My guest today is peace journalist and author, Bob Koehler.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Bob. You wrote an intriguing piece that I saw today: Reaching Beyond the Candidates. Why did you write it, and why now?
Bob Koehler: Hi, Joan. Great to be back! I wrote this column because I'm utterly at the end of my wits about American democracy. It's election season -- our quadrennial spectator democracy extravaganza. We haven't had a presidential election where the war of the moment was being seriously held up for scrutiny since 1972, when McGovern ran against Nixon. Ever since then, the Dems have played it "safe" and left the military-industrial status quo completely unquestioned. The mainstream media have done the same -- played bouncers in the national debate, making sure no serious challenges to the status quo, especially militarism, gets into the national discussion. I'm completely sick of voting for the "lesser evil" candidate, which this year is Hillary. And the US just opened up a bombing campaign against Libya, with zero debate, zero congressional approval because it's not needed. The Defense Authorization Act of 2001 makes that no longer necessary. And we've been waging war ever since. And our unchallenged military budget hovers near a trillion dollars a year. I don't think the public wants any of this. So I want to do my part to make this issue part of the 2016 election.
JB: Well, if we can say anything about the primary season, it seemed to be at least a partial repudiation of politics as usual. Establishment candidates dropped like flies or had a much harder time making their case than expected. Within the context of business as usual, is that meaningful or not?
BK: Yes, I think politics as usual is under serious assault. Bernie gave Hillary an extraordinary challenge. I don't know if fairer rules in some of the states -- such as opening the primary to independent voters -- could have given him the edge, but no matter what, his small-donor-financed campaign shocked everyone as much as Trump's campaign did. And Bernie ran as a serious candidate, articulating values that progressives haven't seen addressed at this level in many decades. I think the public is ready for profound change. This could, of course, be disastrous. Trump is a maniac. The challenge is to keep the Bernie revolution alive, indeed, to expand it. Bernie mostly avoided the war/military budget issue. We've got to take this on directly.
JB: Before we talk about war, I'd like to spend a little more time on the Democratic primaries. You mentioned that no one expected Bernie's small donor-based campaign to take off, let alone offer a serious challenge to Clinton. And, while Bernie did endorse her, Hillary has done little to draw in independents and progressives, who will be so crucial come November. Removing DWS from her role as chair of the DNC but then elevating her to a high position in Hillary's campaign is just one action that reveals total tone deafness and a cavalier, rather insulting "what choice do they have? They'll never vote for Trump" attitude that may or may not play out according to plan. At the same time, formerly staunch GOPers are being courted and have responded by jumping on her bandwagon in significant numbers. It feels like a neocon lovefest. Your thoughts on this?
BK: As I said in this week's column, for the Democratic establishment, Trump is better than ISIS. The aversion factor is so high that millions of people would vote for virtually anyone else on the planet to defeat him. I understand that. And of course it gives Hillary and the status quo free rein to ignore the progressives yet again and run as proponents of Wall Street, war, fracking, etc. This is a serious paradox. It reduces the act of democracy to something small and cynical: a vote and a shrug for the lesser evil. People start to forget that voting one's values is even possible. And forget about building a country based on those values. Your phrase "neocon lovefest" describes the process well. For good reason, they think they own the country.