Friday, July 18, 2008

The economy and the peace movement

Yesterday a McClatchy News headline screamed: "Just in time for Obama, economy becomes Issue No. 1."

This week, 53 percent of Americans ranked the economy their top concern heading into the election, while 16 percent ranked Iraq their chief worry, according to a national survey by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. In May 2007, the priorities were the opposite, with 57 percent naming Iraq the top issue and 5 percent naming the economy.

The focus of the story was on how the shift in public concern is supposed to aid the Democrat. And it may.

But I have to wonder whether this is a misreading of the results. What if most people in the United States, vividly aware as we are of the painful mess our economy is in, blame a good part of the economic pain on the war? This was certainly true in April. A CBS News poll asked, "How much has the Iraq war contributed to U.S. economic problems?" Fully 67 percent answered "a lot." By and large, it looks as if the U.S. people believe the war is a big part of why gas, food, and even imported Wal-Mart plastic goods cost more. They may not understand what pushing the country into ever deeper debt for the good of the Republican plutocratic base has done to the value of our money, but they know something big has been done wrong and the war is at the center of the mess.

Tom Hayden just put out a good essay on how all this interacts with the election. For the elite imperial consensus, citizen awareness that we've been had creates a "crisis of democracy," both in occupied Iraq and in the United States.

... the electorates in both countries are threatening to topple the principle warmakers at the ballot box.

Such a popular democratic outcome is intolerable to al-Maliki's circle, to the Pentagon, to the Republicans to neo-conservatives, and apparently unthinkable to the mainstream media. ...

The most that can be expected at this stage are November electoral mandates for peace and a speedy withdrawal from both American and Iraqi voters. This will not be easy, despite the peace majorities entrenched in both countries.

I think Hayden has nailed this. It's going to be hard to get our guy to follow through with his withdrawal promise. On the other hand, the underlying understanding the people at large have -- the knowledge that empire on a global scale is no longer affordable -- is right. So a President Obama will be pushed back by reality to scale down faraway wars.

Every iteration of a peace movement in my lifetime has tried to tell the U.S. people that our wars undermined their economic wellbeing. For all our efforts, it has always been a hard message to sell. Getting it required making connections that were too remote from daily life. I don't think we've sold it much better in the context of the Iraq war, but it seems that people more and more do "get it," no thanks to the peace movement.

Reality bites. Hard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No more tears, (pain), (sadness),
or death. Enough war!