Independent Electoral Movement Sprouts with Former Democrats and Republicans Challenging Their Former Party on Iraq

Three Campaigns Will Pull the Duopoly to Really End the Iraq Occupation

The seeds of the independent electoral movement are beginning to sprout and the Iraq occupation is likely to be its fertilizer.

In 2004, there was only one significant challenger to the corporate political duopoly both of whom put forward candidates that campaigned in favor of continuing the Iraq occupation. This year, there will be three legitimate campaigns challenging the duopoly. And, since none of the Democratic or Republican Party candidates is calling for a real end to the occupation, Iraq may provide the energy for these efforts.

Ralph Nader is fond of saying that every oak tree begins with a seed and a sprout. Since 2000, he had to weather a barrage of attacks from the Democratic Party, their allied 527 organizations, non-profits allied with the Democratic Party and the concentrated corporate media especially the liberal elites who ally with the Democrats. But, he is still standing and still fighting to open up the political process in the United States. Nader ran an anti-war campaign in 2004 before there was majority support for ending the war and he has worked every day since then to end the war. In 2008, the Nader-Gonzalez Campaign looks stronger than 2004.

The combination of the path he has cut, the candidates of the two parties and the mood of the electorate has pulled former Democrats and Republicans into the independent electoral movement.

The first to take the leap was former Representative Cynthia McKinney. McKinney served 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives where she urged an end to the Iraq occupation, advocated for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, sought release of 9/11 Commission’s underlying data, advocated on behalf of Katrina victims and sought to cut the bloated military budget. Twice she was defeated in the primary by a Democratic Party leadership approved candidate who worked with Republican cross-over voters for her defeat. She registered Green in September and became a candidate in a “Power to the People” campaign in October. She is the putative nominee of the Green Party and will be on the ballot in almost all states.

Second to make the transition was former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel. Gravel ran in the Democratic Primary for president where he was very critical of the leading candidates for their militaristic foreign policies and their weak Iraq withdrawal plans. Gravel says he ran until the defense contractor, General Electric, which owns NBC allied with the Democratic Party leadership to keep him out of the debates. He has been an aggressive anti-war advocate since the Vietnam era where he gained recognition for ending the Vietnam draft with a filibuster and also read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record when the courts threatened the N.Y. Times with prosecution if they published the documents. Gravel became a Libertarian in March and immediately filed to run for president.

The most recent candidate is Bob Barr. Barr, also a former congressman from Georgia, served in the House for eight years. He abandoned the Republican Party in 2004 and supported the Libertarian candidate for president. Last week, he announced he was putting in place an exploratory committee as a step to running for the Libertarian nomination. Barr gained national recognition during the impeachment of President Clinton. Since leaving office, he has been very critical of increased wiretapping, the Patriot Act, the drug war and the war in Iraq. He favors a non-interventionist foreign policy and has described the destruction and occupation of Iraq as “the height of arrogance.” He urges a new political realignment of right and left to end the war in Iraq and protect the Bill of Rights. Barr is the natural heir to the Ron Paul libertarian movement within the Republican Party.

This election cycle has shown excitement about two candidates so far — Ron Paul and Barak Obama. Both generated that support by saying they were against the war and seeking paradigm shifting change from the corrupt ways of Washington, DC. They were promising not to be “more of the same.”

Unfortunately, Senator Obama has reversed course and can no longer be described as a peace candidate. He recently said he will leave the private mercenaries in Iraq which at a minimum are 140,000 troops and may be twice that number. His campaign has said that Obama will leave up to 80,000 troops in Iraq. And, Obama has said he will withdraw combat troops to a surrounding country like Kuwait so they could serve as a strike force in Iraq. Obama continues to promise to end the “war” but the details do not describe an end to the war. Further, he has kept a military attack against Iran on the table and plans to expand the already too large and too expensive military by 92,000 troops. He describes his foreign policy as a return to the policy of George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and JFK — all of whom aggressively used U.S. military force.

Obama may think he has the Democratic nomination wrapped up and is positioning himself for the General Election, but now with three serious independent political challenges who all oppose the war his Republican-lite positions risk losing many peace voters and the election.

The desire for more choices in elections has been growing in recent years. The president has very low approval ratings as does the Congress — the latter for their failure to fulfill their 2006 mandate to end the war. One-third the electorate now considers themselves independent, not Democratic or Republican. More and more Americans are feeling like Jesse Ventura who recently wrote:

This excerpt from Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me! reveals some of my feelings about the Bush administration, but readers should not think that my criticisms of today’s political world are aimed only at their spectacular failures. Democrats are no better than the Republicans. And corporate America, the religious right, and the media have all contributed to the quagmires we find ourselves in overseas and at home. That’s why we need a political revolution, to take power from the political parties and their big money supporters and return power to the people.

The corruption of the Congress, and the two parties, became even more evident when the Center for the Study of Responsive Politics released a report showing that Members of Congress have made $196 million in their military-investments since the war in Iraq began. That’s right — we have war profiteers voting on whether to end the war — a decision that would be against their own personal financial interests. And, according to the Center the Democrats had more invested in Iraq contractors than the Republicans with the number one war-investor being their 2004 presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry.

Of course, the odds are against all of these independent electoral candidates. The two parties and the concentrated media have constructed an election system that creates immense hurdles. The phony National Commission on Presidential Debates was designed in large part to keep third party and independents out of the debates after the League of Women Voters let Ross Perot participate. And, the media sings the two parties song — don’t waste your vote on someone who can’t win. Right — I oppose the Iraq war and militarism so I should waste my vote on someone who will not end the Iraq occupation and will keep expanding the military.

In fact, throughout history candidates who did not win have had a tremendous impact on changing the paradigm in the United States. Almost every major shift has been spurred by third party candidates who did not win, e.g. ending slavery, women voting, ending child labor, health care for the poor and elderly, retirement funds for all. So, it is not a wasted vote to vote for what you want. In fact as Eugene Debs said — “voting for what you want and not getting it is better than voting for what you don’t want and getting it.”

The Democrats in particular who are counting on the anti-war vote in 2008 better re-think their center-right strategy on Iraq. Peace voters will have three campaigns pulling them away from the two parties. If the Democrats run away from peace voters they risk losing the election. Nader-Gonzalez, Barr-Gravel and Cynthia McKinney have tripled the pull for the peace vote.

Kevin Zeese serves as Attorney General in the Green Shadow Cabinet, and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network and an organizer of Popular Resistance. Read other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin's website.

16 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rich Griffin said on April 9th, 2008 at 6:42am #

    Where is Cynthia McKinney’s name in this article?? I’m torn between her and Ralph Nader – I will vote for one of them in November. Why are we not writing to every newspaper (as I have locally) demanding that “third” parties be included in the debates? (all the ones who can realistically get the 270 electoral college votes).

  2. Deadbeat said on April 9th, 2008 at 7:56am #

    Where is Cynthia McKinney’s name in this article?? I’m torn between her and Ralph Nader

    And here in lies the problem. Why didn’t Nader unite with McKinney and try to build a cohesive left-wing force? Nader will not leave a lasting institutional organization that can continue on beyond his campaign. At least McKinney is trying to work within the Green Party framework but alas they’ve been much weaken by their 2004 fiasco. McKinney is also trying to build the Reconstruction Party that will be more sharply focus on issue of people of color which means here focus and energy are divided. It would be nice if that energy can be coalesced. This is why a Nader/McKinney ticket on the Green Party ballot line as well as perhaps independent would have helped to unite left-wing forces.

    There are too many divided and sectarian agendas in the left that leaves it in a weaken state and unable to communicate with the masses of people who have been energized this year as demonstrated by their participation in the primaries. It’s a real shame that the “left” will eventually miss out on this opportunity.

  3. Jerry D. Rose said on April 9th, 2008 at 8:32am #

    Rich Griffin, you apparently overlooked a paragraph of Kevin’s article, where McKinney’s “name” was mentioned quite prominently. Deadbeat, I agree that a Nader/McKinney or McKinney/Nader Green Party ticket would be great and, while I share your skepticism about the GP’s track record in campaigns, necessity could well be the mother of invention in promoting a reform in their campaigning act. There is no reason I know of that the GP could not yet nominate both N and Mc for the ticket when they have their nominating convention; whether Nader would agree to this I don’t know, but an “independent” candidate (without party support) is not going to win it (or mount a t credible threat to the Democrats’ nominee), and, while I like Barr’s and Paul’s anti-war stances, the domestic side of the Libertarian party is anything but progressive.
    Now here’s the scenario in which a strong Green Party run could make a serious impact on the election: who is elected or on what “mandate” the elected candidated is voted in. The GP of course makes a consistent progressive run across the whole range of their values and, as Rich urges, we make a persistent demand that its candidate be included in the debates. Assuming that Obama is nominated, the D’s are going to be saddled with a very vulnerable candidate; the recent post by Evelyn Pringle on that site shows just how vulnerable, since it goes to the issue of political corruption and we’ve seen how quickly a political figure can be Spitzer-ized, even if he or she were immaculate in ideological purity.
    It’s tragic, but the election and maybe the future of the world could turn on Tony Rezko’s driveway. With an “unelectable” candidate nominated (and there are reasons other than the driveway that this will be the case) , the whole “a vote-for-Nader-is-a-vote-for-McCain” bugaboo goes right out the window. Obama would be the “Nader” of 2008, a “can’t win” candidate, so that a vote for Obama would be a “wasted” vote that deprives McKinney or Nader from gaining the presidency and would in effect elect McCain. Wilder things than this have happened, and I’m not asking for any status as a prophet who foresees unlikely outcomes, but well, give it a thought before you pooh-pooh it.

  4. evie said on April 9th, 2008 at 10:14am #

    Lets say, there’s a snowball freeze in hell, and one of the 3 candidates above is installed in the White House and immediately orders US withdrawal or “redeployment” of troops stateside.

    What will said prez do when the Shiites, with aid and direction from Muqtada Sadr sitting in Qom, Iran, decide to purge Iraq of dissidents, both Shia and Sunni – and then the Saudi decide to lend a little help to their Sunni brothers in Iraq, and then of course to keep the entire region from conflagrating Russia and/or China, in dire need of stable oil supplies, steps in to stabilize the situation, and hopefully sell a little oil to the US of A.

    Or, lets say, said prez redeploys/withdraws troops to neighboring ME countries – would that be Kuwait? Saudi? Afghanistan? Turkey? They would love to accomodate US right? Or maybe the US could station just across the Gulf in Oman, UAE, Yemen? That would solve all the US dicking around in the ME, right? Or maybe a little further away in the ‘hood, over in Somalia, Kenya, Sudan? US AFRICOM, based in Stuttgart, Germany, is eager to enhance their presence on the African continent.

    I plan on voting 3rd party, if I bother to vote this time around. But third parties seem to have no plans for the aftermath of anything. Will they cut the cost of war or pump the same billions into “restitution and reconstruction” companies rather than defense contractors?

    How much cooperation will a third party prez in the Oval Office get from a corrupted congress of corrupted two parties? How will the new third party be immune to corruption – after all the Republicans and Democrats were once a new third party.

    And even if we had a dozen choices – we would still have the same “corporate America, the religious right, and the media” and I might add the “progressive industry” managing the same political sideshow.

    I lean more toward believing it’s not as simple as changing the party designation behind the candidates name – and more toward holding pols accountable with jail time, loss of profit/property, public flogging … tar/feathers.

    One possible solution, short of bearing arms, is boycott – hit them in their wallets – good and hard. Which Joe Idolology is not going to do, at least until he’s forced to by economic circumstances and by then it is too late.

    You can’t really believe the “ruling class” is going to give up their lucrative system without a fight. They have 200+ years of swatting off “dissidents” like fleas on a dog’s butt.

    Just keep shopping and voting – it encourages “them.” When the US has no more butter and bullets the new pols new deal will have canned meat and bean vouchers for everyone.

  5. bozhidar balkas said on April 9th, 2008 at 1:23pm #

    if nader wins but 5% of the votes, it would mark a begining of a two party system. dems and reps may be likened onto a goose with two wings; when it come s to cosmetic changes, one wing may flip, another flop but whenit comes to expansion by any means the two wings beat in unison. working class is totaslly out of it. it’s been rendered semantically blind by (mis)education, jingoisn, self praies, claims of a higher standart, nobility, good intentions, evocation of great perils , etc. but there appears to be an awakening; it’s good for america and the world. we need to condemn collective punishment for crimes done by individuals and vice versa.
    thus, let’s not demonize bush; at least 5million US citizens are responsible for all US crimes over a century. thank you.

  6. Rich Griffin said on April 9th, 2008 at 1:31pm #

    Hey I am willing to sign on to a class action suit against these criminals. Tell me how to do it, and I will do it.

    I believe the only way out of our mess is to do what the forefathers suggested: once this system no longer works, tear it down, and start all over again. I believe strongly what we need to do is switch to a scandanavian (I like the swedish system the best, but all 5 are generally excellent; we can make it even better here) type of parliamentary system – multi-party, IRV, take the money out & the long drawn out process, and all of the bribes, putting LOW caps on how much money can be spent (it disgusts me that these candidates will raise hundreds of millions of dollars each when that money would be better used for really important things)…

  7. Tom Yager said on April 9th, 2008 at 3:32pm #

    I agree with most of what Deadbeat says. Voting for Nader makes a statement, but voting for the Green Presidential candidate builds a movement. The more votes that the Greens get, the more ballot lines they will have on the day after the election.

    As for our party’s strength relative to 2004, it’s weaker in some places but stronger in others. For example, the Greens will be on the ballot in Illinois this year because of the strength of their petition drive and statewide candidates in the 2006 election. We are also very likely to be on the ballot in Arizona. In 2004, we didn’t even come close to getting ont the ballot in either state.

    Go Green: http://www.gp.org

  8. HR said on April 9th, 2008 at 9:17pm #

    When is the Green Party going to change its top leadership? It won’t get anywhere without leaders who have administrative savvy, in addition to a progressive agenda. I’m another who wishes Nader and McKinney were running together, and either one at the top of that ticket would be fine with me. Anything to hasten the departure of the vile ghost of the sold-out and 40-year-dead Democratic “party”.

  9. DavidG. said on April 9th, 2008 at 10:32pm #

    I don’t know why there is all this talk about parties in America. People who live in the real world know there is only one party, that’s the : ‘If There’s No Profit In It, No Deal’ Party which most every good American belongs to.

    Is it true that the Stars and Stripes are going and a bucket of money will soon feature prominently on the America flag?

    Look, I’m only kidding. Sort of.

    P.S. A homosexual orgy at the Last Supper. Check Dangerous Creation for details.

  10. hp said on April 10th, 2008 at 12:37pm #

    Anyone else mind spamming and spammers?
    Or is this one of the subjects which is ‘exempt?’

  11. hp said on April 10th, 2008 at 3:31pm #

    Whoops, sorry, wrong site.
    I’m confused.

  12. Al said on April 10th, 2008 at 6:44pm #

    When will the American voter realize that both parties are bought & paid for by big business?

    Will we have a Republican or a Democrat President in 2008?

    Who cares! It’s irrevelant.

  13. dan e said on April 10th, 2008 at 10:50pm #

    its past my beddiebye time so I’ll probly regret this in the moron, but I liked what Eve said. Deadbeat naild a buncha stuff as usual. Al is hunderd pct right of course, but that’s just the beginning, ABC, where go from that realization?

    Tom Yager points in the right direction: it’s not about this present election cycle, its about using same to Build A Movement.

    Happily a section of the GP has woke up, accepted Black leadership to an extent. The Democrats are the problem, GOP is open: “we ‘re out to screw you because you’re inferior scum”; but Dems claim to be Pty of Common Peeple. Most lowerclass folks buy it hook/line/sinker. Esp Blacks now in throes of Obamania.
    Only McKinney can directly challenge Obamism in his core Base.

    Plus Nader still trying peddle two-state illusion, perpetuate the nonsense that Izzy gov’t will ever stop trying to Transfer the bulk of Palestinian population. So he’s no better than damn Xstian Skyence Moneytor & Geoff “Keep yr Shirt on & y’ll get a Blanket”* Aronson. A perpetuator of Illusion, a peddler of Myth.

    *”Be patient and ye shall receive a Comforter”;)

  14. Tom Yager said on April 11th, 2008 at 5:24pm #

    It’s official in Arizona. The Greens needed 20,449 valid signatures to get on the ballot until November 2009. They ended up with 22,570.

  15. ashley said on April 12th, 2008 at 8:49pm #

    The best approach is to ignore the US presidential election altogether since it is thoroughly controlled by the current duopoly which is really one beast with two wings as Nader rightly says. Rather Gravel’s idea to go for the whatever-it’s-called process that essentially is a mass plebiscite to overthrow the existing system, a process which is enshrined in the constitution for precisely this sort of situation. By continuing to buy into the presidential election cycle, nothing of substance is organized year after year.

    Obama said a good thing about Iraq: he regards his job as not to simply deal with tactical military and diplomatic issues but rather change the entire mindset that got us in there in the first place. Changing the mindset and the underlying system is the only way to deal with this. I think a simple antiwar platform, for this reason, is a profound mistake because it does not address the underlying systemic root causes. And there is no way they can be addressed in a conventional Presidential campaign.

    Time for like-minded progressives to organize a parallel process using the internet and talk radio. Very cheap. Can reach millions. Signatures can be signed. A conventional assembled within a few years and the government system changed. Gravel has a whole lot about this in one of his affiliated sites and although I don’t think much of him as a public figure at this point, I think he has the single best idea of what can practically be done. Nader is brilliant on many levels but yet another campaign run is pissing in the wind and a huge waste of time and energy. I wish he would realise this and help facilitate something more substantive.

    It all seems so hopeless sometimes; and yet cynicism is also a waste of time. The progressive movement is splintered and without any real leader. And that is what it is going to take. It is always so in human affairs.

  16. hp said on April 13th, 2008 at 3:50pm #

    Though not inspiring or conducive to positivity, the cynics are right nine times out of ten. Hardly a waste of time listening and possibly even acting on the rotten truth as opposed to what could be or should be.
    You know, shooting the messenger and all that…