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Ask Auntie Pinko
October 31, 2002

Dear Auntie Pinko,

Bush, Cheney, Rummy and Wolfowitz are determined to play with their toys that go boom and they have picked Iraq as the place to do it. The spineless Democratic leadership went limp on us and let the warmongers roll right over the Constitution. Are our service men and women doomed? Are millions of Iraqis marked for death and destruction? Is there no way to stop this madness?

The press are not covering our anti-war marches that would have been major news if 150,000 people had marched on Washington twenty years ago. Everyone I know has doubts about this war and no one in Washington is listening. What can we do?

Trenton, NJ

Dear Sylvia,

Don't give in to despair. Stay calm. There is a lot you can do, but we are up against powerful interests and they are fighting hard for this war. It will take time and massive populist effort to reverse the tide.

Start by voting, and getting everyone you know to vote, Democratic at the polls on November 5th. I know the Democrats in congress have been disappointing on this issue, but there are two reasons for that - reasons we can change.

The first reason Dems in congress have been so very timid is that there are not enough of them. Remember that the Democratic Party embraces a spectrum of ideologies that covers a broad territory. Unless they have a substantial enough majority in each house of congress to assure the Democratic leadership of sufficient support, even a few Democrats who are at the more conservative end of the spectrum will throw a vote to the Republicans. Without a substantial majority, even the most progressive Democratic leadership risks deadlock and fractures in Party unity that can damage a broad array of goals.

Auntie Pinko seems to reiterate this a lot, but we do need constant reminders: Democrats are not Republicans! We do not march in lockstep. We accord our leadership support based on how well they represent our principles and goals, not on how well they enforce top-down discipline. Without the kind of robotic unity that the GOP enforces, Democrats are highly vulnerable to divide-and-conquer tactics at election time, and the leadership knows this. They won't put progress toward a truly substantial Democratic majority at risk when the stakes are so high.

More Democrats with the rockbound integrity of Paul Wellstone would certainly help us, but money and powerful special interests have been working hard for many years to neutralize the appeal of such "outsider" politics. That leads me into the second reason for Democratic timidity in congress: the blaring voice of corporate and special interest money.

Interests with enough money to buy access to our politicians get face-to-face time with them, chances to explain, to offer bribes and threats, to make persuasive cases, to hold the elected official's constituency hostage to job loss or other blackmail. In order to drown out this kind of mega-loudness, citizens must counter-balance it with the sheer volume and frequency of their communications.

When a truly grassroots tide begins to lap over their shoes, elected officials will get moving, because they know that a sufficient number of votes will outweigh money in the final analysis. But convincing them that there are sufficient voters who support a particular position is not easy, because the big-money interests are adept at generating pseudo-"grassroots" efforts of their own, muddying the waters, and confusing the issues. However, in the end a real citizen initiative, if sufficiently powerful and widespread, will win through.

So your answers start there, Sylvia:

VOTE Democratic on November 5th, no matter where in the spectrum your candidate stands. Only a substantial majority will give Democratic congressional leaders the support they need to act with courage and integrity in reflecting the will of the people.

Then, as soon as the election results are in, begin contacting your newly-elected Democratic Senators and Representatives. Give them the same message, over and over: "I didn't vote for you because you supported Mr. Bush's irresponsible and immoral war, I voted for you to give the Democratic Party the strength to oppose the war, now get in there and do it!"

I guarantee you, Sylvia, if we can elect enough Democratic Senators and Representatives, and if they hear that message often enough, they will build a roadblock tough enough to stand in the way of the gigantic, oil-powered machine rolling toward death and destruction. And thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!

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