All the House Democratic leaders, from conservatives like Steny Hoyer, Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Joe Crowley to "liberals" like Nancy Pelosi, Jim Clyburn and Xavier Becerra, are working to round up votes inside the caucus to back Obama's plan to bomb Syria. Pelosi became leader of the Democrats because she stood up to Bush and Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt when they asked Congress to approve plans to attack Iraq. Most Democrats joined Pelosi against that war-- and that ended Dick Gephardt's political career. That was a very different Nancy Pelosi than the one leading House Democrats today.
On the other hand, we still have plenty of Democrats in the House strenuously opposing the war arguments-- Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Barbara Lee are three excellent examples. Pelosi announced last week that she has no intention of ever being Speaker again. The vultures waiting in the wings-- Hoyer, Wasserman Schultz, Crowley-- to take over the leadership of the House caucus would all be catastrophic for the Democratic brand and for grassroots values that make someone a Democrat instead of a Republican.
The way WE can help that process along is to elect more progressives to Congress who will not be beholden to the Steve Israels, Steny Hoyers, and Debbie Wasserman Schultzes. It's imperitive that we help elect people who will be open-minded about electing caucus leaders like Grayson, not yesterday's stale leftovers like Hoyer and Wasserman Schultz. A grassroots progressive in Oklahoma, Tom Guild, is an independent thinker and is going to have an open mind. "Syria is a basket case," he told us, "with heartbreaking tragedies piled one on another. The [Assad] government is evil and much of the opposition is affiliated with enemies of the United States. We should tread carefully and make sure we are not drawn into another war without end. American cannot be the world’s policeman, and we have paid a heavy price trying to do so."
Nick Ruiz, a professor who once ran as a Green, is the progressive Democratic candidate in the Orlando area running against GOP warmonger John Mica, also gave us a position just before Obama announced he would ask for a congressional vote before attacking.
"Why not conference and engage the Syrian leadership and factions-- and Iran, along with Russia and China for good measure? Before drones and Tomahawks, bombs and killing; as an alternative to the stereotypical language of violence that the world is so tired of hearing. Let's talk about it; not naively, but intensely; let's argue about what's happening in Syria, with the Syrian leadership and rebellion, their neighboring ally Iran, and advocates of sovereignty: Russia and China. We get it. We understand boundaries and sovereignty. And we ought to thoroughly understand rebellion, having been borne of it... The world's interests are better served with an eye toward de-escalation, rather than aggravation and aggrandizement... My vote would be NO on assaulting Syria.
"As Democrats we know better than to fight unjust wars; we do not leave the poor defenseless, nor erode civil rights or ignore social injustice. We helped to define these vital, democratic concepts in the modern era. When our leaders change for the worse, and seek to lead us toward the lowest common denominator, then we should thank them for whatever good they've done in the past-- but must tell them 'No, we will not follow you there, and further, you will not lead us any longer.' It is a crucial time when one must have the good sense to choose new leaders. But it's now true: that time is upon us."
As the other, better-known, progressive political leader from the Orlando area, Alan Grayson said, "Nobody wants this, except the military-industrial complex." We need a new generation of leaders to represent the Democratic Party, not the money-driven Establishment shills who have more in common with their Republican House colleagues than they do with grassroots Democrats.
As you can see, we've recently added three new ones, Tom in Oklahoma, plus Danielle Adams in North Carolina and Paul Clements in Michigan. Clearly, Washington needs new leadership-- leadership that is rooted in the Democratic grassroots. Electing candidates like this to Congress is a healthy first step.