The progressive political world is wailing and gnashing its teeth over the failure of Congressional Democrats to stand up to President Bush on the war supplemental. Most spectacularly, Cindy Sheehan has "resigned her commission" as the "face of the anti-war movement," to rest and spend more time with her family. Godspeed, Cindy. You have been a shining example of true patriotism and love of country, what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "civil courage." Instead of suffering quietly, you took your grief and marched right into the fire. Victor Frankl would be green with envy. Good-bye "for now," as our friend the President of Venezuela famously said.But before everybody else packs their bags and heads for the hills, consider this.
Guess who voted no on the war supplemental?
Why is that significant?
Because Ellen Tauscher is a Congressional Democrat who was targeted by activists for failing to vote Democratic in Congress.
Ari Melber reported for The Nation:
"To clarify, Rep. Tauscher is not a blue dog." The emphatic one-line e-mail, dashed off by a spokesman for California Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, is one of the first signs that a new coalition of unions and Internet activists has gotten the Democratic Party's attention. Tauscher has long been a probusiness voice and outspoken member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition. Yet recently her conservatism--from supporting the GOP bankruptcy bill to airing her concern that liberals might run Congressional leaders "over the left cliff"--has put her in the cross hairs of an effort to reform the Democratic Party from the bottom up. She was branded a "top offender" on the website of Working For Us, a new political action committee pressing Democratic incumbents to support "economic security," a "living wage for all workers" and a "progressive political agenda." Breaking sharply with the posture of most progressive organizations, the group will not simply criticize Democrats who fail that test. It will try to end their careers. Working For Us co-founder Steve Rosenthal emphasized that in holding Democrats to account, activists "do not have to win any races to be effective. 'The primary is not the victory; the victory is getting Democrats to act like Democrats.'"
Count this as a victory.
How many more such victories do we need? Depends how you count.
But the McGovern timetable for withdrawal bill got 171 votes in the House. 218 would be a majority, so that means we need to move 47 Members - 11% of the House - into the "firm support for a real timetable for withdrawal" camp.
Many activities can contribute to this goal. But clearly, threatening incumbents with primaries has been shown to be effective. This means that some folks are going to have to be willing to run for office, and some people are going to have to circulate some nominating petitions, and some people are going to have to donate some money.
Of all these things, donating money is the easiest. You don't even have to leave your chair.
How much should everyone be prepared to contribute?
Everyone will have to decide for themselves, but here is a rough calculation. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that in the 2005-6 election cycle, 0.35% of the U.S. population gave more than $200, the threshold for itemized contributions. Let's assume that most of these contributions came from the richest quarter of Americans, the ones with household incomes more than $75,000. Let's say that the median household income for this subgroup group is about $100,000. Let's say that they gave exactly $200, clearly less than they actually gave. Then they gave about one-fifth of one percent of their household income.
So if your household income was about $50,000 last year - that was roughly the median, according to the Census - your fair share for ending the war in Iraq is about $100. If your household income was $75,000, your fair share is about $150. If your household income was $25,000, your fair share for ending the war is about $50.
Of course, we're on the honor system here, and you can adjust your "peace tax" to your individual circumstances. Those below the median may adjust downwards a bit, and those above the median should consider adjusting upwards. But if you're serious about ending the war, you must pay something. If thousands of Americans across the country declare their intention to pony up for anti-war candidates - a kind of armchair "Pledge of Resistance" - more candidates will consider running, more incumbents will take the threat seriously, and we'll win more of those victories that Steve Rosenthal talked about. The next vote on the war will come out differently.
Cindy, enjoy your rest. Everybody else, get back to work. Make your anger productive for humanity - and pony up.
Robert Naiman is Senior Policy Analyst and National Coordinator at Just Foreign Policy.