How Congressional Democrats Betrayed the Anti-War Movement

…and rank and file Democrats too.

Once you get past Matt Taibbi’s penchant for sexist imagery, he can actually commit some very good reporting (boldface mine):

Rather than use the vast power they had to end the war, Democrats devoted their energy to making sure that “anti-war activism” became synonymous with “electing Democrats.” Capitalizing on America’s desire to end the war, they hijacked the anti-war movement itself, filling the ranks of peace groups with loyal party hacks. Anti-war organizations essentially became a political tool for the Democrats–one operated from inside the Beltway and devoted primarily to targeting Republicans.

This supposedly grass-roots “anti-war coalition” met regularly on K Street, the very capital of top-down Beltway politics. At the forefront of the groups are Thomas Matzzie and Brad Woodhouse of Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq, the leader of the anti-war lobby. Along with other K Street crusaders, the two have received iconic treatment from The Washington Post and The New York Times, both of which depicted the anti-war warriors as young idealist-progressives in shirtsleeves, riding a mirthful spirit into political combat — changing the world is fun!

…What the Post and the Times failed to note is that much of the anti-war group’s leadership hails from a consulting firm called Hildebrand Tewes–whose partners, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, served as staffers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). In addition, these anti-war leaders continue to consult for many of the same U.S. senators whom they need to pressure in order to end the war. This is the kind of conflict of interest that would normally be an embarrassment in the activist community.

Worst of all is the case of Woodhouse, who came to Hildebrand Tewes after years of working as the chief mouthpiece for the DSCC, where he campaigned actively to re-elect Democratic senators who supported the Iraq War in the first place. Anyone bothering to look–and clearly the Post and the Times did not before penning their ardent bios of Woodhouse–would have found the youthful idealist bragging to newspapers before the Iraq invasion about the pro-war credentials of North Carolina candidate Erskine Bowles. “No one has been stronger in this race in supporting President Bush in the War on Terror and his efforts to effect a regime change in Iraq,” boasted the future “anti-war” activist Woodhouse.

With guys like this in charge of the anti-war movement, much of what has passed for peace activism in the past year was little more than a thinly veiled scheme to use popular discontent over the war to unseat vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2008.

I am sickened, and I have no idea how to stop this. If you vote for Republicans, you enable the war even further. And how the hell is anyone going to mount a credible challenge from within the Democratic Party against Chuck Shumer or Harry Reid?


Cynical-Wise-Beyond-Your-Years Troll-Be-Gone: Rants against the system or how Everything Is Corrupt and Beyond Repair aren’t a solution. I might even have to take the extreme step of disemvowelment.

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7 Responses to How Congressional Democrats Betrayed the Anti-War Movement

  1. Dunc says:

    It’s certainly a difficult question. Your options would basically seem to boil down to 2 alternatives:
    1. Try and “recapture” the party.
    2. Try and build a new party.
    Both involve stupendous amounts of hard, thankless work. But that’s the only thing that’s ever really achieved political change.
    Unfortunately, as long as the message from the anti-war movement is “we want you to end the war, but we’ll vote (and fundraise) for you no matter what” then you’re going to get shafted. If you want to get a politician’s attention, you need a lever.
    It might also be worth trying a multi-pronged attack. The current situation (two entrenched parties, neither of whom give much of a stuff about their grass-roots supporters) arises from a number of structural factors (campaign finance, the winner-takes-all voting system, etc) each of which are subject to attack. If you can build a movement to mount a broad front against the entire inside-the-beltway political system, then you might be able to wring some concessions.
    But I’m afraid I’m not sure that anyone has ever successfully dismantled an empire from the inside. Usually it takes overreach and collapse to do that. Heck, we Brits went down that route a century ago, and we’ve still got imperial pretensions.
    Not every problem has an optimal solution.
    Oh, a third option has just occurred to me: build a new bipartisan anti-war movement, and be a damn sight more careful about who you let run it. Preferably, don’t let anybody run it at all. Decentralise.

  2. Zeno says:

    A slim majority is a timid majority, at least when it comes to Democrats. Republicans, on the other hand, truly seem to believe they have God’s mandate to rule the universe, no matter what. Pelosi probably figures that she cannot hold her majority together if it came to an up and down vote on defunding the Iraq war. Since the GOP and their apologists would loudly spin such a vote as “undermining the troops!”, Speaker Pelosi is probably correct to fear that enough Democrats would peel themselves away to preserve the war budget. I’m disappointed she didn’t have the moxie to test it for real, though, rather than conceding the battle without actually firing a shot. Instead, she’s contented herself with quibbling language inserted into bills that the president is sure to ignore (or, if he pays attention to it, to explicitly disavow it in one of his unconstitutional signing statements).
    Is it feasible to punish Pelosi by withholding contributions and votes from Democrats? Hardly. That might even create a Republican majority and put us back on the express train to hell. The best bet is to target campaign contributions to those Democrats who are solid in their antiwar stance and will push the majority caucus in the direction they need to go. Make it possible for Pelosi and Reid to ignore turncoats like Lieberman and his ilk when they push the antiwar, pro-freedom agenda. These days they either can’t or don’t have the gumption to give it their all. It’s the only way I can see to stiffen their spines (or, perhaps, give them one).

  3. PhysioProf says:

    Good post. One question, though: I am not finding the sexist imagery you refer to in what you quoted. What am I missing?

  4. Ross says:

    I wish life was sane enough that this would just work, but what the heck, let’s give it a shot anyway.
    Politicians, at their core, do what they think will get them elected.
    So if we’re electing people who want to continue the war, the problem is largely, though obviously not entirely, that the people we are electing think this will keep them in office. Specifically, we’re electing people who think (mostly rightly) that we are a fickle and contradictory bunch, who will shout that we want the war to end, but will turn on our officials in an instant if “the war ends” seems to be anything even vaguely like “we lose”.
    Democrats in office aren’t, by and large, supporting the war because they like war, they’re supporting the war because they’re afraid that not supporting the war equates to admitting “failure”. And failure isn’t bad for them because they’re personally prideful people who can’t stand admitting failure, it’s because they’re convinced that the american people will turn on them if they do anything that can be labeled as “failure”.
    We don’t trust politicians because they promise different things than they deliver. But the reason they do that is that they don’t trust *us*, because *we* demand contradictory things. We shout “End the war!” but then “But anything other than total unquestionable victory means you hate America!” We say “Stop wasting our money on the war,” but then “Why won’t you pay for the troops to have proper armor?” This has been liberalism’s problem for longer than I can remember: “Public schools should have all the money they want / But don’t raise my taxes”; “The whole state of old mississipi should all bow their heads in shame / But if you ask me to bus my children, I hope the cops take down your name”
    I think the only way around it is to stop trying to send “messages” with our votes. A vote is a coarse thing. If you want us out of this war, I think we have to send messages using actual *messages*: “Get us out of Iraq. I don’t care if some people we want to make sad fail to be sad about this, and I promise I won’t vote against you for being ‘weak’ or ‘soft on terror’. ”
    Washington isn’t some abstract hypothetical “The Man” who acts of its own volition; it’s full of human beings who are trying to keep their jobs by doing what they think will placate the people who vote for them. It’s a bit against the liberal nature to fall in line and stop being so wishy-washy, but if the officials we elect are to take bold stands, they have to feel like they can do so without their supporters jumping ship.

  5. There’s only one thing to be done: Wait for the revolution and pick a side.

  6. Joshua says:

    The unfortunate thing here is that, as much as the Democratic side is full of craven cowards who will consistently cave to the Bush Administration — when they don’t actively advocate for the same positions — the Republican party is almost completely full of such war cheerleaders. Or if they’re not, they’re amazingly good at keeping their anti-war elements in line.
    So, there’s not really anywhere for war opponents to go except to the Democrats.
    However, one positive development is that a lot of anti-war Democrats are waking up to the fact that their own party is complicit and trying to reform it from within. Ned Lamont didn’t fully defeat Lieberman in ’06, but nonetheless his primary victory has provided a model for how to fix the party. The Donna Edwards victory recently gives a small hope that intra-party reform will eventually turn the Democratic party into a genuinely liberal, anti-war party. Or at least nudge it some in that direction, if nothing else.
    Given that third parties have such a bloody hard time in America — and they will continue to have a time as long as people keep blaming 2000 on Ralph Nader’s “spoiling” — the best opportunity we have for change is to relentlessly push internal reform. It’s a slow process of, dare I say it, evolution as we eliminate the “unfit” pro-war candidates from the party and replace them with progressively better ones, but it’s the best chance we have.

  7. nusret says:

    very thanks for article

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