Democrats Shoot Their Own, Too

Dick Cheney may have demonstrated his ability yet again to go after the wrong target when he bagged his hunting companion instead of his quarry, but the Democratic Party leadership is proving to be even more treacherous in the field than Deadeye Dick.

Party leaders, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) recently pressured Cindy Sheehan not to mount a primary campaign against California Senator Diane Feinstein, a woman who has betrayed party principles, such as they are, at almost every turn and deserves to go down to defeat. (It was only after Sheehan said she was considering a primary fight that Feinstein announced she would support a filibuster on Alito.) Now they’ve killed the campaign of Paul Hackett, an Iraq War vet and sharp critic of the war and the president and a candidate who had a strong shot at snatching a Senate seat for the Democrats this fall in Ohio.

For months, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chair, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), have been working behind the scenes to undermine Hackett’s campaign in favor of Rep. Sherrod Brown. When Hackett announced his intention to run, he met with party leaders, and with Ohio Rep. Sherrod Brown, and won a commitment from Brown not to enter into a primary fight for the Democratic senate nomination. Later, the party leadership undercut him and had Brown go back on his promise, forcing a primary battle. The undermining effort continued and Hackett finally decided Monday he didn’t want the fight.

Saying he had been betrayed by his country when he was sent to Iraq, and now by his party, Hackett, a Marine reservist and a lawyer, said he was quitting politics in understandable disgust, but would continue to speak out against the war. I’m sorry he decided not to fight, but understand his disgust.

Only a few days ago, I received a call from a fund-raiser for the DNC asking me to help the party elect a Democratic Congress in 2006. I told the woman she was wasting her time, and that I would not give a penny to a corrupt and self-destructing organization that was so afraid to be a genuine opposition party that it would sabotage its own best candidates. She indignantly asked me who the DNC had sabotaged and I ran a whole list by her, from Cynthia McKinney to Cindy Sheehan. Now we can add Paul Hackett to the list.

The same can be said for my home state of Pennsylvania, where the Democratic Party leadership is hard at work trying to kill off the senate campaign of a genuine progressive candidate, Chuck Pennacchio, in favor of an anti-abortion candidate, Bob Casey, who actually expressed support for the nomination of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, and whose only claim to fame is having the name of a former state governor (his father). Polls show that Democratic voters in Pennsylvania give Pennacchio a higher lead over incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum than Casey gets, but hardly anyone has heard of Pennacchio. This is largely because the DNC has anointed Casey, and so the media focuses on him.

Yet Casey, a lackluster candidate who shares almost nothing with the Democratic electoral base, is likely to lose to Santorum, while Pennacchio, a college professor and activist in the mold of the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, could actually beat the Republican incumbent if he had financial backing to mount a serious campaign and make his views known. (Which reminds me: maybe the conspiracy buffs should consider whether it was the DNC behind the downing of Wellstone’s campaign, and not the Bush administration…)

It’s pathetic to watch most of the genuine opposition to Bush coming from people in his own party, from torture policies (Sen. John McCain, R-AZ) to NSA spying (Rep. Heather Wilson, R-NM), while most Democrats in Congress are lying down, sitting back or are just comatose. Meanwhile, with no opposition worthy of the name, the Bush administration is hacking away at what’s left of the Constitution, international law, and civil liberties.

Ordinary Democratic voters, according to the polls, want to see this president impeached by a margin of over 80% to 20%, yet not one Democrat in Congress has the guts to introduce an impeachment bill in the House the way the late Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D-Texas) did back in 1991 against President George H.W. Bush.

Candidates like Hackett and Pennacchio would have the courage and independence to do just that. That’s why weasels like Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and yes, Howard Dean, would rather see the party go down to defeat in `06 than see them get into Congress.

My advice: If the party comes calling and asking for your support, tell them you’re a real Democrat, and won’t be giving any money to the Democratic Party until it becomes a real party of opposition. I’m all for supporting individual Democratic incumbents who deserve it, like Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) or Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), but not a penny for the party, or for those incumbents or challengers to Republicans who have forgotten what the word “opposition” means.

Cheney is going to find it hard to get hunting partners after his latest display of marksmanship. Let’s make it impossible for the Democratic Party to get grassroots financial support after its latest round of treachery.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).