For antiwar Yellow Dog Democrats, 1968 looms again

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Six months ago, I was confidently telling people that if the Democrats couldn’t win the presidency in 2008, we should just disband the party.

Lately, I have started hedging my bets.  

And an hour with the front section of Sunday’s New York Times was enough to make me think that we are headed for another heartbreaking and unnecessary loss.

What did we learn today from the “liberal media?”

1. Violence is on the decline in Iraq.

2. One brigade of US troops has started to pull out.

3.  The troop surge has not produced the political progress that was promised, so the Bush administration is simply downsizing its goals, to make it look like progress.

4.  The Democratic presidential candidates appear ready to soften their stances, or at least their language, on Iraq and change the subject to domestic issues.

Here we go again.  

We will be fooled again, it would appear.

Which brings us to the question: What is an antiwar Yellow Dog Democrat to do, after reading that one of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy advisors, Michael O’Hanlon, is saying:

“The politics of Iraq are going to change dramatically in the general election, assuming Iraq continues to show some hopefulness,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who is a supporter of Mrs. Clinton’s and a proponent of the military buildup. “If Iraq looks at least partly salvageable, it will be important to explain as a candidate how you would salvage it – how you would get our troops out and not lose the war. The Democrats need to be very careful with what they say and not hem themselves in.”

Ah, yes, caution is certainly called for.  You wouldn’t want to be too strongly against the war when only 60 to 70 per cent of the American people think it was a mistake, want to end it and bring our troops home.

After four and a half years of bloodshed, it is hard to believe — no, I refuse to believe — that any kind of minimal gains and Republican propaganda campaign will swing what is now a silent antiwar majority in the other direction.

A reduction in carnage and fewer US troops in harm’s way are good news. The unasked question is always “compared to what?”  Troop levels will still be higher than before the surge, and violence levels are said to be the lowest since February 2006, a high water mark after the bombing of a Shiite mosque.  But the number of US troops killed in 2007 remains the highest of any year since the war began.

That is hardly a cause to celebrate or for Democrats to change course.

The cautious general election strategy of trying to appeal to everyone by saying nothing — the Democrats’ secret plan in recent years — hasn’t worked too well.

While the Dems try desperately to peel a few votes off of the Republican base, the GOP plays to its base, although softening it with a little “compassionate conservative” talk now and then.

The leading Democratic candidates already have refused to say they will have all US troops out of Iraq by 2013.

But that’s the Big Three — Obama, Clinton, and Edwards. Kucinich and Dodd would move more quickly. Then there’s this:

One candidate favors withdrawing all troops immediately and unconditionally: Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico.

“Let’s be clear: 40 dead American troops is 40 too many,” said Tom Reynolds, a spokesman for Mr. Richardson. “Measuring progress through body counts is wrong. Sixty-five percent of Iraqis support killing American soldiers. There is no national political progress. None. It can only happen when we send a clear signal we are leaving.”

Richardson has not been my candidate.  I’ve hoped — probably against hope — for an Obama-Edwards or Edwards-Obama ticket, a dynamic duo from a new generation that could excite voters and bring some real change.

In all likelihood, things will shake out in the next two months and the nominee will be obvious in early February.

But if it’s the triangulating Clinton who seems headed for the nomination, there may be an opportunity for a challenge from an antiwar candidate like Richardson.

I’m reminded frequently, as I promote the Iraq Moratorium and other antiwar efforts, that it is not 1968.  I acknowledge that.  Opposition to this war among the general public is higher than opposition to the Vietnam war in 1968, but the people are not in the streets.

Eugene McCarthy didn’t win the nomination in 1968, of course.  But his antiwar campaign forced a sitting president, Mr. LBJ, to drop out of the race.  And the eventual nominee of the fractured party, Mr. HHH, went down to defeat because many in the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party saw him as more of the same, another hawk, and withheld their votes.

Others were horrified by what they saw in the streets of Chicago and in the convention hall, and turned away from Humphrey, too.

So, here’s a scenario:  Clinton wins most of the early primaries, Edwards and Obama drop out or are crippled, and Richardson — recognizing that he won’t get the nomination — takes up the cause, on principle, and becomes a strident antiwar candidate, competing for delegates in the many remaining states.

In late August, Democrats at their national convention in Denver are split over the platform plank on Iraq, but Clinton and the voices of triangularization prevail.  Maybe there’s even a strong antiwar presence in the streets of Denver.

The war grinds on, but it’s less of an issue, since the Democratic candidate voted for the war, says she’d do it again, and says there will be no precipitous withdrawal of troops.

I ask again:  What is an antiwar Yellow Dog Democrat to do?

Maybe it really is 1968 again.

17 comments

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    • xofferson on November 26, 2007 at 4:49 am
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    • BobbyK on November 26, 2007 at 6:31 am

    As a Yellow Dog Dem I’d vote for a yellow dog over a republicon.  After we win the challenge will be not getting blamed for this war.  But if we continue it, we’ll deserve getting blamed for it.

  1. There will, indeed, be a strong anti-war presence outside.

    Does the Democratic Party abdicate responsibilty to the City and the Denver cops, who, while not the Chicafgo cops of the Daley era, are not one of the more 1st Amendment sensitive Departments around?

    When I sued Dallas over their propsed 1 1/2 mile exclusion zone outside the 1984 Republican Convention, The Hon. Barefoot Sanders (an LBJ protege) decreed that the appropriate balance between legitimate security concerns and the 1st Amendment’s right to be within “sight and sound” fell at “a stones’ throw plus ten feet.”

    It’s Chairman Dean’s job to ensure a decent venue for those protests. Comibng from my experience ouside most National Conventions since 1972, things inevitably turn nasty when there’s an attempt to push protest outside of sight and sound.

    Throwing rocks etc. is less often a set plan,than a response tofeeling there’s no other way to have your presence and views noted. In 2004 I convinced my Representative, Tammy Baldwin to make a stop at the “protest pit.” Apparently it went well. I’d urge more Party notables to join gher next summer.

  2. Hubert Humphrey was my candidate to stop the headlong plunge into a full-scale Vietnam War.  I was already a veteran of that war when Humphrey ran against JFK, who wanted the war expanded.  Nixon had long been beating the war drums.

    Later Humphrey served as LBJ’s lapdog promoting the war.

    When Humphrey was defeated, he immediately began talking about how he could have done so much to end the war.  Nixon was the one chosen to implement his secret plan to end the war.  He never did so.  Worse Nixon transformed the peaceable kingdom of Cambodia into a nearly unimaginable horror.  Henry Kissinger got a Nobel peace prize for that fine work.

    Nixon later crushed the one true anti-war nominee, George McGovern.  Eugene McCarthy became a pariah in his own party.  He was replaced by Hubert Humphrey. Two men voted against the war.  Sens. Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening, impossible to beat before, were defeated for re-election as soon as the voters could take them out. The war continued to ultimate defeat while the Kennedys became legendary heroes.

    Best,  Terry

     

  3. The surge was designed to tamp down domestic pressure on Iraq. The goal was to get Iraq off the headlines long enough to alleviate the pressure on the White House and reduce the calls for withdrawal. The surge has done this and far too many Americans are growing comfortable, once again, with occupation.

    I think many Americans are comfortable with the occupation because they have few, if any personal ties to anyone serving in Iraq. For the majority, the burden of Iraq is being borne by the few.

    However, where the pain is being felt by more Americans is with the economy. The job of the Democratic presidential candidates is to spotlight the connections between the dismal U.S. economy to our country’s bankrupt policies in Iraq and Bush’s ‘war on terror’.

    The $2-$4/gallon for gas at the service station hurting your family’s pocket book? The weak dollar combined the Republican’s foreign war policy is driving up the cost of oil. The dollar weak? Look at how Bush and the Republican tax cuts, outsourcing, and borrow-and-spend war policy has hollowed out the U.S. economy. The U.S. can’t afford universal health care for children? We could if we hadn’t squandered away that money on Iraq.

    I think an effective strategy may be to explain how the bad economy is the direct result of the Republican’s failed strategy for the war on terror and the invasion and occuption of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    As long as Iraq and Afghanistan only impacts a comparatively few families in the United States and the corporate media keeps any “war” news off the headlines, it will not be a deciding issue in 2008.

    To win, the Democrats must show the link between the economy and war/occupation and explain how most Americans are suffering from it.

    • Pluto on November 26, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    …will be based on one key issue — the Economy.

    Iraq (and Afganistan, for that matter) will be responsible for the financial pain the American poeople will begin feeling in the next few months.

    I share your frustration about Iraq and the sudden “success” of this obscene reality. But that dog won’t hunt no more come November 2008.

    It’s like it never happened 🙁

  4. giving bush ‘more credit’ for the ‘success’ of the Iraqi Occupation and surge.

    They’re selling the war as a success story now…and by March, most Americans will believe it.

  5. Fabulous essay, xofferson.  Excellent analysis, and sadly tragic.  But we’ve just got to keep trying, keep fighting, keep yelling.

    I wrote a poem during the 1968 Dem convention while watching it of TV with the sound off and listening to Dylan singing, “He not busy bein’ born is busy dyin’, It’s alright, ma, I’m only ….”  

    I’m gonna post this poem dedicated to you, Xof…  The title is “For the Hollow Men on April First.”

  6. I wrote this while watching the 1968 Democratic National Convention on television (sound turned off) and listening (full volume) to Bob Dylan singing: “He not busy bein’ born is busy dyin’.  It’s all right, ma, I’m only…”

    Acknowledgement to all my helpers, T.S. Eliot, Bob Dylan, etc.  Posting dedicated to xofferson and his wonderful essay, “For antiwar Yellow Dog Democrats, 1968 looms again.”

     

             FOR THE HOLLOW MEN ON APRIL FIRST

        This is the way the world ends

        This is the way the world ends

        This is the way the world ends

        Not with a whimper

        For we are too indignant, mad

        To grow to death without a rage

        Knowing that instead of life

        We’ve bartered youth and will and dream

        For the comfort of secure old age

        To read the business, perhaps obituary page.

        Not with a whimper will it end

        For we have heard the mermaids sing

        The secret same unending theme

        Between the newsprint, in the magazine.

        Not with a whimper will it end

        Nor with a bang, though some will find

        The final statement of their unborn souls in war

        Who knew that comfort could not kill desire

        Who heard the singing through the mortar fire

        Who heard the singing of a human choir

        In mermaid voices far beyond this scar.

        We have listened, heard them as they sang

        And listen still to hear again

        Oh, see the boy gone wild

        Who heard them singing each to him

        And, hooked on song

        Lay down beside the stream

        Enraptured in immortal dream

        And let the rest of mankind trouble by

        Unnoticed in his single eye

        And died insane

        Although the vision was not wrong.

        And see the sinner at the stove

        The black man in the almond grove

        The face beyond the window, near the door

        Who turned around and sang it to the poor

        And singing, wondered if he should ask more

        Of whom it was he sang to

        And whom it was who sang.

        We have seen the golden crested bower bird

        We have heard the mermaids sing

        We have dreamt this dream forever

        And will never be the same.

                Then

        Narcissus split the shadow

        When he returned an hour ago

        In beggar’s rags and ermine stole

        His eyes did take a mirror’s toll

        With his heart in his hand as he came.

        And he put it out at auction

        And the black man made a bid

        And the sinner threw his ace in

        And the mad boy rose from the dead

        And they all got up together

        As the world was beginning to end

        And they danced in a circle together

        As the prickly pear started to grin

        And they all knelt down togehter

        And they did not need a mirror

        As they wept eternal laughter

        Drowning out both bang and whimper

        In the solemn sacred howling

                Recognition

                Of You Too!          

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