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The Antiwar Uprising: The Protest Industry vs. The Players

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I write to you this morning from my parents house in Pennsylvania, after being up late last night appearing on CNN to discuss the role of the Internet and Netroots in THE UPRISING (you can watch it here). It's been a terrific first week of the book tour - the crowds have been fantastic. After the kickoff in Burlington, Vermont with uprising leader Bernie Sanders, I headed to Madison, Connecticut for a reunion event with my other old boss - Ned Lamont (event photo at right, video here). With an overflow crowd in Madison, Ned and I joined Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) in a discussion about the state of the antiwar uprising - a topic that is the subject of my latest syndicated column, and a major excerpt of THE UPRISING just published in In These Times magazine.

The antiwar chapter of my book is probably the most controversial - and was also the toughest to write. The basic thesis is that the campaign to end the Iraq War is split between what Matt Stoller has astutely called "The Protest Industry" and what I call "The Players" - and that both the split and The Players' specific strategy has weakened the antiwar uprising.

For years now, polls have shown the majority of Americans oppose the Iraq War. In 2006, that antiwar consensus in the mass public first propelled Ned Lamont to his shocking primary victory over Joe Lieberman, and then antiwar Democratic challenger candidates across the country to victory in the general election. Those candidates, as I say in my latest column, learned the Lamont Lesson - namely, that ignoring Washington's pro-war Democratic Party "strategists" and ignoring what THE UPRISING calls "The McGovern Fable" actually wins national elections.

But after the election, The Players - ie. the group of professional antiwar organizations in Washington - focused huge amounts of resources on an antiwar lobbying strategy that aimed all the pressure on Republicans. This, even though Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and therefore had the power to stop bills to fund the war. The Players, in short, put their partisan affinity and cocktail party friendships ahead of the antiwar cause.

That helped marginalize The Protest Industry - ie. the grassroots marchers and protesters against the war - even more than it has marginalized itself through its own tactics. And now it is 2008 - a deja vu moment whereby the country opposes the Iraq War and Congress continues to nonetheless fund it.

Luckily, as my column this week notes, the antiwar uprising is changing its tactics as the Fall election nears.

More than 50 Democratic congressional candidates have signed onto the Responsible Plan to End the War In Iraq - a plan originally crafted by progressive hero Darcy Burner. These candidates are resurrecting the Lamont Lesson that THE UPRISING explores.

At the event a few days ago in Madison, it was really incredible how Ned's same themes about opposing the war ring true today (you can see the video from his presentation here at CT Blue, courtesy of SpazeBoy). As much as his candidacy moved the national political debate, Democratic politicians refuse to do what they promised to do: end the Iraq War. That means if the antiwar uprising is going to be successful, we are going to have to adopt a movement ideology - not a partisan one.

Two days after the event in Madison with Ned, I appeared on a panel at New York City's historic Riverside Church to talk about alternative routes to social justice with movement leaders Bertha Lewis and Leslie Lowe (two other people in THE UPRISING). Lewis and Lowe pounded home what the difference between partisanship and social movement ideology really is: the willingness to make issues more important than the letters that follow politicians' names. It is this fundamental movement ideology that has been missing from the antiwar uprising - until now.

I'm now off to New York City for a number of events there with terrific progressive grassroots groups. Check the full schedule at I'll post on those events mid-week. I'm also scheduled to be on Lou Dobbs' radio show and Fox News this afternoon - so tune in, if you have time. Onward!

This is an ongoing blog series from the national book tour of The Uprising. You can order The Uprising at href="">, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Tattered Cover, href="">Powell's or through your local independent bookstore.

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