Did Prime Minister Blair get reelected? Yes, and as you’ve heard, he’s starting an historic third term. But what was also historic was the beating he took — losing more than half of his majority in Parliament “down from around 160 seats to 66. It’s especially stark, given the state of the British economy. Britain’s booming, but the voters are mad, and they’re mad about one thing: the war. In case you’re in any doubt about that, check out a BBC poll published election night. Hostility to the war was the big issue. Among those who were reluctant to vote for Blair’s party, Labour, 23 % said it was the war specifically; 21% said they just didn’t trust Blair. The party took a special beating in Muslim districts, and places heavy with young people and students.
People were mad and they had a third party to vote for. The Liberal Democrats. Labour’ s share of the vote went down 4 percent. The Lib-Dems went up by the same amount.
Read the New York Times, the Wash Post, AP and your eyes will go blurry before you see it stated clearly. Labor’s support is said to have “eroded” “shrank” “reduced” and “weakened” but let’s be clear: lots of British Labour voters chose Lib-Dem candidates this election because Liberal Democrats, unlike Labour, are the only political party that opposed the invasion of Iraq. Why does the war take a higher toll on Blair than Bush? Because there’s somewhere for anti-war sentiment to go and because thousands of British voters, even many with a long loyalty to the Labor Party, voted against Blair this year.
Even people with a huge stake in the economy — or people who depend on Blair’s social policies — took the gamble and voted against him. And they could, because there’s not a two-party lock down electoral system. And they got what they wanted, a Labour Party victory, but chastened. Blair’s still PM but sobered up. People took a risk and didn’t succumb to the bully media who told them the sky would fall if they voted their dissent. And that’ s exactly what it’ll take right here.
Last year, one of our guests, a retired Washington Post reporter who covered Vietnam, said the political winds shifted on that war not because of anti-war protests but because Americans got tired of the war. They simply stopped giving the president the benefit of the doubt, and started doubting the war.
They started calling not just for the war to be deemed wrong, but for it to be ended; for troops to be brought home, now. Not one more death for a lie. It ‘s not going to get better; it’s only going to get worse.
That’s exactly what they’ve been saying in the UK and it’s exactly what we’ ve got to say more, more loudly, right here.
I got into an e-mail debate with John Walsh, this week. Walsh wrote a piece for Counterpunch in which he called Al Franken a big fat phony and said that Air America Radio supports the war.
Whaddya you mean, I said. Check out our very first show of the year “we dedicated ourselves to the withdrawal of troops on day one. Conservative John McClaughlin, points out Walsh, tracks the Iraqis killed and the Americans killed and wounded “but Air America doesn’t” he wrote. Well we do, on the Laura Flanders Show, weekends. Check out our in memoriam segments. Check out the roll calls we’ve done.
OK, point made. Defensive splutter ended. You can never say this loud or clearly enough. Progressives don’t have a proactive vision, we’re told. We’re too damn reactive, too negative? Well not on this. On this, we’re the ones with the positive vision, nay demand. Troops out now. They’re not going to do a bit of good. And they’re just going to keep on dying, and killing.
I’ve looked at tons of polls in the last few weeks and it’s all but impossible to find one simple question asked: should US troops be withdrawn from Iraq now (or within the year?) Pollsters seem to ask everything but that. One WSJ/NBC poll quoted by the Institute for Policy Studies this March said that 59 percent of the public believes the United States should pull its troops out of Iraq within 12 months. Just a week ago, a Gallup poll revealed that given the chance to talk to President George W. Bush about any topic, Americans said their first choice would be the war in Iraq. About three-quarters of those who said Iraq said they would tell the president to end it and bring American troops home.
So, the leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom hold their countries up as the world’s greatest democracies (they’re certainly the most internationally arrogant) but in neither place does the majority view on the war have a voice in government leadership? It says something about our democracies, don’t you think?
[Laura Flanders is host of The Laura Flanders Show, heard weekends on Air America Radio and the author of BUSHWOMEN]