Is there a real peace candidate in the race?

The Black Agenda Report carried a good article evaluating the political records of all the announced Democratic candidates on issues of war and peace.

Peace activists Medea Benjamin and Nicholas J.S. Davies wrote that Senator Bernie Sanders’ record is by far the best.  He voted against military spending bills 16 out of 19 times since 2013.

He opposes a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Syria and opposes military intervention in Venezuela.  He’s a leader is trying to get Congress to invoke the War Powers Act to stop U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian war against Yemen.

The biggest blot on his record is his support for the expensive and useless F-35 fighter project, in order to create jobs in Vermont.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a National Guard officer who served in Iraq, is an outspoken opponent of regime change wars and one of the few to oppose the new arms race with Russia.  But she voted in favor of military spending bills 19 out of 29 times, and has been a consistent supporter of expensive weapons systems.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand deserve consideration.  Warren sponsored a resolution to renounce U.S. use of nuclear weapons except as retaliation for a nuclear attack.  Gillibrand has the second-best record of opposing proposed military budgets.

The spiritual writer Marianne Williamson is the only declared candidate who wants to dismantle the military-industrial complex and transition to a peace economy.  Politically, that is a fringe position.  It is realistic only in terms of what is actually needed.

Of course it is impossible to know what candidates will do when they take office.  George W. Bush promised a more “humble” policy than Al Gore.  Barack Obama ran on the basis of his vote against military intervention in Iraq.  Donald Trump promised to seek peace with Russia and wind down U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

Bush and Obama started new wars.  Trump hasn’t started a new war as yet, but he is keeping the old ones going and he seems to be gearing up for some kind of action against Venezuela and Iran, as well as ramping up the cold war with Russia.

I don’t, by the way, rule out the possibility of a Republican peace candidate sometime beyond 2020.  There are libertarians such as Ron Paul and cultural conservatives such as Pat Buchanan who are more anti-militarist than, say, Joe Biden.

And there is also the question of how much a peace President, even one supported by public opinion, could overcome the entrenched power of the military establishment and the political clout of war industry.


War, Peace and Presidential Candidates by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies for Counterpunch, Truthout and Black Agenda Report.  A comprehensive guide.  If you’re a Democrat who cares about peace, I recommend you bookmark this page.

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4 Responses to “Is there a real peace candidate in the race?”

  1. Fred Says:

    Is there EVER a real peace candidate in the race?


  2. Alex Page Says:

    Any thoughts on Gravel? He’s hoping to get into the debates and push the Overton window left, particularly on imperialism, then drop out.


  3. philebersole Says:

    Mike Gravel is a real peace candidate. A Democrat, he was elected U.S. Senator from Alaska in 1968 and served two terms.

    During that time he was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. He managed to read the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record, making it possible for Beacon Press to publish the complete text.

    He opposed renewal of the military draft in 1971.

    He ran for President in 2008 in the Democratic primary. He pointed out that he’d opposed the invasion of Iraq from the beginning. He called for immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and payment of reparations to Iraq.

    He also favored drastic cuts in the Pentagon budget, reported variously at 15 percent to 50 percent.

    He never reached 2 percent in public opinion polls, was only allocated a few minutes in the early presidential debates and was excluded from the later debates.

    He is an example of what happens to a public figure who gets too far in front of public opinion.

    Other peace candidates—Dennis Kucinich among the Democrats and Ron Paul among the Republicans— have been treated the same way.

    I donated to Gravel’s campaign so as to help make him eligible to participate in the debates in 2020.

    The Overton window—the limits of what public opinion and the press consider to be the limits of acceptable opinion—has shifted a good bit in the past 12 years.

    In my opinion, this is due not just to the manifest failures of U.S. military and foreign policy, and to the boldness of certain political campaigns, but to grass-roots peace advocates working out of the limelight to change public opinion.

    Public opinion is what decides how far candidates can go in advocating peace and opposing war.


  4. philebersole Says:

    Just to be clear, I respect Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren and other critics of the bipartisan U.S. war policy. It is just that it is important to be clear on exactly what they doing and saying, and what they are not doing and saying.

    Liked by 1 person

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