Cindy Sheehan for Congress Antiwar Activist Bucks Two-Party System
It's easy to get sick of the empty rhetoric and media circus that surrounds the ongoing horse-race between the main big business candidates. But in the 2008 elections, the independent campaign of prominent anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan stands out.
In August of 2007, Sheehan announced her intention to run for Congress in California's 8th Congressional district, which covers most of the city of San Francisco. By running in the 8th Congressional district, Sheehan is taking on none other than Speaker of the House and Democratic Party bigshot Nancy Pelosi. Sheehan recognizes that the Democrats and the Republicans share the responsibility for the Iraq war. Her independent anti-war campaign has the potential to strike a blow against the dominance of this country's two corporate-controlled political parties.
Cindy Sheehan's unique career is an interesting example of how political radicalization can operate in this period. Cindy's son, Casey, was killed as a soldier in Iraq. Through 2005, as Sheehan began her activist career, her main target was the Bush administration. The corporate media first gave her major attention in August of 2005 when she set up a campsite near Bush's ranch in Texas and attracted a large group of antiwar protesters. Sheehan was originally friendly to a variety of Democratic Party leaders. It was her experience of the leading Democrats' continued support for war budgets and their (quite predictable) unwillingness to impeach Bush that has led Sheehan to oppose Pelosi and open up a struggle against the system.
Cindy Sheehan is nothing like the career politicians who fill the halls of Congress and live on the payroll of Washington lobbyists. She has been arrested several times through her participation in anti-war demonstrations throughout the country. Sheehan, who has described herself as a working class woman from a working class family, is not rich, and her campaign
is not financed by the big rich companies that bankroll the major Republicans and Democrats. Her humble campaign receives its cash from individual donors.
In her initial campaign announcement Sheehan wrote, "In this once great nation of ours, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is rapidly disappearing along with the American dream' of home ownership." Unlike candidates from the major parties offering vague hopes for "change," Sheehan puts forward a program to start taking power away from big business.
Sheehan raises demands that are worth fighting for. She is the most famous anti-war figure in the country and from the beginning of her time in the spotlight she has not stepped back from her demand for an immediate end to the US wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. She lost a son to the War in Iraq, but she acknowledges the immense suffering of the war's most direct victims by dedicating her candidacy "to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan that have been tragically harmed by BushCo with the complicity of Congress, Inc."
Sheehan does not limit herself to talking about the war and the need to bring home the troops. She is in favor of single-payer universal healthcare. She wants to lower the cost of college. She wants to overturn the Patriot Act (which is a law against Civil Rights and civil liberties). She has visited Cuba and called for the US to shut down the military prison at Guantanamo. This May 1st, she supported the West Coast dockworkers whose union led a one-day strike against the war in Iraq.
Like any independent candidate in this period, Sheehan's campaign faces a difficult uphill battle. She counts her campaign funds in the thousands and Pelosi counts hers in the millions. But Sheehan's fame and position can have significance beyond her ability to beat Pelosi in November.
As long as she maintains a principled opposition to the war, keeps or expands the progressive aspects of her platform and stays independent of the big business parties, her campaign can be an important pole of attraction and a model similar campaigns across the country. Before he became Ralph Nader's running mate, California Green party figure Matt Gonzalez announced his support for Sheehan's campaign. By taking on the parties of big business and scoring successes, campaigns like Sheehan's can pave the way for a mass party of the working class.
By taking on the parties of big business and scoring successes, campaigns like Sheehan's can pave the way for a mass party of the working class.