Presidential candidates against war taxes?

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Note that this blog post, like all of our blog posts, are the opinion of the author and don’t represent any official NWTRCC position.

Short answer: There aren’t any presidential candidates against war taxes.

As we all know, success in national major-party politics requires a commitment to a certain kind of discourse about war: the US military is righteous and honorable, and firm in its commitment to killing terrorists by any means necessary. There will be no sufficient apology (if any is possible) for all the lives ruined in the violent pursuit of peace. No expense must be spared in ensuring that the US military is the most powerful in the entire world.

While Democratic and Republican candidates might call for tweaks to the scope of US militarism, the essential rightness of military intervention is never questioned. Discussions about reducing military spending focus, generally, on reducing “waste,” if a presidential candidate mentions it at all.

There’s quite a debate on social media and news opinion sites as to whether Bernie Sanders is an anti-war candidate, and to a lesser extent, whether Donald Trump could be considered an anti-war candidate. While Sanders opposes torture, he has repeatedly stated his support for drone warfare (Trump supports both). However, among many anti-war folks, including war tax resisters, Sanders has gained a following for his critique of mainstream war policies and interventionism. In my view, he is not an anti-war candidate, but he is significantly less eager for military intervention and human rights violations than either Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Justin Raimondo, a columnist at Antiwar.com, stirred up quite a fervor among readers for his article that in part argued that Trump posed a significant challenge to militarism:

… if Trump actually wins the White House, the military-industrial complex is finished, along with the globalists who dominate foreign policy circles in Washington. While Trump is no libertarian, the effect of this sea-change in the foreign policy realm will be to objectively cut the dominance of federal power in our lives, first of all by saving us from bankruptcy and freeing up resources for the private sector, and secondly by reducing the blowback that has empowered terrorists.

Personally, I think that labeling Trump anti-interventionist is short-sighted. It’s reading an entire foreign policy platform into a few lines questioning NATO, the second Iraq War, and nuclear weapons, while ignoring his numerous statements calling for a generally belligerent nationalist foreign policy. Many of Trump’s “anti-interventionist” arguments are based on the costs of a worldwide military presence, rather than the effects of that presence. Nevertheless, many neoconservatives are expressing support for Clinton instead, concerned about Trump’s inclination to isolationism.

I haven’t heard anyone arguing that Hillary Clinton could be an antiwar candidate; a typical article that discusses her “national security” record calls her an “unabashed war hawk.” As First Lady, Senator, and then as Secretary of State, Clinton has explicitly supported US military engagement in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo, Libya, and Syria. She has supported providing weapons to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine (among others). She served on the Senate Armed Forces Committee.

image of a skeleton on a park bench with words "waiting for an anti-war candidate"Some presidential candidates from third parties, such as Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, express skepticism of the military-industrial complex and call for reductions in spending. Notably, Jill Stein has called for reducing military spending by 50% and closing foreign military bases. Johnson takes a fiscally conservative approach to militarism, calling for scaling back military engagement and spending to focus on the “real” threats. Stein comes closest to being anti-war-taxes of any candidate that I’ve mentioned so far. However, neither candidate has much visibility or ability to affect the broader discourse about militarism.

For myself, I can’t see what good will come of reluctantly voting for any candidate. I don’t think it’s meaningless who becomes president – but it will be some sort of disaster in either case (I don’t think this will be a good year for third parties).

What do you think?

Share your comments below:

  • Is there such a thing as an anti-war or anti-war-tax presidential candidate?
  • How ought war tax resisters respond to presidential campaigns?
  • How does your war tax resistance fit in with your participation or non-participation in votes or campaigns for president?
  • Do you support pro-militarist candidates if their other policies are to your liking? Or are you a single-issue voter on the subject of war?

 

Post by Erica

2 thoughts on “Presidential candidates against war taxes?”

  1. David Gross says:

    Quaker pacifist war tax resister Joshua Maule gave up on voting for presidents for this reason, as he explained in 1862, in an argument that reminds me of the regret that many Obama voters must feel about the “peace” candidate they thought they were backing:

    “I did not vote when Abraham Lincoln was elected the second time… though I voted for him at the first in the hope that the war then threatening might be averted through his being elected. Before that time I had usually voted, though I had doubts as to the propriety of voting on the part of Friends who desired to walk in religious consistency. When the country was engaged in war I became fully convinced that to profess, as I was doing, to maintain a Christian testimony against war by declining to pay the tax required to support it, and at the same time to vote in the election of men whose legal duty, on accepting office, required them in various ways to direct and promote it, was inconsistent in itself and incompatible with the principles of the Gospel. Since that time—more than twenty years—I have not voted. Though the war has ceased, I apprehend that voters incur much responsibility in electing those who so often exert an influence unfavorable to the best interests of the people and the country and the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom in the earth. So that it has seemed to me that such as are rightly concerned to walk consistently with the excellent profession made by Friends will find themselves restrained from engaging in political affairs. A course in accordance with this view has been conducive to my own tranquillity.”

    I’m neither a Christian nor a pacifist, but I came to similar conclusions. Voting is not only an ineffective way of advancing a peaceful society, but it actually has harmful effects that make peace less likely. The reasons why I’ve come to that conclusion are too lengthy for a blog comment, but you can find them here: https://c4ss.org/content/39744

  2. Larry Bassett says:

    Occasionally I bravely call myself a pacifist. But I usually vote. When I am not brave enough to call myself a pacifist I resort to the label radical. That means as much about supporting a guaranteed annual income as anything. I am on the slippery slope of voting for Jill Stein as the latest in my third-party attachments. Obama was the first major party candidate I ever voted for because he was antiwar and you see where that got me! I sent Obama a copy of my WTR letter this year but didn’t hear back from him. All my radical life I have heard “don’t vote it only encourages them! “But I keep on voting anyway.

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