Will anti-war activists once again help to elect a Republican president?
Recently, I've had a chance to discuss this question with my anti-war, peace-movement colleagues. I've been in this movement since 1969, and prior to that spent 11 years in the civil rights movement. I'm told that in this election year, the "peace movement is in a rage," primarily against the Democratic Party.
One peace-movement friend singled out the Democrats and told me that people all over the country agree with him.
He also told me he voted for Richard Nixon in 1968.
That's where my concerns begin.
As a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and against the Vietnam War from at least 1966, I voted for Hubert H. Humphrey. He lost the general election due to anti-war hostility on the left (coming from Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and cohorts), and blue-collar antipathy on the right; 500,000 of those voters ensured Nixon's win. And it's virtually been that way with Reagan and the Bushes.
So what's their rationale? It's that there is, for these folks, no difference between the major parties.
Democracy except in its birth is anything but radical, much less any political party. But with dictatorship the alternative, our commitment is clear.
The Democrats have opposed "free trade" with Colombia indefinitely, while Bush is adamant about keeping American troops indefinitely in Iraq. And with only a miniscule majority in the Senate, the Democrats have been able to increase minimum wage, and have refused to renew the Warrantless Surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They hope to close Guantanamo Bay and to enact universal health care.
Over the years, Democrats have amassed the best record in American history of protecting human rights and liberties, of working for peace and justice. The Democratic Party birthed minimum wage, effective anti-trust laws, Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, the right to collective bargaining, the United Nations, Social Security, unemployment insurance, humane working hours, Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights laws, respect for international treaties, the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action, many of which are under attack today by Republican policies.
But, for some reason, that party does not provoke the same rage for these activists, in spite of its being the party that plans to re-establish Star Wars, continue the Middle East empire, and do nothing to alleviate the current recession they created by forcing upon us the Milton Friedman-Friedrich Hayek version of anarchic capitalism, giving birth to deregulation, outsourcing and unconstitutional presidential power.
I know which party ended segregation, because I helped to do it in Virginia as a state legislator and congressional candidate. People of different races can now marry, vote equally, use public accommodations and much more, thanks to the Democrats. Democratic enhancement of human and civil rights is what Samuel Alito and John Roberts now reverse for us, and which John McCain is on record to perpetuate. Detention, once limited, is now an adjunct to torture.
I know we live in an imperfect world, and as pacifist Christian activists rather than militant political agitators, my wife Genie and I are outside the loop of those who wish to "re-create '68." As a member of the same anti-war peace movement as my friend, I do not see raging at this Democratic record as the best way to produce change in this election year.
Of course the Democratic Party is flawed. But it is incontestable that this institution, more than others, has historically supported the rule of law, world cooperation in international relations, and domestic social welfare at home. In the Bush years, it has had a poor record in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, globalization and immigration, among other issues. But it remains potentially the most effective political hope to bring real change in the immediate future.
Six times since 1968 in 1972, '80, '84, '88, 2000 and 2004 the Democrats have lost. They may not be all we want, but given a Senate without a veto and a viable House, happy days will be here again, at least insofar as changing the last eight years of unconstitutional and criminal governance.
Colorado Springs resident Bill Durland is a retired professor of philosophy, history and government, and a civil rights attorney, author and activist.