For years, the Democratic Party has paid lip service to the anti-war movement, opposing military conflict only when there is an opportunity to muster votes and grab power. This was on display during the Iraq war: The Dems voted for the invasion, then changed their minds out of political expediency, and remained silent when President Barack Obama toppled foreign governments and bombed several countries. While there are some Democrats genuinely against combat, the anti-war left has been largely a myth.
Any Democrat who is authentic in opposition to regime change and overthrowing democratically elected governments is met with mockery and scorn.
Just take a look at former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK) and his 2008 campaign for president.
A Rolling Stone
Gravel is not a household name, but if you were around during the height of the Vietnam War, you may remember he helped the Pentagon Papers go public. As part of his heroic fight against the draft, Gravel convened his Building and Grounds subcommittee and began to read secret government documents and studies pertaining to the war. With tears rolling down his cheeks and sobs in his voice on that June evening, Gravel read the historic papers until 1 a.m. with the mainstream press – when the institution had integrity – in attendance.
Absent from politics for nearly 30 years, Gravel returned to the Swamp in 2008 by running for president. He made his announcement by awkwardly staring at a camera for two minutes and then proceeding to toss a rock in the water. At a time when social media started becoming instrumental to political campaigns, Gravel became an online cult phenomenon, though it didn’t translate into much support in the Democratic primaries.
For months leading up to the debates, Gravel was indifferent to becoming president. However, during an MSNBC debate, he revealed how frightened he was after standing a few feet away from the top-tier candidates, particularly because of their foreign policies. He alluded to some of his party colleagues’ assertion that all options were on the table regarding Iran, which he believed was code for using nuclear weapons against the Tehran regime. He also lamented sanctions, explaining that they don’t work, and noted that the invasion of Iraq led to an explosion in terrorism.
He then called out soon-to-be Vice President Joe Biden and his “arrogance” for trying to tell the Iraqis how to run their own country. Biden had suggested partitioning Iraq into three separate nations, giving Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites their own autonomous central government.
Despite holding left-leaning views on a wide variety of domestic issues, Gravel quit the Democratic Party near the end of the primaries and joined the Libertarian Party. He grieved:
“My libertarian views, as well as my strong stance against war, the military industrial complex, and American imperialism, seem not to be tolerated by Democratic Party elites who are out of touch with the average American, elites that reject the empowerment of American citizens I offered to the Democratic Party at the beginning of this presidential campaign with the National Initiative for Democracy.”
Ten years later, he is launching another bid for the presidency. But perhaps he should hang up his boots and let another staunch anti-war candidate carve out her niche on the anti-war front. Will she be taken seriously, or will she be cast out of the party like the leprous Gravel was?
Tulsi Tussling in 2020
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has been the only Democrat to come out fiercely against America’s foreign policy of the last 20 years. It has become a focal point for her presidential bid, rebuking both the Republicans and Democrats, the neoconservatives and the neoliberals. As a result, Gabbard is quickly turning into an enemy of the Swamp, even though she checks off a few diversity boxes and supports progressive ideas at home.
It didn’t even take a full 24 hours after Gabbard officially declared for the Oval Office before the establishment Dems went on the offensive. Howard Dean, ex-head of the Democratic National Committee, bluntly said Gabbard is “not qualified” and should not be president. Maybe he’d change his mind if Gabbard yelled “yahh” at the end of each campaign speech. Dean was soon joined by journalists, who referred to her as an “Assad apologist,” a “Putin puppet,” an “embarrassment,” a “Hindu nationalist,” and an “anti-gay activist.” The only descriptor absent was Literally Hitler™.
It’s unclear if Gabbard will make it to the debate stage once the primary season begins. Despite being smarter than some of her fellow young Democrats, she doesn’t have the same media backing as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) or Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Nobody will run defense for Gabbard, but, unlike the aforementioned, she won’t need it.
That said, should she arrive at the CNN and MSNBC stages, Gabbard could call out her colleagues in the same way Gravel did. It wouldn’t be too hard, considering the hawkish stances of the top-tier candidates. Biden voted for the Iraq war, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) slammed President Trump for withdrawing from Syria, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said all options are on the table with Iran, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) thought the Kosovo conflict was justified. Not to mention all these candidates endorse NATO.
Gabbard could have multiple moments that will live on in political media for decades to come. Yet she will not be given the chance, unlike some of her opponents whom talking heads will defend at any cost.
War Not on 2020 Radar
Will war dominate the 2020 campaign? Unlikely. The entire electoral bout will be about unseating President Trump – and nothing else. This means every Democrat will spout fake news, conspiracy theories, and debunked myths about Russia, collusion, and porn stars. And the press will let them.
But foreign policy? What’s that?
Indeed, a lot can be said about President Trump’s foreign policy. He has been good on some things and bad on others. Thus far, Trump has been better than his predecessors, even if you measure just rhetoric alone. Admitting that sanctions hurt civilians, conceding that the United States should not be the policeman of the world, and employing diplomatic, non-aggression efforts with North Korea have been hallmarks of the Trump doctrine.
So, the Democrats have two options come 2020: agree with Trump’s positions or use the Counterfeit News Network strategy of amplifying hostilities and encouraging bombing campaigns. Trump could also make fools of the Democrats by bringing Gabbard into his administration.
Gabbard needs to channel Bob Dole, Mike Gravel, and Ron Paul at the debates and carve out her own monument in the anti-war crusade. These men told the truth about the pro-war left, and that’s how you become the lead protagonist in all future accounts of history.