Hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets before the invasion of Iraq. During the Democratic primaries, thousands more came out to listen to Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich speak against the US policies of preemptive strike.
The media quickly began to tag Howard Dean as the “Anti-war Candidate” and Dennis Kucinich as the “Peace Candidate”. Carol Mosely Braun, Al Sharpton, Wesley Clark, and many others went on the road to discuss Bush’s “Iraq quagmire”. Protest was heated! Debate was energized! “Anti-war” sentiment was strong! But where are these anti-war voices now?
By agreeing on more Iraq War issues than they disagree on, Kerry and Bush are making the Iraq War a minor campaign issue. Is this because the anti-war vote does not hold clout? Is Kerry afraid to take on this issue knowing that his Iraq War Resolution vote will come back to haunt him? Can he afford not to court these voters?
The Republican’s know the affect a strong Nader candidacy can have on this election. (In fact, thousands of volunteer hours and dollars have been spent on the grassroots level by Republicans to ensure Nader is on the ticket in key swing states.)
Nader has demonstrated significant leadership in attracting the anti-war voters. The media clips of decapitated American contractors from Middle American families, the escalation of hostilities as the supposed “turnover of governance” draws near, the 9/11 panel conclusion that there was no credible threat between Al-Qaeda and Iraq, and Kerry’s lack of dealing directly with these events has only fed Nader’s candidacy. What could harness the anti-war vote even more? The selection of Peter Miguel Camejo as Nader’s VP.
What a pick! Nader made a brilliant and smart political decision! I kept my eye on Camjeo since he became a blip on the national progressive radar screen during the California Gubernatorial Race. Camejo is a respected, credentialed anti-war candidate. This new duo will surely bring many anti-war voters under the wings of the Independent ticket.
This begs the question; do politicians need to concern themselves with the anti-war vote? If you analize recent speeches by Bush and Kerry, one would say no.
However in a swing state like Wisconsin CNN exit polling data shows 66% of Democratic Primary voters polled disapproved of the War in Iraq. Over 150,000 voters came out for Dean’s antiwar message and over 27,000 for Kucinich’s.
In 2000, Gore won by only a little over 5,000 voters! In contrast Nader received over 24,000 votes. Recent polling data shows: Kerry: 42%, Bush: 44%, Nader: 4%, and Unsure: 10%. This is before Camejo was announced VP for the Nader Ticket. We can agree that Nader support will get a bump with the announcement of Camejo as VP.
We can also demonstrate that the anti-war vote in states like Wisconsin can be seen as a voting block that could determine the race. “Progressive Vote” (a new national political organization working to unite a “Progressive Base” of voters) can demonstrate the important of the anti-war vote in various key swing states at this point. The anti-war vote, does in fact have political clout, if we continue to organize and demonstrate this base.
The question remains then: Once the base is organized and ready to use their political clout to advance their agenda, what ticket do they support?
Arianna Huffington made a great observation at the “Take Back America” Conference regarding Nader’s candidacy. (As you know Arianna ran against Camejo in California, and along with Camejo -- was a vocal opponent of the war.) She stated “When your house is on fire, it is not time to talk about remodeling.” This was beyond profound to me. As an anti-war activist myself, my platform resonates with Nader. That is why I work so damned hard for Kucinich in the primaries. At the same time, I’m a big fan of Camejo. I have gone on record stating that if Camejo enters the race for any office again, keep an eye peeled. He is a powerful ally for the progressive base.
That being said, there is no chance for a Nader/Camejo Whitehouse this election cycle…..a sad but true fact. The question remains: Can the anti-war vote direct its base toward effective influence and advance its agenda?
We look at the John Kerry who is now running for President and ask… “Where is the voice of that young Navy hero who once warned that murderous meddling in other countries’ affairs will never win the hearts and minds of the people.”? Why did he so easily buy the administration’s “Iraq-threat” pitch?
Many progressives struggle with these questions. Some are choosing to play the “Democratic Party Game” and are reluctantly -- but blindly -- supporting Kerry. Others are contemplating a third party ticket; or worse, they’re considering not voting at all!
There is a third option, however. State Progressive Caucuses throughout the US have formed within the Democratic Party. These caucuses tend to reflect the many issues Dean and Kucinich folks held dear. They have organized an anti-war base within their state, and, through their affiliation with “Progressive Vote” have begun helping other states do the same. They are working within the Democratic Party and “yes”, voting “Kerry”, but they are holding his feet to the fire every step of the way! And they’re demanding that he take a close look at progressive issues.
On July 9th and 10th, the Democratic Party will be meeting in Miami, Florida to discuss the Democratic Party’s platform. Anti-war voters from across the United States need to unite and send a clear message to the Democratic Party that the “anti-war” vote could be the swing vote of 2004!
For those of you in Arizona, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah -- go to www.ProgressiveVote.org and connect with an organized progressive caucus already working in your state. For those of you in other states, connect with established peace groups in your area. Whatever you need to do, find a way to make your voice heard to the Democratic Party Platform Committee!
We need to carry our anti-war message to the Platform Committee in Miami on July 9th and 10th and then we need to take this energy to the streets of Boston (July 23-30) for the Boston Social Forum and the Democratic National Convention. We need to remind the Democratic Party that the anti-war vote represents a powerful political force and that we won’t be ignored!
Kevin Spidel previously has worked for Amnesty International, USA
and was Dennis Kucinich’s National Political Field Director for his
Presidential Campaign. Kevin is now working as the National Political