Cindy Sheehan has announced that if Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not put impeachment "on the table," Sheehan will run against Pelosi in 2008 as an independent.
Establishment Democrats are appalled. At a time when the Party must unite for the coming campaign, they complain, along comes this "outsider" to divide the Party's base support. Furthermore, challenges such is this, and even worse, primary challenges, divert campaign funds. And finally, Nancy Pelosi, a stalwart liberal, does not deserve such treatment.
In short, we are told, if you want to defeat Bush/Cheney and the regressive Republicans, this is not the way to go about it.
Under ordinary circumstances, these would be compelling arguments. But these are not ordinary circumstances. Worse still, establishment Democrats such as Pelosi fail to appreciate that these are not ordinary circumstances. They need a few shocks of recognition.
Cindy Sheehan's candidacy just might deliver such a therapeutic shock.
The conventional Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) view was clearly expressed on ABC's "This Week" by Cokie Roberts, just before the Lieberman-Lamont primary: "Pushing the party to the left... is pushing the party to the position from which it traditionally loses." And the corollary: don't worry about the progressive left, they will stay with us in any case since they have nowhere else to go.
In support of this view, the Beltway Democrats like to cite polls that indicate that most American describe themselves as "conservative," followed by "moderate," with the least amount of citizens describing themselves as "liberal." Elections are won, they tell us, by enlisting the support of the moderates in the "center."
What the Beltway Democrats fail to understand is that after three decades of media and pundit pounding on the word "liberal," most people choose not to be identified with that label. And yet, most Americans endorse the liberal agenda: Social Security, universal health care, a minimum wage, public education, government regulation of commerce, environmental protection, campaign finance reform, honest and verifiable elections, a non-aggressive foreign policy. As Glenn Greenwald, Rick Perlstein, and Judis and Teixeira, have vividly documented, the American Public today is liberal in fact, notwithstanding the largely successful campaign to discredit the word "liberal."
Stated simply, the conventional, DLC, Beltway Democratic conception of the political landscape is woefully outdated and potentially fatal to the national ambitions of the Democratic Party. For the presumed "center," at which the allegedly winning votes are to be found, has virtually disappeared. The Republicans now are now far right (as the few remaining "moderates" have been effectively silenced and immobilized). The Democrats are center and center-right, with authentic liberals such as Dennis Kucinich and the Black Caucus marginalized and impotent.
The fact of the matter is that the major parties have moved so far to the right that the mass of American voters are to the left of both of them. Two thirds of the public wants us out of Iraq, yet the Democrats send more money to Bush to continue the war. Almost half want Bush impeached, and more than half want Cheney impeached. Far more would demand impeachment if the public knew the extent of the Bush/Cheney lies and crimes, and had not been fed a diet of right-wing, Bushevik propaganda by the mainstream media. Yet Speaker Peolosi tells us that impeachment is "off the table."
Why do the Democrats behave as they do? Sending Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court, approving the Military Commissions Act, failing to reinstate habeas corpus, and in general, behaving like battered wives?
Because, we are told, they don't want to jeopardize their chances in the 2008 election. Makes sense if the winning votes are at "the center." But they aren't. They are to the left of both parties. Thus the Democrats, by imitating or yielding to the Republicans, are alienating their base and the independent voters that they need to win. In 2006 a Democratic majority was sent to Washington to end the war, restore government services, and to restore our liberties and our national reputation. They haven't, and the "centrist moderation" designed to win in 2008 has instead, resulted in a plunge in Congressional approval, from 46 to 23 percent less even than that of George Bush.
Enter Cindy Sheehan.
In a bold and ingenious stroke, Sheehan has announced to the Democrats that the progressive anti-war majority exists, is pissed-off, and that this majority just might cost a few of them their seats in Congress.
Opposing a Beltway Democrat as an independent is a good move. Opposing that Democrat in the primary is even better.
And while we're at it, how about telling Rahm Emmanuel and the DLC to bug-off as we demand that the Democratic Party select authentic progressives to run against incumbent Republicans?
If the progressives hope to budge the congressional democrats from their lethargy and toward articles of impeachment, Cindy Sheehan's candidacy must not be a lone protest. Her protest must lead the way to a nationwide movement. Is there still time to post primary candidates against Steney Hoyer, Rahm Emmanuel, and other "collaborators" with the corporatocracy? If not, are there progressives willing to run as independents against them?
But while a progressive counter-revolution should be national in scope, it must also be strategically astute. With limited resources, the challenges should carefully select districts and states where progressive primary and independent candidates have a reasonable chance to make an impressive showing. Otherwise, a weak challenges will send the wrong message: namely that "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party" is a mild irritant, and not to be taken seriously.
And what about this sorry bunch of establishment Democrats running for President, many of whom voted for the Bush/Cheney war before they decided to oppose it? They promise health care reform as they accept millions in campaign contributions from Big Pharma. They talk peace while the cash pours in from the Military Industrial Complex. What will it take to make Dennis Kucinich a viable candidate or to persuade Al Gore to enter the race?
The progressive majority has the numbers to put a proper scare into the ranks of the Republican-Lites posing as Democrats.
What they need now is organization and leadership, together with the financial and volunteer support, and from all this, credibility.
Cindy Sheehan is leading the way.
Who will follow?
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. Partridge has taught philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The (more...)