An Anti-War Democrat Can Win the Presidency in 2020

peace-symbol-usa-flag
Isn’t it time to get behind the peace flag?

W.J. Astore

How can Democrats win the presidency in 2020?  The answer is simple: field a candidate who’s genuinely anti-war.  A candidate focused on America and the domestic health of our country rather than on global empire.  A candidate like Tulsi Gabbard, for example, who’s both a military veteran and who’s anti-war.  (Gabbard does say, however, that she’s a hawk against terrorism.)  Another possibility is Bernie Sanders, who’s beginning to hone his anti-war bona fides, and who’s always been focused on domestic issues that help ordinary Americans, e.g. a higher minimum wage, single-payer health care for all, and free college education at public institutions.

Many Democrats still don’t recognize that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 in part because she was more hawkish than Trump on foreign policy and wars.  (As an aside, the burdens of war are most likely to fall on those people Hillary dismissed as “deplorables.”)  Most Americans are tired of endless wars in faraway places like Afghanistan and Syria as well as endless global commitments that drive a “defense” budget that stands at $716 billion this year, increasing to $750 billion next year.  Throwing more money at the Pentagon, to put it mildly, isn’t the wisest approach if your goal is to end wasteful wars and restore greatness here at home.

Many of Trump’s supporters get this.  I was reading Ben Bradlee Jr.’s book, The Forgotten, which examines the roots of Trump’s victory by focusing on Pennsylvania.  Bradlee interviews a Vietnam veteran, Ed Harry, who had this to say about war and supporting Trump:

“We’re tired.  Since I’ve been born, we’ve been in a state of war almost all the time.  When does it stop?  We’re pissing away all our money building bombs that kill people, and we don’t take care of veterans at home that need the help.”

Harry says he voted for Trump “because he was a nonpolitician” rather than a liberal or conservative.  Trump, the “nonpolitician,” dared to talk about America’s wasteful wars and the need to end them, whereas Hillary Clinton made the usual vague yet tough-sounding noises about staying the course and supporting the military.

Again, Democrats need to listen to and embrace veterans like Ed Harry when he says: “All the money pissed away on wars could be used here to take care of the needs of the people.”

I’d like to cite one more Vietnam veteran, Richard Brummett, who was interviewed in 2018 by Nick Turse at The Nation.  Brummett, I think, would identify more as a liberal and Harry more as a conservative, but these labels really mean little because these veterans arrive at the same place: arguing against America’s endless wars.

Here’s what Brummett had to say about these wars: “I feel intense sadness that we’ve gotten the country into this.  All these naive 20-year-olds, 18-year-olds, are getting chewed up by these wars–and then there’s what we’re doing to the people of all these countries.  The list gets longer all the time: Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria.  Who is benefiting from all this agony?  I had the naive hope, in the years after Vietnam, that when I died–as a really old guy–the obituary would read: ‘America’s last combat veteran of any war died today.'”

If Democrats want to lose again, they’ll run a “centrist” (i.e. a pseudo-Republican) like Joe Biden or Kamala Harris who’ll make the usual noises about having a strong military and keeping the world safe by bombing everywhere.  But if they want to win, they’ll run a candidate who’s willing to tell the truth about endless wars and their incredibly high and debilitating costs.  This candidate will promise an end to the madness, and as a result he or she will ignite a fire under a large and diverse group of voters, because there are a lot of people out there like Harry and Brummett who are fed up with forever war.

17 thoughts on “An Anti-War Democrat Can Win the Presidency in 2020

  1. One of the recurring memes about election 2020 is that Joe Biden is the foreign policy candidate.

    Right. If by that you mean someone who will continue a generation of diplomatic and military failures because There is No Alternative.

    I’m calling it now – Biden is Hillary Clinton 2.0. If the Dems run him, Trump wins, and veterans get betrayed again.

    Harris has potential, IF she takes her progressive domestic policies and matches them with a truly anti-war position. Which she won’t do, unless forced to, because the neoliberal wing of the DNC is in the Pentagon and defense industry’s hip pocket.

    If Gabbard can dark horse her way into prominence, there’s a chance her campaign could take off. And at the least, if she racks up enough delegates she can force her way onto the ticket or at least push the nominee to adopt a firm anti-war stance.

    There are nearly 20 million veterans in America. More than 2 million are veterans of the Forever Wars. And most importantly of all, Americans’ habit of public veteran worship means that someone like Gabbard, who was actually boots-on-the-ground in Iraq, becomes very difficult to criticize.

    That’s probably why she’s already getting targeted by Dem activists who are trying to tarnish her with their new favorite slander – that she’s a Russian agent.

    Veterans know how to organize and mobilize better than almost any other class of Americans, because war is all about effective organization and use of scarce resources. While all the other candidates run on their favorite focus-group tested policy schemes, Gabbard can be out there making the direct voter connections that matter.

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    1. Gabbard is on CNN tonight at 8PM EST. Look forward to hearing her. I wonder if CNN will hit her with the usual charges: allegations she’s pro-Assad and pro-Russia, and that when she was very young she was anti-LGBTQ? If they do, CNN will prove once again how biased they are for war and the status quo.

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      1. As usual, CNN tried to hit her on Hindu nationalism, gay conversion therapy (which she never supported), and whether she identifies as a “socialist” or a “capitalist.” Tulsi did a great job sticking to the issues and showed great poise. She exuded calmness, intelligence, and empathy. And of course she’s anti-war. Along with Bernie, she’s a great hope for progressives.

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        1. I like what I saw from her, despite an obviously hostile CNN. Looks pretty clear they were trying for a carnival atmosphere – but that’s cable news for you.

          The media coverage is so incredibly biased towards Gabbard right now – it’s as if all the misogynist and racist BS they want to launch at Harris and Booker is getting thrown at Gabbard instead. If she weren’t Hindu, anti-war, and willing to stand up to media demonization of America’s enemy-of-the-month, this wouldn’t fly.

          It is amazing to me that for all the Democrats’ rhetoric, here they have a veteran and woman of color running as a progressive, and they don’t give a damn. Its like Kerry in 2004 made them afraid to ever run a veteran again, despite Kerry’s other and more glaring flaws.

          It is early, fortunately, and a grassroots campaign using the right rhetoric and imagery could take off (like Sanders’ did – after Gabbard was the first democrat to back him). And veterans, unlike other identity groups, are present in every state, including Iowa and New Hampshire.

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    1. A few years back, I did some intensive study of recent academic literature focusing on renewable energy systems and how to make them actually work on a large scale. There is tremendous potential in a New Green Deal, but the legislation as it stands is purely symbolic.

      And as you point out, there’s no way to fund it without severe military cuts.

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  2. I hardly ever watch regular network but this clip was sent to me by a friend and
    Rep Gabbard stood her ground under pressure by extremely biased network…
    https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/rep-gabbard-assad-is-not-an-enemy-of-the-us-1438093891865?fbclid=IwAR1igv8NemVdyhiI07YVd6nrfIwRWYGuqKftiPIi8_OM-7RAV5uMSTP5zls
    Also, Prof Falk feels, her candidacy has promise!
    https://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2019/02/25/the-promise-of-tulsi-gabbard-a-partial-response-to-skeptics/
    Yes, we need a candidate who believes in “No More Wars”!

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  3. What we can depend upon from MSDNC and CNN is total support for the “Warrior Cult” and “American Exceptionalism” which translates into aggressive American Militarism and Imperialism, without boundaries. This is why Hillary was and Joe Biden is their preferred candidate.

    The other binary MSDNC and CNN have is this Capitalism vs Socialism comparison. Although it is not said directly Socialism is being flogged the same way Communism was during the Cold War. Thus, any candidate with a platform to increase taxes on the 1% or eliminate the now legal money laundering and tax evasion schemes of the 1% and large multi-national corporations will be tarred and feathered as fringe.

    The cable news (entertainment) channels will push on us the Pragmatic or Centralist candidate, like Biden who will simply deliver the same old crap.

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    1. You’re right, ML. Thank, as ever, for commenting.

      Tulsi, Bernie, and Elizabeth Warren are real progressives. The rest of the “big” names — not so much.

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    2. I’m positively terrified by the meme getting pushed in centrist circles, that Democrats need to run some kind of “unity” candidate. Almost always, Biden is at the top of the list. O’Rourke is there too more and more. Funny how electing the first female president has disappeared from the conversation entirely.

      They’re doing it again, folks. Pelosi is against impeachment (called it!), and the party elders are demanding that the Dems all be “civil” – meaning that they’ll decide what constitutes “civility,” and cast out anyone who doesn’t play nice.

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      1. Hi AT: they’re afraid of “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Impeachment won’t “kill” Trump, it would probably generate more sympathy for him (unless high crimes are really there). Pelosi, of course, is as corporate as they come. She’s working hard against single-payer health care, for example. She’s a swamp creature who protects other swamp creatures.

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  4. Scattered Thoughts: As far as I can tell, our only enemies are Russia and China (I’m not sure what to make of North Korea). We’re already at war with those two even though the bullets (and missiles) have yet to fly.
    Our endless wars, however, are against organizations and the occasional country who sponsor or take part in “acts of terrorism,” though I confess I have yet to feel threatened by any of these people and for the life of me don’t see what threat they pose to life in these United States. I also don’t feel outraged by the occasional (staged) burning of an American flag half a world away. But I’m an old groover (nearly 65) and may be somewhat jaded.
    The American public, on the other hand? I’ve read “1984” but too many of them seem to act it out, conditioned to believe what ever gets fed to them. As such, to be anti-war and of a mind to cut funds from the military means you are “soft on terrorism” (as the Democrats of my youth were accused of being “soft on Communism”) and willing to put the country at risk of destruction by the Taliban/IS/ISIS or anyone else who can wear a ski mask or bandana over their face and “claim responsibility” for a car bomb or suicide bomber most anywhere but here in The Home of Bob Seger, Bacon Cheeseburgers, and Drag Racing.
    (When I signed up for the draft in 1972, the form included 1 1/2 pages of “are you now or have you ever been a member” anti-American/anti-war organizations, many of whom may have been little more than the name on a high school student’s “manifesto.” I believe that “threats on all sides” mindset still exists among a large portion of the electorate, and certainly in The Pentagon and in the halls of Congress.)
    The Democrats – as ever, seeing themselves as the all-inclusive party – continue to fail to realize you can’t throw disparate elements of society into a blender or cocktail shaker and pour out a bunch of homogeneous, non-Republicans ready to toe the Party line. So, we’ll be offered 20 Presidential candidates and after the “extremists” (universal healthcare supporters, anti-war/military budget cutters, climate change activists, tax reformers) have been ignored, isolated or shouted down, will end up with a “consensus” candidate, who will then be given the “Michael Dukakis ‘Thanks for Taking One for the Team’ Award” after being beaten like a gong in 2020.
    Finally, as for Ms. Pelosi saying Trump is not worth impeaching, when did the Speaker of the House’s opinion become the criteria for that process?
    I fear I’m getting too old for this nonsense. I’d hoped for better by now.

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    1. ” … as for Ms. Pelosi saying Trump is not worth impeaching, when did the Speaker of the House’s opinion become the criteria for that process?”

      Answer: In January of 2007, when the “New Sheriff in Town,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, immediately betrayed the people who had voted her and the Democrats into power in Congress in the hopes that they would do what a Democratic Congress did in 1975: namely, (1) cut off funding for a debacle of a foreign war and (2) run two corrupt politicians out of their White House offices. Substitute Iraq-Afghanistan for Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos and Bush-Cheney for Nixon-Agnew and you have what the American electorate wanted and expected from the new House Speaker and her party subsequent to the mid-term elections of November of 2006. Now — and again — instead of the long-overdue and necessary national toilet flushing from the top down (Trump-Pence), the American voters get in 2019 what they got in 2007: the same steaming pile of Congressional crap, otherwise known as …

      Nancy the Negotiator

      Nancy the Negotiator
      Gives up first; surrenders later;
      Takes her cards from off the table,
      Then recites her loser fable:

      “We don’t have the votes we need,”
      Nancy says, in tones that bleed:
      “Mean Republicans will whine
      If we do not toe their line.”

      Nancy bows to George and Dick
      While her skinny ass they kick;
      Writes them checks both blank and rubber,
      Then proceeds to lamely blubber:

      “We don’t like what Dubya’s doing.
      Still, we quite enjoy the screwing.
      Masochism’s what we offer,
      Helping crooks to loot the coffer”

      “Sure, the squandered blood and treasure
      Goes to those we will not measure.
      Still, we promise you’ll adore us
      If you mark your ballot for us.”

      “Choices you don’t have assail you,
      Leaving only us who fail you.
      Nonetheless, we’ve gotten fatter.
      Why, then, should we think you matter?”

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2007

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