Liberal Anti-War Groups Target Democrats

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - With Democrats unable to exert influence over Iraq war policy -- much less bring an end to the four-year conflict -- the liberal anti-war activists who helped Democrats take control of Congress are now turning against them.

"Back in January, many of us were excited about the new Democratic Congress and all the progress we could make together," leaders of the liberal MoveOn organization said in an e-mail to members Thursday. "But in some critical areas the Democrats have failed us."

The e-mail praises Democratic victories on minimum wage and the continued push to reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program. But it is critical of Democrats' handling of national security and war policy.

"Just last month, Congress capitulated to President Bush and the politics of fear over wiretapping," the e-mail said. "And we've all been disappointed and frustrated by the way Iraq policy has been handled."

Democrats have tried to influence Bush's strategy in Iraq by attaching troop withdrawal requirements to funding bills. But Bush has vetoed a bill that contained one such deadline. And other attempts have passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

Since returning from the August recess, Democratic leaders have expressed more interest in achieving "bipartisan" solutions to Iraq policy, suggesting they are willing to concede on some issues -- including foregoing timetable withdrawal measures in favor of goal-based targets -- to win the 60 Senate votes needed to defeat a filibuster.

While the compromise tactic may prove more effective in enacting some changes to Iraq policy, the anti-war activists who worked to get Democrats elected are expressing their frustration and disappointment in the lack of progress.

The MoveOn e-mail criticized "a set of weak Democrats who side with the president -- especially on Iraq. They're too scared to fight for what's right and what they were elected to fight for." The e-mail labels them DINOs -- or "Democrats In Name Only."

MoveOn is now asking members to vote on whether the group should put pressure on those "DINOs" by supporting more dedicated anti-war candidates in primary races. "We have to work together to make sure that Democrats are held accountable to their voters," it said. "But the question is, should we use primary challenges as a way to hold them accountable?" The results of the member poll are expected to be released next week.

MoveOn is not the first liberal organization to turn its sights from pro-war Republicans to Democrats who are not producing. On Wednesday, protestors from CODEPINK demonstrated outside House office buildings, brandishing pink riding crops to "whip" Congress into shape.

The campaign features an Internet video accusing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of "dragging their feet to end the war in Iraq." The video says that "it's about time we started whipping those reluctant representatives into shape."

Longtime anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son, Army Spec. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq, has announced she will challenge Pelosi for the House seat representing San Francisco in the 2008 elections because of her failure to end the war.

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