Collapse of the Peace Movement, Part II: Left-Right Cooperation
With minimal effort, there has been real success with the left and right working together. Rather than demonize the Rage Against the War Machine rally, left-right cooperation should be expanded.
[VotePact.org currently directs to this article which gives an overview of the voting strategy. A talk about it is here. The actual page, past version viewable via WayBackMachine, is in the shop. On Twitter: @VotePact.]
“You know what I worry most about: an unholy alliance between the right and the left." — Sen. Lindsey Graham on CNN, speaking against withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in 2010
In the summer of 2013, it looked as though Obama would outright bomb Syria. But on Aug. 29, The Hill reported in “Liberals join conservatives in demanding Obama get Congress OK for Syria action” that: “The opposition to President Obama launching unilateral military operations in Syria exploded on Thursday when dozens of liberal Democrats joined scores of conservative Republicans in warning the administration that any strikes without congressional approval would violate the Constitution.”1
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I remember scores of activists from the left and right on Capitol Hill rallying to stop the seemingly impending bombing. Scores that may not be possible in several ways under current post-Jan. 6 conditions.
Now, there is clear violation of the war powers clause of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution with respect to US government participation in the Ukraine war. Professor Boyle has actually drafted Articles of Impeachment on this. But the possibility of impeachment, which few understand seems to have restrained Obama on Syria, has barely been raised in the case of Ukraine. (Yes, Biden has the votes now, but he doesn’t have the law; and a meaningful debate on the law may change the votes, which may be why such a debate is avoided.)
The Ukraine war has been a central crisis for nearly a year — and was a festering, threatening major crisis since at least 2014 — and the left and right didn’t coalesce as they did with Syria.
There are clear reasons for this: The obsession and disinformation on Russiagate which MSNBC and “Democracy Now!” used to twist progressive minds; the presidency of Donald Trump was used to rehabilitate the Bush warmongers on corporate liberal media and the events of Jan. 6 have produced a narrative akin to a Passion Play which has been used to shut down much dialogue, particularly among members of Congress.
Enter the Rage Against the War Machine rally on Feb. 19, which seems aimed to change that, bringing together many from the left and right including Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney and others.
The left and right strategically working together in sustained manner is in fact long overdue. Realigning the US political spectrum may well be one of the two main roads to ending the US Empire, and all empires — the other being to act globally, as with the Feb. 15 2003 global protests.
The opportunities for cooperation between the left and right seems to be underestimated even by those most loudly advocating it.
Part of that benefit is to give people leverage. Once the Democratic and Republican establishments realize people have “somewhere to go” they will be forced to at least appear to be responsive. Thus, left-right cooperation succeeds even when it fails.
The Root of Evil
But the establishment has a whole set of tools it has employed to prevent the left and right from uniting against war and other establishment machinations.
In 2016, Trump’s stance against Muslim immigrants was a galvanizing force to push people into their partisan boxes. But think it through. The US government fueling the Syria war by funding proxies is largely what turned proud people into desperate refugees. And the left and right in the US were largely opposed to that. But they ended up fighting about a result of a policy they both opposed. The left and right agreed on the root of the problem but ended up battling over the symptom.
The root problem was perpetual war, brought to you by the Democratic and Republican Parties and which ruined the refugees' lives -- and, as I wrote in 2015: “will ruin many more unless the left and right join to stop it.” (“The Left and Right Must Stop the Establishment's Perpetual War Machine”.)
One thing I note in that piece is that there was a group, Come Home America, which was advocating left-right alliance against war. The central figure in that group, John V. Walsh, says now of the attacks on Rage Against the War Machine: “It is one thing to say that an event is not the best way to approach something, but it is quite another to try to undermine it.”2
Coleen Rowley, who many know as the FBI whistleblower who warned of 9/11, and is now a noted political activist, states:
Well I'm totally in support of ALL alliances that oppose the U.S. War Machine, its war profiteers and its increasingly desperate clinging to its fools errand seeking unipolar "full spectrum dominance" over the rest of the world. As the U.S. gave up whatever moral high ground "leadership by example" it once possessed decades ago, saw its economic and other soft power ebbing away, it began to rely solely on hard military might, bringing us dangerously close to a World War III and use of nuclear weapons. So whatever petty squabbles and differences have arisen between peace organizers and speakers representing various groups, the squabbles need to take a back seat to this looming risk of nuclear omnicide.
Walsh highlights the imbalance: “If one takes a cold, hard look at it in the key vote last spring on the $40 billion for the war in Ukraine, there were 68 nay votes all Republicans led by principled anti-interventionists like Rand Paul and Thomas Massie.” See his piece: “The Democratic Party, Now the Leading Party of War.”
It’s my impulse to be critical of all political figures, but somehow, some people on the left try to stigmatize working with certain people on some issues, but it’s perfectly fine to work with warmongers on, say, preserving Social Security. Why? The Bidenites are daily threatening nuclear war, by what moral calculation is this death cult deemed more ethical than people trying to stop nuclear war?
More Than War
There is an antiestablishment center. Being pro-peace is at the core of that. But it is hardly limited to that.
War needs people to be in fear. So, yes to civil liberties — as the left and right have come together to oppose the surveillance state. But left-right cooperation extends beyond even this: Opposition to pandemic pronouncements. Stop corporate corruption and Wall Street destroying Main Street and other weakening of the citizenry. Stop the monopolistic power of Big Tech and Big Media and their collusion with Big Government, manipulations of public opinion, criminal justice reform, drug war, education and much else. See my piece from 2013: “The Perennially ‘Unusual’ Yet Somehow Ubiquitous Left-Right Alliance: Towards Acknowledging an Anti-Establishment Center.”
A working class person with liberal sympathies has more in common with a working class person with conservative sympathies than either have with establishment elites.
One factor that has ironically hindered left-right cooperation is elections. Elections are supposed to be ways of reflecting the public will but they are movement killers. Occupy3 Wall Street arose in 2011, and part of the reason for its demise was that come 2012, attention shifted to backing Obama in the election. Elections stuff people into partisan boxes. And with a permanent campaign, the problem has become chronic.
Briefly: the system effectively compels a husband voting for phony candidate A because he hates phony candidate B more — and his wife doing the opposite. What I propose is that instead of cancelling out their votes, these two people should join together and vote for candidates they want. In pairs. Those already against the establishment duopoly can be matchmakers -- getting friends to stop their addiction to the corrupt two party system that just gets worse and worse.
Each part feeds off the corruption of the other. They justify themselves mainly by pointing to how horrible the other one is. A real race to the bottom.
Ralph Nader’s book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State gives more examples of left-right cooperation, but it has problems, including not talking about VotePact or any other strategy for dealing with elections, which is, for better or worse, how most people engage with politics. Nor of course did Nader meaningfully employ VotePact in his multiple runs for office. Nor did any other Green Party candidate. The only time it was meaningfully used was a by PAC backing Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson which rebranded VotePact4 as “The Balanced Rebellion” in 2016. They got 37 million views on Facebook with an entertaining video featuring “Dead Abe Lincoln”, built software to connect people and helped Johnson score the biggest third party success since Ross Perot.
Without illusions, but with insight, rigorous analysis and honest, respectful dialogue the door is open to human-based left-right alliances that can revitalize the franchise to untangle US politics from its current demented state.
Also, see: “Collapse of the Peace Movement, Part I.”
I should say that I have also hypothesized that Obama might not have wanted to attack Syria directly in 2013 because the actual US government goal was to prolong the war in Syria.
Two examples of such attacks on Rage Against the War Machine are Carl Beijer’s piece which describes Rage Against the War Machine in its subhead thus: “Connected to a cult, overtly hostile to the antiwar left, and not even consistently against war. What's not to like?” In the piece, Beijer claims “The speakers at this rally are openly hostile towards building a coalition with the left” which was an absurd thing to claim since there were several noted leftists slated for the event when he wrote that including David Swanson, Garland Nixon, Max Blumenthal and Anya Parampil. (See WayBackMachine.) Similarly, Black Agenda Report published a piece by Jacqueline Luqman titled “Why The Rage Against The War Machine Rally Is #AntiWarSoWhite” which bizarrely makes no mention of Nixon. And while there has been a dearth of protest against NATO and the Ukraine war and Rage Against the War Machine seems to have at least succeeded already in making some groups step up their activity. There’s some irony in this because one of the groups is ANSWER. This is ironic because after the 9/11 attacks, when progressive and liberal protest against the course for war that Cheney/Bush was putting the country on was scarce, it was ANSWER’s protests which basically compelled liberals and progressives into at least appearing to be protesting against Bush’s impending wars. Now, Rage Against the Machine seems to be playing a similar role.
Employing the term “Occupy” was terribly unfortunate in my view.
VotePact should not be confused with “vote swapping”—in which voters in so-called “swing” states who want to vote for third parties “swap” votes with committed Democrats and Republicans in so-called “safe” states.” That strategy, which was advocated by Jamie Raskin, now an icon of the Democratic Party establishment, is designed to “minimize the damage” of independent candidates and have people vote for people they don’t believe in. VotePact is designed free people to vote for who they want. It opens the door to literal electoral victory for independent candidates that some candidates themselves rarely seem to believe in. See FAQ.