An anti-Obama manifesto of sorts, in the form of a petition, was issued this week, signed by over 150 Left antiwar activists. As I read the first paragraph, eager to sign, my hopes were quickly dashed. It reads:
We the undersigned share with nearly two-thirds of our fellow Americans the conviction that our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should be ended and that overall military spending should be dramatically reduced. This has been our position for years and will continue to be, and we take it seriously.
So far, so good, even admirable – although some of the signers backed Obama even as he promised more war in 2008. But perhaps disillusionment had finally taken hold. So what is to be done, according to the petitioners? That comes in the next sentence.
We vow not to support President Barack Obama for renomination (emphasis, j.w.) for another term in office, and to actively seek to impede his war policies unless and until he reverses them.
“Renomination”? Many of these very people were calling for George W. Bush’s impeachment for doing what Obama is doing now, although Obama is doing more of it, as the rest of the petition makes clear.
“Renomination”? Does anyone think that the Democratic Party machine will deny Obama the nomination in 2012? And is there even the faintest suggestion here that the petitioners will try to field another candidate, a genuine peace candidate?
“Renomination”? Does that mean that the signatories will vote for Obama once he has been nominated out of fear of the Republican “fascists,” as the Republican opposition, not much different from Obama himself, is so often and so glibly labeled.
As we all know, politicians in general and Obama in particular care not one whit about petitions such as these. They care only about a threat to being elected or re-elected. The time for begging or petitioning Obama to change is long since past. It is time to organize an alternative. If a serious challenge to Obama and indeed to both War Parties is to be mounted, it must begin soon. Unfortunately no such challenge has appeared on the horizon as yet. It certainly does not appear in this petition. Time is running out, and petitions like these can even forestall necessary action by giving people the false sense that they “have done something.”
The manifesto makes it clear that two thirds of Americans are now antiwar. And many of that two-thirds care little for the Democratic Party or for Obama. But the word “renomination” was chosen to keep the locus of antiwar activity within the Democratic Party. That is a losing strategy as we have learned over and over again. Such statements as this petition are not casually penned and their words not lightly chosen.
Would it not be better to reach out to the Right, both Libertarians like Ron and Rand Paul and Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com and Paleos like Dan McCarthy at The American Conservative or Lew Rockwell or the Future of Freedom Foundation? Some functionary in the White House sub-basement assigned to keep watch on antiwar intellectuals must have breathed a sigh of relief that no mention was made of that. But how can one refuse to develop such alliances with the antiwar Right and others? To fail at that will only lead to a smaller antiwar movement and the probability that Obama’s armies of Empire will continue to grind millions into the dust? Can that be justified morally?
Most of the signatories are principled women and men disgusted with war. But the action against Obama they call for does not match the crimes they cite – it does not even come close. Electoral action, among other forms of activism, is needed, and the considerable prestige attached to some on this list of signatories can help to initiate such action. On the other hand, some among the signers have always come down on the side of the Dems in the end, no matter what they do. Let us hope that the latter are not in the driver’s seat and that this manifesto is but one brief step on a determined and forceful march to field a badly needed alternative in 2012. The hour is late and lives by the score are lost every day at Obama’s hand.