The Antiwar Movement and Independent Politics

When the admirable Tiberius upon becoming emperor, received a message from the Senate in which the conscript fathers assured him that whatever legislation he wanted would be automatically passed by them, he sent back word that this was outrageous. “Suppose the emperor is ill or mad or incompetent?” He returned their message. They sent it again. His response: “How eager you are to be slaves.”

— Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

JOSHUA FRANK: Cindy, we are in the armpit of another election season and it seems that the mainstream antiwar movement is rallying behind the Democrats once again, hoping if the Dems can just recapture the House that the Republicans will finally be held accountable for all their horrible faults. Impeachment will follow and the war will end. What do you think? Where do you stand on all of this?

Cindy Sheehan: I hold very little hope that, due to the utter corruption of our electoral system, and the Republican reign of terror and fear against the American public, the Democrats will even take back one or more Houses of Congress.

Even if the Democrats take back the lower House, the potential Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) has already said that impeachment would not be “in the cards.” Rep. John Conyers (D-Mi) has also backed off of impeachment rhetoric. Since Bush has said over and over again that the troops aren’t coming home while he is president, it is up to us to make sure that his presidency is cut short.

We all know that the Vietnam War ended when Congress cut its funding. There is a bill that has been sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern, (D-Ma) HR4232 that cuts funding to leave our troops in Iraq, but he has very little support and even a smaller chance of getting it to the floor for a vote. I believe that most representatives don’t support the bill because they will be accused of “not supporting the troops.” I believe that it is not supporting the troops to leave them in that nightmare.

Although I admire the Democrats on many issues, when it comes to war and peace, most get their pockets lined by the same corporate interests.

No matter which party has control of Congress come November, we the people have to keep the pressure up to stop the current course our country is taking.

Frank: You are currently serving on the Board of Directors for the
Progressive Democrats of America, a pro-Democrat organization that calls for reform of the Democratic Party from within. The PDA consistently ignores progressive antiwar alternatives to the Democrats. Do you think that such a position could actually hurt the antiwar movement? Should we instead be supporting antiwar candidates who want to hold both parties accountable?

Sheehan: I think that the PDA endorses candidates based on their entire platforms. Of course, I only care about candidate’s record on the war and what they say about peace. I prefer to call our movement a “peace” movement, because “antiwar” is too narrow.

I think it would be great if we didn’t need a PDA, if all Democrats were progressive peace candidates, but we know they are not.

I would vote for a Republican if they were calling for the withdrawal of troops and for impeachment, and I definitely think a viable third party could rein in the “two” parties we have now.

We will never have a viable third party, though, as long as we vote out of fear and not out of integrity. Instead of voting for the “lesser of two evils” we should be voting for a candidate that reflects our “beatitudes” and not the war machine’s.

Frank: The PDA may endorse candidates based on their entire platform, but they still won’t support antiwar candidates that are not Democrats — and they’ve received a fair amount of criticism for that position. Do you think that such a policy may be a problem for those who want to build an independent antiwar movement that seeks to challenge both parties?

Sheehan: Yes, well the group is called Progressive Democrats of America. They have had no problem with me endorsing third party candidates. I completely support a viable third party. I don’t know if PDA’s position is holding up an independent antiwar party as much as the mainstream Republican and Democrats are.

I think reform of the Democratic Party could only reinforce antiwar efforts and all progressive causes in general.

I don’t think the PDA is hurting the antiwar movement because I don’t think they have enough consolidated power to affect it one-way or the other.

Frank: It seems to me that working to reform the Democratic Party, like the PDA, sidelines other issues, most importantly right now, the war effort. I guess you don’t agree?

Sheehan: I think it will take all of us working for all kinds of issues; the PDA can focus on their piece. I will continue to focus on mine just like you will continue to focus on yours.

Frank: Who are the peace candidates you are supporting this year?

Sheehan: So far I have supported three who ended up losing in the primaries: Marcy Winograd, Jonathan Tasisni and Christine Cegelis — all of whom are Democrats, first two up against pro-war incumbents. I have also supported Jeanne Cricenzo, a Democrat, Malachy McCourt for Governor of New York who is a Green and Michael Berg and Todd Chretien, both of whom are Greens. Kevin Zeese of Maryland who is an independent candidate. And most recently I told Howie Hawkins, who is running against Hillary Clinton in New York as a Green, that I would support his antiwar campaign.

Frank: I’ve heard a rumor that you may be looking to start your own third party. Is that true?

Sheehan: Yes, it is true. I think that to save our democracy our country needs a viable and credible third party. This nation was founded on rule by a few rich white males, and for all intents and purposes, we are still ruled by a corporate elite.

We need a third party that will represent all the people, not just the wealthy.

JOSHUA FRANK, author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, edits




JOSHUA FRANK is the managing editor of CounterPunch. He is the author of the new book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America, published by Haymarket Books. He can be reached at You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank.