Peace and the Presidential Race for 2016

This article first appeared in the Massachusetts Peace Action newsletter, Fall 2015, published on August 20, 2015.

JohnRatliff.Smiling.100What are the prospects that the 2016 contest will advance the cause of peace and begin a shift from the failed policies of endless conflict? The answer to this question may depend on the energy that the peace activists put into the race.  During presidential contests people pay attention to the issues of peace and war, so the election is an opportunity for peace activists to advance our issues.  Some have organized efforts in early primary states to attend candidate forums and press the candidates on issues important to war and peace.  Many think there is a strong peace candidate in the Democratic field of candidates and are throwing all their energies into the Sanders “political revolution”.   Still other peace activists have engaged in efforts to shift the political culture away from the two party system to one of a number of third parties, most prominently the Greens. All of these efforts will have an effect bending toward peace. It is critical that we each find our way to make an effort. Below is some information on candidates. For more information, go to the Massachusetts Peace Action website.

Democratic Candidates

All the Democratic candidates except Sen. Webb of Virginia support the Iran nuclear deal.  All of them except Sen. Sanders support spending at least as much on the military industrial complex.

Former Secretary of State and Senator Hil­lary Clinton touts her ex­­­p­­erience in foreign policy and her tough­ness. She ad­vocates a hugely pow­­erful military posted through­out the world. She voted for the Iraq war and supported attacking  Libya in 2011. She declines to take a position on the TPP.

As a former mayor, congressman, and cur­rent U.S. Senator on the budget and Veterans’ committee, Bernie San­d­ers is far better known for his domestic poli­cy than for his foreign policy.  He ad­vo­cates drastically cutting the military, re­ducing foreign bases, and has voted against every foreign war. He is for taking wealth and power from the billionaires and moving it to the people. He led the fight against the TPP.  

Former Governor Martin O’Malley has not taken part in any previous votes on the wars but main­tained a consistant vocal opp­osition to foreign ad­ventures. He has not called for cutting the military budget but is a strong advocate of increased dom­estic spend­ing. He opposes the TPP.

Former Governor, Sen­ator, and Sec­retary of the Navy Lincoln Chafee became a Democrat in 2007. He was the only Republican Senator to vote against the Iraq war. He speaks of more reliance on the UN system, and a cooperative approach to Russia and China. He supports the TPP.       

Former Senator Jim Webb had a military car­eer, retiring as a Mar­ine Colonel, and then served as Sec­retary of the Navy before run­ning for Senate in 2006.  He resigned as Secretary of the Navy rather than agree to reduce the navy to below  600 vessels. He opposed the Iraq war and the TPP.

Vice-president Joe Biden was chair of the Senate Foreign Policy Committee be­­fore being elected vice-president in 2008. He has not yet ann­ounced him­self as a candidate but rum­ors abound that he may join  the race if the front-runner lacks  momentum. He strongly supports current policies and would continue supporting the policies he has helped shape in the admin­istra­tion.

Republican Candidates

There are now 17 Republican candidates. In their first debate, Aug. 6, they were all against the Iran deal and all pledged to be more hawkish than President Obama. Sen. Rand Paul, once considered more pro-peace, has become much more hawkish than in the past, joining his peers in supporting military spending and war efforts.

Green Party Options

Lexington physician Jill Stein is a declared candidate for the Green Party nomination, and Cynthia McKinney is also considered by some to be a potential Green candidate. The Green political platform is stridently pro peace, and many activists will attempt to utilize the Green Party, which received less than 1% of the vote in 2012 but was able to present the issues strongly, as a vehicle to advance the campaign for peace in the broader debate.