Obama Needs to the Peace Vote: Can he get it? Does he deserve it? Can he win without it?

There is a phrase that has been applied to dating, sports and politics –” “dance with the one who brung you.” Darrell K. Royal, a College Football Hall of Fame member and the winningest coach in University of Texas Longhorn history used the expression to make the point that you go with the players and plays that brought you to the championship. This is a lesson that Senator Obama needs to apply his election campaign.

Obama was able to defeat Senator Clinton in large part due to his speech against the Iraq war before he was in the U.S. senate. This speech excited the anti-war vote because he said much of what anti-war leaders were saying in opposition to the war. Throughout his campaign he emphasized that he would “end the war” in his stump speeches, a phrase that was an applause line throughout the country –” not surprisingly since opposition to the war is over 60% among U.S. voters.

But, as the campaign developed and the details of Obama’s plan to “end” the war became clear, peace voters realized Obama was not a peace candidate. His exit plan for Iraq left a large “residual” force of tens of thousands of troops along with more than 100,000 private security troops (aka mercenaries) in Iraq. Then Obama announced he wanted to escalate the war in Afghanistan despite strong arguments that more troops will actually make things worse. Then, his selection of Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate dampened the support of anti-war advocates. Biden supported attacking Iraq before Bush and participated in the misleading of the public and his fellow senators by holding one-sided hearings in support of the war before the committee he chaired.

Now, polls show the post convention election to be either tied or favoring McCain-Palin over Obama-Biden. The most pro-McCain poll, the USA/Gallup poll released on September 8, shows McCain leads Obama by four points among registered voters (50%-46%), when he trailed Obama by seven after the Democratic convention (50%-43%) — an 11-point swing. Among likely voters the poll shows McCain leading by a land slide of 10 points (54%-44%). It is evident the race is going to be more challenging for Obama-Biden than expected.

Obama may have made a mistake in taking the peace vote for granted. Opposition to the war is a super-majority position of American voters but Obama is not getting their support. Polls show that three independent and third party peace candidates could influence the outcome of the election. An August 27th Time/CNN poll shows Ralph Nader polling 8 percent in New Mexico, 7 percent in Colorado, 7 percent in Pennsylvania, and 6 percent in Nevada. Nader’s support has been increasing throughout the summer. Similarly, Bob Barr has been polling between 1.5 percent and 4 percent in swing states. Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, who is rarely asked about by pollsters, is polling at 2 percent in Colorado and 3 percent in Nevada.

The common denominator of all three of these candidates is they are clearly opposed to war and a foreign policy dominated by military intervention. When their polling numbers are added together they total a minimum of 5 percent up to more than 10 percent of the votes in key states. Right now these voters are unlikely to support Obama or McCain due to their pro-military policies. Some anti-war voters will support Obama merely because McCain is so aggressive in his use of the military and his neo-con approach to foreign policy, but others are not satisfied to vote against McCain.

Today, September 10, Ron Paul is holding a press conference with four third party and independent candidates –” all of whom oppose the war –” to reportedly urge support for them rather than for McCain or Obama. The peace vote is being told it has somewhere else to go.

As Bruce Peterson of the Peace and Justice Radio Network said on a discussion list for United for Peace and Justice: “If everyone who called themselves ‘progressive’ or ‘liberal’ voted for a third party candidate, we would actually have a chance at making real change in this country.” More and more anti-war voters are concluding that a vote against the militarism of the two major parties will do more to change U.S. foreign policy than a vote for Obama.

Of course, some peace voters have concluded that they should support Obama. Indeed, this is probably still the majority view but they criticize Obama’s militaristic foreign policy viewpoints and argue that he is better than John McCain. Tom Hayden, the 1960s anti-war activist who went on to become a Democratic state legislator puts forward this view on behalf of Progressive for Obama.

On the Voters for Peace discussion list, there was an exchange about the question of peace voters and their role in the election.

Carl Davidson of Progressives for Obama: “Kevin, I scold the Obama team at least once a day. Sometimes they listen and sometimes they don’t. They have a lot of forces scolding them from every direction.

“But right now, I’m far more interested in ‘scolding,’ ‘nudging’, ‘haranguing’ or inspiring all the left activists down on the ground, where it counts most, to get off their butts and get to work, if they’re not already doing so, defeating McCain. Obama is what he is, and the differences between the two camps, the progressive- center alliance vs. rightwing populism, should be fairly clear to everyone, especially since the GOP’s show in St. Paul. If you still can’t see it, there’s not much more I can say to help you at this point.

“We think globally but act locally. Anyone who thinks they’re at all progressive has no business remaining passive and not mobilizing THEIR OWN PERSONAL BASE, whatever the warts with Obama’s effort.

“It’s not hard. Just register every young antiwar and antiracist new voter you can, at your local high school or community college, keep a list, and get them all to the polls on Election Day.”

Jodda Mitchell responded putting forward the view of some peace activists: “I do a lot of local work to get McKinney elected. I talk to people everywhere I go, and let them know there is an alternative to the two wings of the war party. I let them know that there is a candidate whose voting record should stand as a shining example to all the rest, someone who represents real change, someone with the balls to go after Bushco for war crimes, someone who actually embodies what the people in this country say they want in a candidate. I made copies of McKinney’s voting record and platform, and pass those out along with the buttons and bumper stickers I got from her website. No one can accuse me of not working to elect a good candidate.

“There is no way in hell I would try and get people to vote for Obama, as I actually give a damn about all the innocent men, women, and children he is threatening to murder in the Middle East. I will not be complicit in their deaths.”

Similar arguments are made on behalf of Ralph Nader who opposed the war before it began and for the last four years worked with Democracy Rising to help end the war. Nader has spoken at anti-war rallies and written extensively in opposition to the war.

Voters for Peace is a non-partisan organization that not advocate for any candidate. From the emails I receive from our members some peace voters are like Jodda –” they see the Democratic Party leadership and Obama as continuing the current direction of U.S. foreign policy and will not support them deciding instead to vote for a third party of independent candidate who stands against militarism. These voters see that voting for what you want –” an end to militarism –” is more likely to get what you want. The history of the U.S. is replete with examples of voters whose issues were “off the table” forcing a paradigm shift by voting outside the two parties. Examples include abolition of slavery, voting rights for women, ending child labor, the forty hour work week, health care for the poor and elderly –” all these issues were off the table until voters organized outside the two parties of the era.

Others are shocked to hear about Obama’s positions. They do not want to believe that his “ending” the war does not mean withdrawing all troops and mercenaries from Iraq. They do not want to know that Biden as Chairman of Foreign Relations aided Bush in misleading the country about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq by holding manipulated hearings. When these voters hear these and other facts they waiver, no longer sure for whom to vote.

Others take the Hayden position that Obama is the best peace voters can hope for, despite his flaws, and once he is elected he is more likely to be a president who can be influenced by public opinion.

But, the election is close that Obama needs the peace vote –” all of it. Can he get it? Does he deserve it?

At this point it is up to the peace movement to demand Obama earn their votes and get on the side of the super majority that wants the Iraq war and occupation ended –” really ended. Obama has the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people and the American people all in support of this position. Certainly he is a capable enough pol to side with the majority.

If Obama is unable to capture the vote of the vast majority of voters opposed to the war he has little chance of winning this election.