How surprising is it, really?

Arianna Huffington tells us that “Andy Stern, the groundbreaking president of the Service Employees International Union” is the next great progressive hope. She pitches for him mightily and compares him to the Democratic Party who she is currently displeased with:

“Compare that with the pale rhetoric and feeble resistance being offered by Democratic leaders in Washington these days. Sure, they’ve landed some heavy blows playing defense on the president’s proposal to overhaul Social Security. But is this the only issue they are able to wrap their minds around? Are they just too exhausted to use their political muscle and imagination for anything else–including what should be the great political debate of our time, Iraq and the war on terror?”

But how surprising is this? The Democrats favored the invasion of Iraq, the Presidential power to supersede Congress when deciding whether to go to war (and where to go to war), and the Democrats have no problem adopting the “can’t cut and run” line when the topic comes around to getting out of Iraq. This all happened before the November 2004 election. So it seems a bit disingenuous to complain about that behavior now as though it is not just an unbroken line of behaving in a way which is eminently compatible with the corporatists in the Republican party.

I won’t be surprised to learn that a majority of Democrats agree with Illinois Senator Barack Obama and favor bombing Iran. The darling of the progressives and the Democratic party knows that he’s got to go along to get along with the warriors. There’s nothing but silence from progressives as he makes one bad high office appointment after another.

And there’s considerable support for these stances from the populace when it comes down to brass tacks: a lot of Illinois voters voted for Kerry even though they didn’t have to, a lot of Illinois voters voted for Obama even though they didn’t have to. The progressives applied a half-baked logic to the 2004 US election and urged progressives to vote for Kerry to oust Bush in the gerrymandered (“safe”) states. It’s as if the progressives don’t see how this damages their anti-war credentials. Perhaps there will simply be enough of them to shout down anyone who questions whether the safe-state Kerry voters are genuinely interested in taking opportunities to advocate against war. I look forward to seeing this debate happen, should there be another anti-war march of significance (which looks less likely with each passing month).

I realize that almost half of those who could vote in US national elections don’t and local elections have lower participation rates. But those who don’t vote are too ambiguous for me to read something into clearly and definitively. They could dislike the fake dichotomy of Bush v. Kerry, they could dislike being railroaded into supporting Obama, they could be too busy working a sub-living wage job to take the time to vote and stand in long waiting lines. It could be something else entirely.

I want to take progressives more seriously on these life and death issues because I think there is a fake debate going on where no progressive voices are heard (particularly in mass media which goes out of their way to find inarticulate progressives to champion their views at protests and never invites in progressive leaders into the studio to talk). I’d like the debate to include someone who could point out what standing up against recent US invasions and occupations (not just Iraq) really means. And it bothers me when people set up a good argument with bad actions like voting contrary to one’s politics when one has a choice to vote one’s conscience.