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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Strategy for Anti-War Dems

Tom Hayden’s latest article in The Nation, “How the Peace Movement Can Win in ’08,” is an extremely important read – not only for those Democrats who want to accelerate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, but also for any Democratic political strategists who think the only coherent political strategies are those that are designed to win elections.. Hayden, one of the most lucid strategic thinkers in the peace movement, rolls out an action plan for political and protest activists, linked to key upcoming events in the political calendar, both short and long-term. It is, in effect, the plan for a parallel campaign to the 2008 elections, one aimed at mobilizing the already existing peace constituency and influencing public opinion.
Hayden sees the peace movement having “the best-funded antiwar message in history” and “an opportunity to solidify public opinion behind a more rapid withdrawal–regardless of what the national security advisers think.” He urges Dems favoring a faster withdrawal to make stronger and more effective use of the 527 committees and fully deploy financial resources in broadening the anti-war movement.
In fact, Hayden sees electoral activism as even more important than traditional protest methods. On the one hand he says:

The peace movement can succeed only by applying people pressure against the pillars of the war policy–public opinion, military recruitment and an ample war budget–through marching, confronting military recruiters and civil disobedience.

But, at the same time,

The tactics that are most likely to accelerate the process are greater efforts at persuading the ambivalent voters. [we need]..skilled organizers and volunteers across the electoral battlegrounds of 2008…to identify, register and turn out voters through door-to-door work combined with radio and television spots. A massively funded voter-identification and -registration drive and a get-out-the vote campaign have enormous potential to tip not only the presidential election but also the scales of public opinion. Rather than merely pounding away at a simplistic message–Republicans dangerous, Democrats better–such an effort would require, as a foundation, resources to educate voters and involve them in house meetings. The house-meeting approach allows for voter education and participation on a scale that cannot be achieved by hit pieces or TV spots. It is also critical for cultivating grassroots leadership capacity for election day turnout and beyond.

Hayden touches on the pros and cons of Iraq withdrawal plans of the Dem presidential nominees and gives Edwards the edge among front-runners, while crediting Obama with strengthening his withdrawal proposal.. Hayden says Clinton’s “centrist” proposals are too vague, but he believes “bird-dogging” all Dem candidates on the trail can help move the Democrats toward faster withdrawal from Iraq.
Progressive Democrats like myself who are convinced that we should withdraw from Iraq as promptly as feasible but who also believe the most important priority for the future of America is a democratic victory in 2008 and the creation of an enduring Democratic majority will find Hayden’s article provocative reading. In fact, it forces both peace activists and Democratic campaigners alike to think more deeply about the potential conflicts and trade-offs between anti-war activism and pro-Democratic advocacy and to explicitly consider how the two forces can work as much as possible in parallel rather then across purposes. There are no easy answers to this strategic challenge, but Hayden’s article is an excellent place to start.

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