When I hear Democratic Party friends snicker over the explosion of the Republican Party, I have to ask them why they think the Democratic Party is so stable? It’s not. Everyone in the establishment is worrying what Bernie Sanders is going to do now. His populist base is bound to become more and more voluble in months to come, amplified by social media.
And of course Palestine is helping to destabilize the Democratic power structure. When Bernie Sanders stood up for Palestinian dignity at the April 14 debate in New York, people cheered him, and Hillary Clinton got nervous; there are bound to be similar pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in late July, and I wonder how much of that energy the party will be able to contain. Hillary Clinton is the most hawkish of all the candidates for president. How many Sanders supporters are going to work for the election of someone who resorts to war as readily as she does?
These tensions are evident in the electrifying, seesaw race between two Democratic Maryland congresspeople, Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, to win the Democratic nomination this Tuesday to the Senate to replace Barbara Mikulski.
The race between an establishment white man and a black woman has exposed “fissures” in the Democratic Party, the NY Times says. Van Hollen is now leading in that race, according to the latest polls; and some in the establishment, including the Washington Post, are describing Edwards’s insurgent campaign as a “Tea Party” inside the Democratic Party. Joan Walsh’s enthusiastic profile of Donna Edwards in the Nation this month emphasized that women are a big part of the Edwards meteor, as are people who took to the streets of Baltimore a year ago after the death of Freddie Gray. “She leads [Van Hollen] by 16 points among women and by 51 points among black voters…”
Walsh says nothing about foreign policy, but the Washington Post notes that Clintonite megadonor Haim Saban is among the establishment forces supporting Van Hollen, to the tune of $100,000:
Committee for Maryland’s Progress, a super PAC largely funded by 1199, has spent close to $500,000 to try to defeat Edwards in her neck-and-neck primary for the Senate against Rep. Chris Van Hollen…
About half of the $600,000 raised by the super PAC by early April came from 1199. SEIU Local 32BJ, which represents property service workers, contributed $15,000 to be used only for canvassing.
The rest of the group’s money comes largely from donors who have already given the maximum possible to Van Hollen’s campaign. One notable contributor is Haim Saban, a billionaire Israeli American entertainment mogul who gave $100,000. Saban is also a major supporter of Hillary Clinton.
Earlier this year the Washington Post said that Edwards took critical stances on Israel, “angering some Jewish donors”; at that point she was getting outraised by Van Hollen, 10 to 1. The Guardian has said that Edwards’s votes on Israel and Iran could sink her in the election.
Edwards has gotten a big, $2.4 million push from Emily’s List; and the director of Emily’s List a week ago stunned a Washington Jewish audience by describing the power of Jewish donors over Middle East policy as shocking and disturbing.
Edwards’s own issues page on foreign policy emphasizes her opposition to the use of force and her support for the United Nations:
I came to Congress in opposition to the Iraq war, and with the belief that the American military, with its unsurpassed ability and resources, must only be used to defend our vital interests.
When those interests are at stake, the United States has a right to act. But it has a responsibility to engage with the United Nations and other multilateral institutions to bring stability to troubled regions of the world
Van Hollen is much more explicit about his support for Israel.
He believes we must also remain absolutely committed to ensuring the security of our ally Israel and fight anti-Semitism wherever it raises its ugly head.
Edwards is a great friend of the Palestinian people in Congress. This is from a promotion by a pro-Palestinian group for a Donna Edwards fundraiser in 2010:
Congresswoman Edwards has been one of 25 members of Congress to vote against H. Res. 34 “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself” during Israel’s Gaza invasion of 2008/2009 that left 1400 Gazans dead in the span of three weeks. She has cosigned a letter by McDermott/Ellison highlighting the devastating effect of Israel’s blockade on the occupied Palestinian Gaza Strip. Moreover, she has personally visited Gaza in early 2009.
Congresswoman Edwards has been a true friend of Palestinians and their quest for peace and justice.
She voted against H. Res. 867 calling on President Obama to “stop any further consideration” of the UN commsioned Goldstone Report documenting war crimes during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008/2009. In short, Congresswoman Edwards’ record has been among the best in Congress, consistently pushing to end the Israeli occupation. In fact, she is ranked #2 on NewPolicy.org’s Congressional Score Card.
There can be no doubt that the grass-roots forces that support Edwards– women and blacks — are more progressive than the Democratic establishment on Palestine. This is the wave that could upset the Democratic Party. Dina Smeltz of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs writes in the Washington Post that Bernie Sanders represents America in his shocking call for the U.S. to be evenhanded in its Israel/Palestine policy:
Sanders also said, “There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.” This was in response to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s arguments for her more traditional political stance toward Israel. The Chicago Council Survey results show a majority of Democrats (54 percent), half of independents (49 percent) and a third of Republicans (34 percent) seem to agree, saying that Israel plays a negative role in resolving problems in the Middle East.
When folks talk about the tea party inside the Democratic party, it includes a lot of people who don’t want the U.S. to model its behavior in the Middle East on Israel’s.
Thanks to Janet McMahon of the Israel’s influence conference and WRMEA.