As is true of Green Party candidates all over the country, I am a peace candidate. I oppose the plans for “regime change” in Iraq and support work within the framework of the United Nations to get inspectors into Iraq and make sure they can do their work. I’ve also been actively opposed to the militaristic and repressive approach to the problem of terrorism taken by the Bush Administration since the 9-11-01 attacks.
My two major opponents in the New Jersey U.S. Senate race, Frank Lautenberg the Democrat and Doug Forrester the Republican, are both openly supportive of regime change and Bush’s war plans. More than that: who is most supportive of a hawkish, pro-Pentagon stance has emerged as a major issue between them since Lautenberg replaced Bob Torricelli as the Democratic standard bearer in early October.
And yet I know for a fact that there will be New Jersey peace activists voting for Frank Lautenberg instead of myself. They will do so because of the continuing hold of “lesser evil” ideology among some progressives, and because of their fear of the Republicans taking over the Senate.
I don’t want to see the Republicans take over the Senate either. But there is something almost pathological and schizophrenic about this fear that motivates some progressives. And it is very short-sighted.
It is short-sighted because it doesn’t recognize that to the extent that Greens and other peace candidates do well this November, to that extent will the national Democratic Party leadership have to reconsider their “me-too” policies on most issues vis-à-vis the Republican Party. A strong peace and justice vote can help embolden more Democrats to vote like the 148 Democratic Senators and Congresspeople who, pushed hard and massively from below, found the courage to vote against Bush’s war resolution last week.
It is short-sighted because it essentially writes off the electoral arena as an arena of political battle, relegating us instead to the protest sidelines instead of supporting our own candidates with our own positions challenging to become part of government.
And it is short-sighted because it does not recognize that we will never get out from under the oppressive weight of this corrupt, big money-dominated, two-party duopoly unless we take some risks.
Is it important that the Republicans are repudiated at the polls this November? Yes. But it is also important that the Democrats are repudiated for everything they have been doing and not doing, for the deregulation and corporate-cozy policies of the Clinton/Gore years that made it possible for the corporate crime wave of Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Tyco, Arthur Anderson and all the rest, for the me-tooism that led to passage of Bush’s tax cut and no efforts to repeal it, a 20% increase in the Pentagon budget since last year and the passage of the U.S. Patriot Act, among other things.
Committed peace activists who just keep voting for war-supporting, corporate-cozy Democrats need to find the courage to do what is right in whatever arena they are functioning. And I don’t just mean morally right, as if a vote for a Green or another independent peace candidate was “impractical,” whereas they are just being “realistic.” This “realism” isn’t working, and it hasn’t been working for literally decades.