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A Wasted Campaign

One week after Jonathan Tasini was defeated by Hillary Clinton in New York’s Democratic Primary, the career labor organizer and loyal Democrat released a statement about the role his bereaved followers should play in the upcoming election. “I urge my supporters and the people who voted for me to vote their conscience,” said Tasini. “Every vote that is not cast for the incumbent is a clear repudiation of an immoral war.”

Tasini not only failed in his bid to take down Hillary (let alone hold her accountable for her unwavering support for the war in Iraq) he is now failing the movement against the war in Iraq by refusing to endorse an antiwar candidate in November’s contest. In an interview with Elizabeth Benjamin of the Times Union on September 19, Tasini confirmed that he would not be endorsing the only visible antiwar alternative to Hillary Clinton in the state, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.

“I am a Democrat. I ran as a Democrat. I decided not to endorse the incumbent, and to stay out of endorsing anyone else. Between now and November, that could change. Something could happen and she (Sen. Hillary Clinton) could decide the war was really bad and wrong, and then I would reconsider.”

That’s the kind of garbage you’ll hear from a Democrat even if they oppose the war in Iraq. Party loyalty matters far more than any antiwar ethic. Undeniably, Tasini did his job quite well this past summer. By running a losing campaign in the Democratic Primary he drew attention and support away from Howie Hawkins and other independent antiwar candidates. Instead of helping build a viable antiwar campaign that would be on the ballot in November when it will matter most, Tasini played right into Hillary’s hands by not challenging her all the way up to November — even if by proxy through another antiwar campaign.

Tasini’s run, much like Rep. Dennis Kucinich for president in 2004, is just one more pitiful illustration of how antiwar politics in the Democratic Party amount to nothing. They possess no teeth, no backbone, and more importantly, no tangible goals. If antiwar progressives like Jonathan Tasini really want to put pressure on Hillary Clinton and the war party she represents, they wouldn’t be Democrats in the first place. Hillary is already piecing together her campaign for the White House in 2008, and the drive to stop her must begin this election season.

Essentially Tasini’s campaign against the war ended the very day he conceded to Sen. Clinton. Instead he ought to have passed his torch to another candidate who could carry his antiwar flame up to Election Day. But he didn’t. And we shouldn’t be surprised. Tasini remains a Democrat and his supporters are now left traversing the murky waters of party politics with no hope for future change within their ranks. And even more depressing — no hope for bringing our troops home anytime soon.

So mark this down as another bitter lesson learned: Even if well intentioned, the Democratic Party consistently derails and misleads social movements. If we really want end the war in Iraq we will have to stop playing politics as usual.

JOSHUA FRANK, author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, edits http://www.BrickBurner.org