What a contrast between the French demonstrations and the vast and exciting marches here against proposed immigration laws, as contrasted to the limp turnouts against the US war on Iraq!
Across a few explosive weeks the first two series of protests have surged in numbers and political impact. In France there were 3 million on the streets one day. Just in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, there were more than half a million. In Paris Dominique de Villepin, the author of the hated law loosening curbs on employers’ right to fire new hires, is fighting for his political life. In Congress US senators revised the language of their bill in step with the magnitude and passion of the rallies.
Meanwhile, though two out of three here in the United States disapprove of the war in Iraq, there’s no energetic leadership from above, no irresistible shove from below.
Why? There’s no draft. There’s no reason to fear that your number will come up. No draft, hence no burgeoning antiwar movement, moving from strength to strength, terrorizing the politicians. What’s the degree of separation between most of us and the 133,000 US military in Iraq? The closest I get to people who have served in Iraq is to the parents in Military Families Speak Out when I share platforms with them.
So how do we narrow the degrees of separation? By vets counseling students against enlisting, by inviting Military Families Against the War to speak locally. Remember, the antiwar movement reached its peak last year, because Cindy Sheehan connected millions to the war; also–this is crucial–her vigil outside Crawford allowed for buildup. She didn’t fold her tent in a day.
The war’s coming home all right, in the form of people dreadfully wounded in body and spirit. Thousands of tragedies will unwind, often violently, for years to come. But for now, for the most part it’s pictures on TV, not tears and terror on the hearth rug. So the Democrats in Congress aren’t too worried about pressure from their antiwar constituents. The awful six-termer Jane Harman faces a primary challenge from Marcy Winograd in Southern California, after a couple of unions defied tradition and endorsed Winograd. Meanwhile, at the other end of the country in Connecticut, Senator Joe Lieberman faced a decidedly cool audience at a big Democratic dinner at the end of March and got bailed out by brother senator Barack Obama from Illinois, who told the crowd to haul out their checkbooks and make sure Lieberman gets returned for another term.
What kind of a signal is this? Here is Obama, endlessly hailed as the brightest rising star in the Democratic firmament, delivering (at a closely watched political dinner, with Lieberman’s primary opponent, Ned Lamont, sitting in the crowd) a ringing endorsement of his “mentor,” Lieberman, Bush’s closest Democratic ally on the Iraq War, one of the architects of welfare “reform” and overall pretty much a symbol of everything that’s been wrong with the Democratic Party for the past twenty years. What a slimy fellow Obama is, as befits a man symbolizing everything that will continue to be wrong with the Democratic Party for the next twenty years. Every time I look up he’s doing something disgusting, like distancing himself from his fellow senator Dick Durbin for denouncing the torture center at Guantánamo or cheerleading the nuke-Iran crowd.