aggressive war on Iran? You get the idea. Do it with a $100 donation here:
The money will drive the polls, which will drive the debate in Congress and force real action.
Dennis Kucinich is very far behind the first few candidates at this ridiculously early stage in both fundraising and in polls, including the polls done by the corporate media and the unscientific polls done by liberal websites tied to the Democratic Party. DailyKos has John Edwards at 42%, Barack Obama at 25%, Bill Richardson 13%, Hillary Clinton 3%, and Kucinich 2%. MyDD has similar results: Edwards 43%, Obama 34%, Richardson 8%, Clinton 4%, and 1% each for Kucinich, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd. I suspect that the voters on these sites dislike Clinton for all the right reasons, and above all for her support of the war. But I’m certain they oppose Kucinich for all of the wrong reasons (the media doesn’t cover him, he’s short, he agrees with us TOO much). But the media covers money, so we know how to handle that. And while Kucinich’s positions haven’t changed much in four years, Americans’ opinions have changed by moving in his direction on the war, on health care, and on trade. Kucinich’s height may be hard to change, but he doesn’t fall off everything he rides, give inappropriate shoulder massages, or shoot his buddies in the face.
Democracy for America is a grassroots group closely tied to the Democratic Party and born out of Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, many of the supporters of which favored positions like those of Kucinich. In DFA’s poll results, Kucinich comes in third with 10%, behind Obama’s 28% and Edwards’ 24%. Democrats.com is an activist group that more often challenges the positions of the Democratic leadership, and more often tells people what progressive Congress Members like Kucinich are doing. Democrats.com has been fully engaged in the peace movement. In its poll Kucinich comes in second with 24% behind Edwards’ 41%.
Moveon.org has done a poll as well. And it polled its members immediately after posting audio and transcripts of each of the candidates answering questions about the Iraq War. Kucinich finished third with 17% behind Obama’s 28% and Edwards’ 25%. Polling only people who attended a house party to listen to the interviews, the result didn’t change much for Kucinich, 16%, or Edwards, 25%. But Obama dropped to 18% and Richardson jumped into the mix at 21%.
From these unscientific polls, we can draw the following tentative conclusions:
1.-The race is still wide open.
2.-The indisputable fact one week is overturned the next and forgotten
3.-Kucinich does better when Iraq is the topic or the peace movement is the audience (and Iraq will be the topic, and the peace movement is now a majority of Americans)
4.-Obama loses some of his glow when he tries to answer a few serious questions.
If you don’t know Dennis Kucinich, watch him in this recent interview on CNN: http://kucinich.us/node/4300/play
Kucinich argued against the war prior to the vote to authorize it, published his case against it, helped persuade his colleagues to vote No, voted No, and sued the President to try to prevent the war. He proposed a detailed plan to end the war over three years ago, a plan that is largely still right and embodied in his bill, HR 1234. He has voted against every new funding bill for the war, including the recent Supplemental. He supports using the power of the purse to end the war. He opposes any attack on Iran and proposes formally forswearing the use of so-called preventive war. He has proposed the creation of a Department of Peace to address international and domestic violence. He would ban the weaponization of space and work for nuclear disarmament. His chief tool would be diplomacy, not death. We might persuade one of the other candidates to move toward one or more of these anti-war positions, but their change of heart will not be based in the deep understanding of peace and violence that drives Dennis Kucinich. And we will almost certainly never persuade any of them to take Kucinich’s position in favor of slashing wasteful Pentagon spending in order to fund useful non-military projects. Only Kucinich would move us toward an economy not driven by war. And, ultimately, that is the only way we’ll prevent future wars.
Wow. Wonderful. But is that how to win the swing voters?
Well, did you ever wonder why the Republicans seem so much less obsessed with swing voters? Chris Bowers has presented a strong case that these mythical creatures do not actually exist. [ http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/50646 ] Only 4.7% of voters changed their mind during the last election from Bush to Kerry or Kerry to Bush. Kerry may have been swiftboated, but hardly anyone changed their mind from backing Kerry to backing Bush. What did happen, of course, is that millions of supporters of Kerry (and of Bush too) didn’t bother to vote or to register to vote. What would it take for the Democrats to register and turn out likely Democratic voters in sufficient numbers to beat election fraud? It would take a candidate who wasn’t for the war before he was against it. The mushy middle turns potential voters away.
There are peace activists who favor the creation of a third party, and who argue against backing Kucinich because they think he’ll lose and then endorse a less desirable candidate. But Kucinich is less likely to lose if those who agree with him support him. Supporting him now will serve primarily to help end the war prior to the election. And supporting Kucinich will not make the task of building a third party any more or less daunting. A third-party peace candidate would need everything Kucinich has and much more in qualifications, and much, much more in money in order to have a chance.
And here’s something interesting about Kucinich. He supports all the reforms to our election and campaign finance systems that would make it possible for third parties to compete, and he does not go back on his word after he wins elections. When Kucinich was elected mayor of Cleveland at the age of 31 on a promise not to privatize the city’s electricity, he stuck to his word in the face of an all-out assault from the city’s media and corporate rulers. When his decision was vindicated years later by the fortune he’d saved the city, he re-entered politics. When the Democratic leadership pulled out every trick to pressure congress members to vote for the Supplemental spending bill that now sits in conference committee, Kucinich voted no. Efforts to build decent third parties like the Green Party are to be applauded, but backing Kucinich is one way to do that. Check out Kucinich’s substantive and specific positions on a hundred and one issues facing this country: http://kucinich.us/issues
Let’s try a new approach to peace. Go here http://www.kucinich.us and click on the left side of the website to make a contribution. It’s the easiest and the most effective step for peace any of us can take right now:
David Swanson is the Washington Director of Democrats.com and co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and of the Backbone Campaign. He serves on a working group of United for Peace and Justice. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign. In April 2007, Swanson began consulting part-time for Kucinich for President 2008. His website is www.davidswanson.org.