For a fleeting moment it looked as though Cindy Sheehan was going to toss her antiwar weight into the election ring and confront Senator Dianne Feinstein of California in the Democratic primary. But instead Sheehan has subtly withdrawn herself from the race.
Sheehan’s decision, which was announced on February 9, came after substantial pressure from elite Democrats who thought her bid could damage Sen. Feinstein. Certainly that was the point of Sheehan’s threat to take on the senator — and the elites of the pro-war Democratic Party, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, knew it. Since her decision was made public Sheehan has been taking heat from antiwar activists who believe she has given into the Democrat’s coercion. They believe she has succumbed to lesser-evil politics. But I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to such a conclusion.
Sheehan obviously believes the best way to challenge the Democrat’s ineptitude is to continue her activism from outside the party. So don’t go counting on her to endorse Feinstein this summer. If anybody still honestly believes that the Democrats are open to radical changes at the national level, they need look no further than Paul Hackett’s recent demise or the centrist Howard Dean’s campaign during the 2004 elections. If the grassroots of the Democratic Party are engaged and empowered — watch out — their challenges to way business is done in Washington, whether genuine (Hackett’s) or spurious (Dean’s), end up becoming just another casualty of Democratic corruption.
Surely Sheehan knows this and isn’t about to exert energy reforming a broken Democratic Party. She wants the troops home now — that’s her mission. Why get hung up tooling around with DC Dems and their misguided ways? It would be a waste of time.
That doesn’t mean Sheehan is going to disregard electoral politics altogether. As she answered questions during her press conference, she implored California voters to look into another antiwar candidacy: "Todd Chretien is a personal friend of mine," she said. "He is a man of integrity and peace. I encourage all Californians to take a hard look at his campaign."
Chretien is running on the Green Party line against Feinstein and hopes to rally the antiwar movement to his side. Sheehan’s statement wasn’t a formal endorsement of Chretien’s campaign, but it certainly gives us a glimpse into the philosophy of Sheehan–for she isn’t going to support any pro-war candidate of any party. Period.
And that’s a lesson that the antiwar movement should take home and think on. Activists shouldn’t get bogged down in the Democrat’s web of power and deceit. They should instead stick to their cause and fight for what they believe in. Lesser-evil politics can only damage social movements and pro-war politicians like Sen. Feinstein will only respond to the antiwar movement when it starts to turn its back on the Democratic Party and their unwillingness to oppose the occupation of Iraq. Until then the Democrats will simply take antiwar voters for granted as they did during John Kerry’s sour presidential bid in 2004.
Cindy Sheehan is a leading voice of sanity in this age of war and disparity and her message to the Democratic Party is a poignant one — until you oppose this war we will continue to oppose you.
JOSHUA FRANK edits the radical news blog www.BrickBurner.org and is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, published by Common Courage Press (2005). Josh can be reached at BrickBurner@gmail.com.