In a resolution decrying "the ill-conceived, illegal and illegitimate war in Iraq and the futility of the now fifteen-year 'war on terror,'" the San Francisco Democratic Party has officially called upon the city's congressional delegation to sponsor legislation prohibiting sending American troops to the Syrian civil war. Declaring that "the route to peace and national security does not lie in undertaking 'just one more invasion,'" the party's County Central Committee officially urged Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Jackie Speier to cosponsor Oakland Representative Barbara Lee's HR 1473, The Prohibit Expansion of Combat Troops Into Syria Act, which would limit any future Syrian deployment of troops or military contractors to "rescuing or protecting members of the United States Armed Forces from imminent danger" (there are approximately 900 American troops already in the country). The committee also called for "Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris to carry forward similar legislation in the Senate."
Pelosi's supporters have generally argued that she must be given a pass so far as sponsoring antiwar legislation goes, because, as leader of the House Democrats, she no longer sponsors legislation. And there is some truth to that -- in the last congressional session she was principal sponsor of only three bills -- compared to Speier's 35. She does, however, regularly cosponsor bills -- as local party members have asked her to do here -- albeit also less frequently than many of her colleagues. Last session, for instance, she was cosponsor to 61 bills. Some of them were honorifics, having to do with the naming of post offices and the like. And many of the more serious acts that she cosponsors have the backing of a majority of the Congressional Democrats; they might, in other words, be seen as semi-official Democratic Party bills. But not all of the bills she signs onto have that type of support. Pelosi was, for instance, one of only 25 cosponsors on the Equal Dignity for Married Taxpayers Act, and one of 31 on the Keeping Our Campaigns Honest Act. Clearly the Minority Leader decides that some bills are worthy of her cosponsorship, even if she is not joined by a majority of her party colleagues -- if they are serious matters. The Barbara Lee Syria bill currently has 30 cosponsors -- and it is a serious matter.
San Francisco Democrats have passed foreign policy resolutions directed at Pelosi, Feinstein, et al in the past, but always in the face of opposition, often vigorous. This was the first time, however, that not a single committee member voted against. There were five abstentions, though, four coming from proxies for Feinstein, Pelosi, moderate state Assembly Member Phil Ting and progressive San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin. The one live-in-the-flesh abstainer was Supervisor Jane Kim, who has been considered a rising star on the city's left ever since Bernie Sanders personally campaigned with her during her unsuccessful run for the California Senate last year.
While this latest effort, originating in several of the city's chartered local Democratic clubs, will encourage the city's antiwar activists, past experience suggests that the federal legislators will likely remain unmoved. One wonders how long this intransigence will continue -- and how long the city's voters and activists will put up with it. In the current political moment, Donald Trump's atrocious policies and inept administration have contributed to an optimism regarding the Democrats' prospects in the next national elections that sometimes verges on the euphoric. But as we saw last Fall, optimism is not enough. Unless Democrats can convincingly tell the American people that they offer a way out of the cycle of ever-expanding and seemingly never-ending war, they will have no reason to be all that confident.