Progressives Cover Themselves With Shame in NH Primary

John Walsh, January 20, 2012

For the Left, the big news of the New Hampsire primary has been greeted with an embarrassed silence. For there the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, for example “Progressive” Democrats of America, failed completely to put forward a candidate for peace. This failure was not unexpected since the candidate of the progressives was and is Barack Obama who is out-Bushing Bush in the war and empire department. Nor did the wing of the progressive peace movement not formally associated with the Democratic Party raise its voice in any discernible way in New Hampshire. Here is a primary which is carefully watched in a state small enough so that a grassroots effort cam have a genuine effect and reverse the tide of war as happened in 1968 and 1952. Where were UFPJ, Veterans for Peace, Peace Action, Code Pink? Missing in action. What an abject failure, a profound indictment of what is called the “Peace and Justice” movement.

Lenin once remarked that each generation comes to socialism in its own way. It might also be said that each generation comes to oppose war and Empire in its own way. For the present generation of 20 and 30 somethings, libertarian philosophy is the vehicle to oppose war, as was evident in the New Hampshire primary. In part they chose Libertarianism, but in part Libertarianism chose them since the progressives have largely abandoned anti-interventionism, preferring instead Obama’s “humanitarian” imperialism. Many in fact are pro-war when you scratch the surface.

How different this was from 1968 when the young went “clean for Gene,” tromping around for Senator Eugene McCarthy in the snows of New Hampshire. Disgusted with inhumanity of the imperial war on Vietnam and threatened with the draft, they took up the cause of McCarthy, the only one willing to challenge Johnson. (Not widely known is that George McGovern, somewhat to the left of McCarthy, refused, as did Bobby Kennedy, another saint for the Progressives, brother of and adviser to the president who ratcheted up that war in the early 60s.) With a close second in New Hampshire, the McCarthy and his volunteers brought Johnson low and ended his war presidency. It was a reprise of the 1952 NH primary in which Estes Kefauver with his trademark coonskin cap bested Harry Truman, now lionized by the Democrats but widely reviled at the time for the war in Korea which claimed at least a million Asian and about 50,000 American souls. By 2012 the hold of the Democratic Party on the so-called Peace and Justice movement is so complete that no one dared challenge Obama.

Whose vote were the young libertarians able to deliver to their candidate, Ron Paul? That is another largely unreported story. The votes for Ron Paul came strongly not only from the under 40 set but among those earning under $50,000. In contrast Romney, a carbon copy of Obama on all major questions took the over $100,000 crowd and the older voters. “Proletariat Votes Libertarian” or “Proletariat Votes for Paul” are headlines which the progressives might find enlightening. At the least the Progressives might have joined Ron Paul’s antiwar, civil Libertarian effort, but they did not because, you see, Ron Paul unlike Obama is not a “progressive,” and the “struggle for peace and justice cannot be separated.” (I have noticed, however, that progressives these days from Occupy Wall Street to the Recall Walker effort find it quite easy to leave out questions of peace in the “struggle for justice.” MLK Jr. would be ashamed of them for that; but it is most convenient for Obama’s re-election campaign.)

As one who was on the ground in New Hampshire in the days leading up to the primary, I was intrigued by the characteristics of the volunteers themselves. It was not an elite crew; not a single Ivy Leaguer amongst them did I find – usually from state universities or colleges. Holding signs at one poll I visited was a 40 year old painter who had three or four employees, a young woman who ran a graphic designing business and another young woman, a divorced 37 year old lawyer with a 10 year old child. I would characterize this group as either working class or small businessmen and women. This is precisely the group that Progressives should be trying to organize and represent. In that regard the Progressive movement has been a dismal failure over the last three decades; and in fact has generally proved quite hostile to small businesspeople and their culture.

On a personal note going to NH this time was a dream deferred. In 1968 when others went “Clean for Gene,” I had a schedule that demanded I work every day, every other night and every other weekend. Never did I imagine that all these decades later the antiwar action would be on the Republican side. It appears that the “progressive” Left, not a genuine left or radical formation anyway, has lost a generation of activists with its subservience to Obama and its lack of spine. One begins to wonder about the entire Progressive movement. Perhaps when a genuine Left wing movement reemerges, it should give up on the very name “progressive”– or again to borrow a phrase, “take off the soiled shirt.”

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com




47 Responses to “Progressives Cover Themselves With Shame in NH Primary”

  1. Excellent commentary. I could not agree more.

  2. This is completely accurate. The progressives are missing in action on the war. Now that the "D" is in office, they have circled the wagons, put their fingers in their ears, and are screaming "la-la-la-la-la" lest they be distracted by the message of Ron Paul, which holds a mirror up to them — one they dare not look into. They have performed their evil human calculus and have determined that snuffing out the lives of thousands abroad are "worth" the promise of social programs that don't work. Congratulations, progressives. You've sold your souls — very cheaply.

  3. Well Mr. Walsh, you can't have it both ways. Meaning, you can't have big government at home and small government abroad (unless your nation is too small or poor to project power overseas). The flip side is also true. You badly need an economics 101 class.

    But I would agree at how hypocritical these alleged antiwar groups are. They were only anti-Republican not antiwar. The worst part of this is that they revealed how accurate the neocon accusations against them were (I cringe when I have to admit that they were right about anything).

    We can either have liberty or not. We can't sort of kind of have it. It's like saying a woman is a little pregnant. You're going to have to pick.

    Having said all that it is good that you have remained consistently antiwar. Bravo to you on that. A lot of Americans have become such blood-thirsty savages over the decades that it makes me ill.

  4. That's a good question. I suppose its because if government is big enough to occupy most of the globe then its certainly not going to be small at home. I heard John Stossel on a progressive radio show onetime and the hosts were going on about how McDonald's fattening food should be made illegal. Then they got on gay marriage, which they wanted government to make legal. Stossel agreed about gay marriage but not about making McDonaldf's food illegal then added, "But remember, the government that is big enough to tell you what you can eat is big enough to tell you with whom you can sleep!"

  5. [...] a piece wondering what happened to New Hampshire’s antiwar spirit, Antiwar.com notes: Here is a primary which is carefully watched in a state small enough so that a grassroots [...]

  6. There are plenty of welfare states in the world that aren't trying to be wage war on the whole world. In fact they are far truer welfare states than the U.S. is, with lots of social protections. The U.S. is just some particularly bad example of government at it's worst and gone horribly horribly wrong.

    But yea if the U.S. is the total of your idea of government then of course you become an anarchist. I mean really anything other than that megalith of evil. But some countries do seem to do the government thing much better.

  7. "There are plenty of welfare states in the world that aren't trying to be wage war on the whole world."

    Gee, no duh. I said you cannot have it both ways UNLESS the country is either too poor or too small to project itself all over the globe. Even still, all these welfare states are bankrupt even without practicing the imperialism the US does. After the US gives out of steam due to its giant welfare and warfare largess some other moron will try to play world empire like Britain before it, or Spain before them.

  8. If you give the government the power to do things you like, you also give it the power to do things you don't like.

  9. [...] Article by John Walsh. [...]

  10. Britain and Spain (and for that matter the US) playing world empire has nothing to do with the presence or absence of the welfare state. Sure, one can generalize about an interventionist impulse, or argue that a government might to the former to pay for the latter, but a different reading of history would instead argue that state capitalism has been the driving force behind imperialism.

    In the US, some progressives have indeed given up talking about war and imperialism out of uncritical support for Obama. That's too bad, but clearly these were not principled antiwar progressives. It is also the case that Ron Paul libertarianism has sucked up the support of those whose instincts are otherwise progressive. Often if you sit down with one of these guys, and explain to them exactly where Paul stands on a multititude of issues, they look kind of shocked and disillusioned (OK, that's just my repeated personal experience). In short, there are so many ways in which transferring power to the states (away from the federal govt.) could undermine civil liberties for many Americans. Winding back the federal government would also arguably result in (even greater) privatization of war (which would arguably look a lot worse than the present situation). So to be antiwar is just that – it is to be antiwar, whether you support public welfare spending or not.

    Below is a shameless plug for Left Libertarianism – not intended to rile right-wingers here, but rather for those who are pro-choice, pro-welfare, pro-civil rights, but who have become so disillusioned with the warfare/surveillance state they are considering US style right-wing libertarianism as the answer. (The graphics are a bit amateurish, but they make their point). The antiwar left may be invisible in the US right now, but that's just further indication of how broke your political system is.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIpJQEcXP7A&fe

  11. Not even sold,…more like discarded.

  12. Precisely! Time and again I've pointed that out to folks who rant and rave about "government needs to DO something"! yada yada yada…. What they fail to realize is that when you give the government the power to beat your enemies with a stick you've given it the power to beat you when your enemies are in power. Then is when I get the deer in the headlight look and the whiny excuses. I so hate having to educate morons.

  13. This reminds me of the knuckleheads who constantly hoot and howl for some slob to pamper their lazy ass with bennies on someone elses dime but couldn't give a damn that people are being sent to their deaths. They want the same beast that intrudes into every aspect of our lives to give the green light that's its "OK" to sleep with whomever (because I guess that's all that really matters) and then turn a blind eye on it's other evils. The same criminals they pander to are responsible for dolling out the stolen loot or raining death on the innocent. Somehow the math just doesn't add up in their narcissistic noggins.

  14. The issue for progressives is not so much the size of government as it is the government's intent. While a libertarian opposes war simply out of fear of government power, a progressive opposes war out of concern for the lives and livelihoods of those involved. The moral principles I hold true with regards to domestic affairs, namely justice, equality, and respect for the well-being of my common man, are no less true internationally. As a progressive, I oppose war not because I believe in small government, but because I believe war is morally wrong, a violation of my core principles. The Bush and Obama administrations have used military force without regard for civilian lives They have used torture, unlawful detention, and even assassination against massive numbers of individuals, including US citizens. And they have done this to appease the military-industrial complex, further the economic standing of the few, and expand the United States ability to violate the sovereignty of other nations. To me this is not an issue of big vs. small government, it is an issue of right vs. wrong.

    Nor are the libertarian and progressive views on foreign policy truly identical. Because the libertarian worldview sees every government action as government tyranny, they are naturally inclined towards eliminating all national actions on the international stage. Such an isolationist view has the same harmful effect in international affairs as it does domestically, granting the powerful the ‘liberty’ to prey on the weak. The progressive view is quite different. Just as the powerful influence of government, when truly in the hands of the people, can be used to protect the welfare of all within the nation, American influence should be used to promote peace, freedom, and a respect for national sovereignty. This can be done through humanitarian aid, education, and development programs, which seek to improve the state of the world as a whole. There is nothing hypocritical about a foreign policy based on compassion. However, because it is convenient for the establishment to paint every debate in the black and white of small vs. large government, we are denied the choice of what the underlying principles of our governance ought to be.

    Obama and the party which backs him have abandoned progressivism. He believes that his party status gives him an inherent right to the progressive vote, and so he no longer feels he needs to represent them. The great tragedy is that so many of the great voices for peace and justice have bought into this deception, and now stay silent for fear of damaging the reputation of their perceived inevitable candidate. Our government will not represent us if we do not assert ourselves. The only remedy for this is for progressives to jettison the Democratic party and start voting on principle, not party allegiance.

  15. My personal view is that the America should not worry so much about what it can do with its influence on the world stage (but then I'm not American, we furreigners tend to think that.) I'd say you should concentrate more on that 'power in the hands of the people' thing. But you're totally right that the big government vs. small government paradigm is a distraction from the moral issues at hand. I would add that it's a distraction that big business actively encourages, since they stand to gain the most from deregulation – though Big Media has (tragically) conned the populist right into thinking otherwise (and this includes libertarians).

    People wonder why Ron Paul is the only pre$idential candiate with antiwar views, while antiwar progressives are relegated to the academy or blogosphere? (Hint: follow the m—-) The powers that be, ie. corporations who buy your presidents in the first place, know exactly where to channel the popular antiwar sentiment. It's that guy who's still fighting the civil war (on the confederate side) – has the dual benefits of: a) is not going to win; and b) is grist to the deregulation mill.

  16. Does the author of this post realize that:
    1. No presidential incumbent has ran for and been defeated for the nomination of his party since 1856.
    2. Gene McCarthy never won anything except his Senate seat.
    3. Presidential campaigns are a notoriously poor way to start social movements. They rise and fall on the fortunes of their chosen candidates. How many Paulites will become disillusioned and just quit when Ron Paul once again fails to win the nomination of a party that despises him. Will John Walsh be equally hard on Paul when he decides not to go for the LP nomination and goes to Texas to await his death.

  17. Keen insight. Most Ron Paul supporters are too busy reveling in their persecution complex to take notice to the fact that the media follows the embarrassing Ron Paul to the exclusion of more articulate anti-war spokespeople.

    TL;DL – Ron Paul fans, your guy is a SHILL.

  18. 1. That is bogus. Truman did not run because he was defeated in NH. Johnson dropped out because Eugene McCarthy roughed him up so badly in NH (not winning but running surprisingly well) that he was no longer a credible candidate. So while your statistic is true, I guess, it is only because Truman and Johnson did NOT run in your terms. A somewhat dishonest argument, AWY.
    2. Look at number one.
    3. You are right but the libertarians are not beginning with the election of Paul; it is the first serious national electoral effort with a very serious ground organization in place. Where do you think all the dedicated volunteers come from in a campaign that is decently funded but not awash in Wall St. cash like Obama's was and is. Again you just do not know what you are talking about.
    And Ron Paul has already run as a Libertarian and it did not work. It helped I do not know whether the grassroots organization is in place for a third party run. But I know the progressive slander machine is ready to label him as unprincipled if he decides to not to do this. They will say (are saying) it is all because of Rand. A cause has been assigned before the effect has been observed.

  19. Yeah, I've already seen tons of comments to that effect. That he's "unprincipled" for not running 3rd party and the reason he's not doing it is because he's a politician protecting his son…

    How about 3rd parties are treated like shit in the US and he's kicking ass in the primaries anyway?

  20. Just admit that you are an anarchist. The US Constitution was written in part to "promote the general welfare". Just because government can be abusive doesn't mean it always will. That's why we are a Republic, instead of a dictatorship.

  21. Sweden and Germany are bankrupt? Compared to whom? The US? Do you have an example of a non-"welfare state" that has a high standard of living and isn't in just as much financial trouble due to the economic collapse as any "welfare state"?

  22. On what planet is coming in 4th behind Rick Santorum "kicking ass"?

    Ron Paul remains in the party of George W. Bush because he knows that he can't win as an independent and likes all of the benefits that he enjoys (like free healthcare) as a member of Congress. It is totally legitimate to point that out, no matter how loudly his fans whine about it.

  23. Progressives started and sustain the Occupy Movement. We voted for Obama because he promised to end the wars and close Gitmo. Even as crappy as he is, he's still better than any of the yahoos you conservatives are putting out there.

    What were you guys doing while George W. Bush was destroying the country? Probably sticking yellow ribbon magnets on your car and voting for Republicans. Fact is, the country collapsed on your watch and you are expecting Progressives to come bail you out and fix the country. Well, it ain't going to happen in a day. It'll probably never happen if we can't do anything without the conservative movement that wrecked everything always second-guessing us and stabbing us in the back whenever we are dumb enough to form common cause with you.

  24. Progressives are on the street in protest, right this second. Where were you libertarians when George W. Bush was destroying the country? Reading lewrockwell.com? Giving money to the Mises Institute so they can host some cocktail parties?

    Also, wouldn't it be "welfare" if we Progressives bailed you conservatives out, after your man Bush wrecked everything? Why are you waiting for us to do something and complaining, instead of hitting the streets, yourselves? The billionaires have dropped the Tea Party like a hot rock, once they took over the House, so why don't you libertarians take that over and make yourselves useful?

    All I've ever seen libertarians do is whine. Less talk, more action is the advice this Progressive has for your movement.

  25. No sorry Truman and LBJ dropped out. Primaries were less important then, had either man continued on they likely would have beem nominated. I agree with many of Walsh’s points, but a peace candidate would be a token gesture at this point. I’m tired of token gestures.
    _

  26. Also, a quick search of Google News showed that Code Pink *DID* protest at Democratic Party events being held in New Hampshire.
    http://codepink.org/blog/2011/11/ows-hats-off-to-

    "At a high school in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Occupy movement brilliantly “mic check’d” Obama highlighting the issue of the over 4000 peaceful protesters who have been arrested across the country and even handing him a note."

    I'll be holding my breath waiting for a retraction.

    Typical libertarians – Just make stuff up and pass it off as fact. Too bad that, on the internet, people can fact check you. So, what have you guys done to resist the empire? Do you think flaking for the party of George W. Bush is going to fix our defective foreign policy?

    Retraction, please. Or are you too cowardly to admit that you've just been caught being partisan hacks and are undermining the peace movement in support of the GOP? Will you even let this message be posted?

  27. Bob, the Constitution is an illusion that's been foisted on us for well over two hundred years. Most of the "working stiffs" never had a say in it one way or the other. Judging from the stabs in the back I received over my comments I can see the usual cowards are out and about with their long knives sans any reason for it. And as far as this nation being a "Republic"…. ha ha ha ha ha…. That's been dead and gone far longer than you or I have been alive. Now if being a good slave is what you consider "promoting the general welfare" then I suggest you get back to playing your part.

  28. It's good to see a libertarian that doesn't pretend to be a constitutionalist.

    Sorry, but I don't think it's reasonable to throw away the nation that our forefathers spent 200+ years building to live out some childish Ayn Rand fantasy.

  29. Here in the USA, the antiwar right might be more visible on the internet, but the antiwar left is more visible on the streets.

  30. You don't think it's reasonable to throw it away? Throw WHAT away, precisely? If ever there was any kind of Social Contract (a mystical nonesuch from the get-go) it might have been charitably ascribed to be the U.S. Constitution, with respect to the United States. The thing is, the U.S. Constitution has been evicerated. Government power expands without limit. When the government claims the power to kill anyone, anywhere, at any time for no reason which can be reviewed or questioned, then it presumes to being judge, jury, and executioner, a state of affairs which the U.S. Constitution was presumably intended to prevent. Free clue: it hasn't. Read some history.

  31. Ron Paul does not accept healthcare through the government. Do your research.

  32. The reason that Progressives are not pushing for an antiwar agenda is because in America today to be truly antiwar, you must also be anti-Zionist. And that is just too high of a step for the Progressive crowd – too uncomfortable. Zionist Israel is the problem in the Mid East – not Iran. We can't have peace in the Mid East as long as racist Israel is stealing the Palestinians' land and water; everybody of intelligence knows that, but, boy, does it take guts to say that.

  33. Where were libertarians? Here, encouraging people to protest his wars and power grabs. There, protesting the Afghanistan and Iraq wars before they happened — with progressives, thinking they'd be around as allies the next time.

    Libertarian is not conservative, and has nothing to do with Bush. You know this, so stop that.

    John's point is that MOST progressives — clearly not all, as YOU and many like you are here at Antiwar.com — have made the choice for what they think will be slightly better lives for already rich whites at the literal, one-for-one expense of the mass death of brown people far away. So who is more racist and greedy — libertarians or Obama progs?

  34. "While a libertarian opposes war simply out of fear of government power, a progressive opposes war out of concern for the lives and livelihoods of those involved."

    Lie. Libertarians fear government power because they care about their fellow humans. Obviously. In fact, grassroots progressivism has an identical motivation to libertarianism, but some of us are more anti-authoritarian than others, and have a different understanding of people's motivations (i.e., economics).

    It's sweet you think "the people" can own and run political power. Actually no, it's dangerous and has us right where we are now — looking for a savior in the next most successful backstabber to rise to national prominence. But hey, good luck voting for…. whom exactly?

    The American voter should envy Sisyphus. At least he gets the boulder up the hill each time.

  35. You mean you don't see any reason to throw out the fantasy of such a system. Because that is what we have always had. And at least for you, it seems to have worked in its main goal — making the powerless feel they have a stake/say. They don't. Just look at what actually happens. Are you going to make them stick to the Constitution? No.

    "Ayn Rand" is the progressives' Godwin's Law. Yawn.

  36. It's certainly true that there is a combination of welfare state services that work better than here — no argument, really, just look around. And frankly, I'd take a peaceful Scandi welfare state over the ineffectual, disastrous US one in a second. They may come with their own problems but nothing comparing to what we get here.

    War and attacks on civil liberty mean we have SO MUCH MORE to deal with in the US. Be best to tear it all down. Reform is impossible.

  37. Eh, Chomsky is wrong on this. That said, there is a LARGE proportion of American libertarians who do not fancy themselves what we call "vulgar" libertarians — the kind that says food stamps are an unfair evil while corporate welfare is "just how the game is played." They have an automatic prejudice for corporations and business in the same way many on the left have an automatic prejudice against it. Both positions are equally ridiculous. Many of us are mutualist anarchists, anti-estate syndicalists, Tuckerite voluntaryists, and any combination thereof. The Rand faction and the LP types are the reason I don't even call myself libertarian anymore. They're so distasteful and unattractively right-wing.

    Also, LOL at saying Thomas Jefferson didn't like wage labor. I think we all know that's true.

  38. Neither Walsh nor anyone else here at Antiwar.com had or have anything at all do with Bush. Try again.

  39. I was actually going to say, Code Pink has been involved in mic-checking Obama here and there, and would be surprised if they weren't in NH. John, maybe a correction is in order?

  40. The code pink link is indeed worth exploring. In the sea of denunciations attacking various Republican candidates, there is one sentence mentioning Obama and the mic check – but let us say that one mic check does not a movement make. Of course Bob knows that Medea Benjamin and other CodePink national luminaries are in "Progressive" Democrats of America and therefore ultimate loyal to the Dem Party. (A couple years ago, when Cindy Sheehan demonstrated at Obama's summer retreat in Martha's Vineyard, Medea refused to back it – as did so many pwogwessives who had relished visits to Cindy's encampment in Crawford TX. The local Code Pinkers, however, did support the Cindy's encampment at Obomba's place. We find this everywhere; rank and file do things despite the corrupt national pwog leadership.)
    But I think the main point here and one that is beyond dispute is that the pwogs failed miserably to run an antiwar candidate to Obama. But that is to be expected since he was and is their candidate.
    Perhaps the pwogs should adopt the slogan with Obomba, "Stop the Racist Bombings in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia."

  41. Example: http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/08/22/dear-antiw

  42. I rather suspect tearing down the government in the US, (if it were possible), instead of going for the long war of reform, would just empower the worst of the worst among the big corporations. The whole argument of Left Libertarianism (as a general family of -isms) is that the sources of tyranny come not just from government but from private interests also. In many ways, this entails a strategy of playing one source of tyranny off against another. To tear any one of them down would simply ensure the hegemony of the others.

    Interesting how this thread has become a debate about economics and authoritarianism.

    There is little doubt that Ron Paul is a divisive figure among the antiwar crowd. I fear his ascendency might just bring about a case of 'divide and conquer' to the advantage of the 'war party'. In my more optimistic moods, I hope the antiwar, anti-authoritarian part of the message transcends the messenger and lives on to a better day. All us readers here are antiwar after all. (This isn't antiwelfare.com, is it?)

  43. Yeah, that Jefferson bit lost me too.

    I'm glad those various shades of -ism are as large a proportion as you say. I'd rather deal with you guys any day.

  44. Both?

  45. Ron Paul has attracted a dedicated following, #1 he is consistently pro-life -the unborn, foreigners, the aged.

    #2: He has inspired thousand of people to get involved.

    #3. He has showed us that we can love our country, and the good things about it. We don't have to side with chauvinistic nationalists nor with nihilists who believe in nothing
    Maybe there is a way besides raw power to settle disputes.

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