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September 27, 2005

Top Democrats Flee Peace Protests


by Joshua Frank

I have been thinking for a while now that the Democrats really should sit down and consider changing their mascot from a donkey to a marmot. A rodent really is more emblematic of their provincial habits than a donkey could ever be. Think about it. Just this past weekend, antiwar rallies were held across the country, and the Democratic leadership was nowhere in sight. They had high-tailed it out of there. They hid in their holes and were afraid to be seen.

In all fairness, a few elected Democrats did show face, mainly two: Reps. John Conyers and Cynthia McKinney. But I wouldn't constitute either as party leaders. The better-known Democrats like Senators John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, two likely presidential candidates for 2008, were nowhere to be seen. Even more striking were the absences of DNC Chairman Howard Dean and Senators Russell Feingold and Ted Kennedy all outspoken critics of the Iraq war.

Of course, the Democrat's collective criticism only goes so far. They certainly don't want to be photographed with any crazy protesters. By God, that would taint their reputations! They've got campaign contributions to worry about here. No, the Democrats aren't about to take to the streets. They'd rather sit back and create the illusion that they care.

On her way out to Washington, the antiwar movement's leading lady Cindy Sheehan offered a tepid excuse for Senator Hillary Clinton's refusal to attend the protest: "She knows that the war is a lie, but she is waiting for the right time to say it. You say it or you are losing your job."

Well, sorry, but I think the time to speak out against the war is right now and if it means Clinton could lose her job (even though that's highly unlikely, given that almost half of all Americans, according to a recent Pew research poll, think we should end the occupation and come home), so be it.

This isn't to say that the Democrats' grassroots don't oppose the war. The majority does. So this begs the question: why are antiwar activists so loyal to a Democratic Party that supported Bush's war and still refuses to oppose it?

Much of the Democrat's cognitive dissonance has to do with the success of Howard Dean at the DNC. He's been able to corral antiwar Democrats into the fold, making sure they don't flee en masse over the war issue even though they should. Many still see Dean as a sign of hope for a party leadership that stays in touch with the grassroots. Plus, Dean's early criticisms of the Iraq war earned him significant street cred with party advocates.

It was undeserved. Dean, like the rest of the Democratic leadership, is pro-war and pro-occupation, and it couldn't be more damaging for the peace movement to continue putting faith in this futile party. If Democratic activists really want to make some change, the best thing they could do would be to get up and leave their party. Only then will Democratic leaders start to think twice about the monstrous policies they endorse.

Editor's note: This article originally misquoted Ms. Sheehan, an error on the editor's part, not Mr. Frank's.

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  • Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, just published by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy at a discounted through Josh's blog at www.brickburner.org. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com.

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