Bruce A. Dixon is scratching his venerable head over this, and I share his puzzlement. He and his comrades at Black Agenda Report looked at the websites of 31 Congressional primary-winning candidates endorsed by one of three post-Bernie progressive advocacy groups: Our Revolution, Justice Democrats, and Brand New Congress. They found that 21 of those 31 websites' issues pages say literally nothing—or at least nothing markedly progressive—about international policy or issues of war & peace.
Since I have found Dixon to be a reliable source of information and progressive commentary, at first I figured I'd just take his word for it. In his article, he includes the URLs of those issues and platform pages, but does not include hyperlinks to them, and I was feeling to lazy to copy and paste them. Then curiosity overcame laziness, and I checked a few of the 21. Sure 'nuff, these sites are conspicuously and eerily silent on those topics.
Why Such a Big Hole in the Platform?
Dixon speculates as to the reasons for this silence, as well as the Sanders-esque omissions of these topics on the sites of OR and JD in particular (numbers in parentheses mine):
There are only two possibilities. Either (1) two thirds of our progressive Democrats running for Congress this year really are true believers in the US right to make up its own facts, to declare offshore law free zones like Guantanamo, to invade other countries at will, killing millions and wreaking incalculable havoc upon their infrastructure, societies and ecologies like in Southeast Asia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and just don’t want to say it out loud, or (2) our progressive Democrats don’t believe it but imagine they need to remain silent and pretend to be true believers in the US empire to get elected. Either way, two thirds of the new blue wave of progressive Dem congressional candidates believe they can get away with silence on foreign affairs.
I'm leaning toward (2), giving them some benefit of doubt, but with a twist: They appear to have acquired this notion in some kind of candidate training, where they have been indoctrinated in the "It's the Economy, Stupid!" school of campaigning. Voters, the reasoning goes, care about bread & butter issues, but their lives are too busy to give much of a shit about what goes on overseas or the US role therein.
These hypothetical voters may care deeply about immigrant families arriving from Central America, but the US role in keeping Central American countries poor, desperate, and awash in drug-war violence is not part of their calculus of caring. And if you presume to remind them that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cheer-led the 2009 right-wing coup in Honduras, their responses range from "But...what about Trump and Supreme Court nominations?!" to "Yeah, but Jill Stein is an anti-vaxxer!" to "So what?"
The "Official" Narrative on What Makes a Progressive
On top of that, thanks in part to Sanders's quixotic presidential run, the criteria for "progressive" has been set in the public and media consciousness. As long as you favor Medicare for All, universal living wage, renewable energy, and other policies along those lines, your official stance on, say, Israel-Palestine is immaterial. Anecdotally, I have had online conversations with a few self-styled Progressives and Berniecrats who had took no issue with Hillary Clinton's talk about a no-fly zone in Syria, risking war with Russia, as long as LGBT+ Americans could keep and expand their rights.
Am I being harsh in these assessments? Well, perhaps comparing Sanders to the gallant but addled Don Quixote is harsh. Sanders and his millions of Sancho Panzas discovered that the Democratic Party windmill fights back and fights dirty, but then Sanders threw his support behind the windmill. I may also be exaggerating or oversimplifying the sentiments of liberal and progressive voters in the US, but the picture I'm painting is not far from what I've seen.
The Direct and Implied Importance of International Policy
PDiddie, Socratic Gadfly, and I have debated the relative merits and necessity of foreign policy platform language as a test of a candidate's progressivism. For those running for a state legislative seat or for governor, there's little need to talk about international relations, even if those relations have direct impacts on our economy. But the 31 candidates in Dixon's table are running for a national legislative body that in part formulates or approves foreign policy. Even candidates who do not aspire to a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee should be somewhat versed in foreign affairs and ready to cast informed votes on international matters, especially on questions of war & peace.
On the plus side, I am grateful that two candidates in particular are willing to go there: Linsey Fagan in TX-26 (mostly Denton County) and Ilhan Omar in MN-05 (the metro-Minneapolis seat that Keith Ellison is vacating). Fagan's position makes me smile because, well, she's running in Texas; Omar's, because she's a Somali immigrant and thus ignoring foreign policy would look terribly disingenuous.
Here is a sample from Fagan's site...
Ban arming human rights violators. We recently gave Saudi Arabia billions in weapons and watched the civilian death toll in their vicious bombing campaign in Yemen tick up. We continue sending Egypt arms as they violently crack down on peaceful protesters. Israel received $38 billion in aid and promptly announced new settlements. The first step to peace is not enabling nations who regularly violate international law. We must be bold enough to stand up to human rights violators who aren’t just our enemies, but our allies. We don’t weaken our allies by holding them accountable, we strengthen them.
...and one from Omar's:
We must end the state of continuous war, as these wars have made us less safe. We must scale back U.S. military activities, and reinvest our expansive military budget back into our communities.
Also, for all her missteps—like the sudden disappearance of A Peace Economy from her website after the primary—I give Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez props for eloquently hammering home the point that the government can always find or create money for another disastrous foreign intervention but cries poor when asked to fund what MLK called "programs of social uplift." If anything, AOC has been more eloquent (and, just as importantly, succinct) about it than Jill Stein ever was.
Building a Peace Economy, cleaning up our messes overseas, and pledging never to make such messes again makes sense on an many levels: economic, structural, moral, etc. Those self-proclaimed Progressives who do not see or talk about how international policy relates to living wage, single-payer health care, renewable energy, and the rights of historically oppressed populations—indeed, how issues generally interrelate—need to get a clue. They can start by reading some of MLK's speeches like this one.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
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