New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Going Neutral on Obama?

July 19, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Swanson, Economy, Politics

Not on a Moving Train!

by David Swanson

How often have we been told that we can’t have a serious nonviolent movement resisting our government’s destructive path as long as the Democrats are better than the Republicans?

How often have we been told that we can’t back third-party candidates as long as the Democrats are better than the Republicans?

This week has seen an inordinate number of realizations that the Democrats are as bad as or worse than the Republicans. And what has the response been?

Activist groups are proposing not to donate money to President Barack Obama. Some have even suggested declining to volunteer for him. Most responses have been even weaker than that. Citizens have transformed themselves into pundits and announced that Obama will not be reelected.

But what about not voting for him? What about building a demand for a primary and/or regular election challenger? What about volunteering or donating to them? And, if all of that is needed in order to break the spell of apathy, if we are able thus to get free of the notion that it somehow hurts us to impose our demands on our government, then what about pressuring our government to do what we want of it right now?

Monica Lewinsky is not going to sneak into the Oval Office and save Social Security this time.

The labor movement is not going to mobilize crowds in Washington to save Social Security this time — unless union members defy their officers.

This third attempt to dismantle decent retirement and bring back the poor house is looking charmed.

But it doesn’t have to. Every member of Congress can be challenged in a primary right now by a candidate sworn to protect Social Security, tax the rich, cut the military, and end the wars. If any swing districts are left after redistricting, every candidate can be challenged in the general election too. And nothing prevents U.S. residents from taking the lead of our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, Greece, and the rest of the world. We can choose to commit to joining a nonviolent resistance movement in Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C., this October.

We can choose not to wait for October and begin now.

We all love to apply to our government officials the statement often attributed to Dante that a special place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in a time of crisis.

Well, what do you call this?

And what do you call what we are doing?

What could possibly be more neutral than failing to occupy Washington , D.C.? We are living in an age in which wars are fought by robots, communications are run by propaganda specialists, elections are openly purchased, and wealth in the United States is more concentrated than in much of the world – including various nations where we base troops and bomb houses. We are living in an age in which the power of nonviolence has been demonstrated over and over again, nonviolent resistance to tyranny has proven over twice as effective as violence, and capitals around the globe are being occupied in the name of democracy and human rights. And what are we doing? We’re acting as if we live in a Disney movie and everything will work out in the end, as long as we hurry quickly enough to get some popcorn from the other room.

Howard Zinn said you cannot be neutral on a moving train. Of course, you can. But you end up aiding the momentum already underway. You end up assisting the disastrous direction in which we are currently headed. You end up immoral, no matter how banal, no matter even how knowing or ironical.

By doing nothing, out of horror of right-wing lunatics, we empower right-wing lunatics. Realizing this would be a tremendous breakthrough. But by itself it would accomplish nothing. What’s needed is action.

David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie and Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union. He blogs at and, where this article originally appeared.

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