We Always Owned The Iraq War

Politically speaking, the war in Iraq has always been a Republican war. Back in the 1990's, the vast majority of people who sent a now famous letter to Bill Clinton urging him to invade Iraq were Republicans. In Bush's 2000 campaign platform, there was a promise to use WMDs as a pretext to for an invasion of Iraq. Had Al Gore taken office, there would have been no invasion of Iraq. About 60% of the Democratic House caucus voted against the AUMF. Before the war began, Republicans used the drumbeat to seize control of Congress in 2002. When the war started, with the American-led expulsion of weapons inspectors, it began in a way that almost no Democrat, even the vast majority of those who voted for the AUMF, probably would have done. In 2004, Bush won re-election almost entirely because 85% of those who supported the Iraq war voted for him. In 2006, Republicans lost control of Congress because almost none of them were willing to back down from their support of the war. The only reason the war isn't over now is because Bush is still in the White House instead of Al Gore or John Kerry, and because almost no Republicans in Congress are willing to withdraw their support for the war (even though their base is now doing so). Throughout this entire process, Republicans repeatedly used the war as a means of quelling dissent and stifling public debate. This has even continued with the bogus "to defund the war means to defund the troops." Politically speaking, Republicans own this war, and none of that isn't going to change because, after a three month fight that included a Democratic Congress sending a bill to end the war to Bush's desk, because Democrats have temporarily capitulated and allowed the war to continue for another three or four months. People may think Democrats are weak-kneed for not doing more to bring the war to an end, and they may not think that Democrats own the opposition to this war, but about 90% of the country still considers this a Republican war.

But that's politics, and politics is not everything. There are other ways to own this war. In fact, there are many other ways in which, as American citizens, we have all owned this war for some time. We grew up in, and actively participate in, a culture that led to this war. We operate in a political system that resulted in this war, and in many cases our inaction in electoral and media politics in the 1990's did not help prevent it. We consume news programs that helped lead to this war. We pay taxes that fund this war. Some of us serve in the military that carried out this war, and we all live in areas from which the personnel for the military are recruited. Our passports, social security benefits, and interstate highways all come from the government that has carried out this war. This war represents us all around the world, and impacts all of our lives here at home. When the politics of our country are set aside, there is really no way of denying that this is an American war, not just a Republican war. As much as I think I personally like to often think otherwise, American soldiers overseas are not flying a flag with an elephant on it. They are flying the stars and stripes, and they represent me.

I am writing this piece to remind myself that a current claim flying around the blogosphere--"Democrats now own the war, too"--is wrong for two different, and seemingly contradictory, reasons. First, in the wide-angle view of American politics, we still don't own this war politically. We might own it if we keep folding and if our nominee decides keeping 75,000 troops in Iraq is a good idea, but right now we don't own it, at least in a political sense, just yet. Second, the claim is wrong because in other, less political ways, we always owned this war, not just now. Back in 2002 and 2003, my full-time entry into politics was largely fueled by this realization. Even though I marched in opposition to the war, voted for candidates who opposed the war, and joined groups like "Not In Our Name," that fact was that to a very real degree, like all Americans, I still owned the war and was partially responsible for it. The idea that Americans who happened to be Democrats only now own the war is wrong simply because we always owned it. No matter what we do to try and stop it, as long as the war continues, we are all still at least partially responsible.

Of course, I am writing this piece not just to remind myself of this fact, or to remind everyone reading this post of this fact. Also, I want to remind those Democrats in Congress who have so far failed to end, or even deescalate, the war of this fact. If we aren't bringing the war to an end, then we are still responsible for it. That is a concern that should supercede any polling data, and any concerns about Republican talking points over Memorial Day weekend. It is a concern that more of our members need to keep in mind when crafting strange voting rules to try and skirt responsibility for the war, and something we need to remember going into the next fight over Iraq war funding this September. Even then, after nearly a decade of this being a Republican war, there will be very little we can do to shift political ownership of the war onto our backs. As such, that should not be our primary concern. Politics aside, the only way we can stop owning this war, and stop being responsible for it, is to end it. Over the next three days, as we are supposed to be remembering Americans who have died in service of their country, including the nearly 4,500 Americans who have died in Iraq (include the contractors and the journalists, too), remember that we are all partially responsible for those deaths, and we always have been. If that is something we want to change, then we are going to have to act differently this September than we acted this spring. Let's start owning opposition to this war as well.

The End Of Civility?

    It began with the first George Bush (Willie Horton) and has continued to this day. Each and every year it keeps getting ratcheted up higher and higher. The American public is being bombarded by it on a nightly basis through the 24 hour news cycle. What is it you ask?

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Diversity in the blogosphere, take 2

I posted this as a comment to Chris' post 10 days ago, "A Quick Note on Diversity in the Blogosphere,"

http://mydd.com/story/2007/5/6/155916/36 80

but because that post generated so much comment, I thought I'd do a diary, too.

I have an interesting perspective on this. I spend about half my time blogging and doing netroots outreach on a professional basis. I worked last year for the Larry Grant for Congress campaign and am currently on part time with Larry LaRocco for Senate. The rest of my working hours, I spend researching and writing for the Study Circles Resource Center, an organization that helps all kinds of people - including communities of color - work for positive change around issues including racism, the achievement gap, growth and sprawl, etc. Typically, I  write stories for their website.


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Culture, Ideology, The Two Coalitions, and the 2008 Democratic Nomination

In the weeks after the 2004 election, I spent a great deal of time arguing that the main demographic shift in Democratic and Republican coalitions over the last forty years was a drift toward more ideological coalitions. This shift had greatly favored Republicans, since they gained more self-identified conservatives than they lost self-identified liberals. My conclusion at the time was that we needed a long-term program to increase the percentages of Americans and American voters who self-identified as liberals in order to lay the strongest possible foundation for a future Democratic majority. The more liberals and progressives in America, the better Democrats would do.

However, over the past two years, I have slowly moved away from that position. While I certainly think that it is important to grow liberalism and progressivism, what I failed to take into account back in late 2004 was why people self-identified as liberal, moderate or conservative, and what they might mean when they did so. Ideological self-identification means very different things to different people, and much of the time it doesn't mean anything ideological at all. In fact, over the past two years, I have numerous studies showing that most people, like 90%, don't even really have a clear idea of what being conservative, liberal or "moderate" even means. And I don't mean that in the sense that that most people have different definitions of ideologies than me. I mean it in the sense that they don't have thoroughgoing, well-defined ideologies at all. For example, how can about 50% of self-identified conservatives believe that the federal government should raise taxes in order to provide free health insurance to all American citizens? The answer, I think, is that people mean different things when they call themselves "conservative."

More in the extended entry, including the bit where I finally have a point.

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Progressive Hip Hop vol. 1: "Wishing"

This is the first in a series of diaries on progressive hip hop. In light of recent discussions, I thought it would be worthwhile to examine some progressive hip hop (not the kind Don Imus learned from) to see just how political it is, in what ways and on what levels political information and opinion are transmitted, and regarding which issues.

"Wishing," by Edo G and Masta Ace, is a remarkably thorough and powerful manifesto on black politics, which displays a great deal of political sophistication to express distrust for institutions of government, lament the poor material conditions of so many black Americans, criticize the maladaptive gang culture which has pervaded hip hop, and make critiques on the status quo, which, if translated into political theory or social science, could fill volumes. The first lines are simple and direct:

I wish the president would stop lyin'
Black babies would stop cryin'
And young brothers would stop dyin'
I wish the police would stop killin'
Politicians would stop stealin' and actin like they not dealin'

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