An open letter to the Democratic Party

by Jordan Green

If you’re a Democratrunning for national political office, you might find it tempting tosoften your opposition to the war in Iraq now that the primaries aremostly behind us. In that case, I suggest you consider the risk ofbacklash from the anti-war movement. You see: Some of us opposedthe war from the start. For example, as a Durham resident in December2001, I e-mailed Rep. David Price expressing concern that acongressional resolution on Iraq might lead our nation down a path towar and urging him to oppose it. I don’t consider myself particularlyprescient, just someone with a modicum of common sense: 9-11 presentedthe Bush administration with an opportunity to extend American militarydomination abroad and shore up domestic support that was alreadyteetering when the planes struck the World Trade Center. Predictably,the world is less stable today, while American and Iraqi blood has beenneedlessly spilled, and our national treasure has been squandered. Evenas hundreds of thousands of people marched against the war in early2003, prominent Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, JohnKerry and Richard Gephardt made a show of casting votes to authorizethe invasion of Iraq. In the presidential election year of 2004,Democratic nominee Kerry promised an even more aggressive foreignpolicy than Bush’s. He and others in his party’s leadership criticizedBush’s execution of the war and suggested the United States would havemore friends around the world with a Democrat in the White House, butrefused to take a stand on the war itself, snubbing and theanti-war activists who gave the campaign its energy. Voters respondedrationally and rewarded President Bush, the candidate with a clear andunequivocal position on the war, with a second term. By 2006,the Iraq imbroglio was so widely hated that Democratic candidates tookup the anti-war banner in the mid-term election and succeeded inflipping several Republican seats and seizing control of both houses ofCongress. The Washington punditocracy, a singularly insular andparochial class, opined that Democrats couldn’t afford to be seen – asthey were in the aftermath of Vietnam – as the party that lost the war.Sure enough, once they took power, the Democrats refused to cut fundingfor the war or bring impeachment charges against the president. Yes,it has been gratifying to witness a hard-fought primary contest betweenSens. Clinton and Barack Obama that hinged, in part, on which would bethe best candidate to end the war in Iraq. Better still, many voterssaid Obama’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq as a member of theIllinois Senate gave him an edge over Clinton, who has never renouncedher vote to authorize the invasion and who only came out in support ofending the war after coming under intense pressure on the campaigntrail from groups like Code Pink. One can take pride in beingright all along about the war, but there’s no particular pleasure to begained from that prophetic status. I don’t know if you, who lead theDemocratic Party and run for elected office, can understand how itfeels to be repeatedly thwarted on the one issue that matters the mostover the course of a better part of a decade. Impotency is the firstword that comes to mind. Weariness is the second. For some of us, thisis the litmus test. We don’t care if it’s a Democrat or a Republican;we’re looking for the best person to get the job done. Believe it ornot, those of us who hold vigils on the anniversaries of the invasionor stand on the corners of busy intersections with signs every Mondayevening are not in the business of protest to help Democrats getelected. I am a registered Democrat, but now that I’ve learnedNorth Carolinians enjoy the option of requesting either party’s primaryballot I’m thinking about switching my registration to unaffiliatedjust so you understand that you have to earn my vote. And frankly, alot of times it seems as if your interest in the war begins and endswith whether they can wield it as a club against Bush and theRepublicans. Let me tell you how strongly I reject that notion.This is about American servicemen and women whose lives have been lostin combat, about veterans who come home bearing the scars ofpost-traumatic stress disorder and who face limited employment options,about squandered national treasure that could pay for pre-K education,housing assistance and healthcare. A politics of expediency overprinciple is a politics without a moral core – ultimately a charadethat attracts no one and affects nothing. Too often with the Democrats,we’ve seen opportunism and calculation to be standard operating modes. Announcinga new attack ad against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain inFebruary, Americans United for Change President Brad Woodhouse had thisto say: "For President Bush and his backers in Congress, Iraq and therecession are as inextricably linked to their disastrous legacy aswhite is to rice." Now, let’s rewind almost six years toSeptember 2002, when Woodhouse worked for the Democratic SenatorialCampaign Committee. At that time, Erskine Bowles, who is now thepresident of the University of North Carolina system, was theDemocratic nominee in a contest against Republican Elizabeth Dole. Thewar in Iraq, then six months in the offing, was an issue in thatelection, too. "No one has been stronger in this race [thanBowles] in supporting President Bush in the war on terror and hisefforts to affect a regime change in Iraq," Woodhouse told theCharlotte Observer. Now, tell me again why Democratic candidates deserve my vote. To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at