Tom Hayden has been given the cover article for The Nation’s December 17 issue to instruct the peace movement for 2008. Not since the cover page endorsement of the prowar John Kerry in 2004 has there been such an embarrassing face to this journal. In essence Hayden’s call is to vote Democraticocrat in 2008 – and keep your fingers crossed. That is about it. Confronted with prowar Democraticocrats and prowar Republicans, Hayden cries, “Stop the war. Vote prowar Democraticocrats.” At the same time his co-counsellor for the official peace movement, Phyllis Bennis, has been lamenting that antiwar voters, in the depths of their benightedness, may fail to understand “intuitively” why they should vote for prowar Democraticocrats in 2008.
Hayden begins with what cannot be denied, conceding that the “leading” Democraticocrats, HRC, BO and JE do not pledge to end the war, always hedging their promises to remove troops by limiting the pledge to “combat troops,” a recipe for “Vietnamization” which Hayden should be able to recognize; by speaking of keeping troops in Iraq at least until 2013; by failing to give dates for Democraticolishing the gargantuan bases still going up; and of course by labeling hapless Iran as a “danger.” Hayden even quotes one anonymous voice within the Beltway Democratic establishment: “It’s beginning to look a lot like 2004.” But how does Hayden characterize 2004? In that year he says, the Democraticocrats “muted and muddled their antiwar position.” “Mute and muddled”? “Antiwar position”? Wth a few hiccups, John Kerry ran an explicitly prowar campaign in 2004. In 2006 the Democrats ran what looked like an antiwar campaign until you read the fine print. Of course since they gained control of Congress, they have supported the war funding at every turn. “Mute and muddled” it’s not; full-blown complicity in the war it is.
Hayden then suggests that independent groups like MoveOn, a brand name that is no longer trusted, will carry their message to the people. What will that message be? It will be “consistent with, if not identical to, the candidates’ message.” But Hayden has already stated that the message of the leading candidates is prowar.
Next, Hayden proceeds to the real problem, in his opinion - the voters. Hayden identifies “public opinion” as one of the pillars of the war on a par with “ample military funding,” the latter courtesy of the Democrats, although he fails to mention that. So what does he propose? It is simple, “greater efforts at persuading the ambivalent voters.” Now Hayden has been forced into blaming the victim, knowing full well that upwards of 70 per cent of the voters want out of Iraq asap. What more does he want? Is he waiting for Dick Cheney to come around? But Bush’s “surge success” propaganda, entirely unopposed by the Democratic candidates, may erode that precious 70 per cent. Instead of building on that 70 per cent, HRC, JE and BO are allowing it to be taken away by Bush. This is yet one more betrayal of the peace movement by the Democrats.
Turning at last to the primaries and candidates, Hayden cautions: “Voting for Kucinich, Richardson or Gravel is a legitimate choice to support an important voice–but not a nominee.” Here Hayden shows he knows, and approves, how the game is played. Kucinich and Richardson are decorations, providing sops to the peace movement without any chance of winning in the framework of the Democratic Party and their antiwar credentials are dubious anyway, Kucinich having endorsed Kerry in 2004 and Richards having been a major player in the Clinton administration which killed 500,000 Iraqi children with its sanctions.
Those are a few lowlights of Hayden’s meandering and contradictory guide to action in 2008. Hayden’s predicament is that 2008 is a race with no Democratic peace horse. Nevertheless he gallops obliviously along on foot, with only an imaginary steed beneath him, looking very much like Monty Python’s undaunted, clueless crusaders.
John V. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com