Saturday, January 27, 2007

Where was Barack Obama? Where was Hillary Clinton?

By Nancy Jane Moore

There was one question that we kept asking over and over at the Janurary 27 antiwar rally and march in Washington, D.C.:

Where are the members of Congress and the presidential candidates?

According to the website for United for Peace and Justice -- the coalition that organized the march -- the only members of Congress on the speakers' list were Reps. John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Maxine Waters, and Lynn Woolsey.

Where were Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards? For that matter, why didn't Republican Sens. John Warner or Chuck Hagel drop by? Opposing the war is fast becoming a bipartisan activity.

Given the current poll numbers, I doubt it's even risky for politicians to be seen talking to the antiwar movement these days. So why didn't more of them come out and take a stand? So far all they've done -- despite the November elections -- is introduce wimpy little non-binding resolutions against the troop surge.

And, after all, the folks who turned out for this event are voters and the kind of people who will work their hearts out for a political campaign. They came from all across the country. They ranged in age from tiny kids to great grandparents. They included military families and Iraq veterans against the war, as well as the usual array of radical groups on the left, and a lot of very ordinary people who are just tired of the war.

They -- we -- were all hungry for some kind of sign that Congress is listening -- we know Bush can't be bothered. But only a few of our elected reps bothered to show up.

One of the better events of the day was a group of well-dressed protestors wearing nametags symbolizing various senators standing on the steps of the Senate Office Building. They made the absence of the real thing obvious.

As marches go, this one was pretty sedate, though definitely large. The Washington Post and The New York Times both hedged their bets by saying "tens of thousands" of protestors, but unquestionably the number was well over a hundred thousand. (Organizers threw around figures of 400,000, but I think that's overstated.)

The original parade route was very odd. We started on the west side of the Capitol Building, and were supposed to walk halfway around the building -- over to East Capitol Street -- and then turn around and walk back the same way. However, when we got around to the other side of the Capitol, the route had been changed, and we all continued on down to Independence Avenue. In the end, the march circled the Capitol.

I don't know why the route changed, but I suspect it was because more people showed up than the police originally expected and they decided it was going to cause too much chaos for us to double back.

Probably the best group out there were the Radical Cheerleaders of DC, a group of (mostly) young women dressed in red who did chants and routines. I found them inspiring -- We need more people with their imagination and energy. Just marching and waving signs isn't enough to get people excited.

The 9/11 Truth group pressed for a real investigation of the events of Sept. 11. Even if you don't agree with some of their conspiracy theories, it's pretty obvious that all the odd circumstances from that date have not been properly investigated. We never seem to really look into crises that hit this country. Are we that afraid of finding the truth?

I was pretty disgusted by the Green Party, who seemed to be using the march to promote their own agenda. They even had a chant about there being no difference between Democrats and Republicans. Sorry, but after six years of Bush, that dog don't hunt.

And there were the usual variety of old line socialist groups and other organizations that don't seem to have changed much in the last forty years. Their rhetoric hasn't changed either. When someone throws around the word "imperialism," I quit listening -- and I actually agree with them that the US is acting like the classic 800 pound gorilla in conducting foreign policy.

A group of marching Buddhists, who beat drums and chanted, were a nice contrast to the politicos.

It would have been nice to have more people -- numbers do make a difference. It would have been nice if we'd all had the energy of the Radical Cheerleaders. It would have been nice if more of the speakers had possessed the charisma and speaking ability to get the crowded excited.

But what would really be nice would be if Congress showed that it heard what we had to say. And acted on it.

Preferably next week.

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