This article appeared in our Fall 2019 newsletter
Mass. Peace Action endorses Sen. Edward Markey for reelection in 2020. Markey is being challenged by Rep. Joe Kennedy III and Shannon Liss-Riordan. Some in the press say Markey and Kennedy are both progressive, with little difference in their policies. We strongly disagree. The two have significantly different positions and track records on issues of peace and foreign policy. Markey is a peace advocate, although one with whom we disagree on some issues; Kennedy often avoids taking stands or seems to support a more hawkish approach.
Markey is the unquestioned leader in the US Senate on nuclear disarmament, at a time when the US and Russia are tearing up the few remaining arms control treaties, and are heading into an incredibly dangerous new nuclear arms race, which may also draw in China. Year after year, Markey has championed legislation to cut our insane nuclear weapons arsenal, to prevent development of new and more dangerous weapons, and to put controls on their use. His concern about this issue began at an early age: as a high school student, he did his science fair project on Strontium-90, a byproduct of early atomic weapons testing that was poisoning the milk supply. He’s also a consistent critic of the lax safety standards in the US commercial nuclear power industry.
Kennedy has said little and done less about nuclear disarmament. Only recently, after starting to talk about his campaign, did he cosponsor the bill to prevent President Trump from starting a nuclear war without Congress – the Markey-Lieu bill, HR.669. To this day, Kennedy hasn’t cosponsored Rep. Adam Smith’s No First Use bill, HR.921, or the Hold the LYNE bill, HR.1086, to prevent deployment of new, dangerous, low-yield nukes, or any other bill to step away from the danger of nuclear war.
Markey is a cosponsor of the No War with Iran bill, S.1039, while Kennedy has failed to cosponsor the corresponding House version, HR.2354. This, at a time when the Administration is openly considering whether to launch a new, disastrous conflict with Iran, suggests that Kennedy sees no reason to impede the Trump Administration’s flirtation with a dangerous new war in the Middle East.
To prevent the Trump administration from turning its hawkish rhetoric on Venezuela into action, Markey sponsored a bill to prevent a US military action there, S.J.Res.11. Kennedy has declined to sponsor the House equivalent, HR.1004.
Markey has consistently supported efforts to reduce our runaway military spending, which saps over $1 trillion a year from the federal budget. He has backed the People’s Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus for years, which would cut military spending and redirect the funds to meet human needs. For Kennedy’s part, after multiple years of opposing the People’s Budget, he has recently come around to supporting it.
Today, the climate emergency is a critical peace issue. The US military is the single largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, ahead of most entire countries. And without international cooperation, the world won’t be able to come together to solve the climate crisis. Markey’s leadership in the fight for a Green New Deal shows that he understands the importance of this issue, while Kennedy has done little to advance it.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who worked with Markey to introduce the Green New Deal, has thrown her support behind him in this race, noting that Kennedy is being helped by former US Rep. Joseph Crowley, the establishment Democrat she defeated last fall. In a recent email to her supporters, she wrote: “While Ed Markey is fighting for the Green New Deal in the Senate, Joe Kennedy is getting campaign support from Crowley hosting a high-dollar fundraiser on Oct. 15… Kennedy thinks that with the backing of the establishment and the old guard of the Democratic Party, he can beat a progressive champion for justice.”
Both Markey and Kennedy are behind the times on Palestinian human rights. Markey is a cosponsor this year of S.Res.120, a bill that condemns and seeks to punish free speech boycotts of Israeli occupation. Kennedy is no better. Markey has shown that he can listen: after hesitating up to the last minute, he voted against S.1, an even more dangerous anti-Palestinian bill, in January.
We have some real differences with Markey. He sometimes seems to share the mindset, all too common in Washington D.C, that it’s America’s job to police the world and coerce regimes to do what our government wants. He goes along with the majority of Democrats in supporting sanctions on Iran, Korea, and Venezuela that cause enormous suffering for the people of those countries, while failing to promote justice and peace in those regions. (Kennedy supports those same sanctions, as far as we can tell.) But in each of these cases Markey has opposed military invasions and reckless regime-change rhetoric, a welcome relief in the current political climate.
Kennedy has little to say on most foreign policy issues; he follows the Democratic establishment and does not lead on any peace issues that we’ve seen. His April 2018 article in Foreign Affairs is a cautious restatement of the tired Washington consensus that “America must lead.”
In a poll, 77% of MAPA’s members voted to support Markey’s re-election, while Kennedy received no votes and 14% did not support any endorsement. Following the advice of the membership, the MAPA Board voted unanimously on Oct. 23 to endorse Markey.
We see Markey as a bold progressive leader on nuclear disarmament, on the Green New Deal, and on cutting the military budget, while Kennedy is a comfortable centrist. Also running is Shannon Liss-Riordan, a workers’ rights attorney who has pledged to strongly support peace but has little name recognition. We hope that all the candidates will continue to develop their positions and to recognize that America’s militaristic foreign policy has been a disaster.