I wasn’t even sure I wanted to post anything about this. In fact, despite strong opinions, I often will avoid talking about issues that I have strong feelings about if they criticize the left-of-center political movement because I really want progressives to create as large of a tent as possible. Part of that effort is acknowledging that some folks will not act in a way that I would to get the message out.
That said, I received my ballot this week for Helena’s municipal election and for the first time since I began voting, I am really struggling with my vote. There are a number of interesting choices on this ballot that leave me both confused and conflicted but the one that I am struggling most with is referendum 2007-1, the Iraqi War Referendum.
Let me be clear. I have not, at any point, supported this war. I don’t support it now. I believe in a quick and swift withdrawal and my vote in next year’s Democratic primary will reflect that. This war has hurt my soul from the very start .
But the war itself is not the issue for me on that ballot.
Don’t get me wrong…there are a lot of
silly arguments against these initiatives. Is it the city’s
business? Yeah, it is. Do I think this trivializes the
decision-making process (something the Missoulian claimed)? Nope.
And I certainly don’t believe that this referendum sends a message that we don’t support the troops. But, there are a number of reasons why I want anti-war advocates to
drop this effort and redirect its time and energy elsewhere…
First, it is a misdirected effort. There have been countless cities that have voted, either by the citizen’s voice or the voice of their elected officials, to condemn this war. Yet, the war continues. Despite the power of the symbolic gesture (which does seem late to me), it seems that these moments of citizen outcry have absolutely baring on the course of the war.
Second, it is a wasted effort. I have been asked to donate on a number of occasions to local efforts to end this war, including fund raising efforts on behalf of this campaign. I am not against spending money on politics, despite my general disgust of our campaign finance laws and the sheer amount. But I don’t get the need to raise money to advertise against a war that hopefully a majority of citizens are already against. At the risk of sounding naive, I am certain that money could be directed towards efforts that actually impact the war, including direct aid organizations that are supporting the plight of Iraqis or even better, organizations for veterans coming back after exposure to violence and toxins.
Next, could we direct this effort to the people that could end this war? I am speaking of Baucus, Tester and Rehberg. Tester has been a disappointment on ending this war and Max and Dennis voted for it without much public regret over the issue. Couldn’t we spend time and effort on directing those folks to putting an end to this?
And…last…my biggest fear. After the ballots are counted, if the citizens of Helena agree that this war should end, what happens? I worry about the false sense of accomplishment that might exist in those that vote for this referendum. If this referendum wins, even by a large majority, the war continues… The senseless death continues… The bottomless expense continues…
I know that I am in the minority among progressives. I am certainly in the minority among progressive bloggers progressive bloggers (although Don and I agree when he points out his distaste of the “self importance of the promoters”). After a long discussion with some very smart and intelligent friends of mine last night, the choice for me now is either “yes” or abstaining entirely.
In the dozens of ballots I have filled out, this is the first one that I have spent the most time considering. Perhaps I am lucky that Helena opted for mail ballots. It will probably sit in a prominent place on my desk right up to the deadline…