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Made Love, Got War

Close Encounters With America's Warfare State
By Norman Solomon

Blending history, personal experience and social commentary, Made Love, Got War documents many decades of rising U.S. militarism and the media’s all-too-frequent failure to challenge it. As Daniel Ellsberg notes in the book’s foreword, author and activist Norman Solomon’s unique weave of eyewitness narrative and historical inquiry “helps us understand where we are now and how we got here.” Solomon’s firsthand knowledge and wide-ranging chronicle raise an essential question: To what ends should the United States use its awesome political, economic, media and scientific power? Made Love, Got War provides readers with meaningful answers.


Made Love, Got War

Close Encounters With America's Warfare State
By Norman Solomon

Blending history, personal experience and social commentary, Made Love, Got War documents many decades of rising U.S. militarism and the media’s all-too-frequent failure to challenge it. As Daniel Ellsberg notes in the book’s foreword, author and activist Norman Solomon’s unique weave of eyewitness narrative and historical inquiry “helps us understand where we are now and how we got here.” Solomon’s firsthand knowledge and wide-ranging chronicle raise an essential question: To what ends should the United States use its awesome political, economic, media and scientific power? Made Love, Got War provides readers with meaningful answers.


What others have said about Made Love, Got War

“Anyone who cares about democracy knows no better friend – and those who profit from democracy’s abuses know no worse enemy – than Norman Solomon. Made Love, Got War compellingly recounts his fearless resistance to war and its profiteers for the better part of four decades. A must read for those who love democracy and despise war.”

Josh Rushing, former Marine captain and author of Mission Al-Jazeera

“A kaleidoscope of personal adventures and political insights sprinkled with cultural icons from Bob Dylan to James Baldwin, Made Love, Got War is an enthralling journey from the Cold War to the war on terror. With great flair, Solomon evolves from a teenage hippie drop-out arrested for spray-painting into a top-notch journalist who travels to war zones with Congressmen and Hollywood stars – without ever giving up his thirst for peace, love and social justice. A fascinating read!”

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace

“Norman Solomon has consistently done all he can to be a public voice for those who have no voice: those who fight and those who die in war. And he does it with excellent, interesting and intelligent style, something terribly lacking in today’s media. Everything he does brings nourishment to America’s modern literary wasteland.”

Joe McDonald, Country Joe and the Fish

Read the new Afterword, published in 2022:

The final big legislative achievement of 2021 was a bill authorizing $768 billion in military spending for the next fiscal year. President Biden signed it two days after the Christmas holiday glorifying the Prince of Peace.

Dollar figures can look abstract on a screen, but they indicate the extent of the mania. Biden had asked for “only” $12 billion more than President Trump’s bloated military budget of the previous year—but that wasn’t enough for the bipartisan hawkery in the House and Senate, which provided a boost of $37 billion instead.

Overall, military spending accounts for about half of the federal government’s total discretionary spending—while programs for helping instead of killing are on short rations at many local, state, and national government agencies. It’s a nonstop trend of reinforcing the warfare state in sync with warped neoliberal priorities. While outsized profits keep benefiting the upper class and enriching the already obscenely rich, the cascading effects of extreme income inequality are drowning the hopes of the many.

Corporate power constrains just about everything, whether healthcare or education or housing or jobs or measures for responding to the climate emergency. What prevails is the political structure of the economy.

Class war in the United States has established what amounts to oligarchy. A zero-sum economic system, aka corporate capitalism, is constantly exercising its power to reward and deprive. The dominant forces of class warfare—disproportionately afflicting people of color while also steadily harming many millions of whites—continue to undermine basic human rights including equal justice and economic security. In the real world, financial power is political power. A system that runs on money is adept at running over people without it.

The words “I can’t breathe,” repeated nearly a dozen times by Eric Garner in a deadly police chokehold, resonated for countless people whose names we’ll never know. The intersections of racial injustice and predatory capitalism are especially virulent zones, where many lives gradually or suddenly lose what is essential for life. Discussions of terms like “racism” and “poverty” too easily become facile, abstracted from human consequences, while unknown lives suffocate at the hands of routine injustice, systematic cruelties, the way things predictably are.

An all-out war on democracy is now underway in the United States. More than ever, the Republican Party is the electoral arm of unabashed white supremacy as well as such toxicities as xenophobia, nativism, anti-gay bigotry, patriarchy, and misogyny. The party’s rigid climate denial is nothing short of deranged. Its approach to the Covid pandemic has amounted to an embrace of death in the name of rancid individualism. With its Supreme Court justices in place, the “Grand Old Party” has methodically slashed voting rights and abortion rights. Overall, on domestic matters, the partisan matchup is between neoliberalism and neofascism. While the abhorrent roles of the Democratic leadership are extensive, to put it mildly, the two parties now represent hugely different constituencies and agendas at home. Not so on matters of war and peace.

Both parties continue to champion what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.” When King described the profligate spending for a distant war as “some demonic, destructive suction tube,” he was condemning dynamics that endure with a vengeance. Today, the madness and the denial are no less entrenched. A militaristic core serves as a sacred touchstone for faith in America as the world’s one and only indispensable nation. Gargantuan Pentagon budgets are taken for granted, as is the assumed prerogative to bomb other countries at will.

Every budget has continued to include massive outlays for nuclear weapons, including gigantic expenditures for so-called “modernization” of the nuclear arsenal. A fact that this book cited when it was first published—that the United States had ten thousand nuclear warheads and Russia had a comparable number—is no longer true; most estimates say those stockpiles are now about half as large. But the current situation is actually much more dangerous. In 2007, the Doomsday Clock maintained by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists pegged the world’s proximity to annihilation at five minutes to apocalyptic Midnight. As 2022 began, the symbolic hands were at one hundred seconds to Midnight. Such is the momentum of the nuclear arms race, fueled by profit-driven military contractors. Lofty rhetoric about seeking peace is never a real brake on the nationalistic thrust of militarism.

If you’d rather not think about nuclear weapons, that’s understandable. But such a coping strategy has limited value. And those who are making vast profits from preparations for global annihilation are further empowered by our avoidance.

At the level of national policy, nuclear derangement is so normalized that few give it a second thought. Yet normal does not mean sane. As an epigraph to his brilliant book The Doomsday Machine, Daniel Ellsberg provides a chillingly apt quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: “Madness in individuals is something rare; but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule.”

As 2022 got underway, some policy technocrats for the USA’s nuclear arsenal and some advocates for arms control were locked in a heated dispute over the future of ICBMs: intercontinental ballistic missiles. The argument pitted the “national security” establishment—hell-bent on “modernizing” ICBMs—against nuclear-policy critics who prefer to keep the current ICBMs in place. Both positions refuse to acknowledge the profound need to get rid of them entirely.

Elimination of ICBMs would substantially reduce the chances of a worldwide nuclear holocaust. The ICBMs are uniquely vulnerable to effective attack, and thus have no deterrent value. Instead of being a “deterrent,” ICBMs are actually land-based sitting ducks (unlike the invulnerable sea-based and air-based parts of the “nuclear triad”) and for that reason are set up for “launch on warning.” As a result, whether a report of incoming missiles is accurate or a false alarm, the commander in chief would have to quickly decide whether to “use or lose” the ICBMs. “If our sensors indicate that enemy missiles are en route to the United States, the president would have to consider launching ICBMs before the enemy missiles could destroy them; once they are launched, they cannot be recalled,” former Defense Secretary William Perry wrote. “The president would have less than 30 minutes to make that terrible decision.” Experts like Perry are clear as they advocate for scrapping ICBMs. But the ICBM force is a sacred cash cow.

An enormous ICBM lobbying apparatus remains in high gear, with huge corporate profits at stake. Northrop Grumman has landed a $13.3 billion contract to proceed with developing a new ICBM system, misleadingly named the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. It’s all in sync with automatic political devotion to ICBMs in Congress and the executive branch. Armed and on hair-trigger alert, the country’s 400 ICBMs are deeply entrenched—not only in underground silos scattered across five states, but also in the mindsets of the U.S. political establishment. If the goal is to get big campaign contributions from military contractors, fuel the profits of the military-industrial complex, and stay in sync with the outlooks that dominate corporate media, those mindsets are logical. If the goal is to prevent nuclear war, the mindsets are unhinged.

As Dan Ellsberg and I wrote in an article for The Nation in the fall of 2021, “Getting trapped in an argument about the cheapest way to keep ICBMs operational in their silos is ultimately no-win. The history of nuclear weapons in this country tells us that people will spare no expense if they believe that spending the money will really make them and their loved ones safer—we must show them that ICBMs actually do the opposite.” Even if Russia and China didn’t reciprocate at all, closure of all the U.S. ICBMs would greatly reduce the chances of nuclear war.

On Capitol Hill, such realities are hazy and beside the point compared to straight-ahead tunnel vision and momentum of conventional wisdom. For members of Congress, routinely voting to appropriate billions of dollars for nuclear weaponry seems natural. Challenging rote assumptions about ICBMs will be essential to disrupt the march toward nuclear apocalypse.

With the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the third decade of this century is shaping up to unfold new wrinkles in American hegemonic conceits. Along the way, Joe Biden has echoed a central precept of doublethink in George Orwell’s most famous novel, 1984: “War is Peace.” Speaking at the United Nations as the autumn of 2021 began, Biden proclaimed: “I stand here today, for the first time in twenty years, with the United States not at war. We’ve turned the page.” But the turned page was bound into a volume of killing with no foreseeable end. The United States remained at war, bombing in the Middle East and elsewhere, with much information withheld from the public. And increases in U.S. belligerence toward both Russia and China escalated the risks of a military confrontation that could lead to nuclear war.

A rosy view of the USA’s future is only possible when ignoring history in real time. After four years of the poisonous Trump presidency, the Biden strain of corporate liberalism offers a mix of antidotes and ongoing toxins. The Republican Party, now neofascist, is in a strong position to gain control of the U.S. government by mid-decade. Preventing such a cataclysm seems beyond the grasp of the same Democratic Party elites that paved the way for Donald Trump to become president in the first place. Realism about the current situation—clarity about how we got here and where we are now—is necessary to mitigate impending disasters and help create a better future. Vital truths must be told. And acted upon.

Norman Solomon
January 1, 2022

Meet The PINOs progressive in name only

Foreign Policy Primer For US Congressional Candidates

Primer on Foreign Policy

For U.S. Congressional Candidates

Voters are often told that candidates for the U.S. Congress lack any foreign policy platform because they don’t know enough about the topic and don’t plan to focus on it. The following is meant to quickly remedy that situation.


Table Of Contents

The Federal Budget

Setting aside mandatory spending (including Social Security, Medicare, and other spending that Congress does not address annually) as well as payments on debts, and looking only at discretionary spending (the money Congress spends each year at its discretion), over half in recent years has gone to military spending.

Military spending (discretionary and otherwise) includes a budget of three-quarters of a trillion dollars for the Pentagon, plus hundreds of billions more for nuclear weapons in the Energy Department, military activities of other departments including Homeland Security, the budgets of 17 secretive agencies, debt for past wars, and the Veterans Affairs budget.

U.S. military spending dwarfs the cost of most infrastructure and social needs spending legislation, the cost of any other item (or dozen items) of discretionary spending, and the military spending of any other nation. In 2020, U.S. military spending was more than the military spending of the next 11 biggest spenders combined, nine of which nations were U.S. weapons customers pressed by the U.S. government to increase their military spending. The next 14 biggest spenders below the top 12 were the only others to spend over 1% of U.S. military spending, and of those 14, 11 were U.S. weapons customers. 

Percentage of U.S. Military Spending Spent on the Militaries of Certain Nations: 

China 32.4%
Russia 7.9%
Iran 2.0%

In 2020 military spending per capita, the U.S. government led all others, and 21 of the next 22 were U.S. weapons customers.

The Militarization of Other Nations

Between 2011 and 2021 the United States led the world in weapons exports with 35% of the total. The next biggest weapons dealers were Russia at 22%, France at 8%, China at 5%, Germany at 5%, and the United Kingdom at 4%.

Using a U.S.-funded listing (by Freedom House) of the 50 most oppressive governments, one finds that the U.S. government approves U.S. weapons shipments to 82% of them, provides military training to 88% of them, funds the militaries of 66% of them, and assists in at least one of these three ways 96% of them.

Few war-torn regions manufacture significant weapons. Few wars fail to have U.S.-made weapons on both sides. Examples of wars with U.S.-made weapons on both sides are: Syria, Iraq, Libya, the Iran-Iraq war, the Mexican drug war, World War II.

Foreign Aid

It is sometimes imagined that foreign aid makes up 15% or 20% of the federal budget. In reality it is far less than 1 percent. It is routinely claimed that the U.S. government gives the most aid to the world of any government on Earth, though less than Europe as a single whole. If this were true, it would not be anywhere close to true as a percentage of gross national income or per capita. In fact, as a percentage of GNI, the U.S. trails behind most wealthy nations. The reason it is not true that the U.S. government provides the most aid is that 30% to 40% of what it calls aid is military spending, that is to say, primarily U.S. tax dollars being funneled through foreign governments and into U.S. weapons companies.

We’ve mentioned foreign aid as a percentage of a national economy, whereas above we did not mention military spending as a percentage of an economy. The reason for this is that more aid is very clearly needed and ought to be provided to the extent possible, whereas more military spending is not clearly needed and not clearly needed for each country in proportion to its wealth.

U.S. Bases

The U.S. military maintains at least 80% of the military bases in the world that are on foreign soil. The United States has nearly three times as many bases abroad (750) as U.S. embassies, consulates, and missions. While there are approximately half as many installations as at the Cold War’s end, U.S. bases have spread geographically — to twice as many countries and colonies (from 40 to 80), with large concentrations of facilities in the Middle East, East Asia, parts of Europe, and Africa. U.S. bases abroad cost taxpayers an estimated $55 billion annually. Bases abroad have helped the United States launch wars and other combat operations in at least 25 countries between 2001 and 2021. Bases, like military spending, have an established record of making wars more, not less, likely. U.S. installations are found in at least 38 non-democratic countries and colonies.

The Rule Of Law

  • Since 1907, all parties to the Hague Convention of 1907 have been obliged to “use their best efforts to ensure the pacific settlement of international differences,” to appeal to other nations to mediate, to accept offers of mediation from other nations, to create if needed “an International Commission of Inquiry, to facilitate a solution of these disputes by elucidating the facts by means of an impartial and conscientious investigation” and to appeal if needed to the permanent court at the Hague for arbitration.
  • Since 1928, all parties to the Kellogg-Briand Pact have been legally required to “condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another,” and to “agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”
  • Since 1945, all parties to the UN Charter have been compelled to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” albeit with loopholes added for UN-authorized wars and defensive wars, loopholes that do not apply to any recent wars, but loopholes the existence of which create in many minds the vague idea that wars are legal.
  • Since 1949, all parties to NATO, have agreed to a restatement of the ban on threatening or using force found in the UN Charter, even while agreeing to prepare for wars and to join in the defensive wars of other members of NATO.
  • Since 1970, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has required its parties to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

The U.S. government has not only refused to join the ICC but sought to punish other nations for doing so. The U.S. government is the top user of the veto at the UN Security Council, a leading holdout on human rights and disarmament treaties, the only nation not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and one of four not to have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The U.S. government is a lonely hold out, with limited and often rather disreputable company, on the

The U.S. government is a lonely hold out, with limited and often rather disreputable company, on the
• International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
• International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights optional protocols
• Convention Against Torture optional protocol
• International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
• International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance
• The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities
• International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries
• Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
• Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
• Principles of International Cooperation in the Detection, Arrest, Extradition, and Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
• Convention on Cluster Munitions
• Land Mines Convention
• Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

War or threat of war, or economic sanctions that inflict collective punishment, violate the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in some cases the Genocide Convention.

War Powers

The U.S. Constitution makes treaties the supreme law of the land, including treaties that forbid war. But as long as war was legal, or as long as it is effectively treated as legal, the Constitution also very clearly gives Congress the power to begin and end wars. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 arguably has many flaws. Bills have been introduced repeatedly in Congress that would weaken and strengthen it in various ways. But the chief failure is that of not using it. On various occasions, a single Congress Member has been able to compel a debate and vote on whether to end a war, but only in the case of a single war (the U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen) has such a vote succeeded in both houses, and in that case, a veto by then-President Donald Trump had been accurately predicted.



Since WWII, the U.S. government has overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in at least 85 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries. Its wars have tended to be very one-sided, with U.S. casualties making up a tiny fraction, and the leading cause of U.S. death in 21st-century wars being suicide.

There has never been a major U.S. war without documentation of Congress being lied to by the White House and/or the Department of War / Defense (the name was changed in 1947). Congress has been falsely told that Mexicans invaded the United States, that Iraqis were taking infants out of incubators in Kuwait, that Spain blew up a ship, that U.S. ships sunk by Germany were not taking part in wars, that Canada would welcome U.S. troops, that Vietnam had attacked U.S. ships, that Germany had drafted plans to divide up the Americas and rid the world of religion, that Iraq was working with Al Qaeda and stockpiling vast quantities of weapons of mass destruction, and on and on. Congress Members have far more often regretted their actions (and lack of actions) that created wars than their actions that prevented them. Senate votes in 2002 in favor of war on Iraq were famously major stumbling blocks in failed presidential campaigns of John Kerry, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton.

Nuclear Weapons

In addition to this approximate count of nuclear warheads, the United States — arguably in violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — keeps nuclear weapons in Turkey, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

"National Security"

In a 2006 Politico article, unnamed “senior Pentagon officers” denounce claims of a Russian threat as motivated by bureaucratic and profit interests. “‘This is the “Chicken-Little, sky-is-falling” set in the Army,’ the senior Pentagon officer said. ‘These guys want us to believe the Russians are 10 feet tall. There’s a simpler explanation: The Army is looking for a purpose, and a bigger chunk of the budget. And the best way to get that is to paint the Russians as being able to land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. What a crock.'”

Congress routinely funds weapons that the Pentagon does not want.

Not only is the motivation for military spending not purely defensive, while being uniquely unaccountable (the Pentagon being the one department never successfully audited), but in defensive terms it is often counterproductive. Terrorism increased from 2001 through 2014, principally as a predictable result of a war on terrorism. Some 95% of all suicide terrorist attacks are conducted to encourage foreign occupiers to leave some country or countries.

On March 11, 2004, Al Qaeda bombs killed 191 people in Madrid, Spain, just before an election in which one party was campaigning against Spain’s participation in the U.S.-led war on Iraq. The people of Spain voted the Socialists into power, and they removed all Spanish troops from Iraq by May. There were no more bombs in Spain. This history stands in strong contrast to that of Britain, the United States, and other nations that have responded to blowback with more war, generally producing more blowback.

A December 2014 Gallup poll of global public opinion across 65 nations found the United States to be far and away the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world, and a Pew poll in of 30 countries in 2017 found majorities in most countries polled viewing the United States as a threat. 

It has become almost routine for U.S. military commanders, usually just after retiring, to argue that various wars or tactics are creating more new enemies than the number of enemies they are killing.

War abroad increases hatred at home and the militarization of police. While wars are fought in the name of “supporting” those fighting in the wars, veterans are given little assistance in dealing with the deep moral guilt, trauma, brain injury, and other hurdles in the way of adapting to nonviolent society. Those trained in mass killing by the U.S. military are disproportionately those who become mass shooters in the United States. And militaries lose or have stolen huge numbers of guns that are used in violent crimes that are not war.

The threat of nuclear apocalypse is currently higher than ever. The threat of climate apocalypse, greatly contributed to by militarism, is currently higher than ever.


Boycotts of a government that are supported by and led by a huge section of its own population and which effectively target a government rather than a population (such as the boycott against Apartheid South Africa) can sometimes be justified as legal and moral.

But sanctions that the United States unilaterally imposes on numerous nations, sometimes explicitly intended to harm, and often effectively harming, broad populations (imposing what the Geneva Conventions call “collective punishment” and what President Richard Nixon called “making an economy scream”) tend to be illegal, immoral, and counterproductive of the purported goal of generating a popular overthrow of the targeted government. To cite one example: the nearly 60-year U.S. blockade of Cuba, which has caused great hardship to the Cuban population.

Sanctions have been used to weaken nations as a form of warfare, and as a prelude to or continuation of traditional warfare — as in their use on Iraq between the Gulf War and the Iraq War, or their use on Afghanistan following the 2021 withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that many thousands of Iraqi children had died due to sanctions. We should carefully question the acceptance of U.S. sanctions as an alternative to war, and propose less hostile and harmful alternatives. 

Global Cooperation

Flag of the United Nations

Actual defense and security would require globally addressing the threats of environmental collapse, nuclear war or accident, disease pandemics, poverty, unsafe working conditions, and lack of adequate healthcare. But nations’ working together on disarmament, environmental protection, and health is greatly hindered by the hostility, secrecy, and distrust generated by militarism.

Studies over the past century have found that nonviolent tools are more effective in resisting tyranny and oppression and resolving conflicts and achieving security than violence is.


Addressing numerous public policy issues without a comprehensive plan that addresses militarism and military spending can make as much sense as serving tea while ignoring the presence of a gorilla in the room. A budget is a life-saving or life-eliminating document. Militarism kills far more through the expenditure of resources than the use of weapons.

It would cost about $30 billion per year to end starvation around the world. It would cost about $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water. About $70 billion per year would help eliminate poverty in the United States. Christian Sorensen writes in Understanding the War Industry, “The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that 5.7 million very poor families with children would need, on average, $11,400 more to live above the poverty line (as of 2016). The total money needed . . . would be roughly $69.4 billion/year.” 

Military spending diverts public funds into increasingly privatized industries through the least accountable public enterprise and one that is hugely profitable for the owners and directors of the corporations involved. As a result, war spending works to concentrate wealth in a smaller number of hands, from which a portion of it can be used to corrupt government and further increase or maintain military spending.

War and war propaganda have often fueled and been fueled by racism, xenophobia, religious hatred, and other types of bigotry. Historian Kathleen Belew says there has always been a correlation in the United States between the aftermath of war and the rise of white supremacist violence. “If you look, for instance, at the surges in Ku Klux Klan membership, they align more consistently with the return of veterans from combat and the aftermath of war than they do with anti-immigration, populism, economic hardship, or any of the other factors that historians have typically used to explain them,” she says. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that we would need to tackle three interlocking problems together: racism, militarism, and extreme materialism.

burning oil field

Since 2001, the U.S. military has emitted 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, equivalent to the annual emissions of 257 million cars on the road. The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest institutional consumer of oil ($17B/year) in the world, and the largest global landholder with 750 foreign military bases in 80 countries. A major motivation behind some wars is the desire to control resources that poison the earth, especially oil and gas. In fact, the launching of wars by wealthy nations in poor ones does not correlate with human rights violations or lack of democracy or threats of terrorism, but does strongly correlate with the presence of oil. War does most of its environmental damage where it happens, but also devastates the natural environment of military bases in foreign and home nations. The U.S. military is the third-largest polluter of U.S. waterways. Yet militarism is omitted from climate agreements. As the environmental crisis worsens, thinking of war as a tool with which to address it threatens us with the ultimate vicious cycle.

We’re often told that wars are fought for “freedom.” But, predictably and consistently, what wars bring is just the reverse. It is the idea of the wartime enemy that allows government secrecy, and allows liberties to first be taken away from devalued people, later predictably expanded to taking them away from valued people as well.

The moral and cultural impact of investing in an enterprise of mass killing is not easily quantified, but clearly significant.


It is common to think that, because many people have jobs in the war industry, spending on war and preparations for war benefits an economy. In reality, spending those same dollars on peaceful industries, on education, on infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people would produce more jobs and in most cases better paying jobs — with enough savings to help everyone make the transition from war work to peace work.

"Leading the World"

The White House, Washington DC, USA.

The best relationship commonly proposed for the U.S. government with the rest of the world is one in which it switches direction on some policy, such as environmental pollution or protection of whistleblowers or incarceration, and suddenly begin to lead everyone else. This mode of thinking can seem out-of-touch, arrogant, and misdirected in areas where a sensible relationship with some other parts of the world would include learning rather than leading. The United States does not lead, and often trails at least the rest of the wealthy world, in such matters as freedom (by all kinds of measures), education, environmental damage, incarceration, health coverage, parental leave, life expectancy, elimination of poverty, and maintenance of infrastructure of various sorts. The alternatives to leading the world are not limited to following the world. There exists also the option of joining the world. It’s worth remembering not to describe this as the world’s wealthiest country joining the world, since per capita the United States is not the world’s wealthiest country.

U.S. Public Opinion

U.S. public opinion favors a progressive overhaul of foreign policy.

Pollsters at Data for Progress asked this question:

“According to the Congressional Budget Office, the United States is expected to spend $738 billion on its military in 2020. That’s more than the next seven countries combined and more than the U.S. budget for education, federal courts, affordable housing, local economic development, and the State Department combined. Some say that maintaining a dominant global military footprint is necessary to keep us safe, and is worth the cost. Others say that money could be better spent on domestic needs like health care, education, or protecting the environment. Based on what you’ve just read, would you support or oppose reallocating money from the Pentagon budget to other priorities?” 

They got this answer:

A majority of 52% supported or “strongly supported” that idea (29% strongly supported it), while 32% opposed (20% strongly). If the sentence beginning “That’s more than . . . ” was left out, 51% supported the idea (30% strongly), while 36% opposed (19% strongly).

When the University of Maryland sat people down and showed them the federal budget in a pie chart (a more significant education than a single sentence) the results were dramatic, with a strong majority wanting to move serious money out of militarism and into human and environmental needs. Among other details revealed, the U.S. public would cut foreign aid to dictatorships but increase humanitarian assistance abroad. 

Data for Progress also asked this question:

“The United States currently spends more than half of its discretionary budget on military spending, which is considerably more than it spends on other foreign policy tools such as diplomacy and economic development programs. Some argue that maintaining U.S. military superiority should be the top foreign policy goal, and we should continue spending levels as they are. Others argue that rather than pouring money into war we should invest in preventing wars before they happen. Do you support or oppose a proposal to spend at least ten cents on non-military war prevention tools for every dollar we spend on the Pentagon?” 

The answer:

“A clear majority of voters support the ‘dime for a dollar’ policy, with 57 percent somewhat or strongly supporting and just 21 percent opposing the policy. This includes a plurality of Republican voters, 49 percent of whom support and just 30 percent of whom oppose the policy. The dime for a dollar policy is overwhelmingly popular among Independents and Democrats. A net +28 percent of Independents and a net +57 percent of Democrats support the dime for a dollar policy.”

Data for Progress also found that a plurality (and a strong majority among Democrats) wants to withhold free weapons from Israel to curb its human rights abuses against Palestinians. A strong majority wants a no-first-use nuclear policy. A strong majority wants more humanitarian aid to Latin America. A strong majority wants to ban all use of torture. (We should properly say “re-ban” given how many times torture has been banned and re-banned.) Notably, the U.S. public, by a significant majority, wants a peace agreement with North Korea, but the group that wants it the most is Republicans (possibly merely because the U.S. president was a Republican when the poll was done). 

Data for Progress also found that huge majorities wanted to end the endless U.S. wars in Afghanistan and across the Middle East. Those who supported continuing these wars were a tiny fringe group, something one might never have guessed from media coverage. Overall we’re talking about 16% of the U.S. public. Among Democrats it was 7%. 

Data for Progress also found a strong majority against allowing U.S. weapons sales to governments that abuse human rights. 

Every successful U.S. presidential candidate since George W. Bush (himself against “nation building”) has sought to be depicted as in favor of peace (although the policy details have not always fully matched the rhetoric). According to one analysis, Hillary Clinton would have won two key states and the presidency if not for the perception that she was too eager for war. Candidate Richard Nixon had a secret plan for peace that we’re still waiting to see, and his predecessors back to FDR presented themselves as antiwar, including FDR in the election of 1940, similar to Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Lyndon Johnson chose not to run for reelection because of his unpopularity, driven by his warmaking in Vietnam. George H.W. Bush thought a war might get him reelected; it did not. Peace, as a general rule, is popular, and when it becomes an election issue, as in the Congressional elections of 2006 it can lead all the exit polls as the top motivation for voters. It’s a good idea to be on the right side of peace when such moments arise.

Examples of Successful Candidates' Platforms

The following are all quotes from the websites, social media feeds, and statements of successful candidates for Congress prior to their first election victories. Some bits are dated, but most are still relevant:

Cori Bush (on Twitter)

cori bush“Militarization makes up 64% of our federal budget. Medicare & Health are 6%. Education is 5%. Social Security, Unemployment, and Labor together are 3%. Ignorance is thinking those priorities keep our families safe.”

“220K+ people, including 1,700 healthcare workers, have died from COVID-19 due to our government’s inability to protect its citizens & pass pandemic relief. Ignorance is Trump’s Pentagon taking $1 billion in funding designated for PPE production to make jet engine parts.”

“@BernieSanders and @EdMarkey proposed a 10% cut on the Pentagon budget to use to fund health care, housing, childcare and educational opportunities for cities and towns experiencing a poverty rate of 25% or more. Ignorance is blocking this bill knowing it would save lives.”

“Ignorance is paying Lockheed Martin more than $1 trillion over the course of a 60 year contract for a dysfunctional F-35 program. Ignorance is letting their CEO take a $20 million dollar salary while military veterans go homeless.”

“The Department of Defense has never passed an independent audit, yet we continue to give them money unchecked. Ignorance is the Trump administration *INCREASING* the Pentagon budget by more than $100 billion since he was elected.”

“Ignorance is giving weapons of war to local police departments with no accountability or oversight. Ignorance is calling us radical for saying that’s wrong.”

Jamaal Bowman (public statement):

jamaal bowman“My opponent, Representative Eliot Engel, and I do not share the same foreign policy vision. He voted for one of the worst policy disasters of my lifetime — an unjust and costly 2 trillion dollar war in Iraq. He voted against President Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement which put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program. He went on CNN this past year and said he didn’t want to tie Trump’s hands when it came to strikes on Iran. He was one of only 16 House Democrats in 2016 to vote against an amendment that blocked the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia which has been relentlessly dropping them on Yemeni civilians. My opponent accepts donations from corporations and arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon. He supports a hawkish and costly foreign policy agenda instead of focusing on the communities in our district that have been neglected for far too long. We must dramatically reduce the Pentagon’s budget over the next ten years, end the forever wars, and rebuild a diplomacy-first approach through the State Department. We have been in Afghanistan for 19 years, in Iraq for 17 years, and in Syria for five years. Congress must reassert its authority to bring our troops home.”

Mondaire Jones (campaign website):

mondaire jones“The United States has been at war for most of my life — wars that have led to hundreds of thousands of people being killed and millions more displaced. We were led into the disastrous war in Iraq under false pretenses. The war in Afghanistan has been raging for almost 19 years. We are contributing to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, in Yemen, by providing weapons to the Saudi-led coalition. Extreme war powers, and a reluctance by members of Congress to exert oversight, have enabled the Trump Administration to bring us dangerously close to the brink of war with Iran. . . . Enough is enough. Our national security depends on a sane approach to American foreign policy that centers diplomacy, peace, human rights, and cooperation on the challenges facing our world. We must stop fighting endless wars. As a member of Congress, I will fight to finally repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which has given the executive branch a blank check to pursue foreign wars having nothing to do with the September 11th attacks. I will work to bring an end to existing conflicts, including the war in Afghanistan, through inclusive peace processes that center human rights, including women’s rights. I will support barring the sale of weapons to human rights violators, including Saudi Arabia, and I will support redirecting funds towards conflict prevention, including through development aid to reduce poverty and inequalities and combat climate change. . . . Our budgets reflect our values and priorities. Currently, the United States has chosen to prioritize investing in war and weapons ahead of providing for the basic needs of our people. The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allocates a whopping $738 billion dollars for military spending. We spend more than approximately the next seven countries combined. It is estimated that we have spent almost $6 trillion dollars on the Global War on Terror alone. The United States maintains hundreds of costly military bases in dozens of countries throughout the world. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has gutted funding for the State Department and USAID, making the United States less able to lead on diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to address our world’s biggest challenges. As a member of Congress, I will push to reduce military spending and reinvest this money in the State Department, to strengthen diplomacy and peacebuilding, as well as domestically, in programs that meet the needs of our civilian population. I will fight to prioritize investment in human security approaches, which focus on meeting the human needs of people and protecting our environment.”

Ayanna Pressley (campaign website):

“The United States spends more on its military than the next seven countries with the largest military budgets combined, and over the last 21 months Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress have increased military spending by more than $200 billion dollars. The administration’s policy to significantly increase military spending while pushing forward massive tax cuts will have a devastating impact on America’s ability to fund domestic priorities like healthcare, infrastructure, education, and housing. In Congress, I will:

  • Support cutting the US defense budget by 25 percent, resulting in nearly $180 billion in savings that could be used to better support our domestic priorities.
  • Prioritize spending on updated training protocols and equipment, including investments in a hardened election and cyber defense system, and expanded intelligence and information sharing capabilities with our allies.
  • Advocate for greater oversight and accountability of how defense funding is distributed across the military and in active conflict zones.
  • Significantly increase our spending on foreign aid, with a particular emphasis on programs that benefit women and girls, who are essential to the health of communities around the world. Increasing foreign aid will not only benefit the international community, but help ensure the long-term security of the United States.

“I believe our involvement in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan – like Vietnam before them – have taught us devastating lessons about the commitment of American military resources without sufficient forethought, planning, or international support. Thousands of lost and wounded American service members, and civilians tell the story of the consequences of our decisions to go to war. I would strongly support any efforts to quickly end U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. It’s time to end the wars and the monetary incentives that perpetuate them. 

“I also think it is essential to engage our international partners before making any long-term decision about our approach to conflict overseas. Unilateral U.S. military support should only be used as a last resort to defend the nation. It is important that Congress have significant oversight of U.S. involvement in international conflicts; I would support repealing the 2001 AUMF that gave the Executive wide ranging authority to commit military resources in the War on Terror, and I believe that Congress must have final approval on any commitment of US military resources overseas.

“Climate change is clearly a matter of national security. Despite the current administration’s attempts to say otherwise, scientists around the world agree that the earth is getting warmer, sea levels are rising, weather patterns are changing, and our countries are becoming increasingly susceptible to flooding and natural disasters. Responding appropriately to the threat of climate change will require partnership with the international community – like that enshrined by the Paris Climate Accords. In Congress, I will push for America to rejoin the accords and reverse our currently policy of withdrawing from the international community on issues of climate change, while simultaneously advocating for domestic policies that will decrease our carbon footprint.”

Rashida Tlaib (public statement):

“I don’t support military operations. If you go to the Department of Defense website, every day, Monday through Friday, there is an area called ‘contracts.’ Go there. You want to pay for college? Medicare for All? Pay to take care of Americans dying from famine to basic human rights abuses? Look at those contracts. I’m floored at how much money [they’re spending].”

When asked “Do you want to divert the DOD budget into social services?” Tlaib replied: “Yes. We can build safer and more vibrant communities. I am tired of the earmarks for corporations. They aren’t going to Americans. They’re going to private companies. Not only have we made prisons into private corporations, wars are a for-profit industry. The [DoD is] a cesspool for corporations to make money.”

Ilhan Omar (campaign website):

Ilhan Omar“Promote Peace & Prosperity

“We must end the state of continuous war, as these wars have made us less safe. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed, entire countries have been destabilized, and we are currently in the midst of an extreme global migration crisis. Meanwhile at home, there have been increasingly cuts to spending on healthcare, infrastructure, education, and housing. We must scale back U.S. military activities, and reinvest our expansive military budget back into our communities. Once this happens, we can begin to repair the harm done, repair America’s broken image, and invest in diplomatic relationships.”

  • We spend by far the most on our military budget, and more than the next seven countries on the list of top spenders combined
  • In 2017, the United States spent over $700 billion dollars—well over half the country’s discretionary budget
  • The Pentagon has spent $400 billion dollars on the F-35 fighter jet program, and will eventually spend over 1 trillion dollars in costs and maintenance
  • American intervention in democratically-elected governments has contributed to the migration crisis
  • The executive branch has escalated U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, with no authorization from Congress

“Vision and Policy Priorities: End funding for perpetual war and military aggression 

“We are currently engaged in a number of wars that have no end in sight—Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. These wars have destabilized regions, created massive humanitarian crises, and continue to hurt our image across the world. We must end these wars, and we must avoid military-use as a last resort in the future.

  • Reduce total spending on the military from its projected FY 2019 levels of $886 billion and reinvest that money into healthcare, education, housing, jobs, clean energy, and infrastructure
  • Cut the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) that has been called the Pentagon’s ‘slush fund’. In 2017, the OCO budget increased by 41% to $82.4 billion.
  • Eliminate wasteful military programs like the F-35 fighter jet program, saving taxpayers $1 trillion dollars total
  • Scale back the number of US military bases across the world

“Repeal harmful sanctions and oppose all U.S. intervention into democratically-elected governments 

“Sanctions and economic blockades have been used to hurt the economies of countries outside of the U.S. sphere of influence. These measures hurt working people in other countries and foster animosity towards our government.

  • End sanctions and embargoes against countries, which ultimately only hurt the working families of those countries
  • Support diplomatic solutions to the conflicts in both North Korea and Iran, and avoid military conflict at all costs
  • Support the JCPOA, and advocate for a deal that does not disproportionately impose economic sanctions on the people of Iran.

“Fully fund programs to care for our veteran population

“We must ensure that veterans who have returned home from conflict-zones are taken care of. It is unacceptable that politicians have send soldiers to fight in wars, and refuse to fund the programs they need when returning home. We must ensure that all veterans are housed, have access to healthcare, and mental health care services.

  • Eliminate homelessness among veterans by expanding the HUD-VASH program and Supportive Services for Veterans Families
  • Oppose the privatization of the Veterans Affairs healthcare system and expand funding for physical and mental healthcare for veterans

“Support a peace that affirms the safety and rights of both Palestinians and Israelis

“Stability in the Middle East depends on the establishment of a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis. But without justice, there will never be peace. The United States must work with the international community, and not unilaterally, to work towards a solution. I will use my voice in Congress and work with communities on the ground to center the ultimate goal of self-determination and peace.

  • Fight against efforts from the Trump administration to undermine the peace process, and support the autonomy for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to define what a solution looks like
  • Uplift the voices of Palestinians demanding an end to the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and end the siege of Gaza
  • Oppose the killing of civilians in Gaza and the expansion of settlements into the West Bank

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (campaign website):

“Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States has entangled itself in war and occupation throughout the Middle East and North Africa. As of 2018, we are currently involved in military action in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Hundreds of thousands of civilians in these countries have been killed either as collateral damage from American strikes or from the instability caused by U.S. interventions. Millions more have fled their broken countries, contributing to the global refugee crisis.

“This continued action damages America’s legitimacy as a force for good, creates new generations of potential terrorists, and erodes American prosperity. In times when we’re told that there’s not enough money, Republicans and corporate Democrats seem to find the cash to fund a $1.1 trillion fighter jet program or a $1.7 trillion-dollar nuclear weapon ‘modernization’ program. The costs are extreme: the Pentagon’s budget for 2018 is $700 billion dollars: to continue fighting an endless War on Terror and refighting the Cold War with a new arms race that nobody can win.

“According to the Constitution, the right to declare war belongs to the legislative body, and yet many of these global acts of aggression have never once been voted on by Congress. In some cases, we’ve even acted unilaterally, without the backing of the United Nations.

“America should not be in the business of destabilizing countries. While we may see ourselves as liberators, the world increasingly views us as occupiers and aggressors. Alexandria believes that we must end the ‘forever war’ by bringing our troops home, and ending the air strikes that perpetuate the cycle of terrorism throughout the world.

“By bringing our troops home, we can begin to heal the wounds we’re opening by continuing military engagement. We can begin to repair our image. We can reunite military families, separated by repeated deployments. We can become stronger by building stronger diplomatic and economic ties, and by saving our armed forces only for when they’re truly needed.”

Unwarranted Influence

President Eisenhower: “We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. … In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

The unwarranted influence comes in the form of financial investments in weapons companies by Congress Members (both direct stock holdings and investments through investment funds), in campaign “contributions” (and journalists are often able to show the correlation between this funding and the legislative actions of those funded), in prior employment or future job offers to Congress Members or staffers by war contractors or by the U.S. military, in the actual provision of staffers to Congressional offices by the military, in the (misleading and counterproductive but real) jobs in states or districts created by military funding and used as leverage even though decreasing the military funding would increase the number of jobs, in free trips to Israel, and in corporate media access provided for pro-war statements. That’s a lot to guard against, but guarding against it is a key part of the job of Congress Member.


Voters should expect a campaign platform to include a basic, rough budget (a pie chart of federal discretionary spending), a position on military spending with a number in it, a plan for advancing a reverse arms race and the process of economic conversion to peaceful, sustainable, just, and prosperous industries. A voter should be able to know what treaties and international institutions a Congressional candidate supports and opposes, what position he or she takes on foreign weapons sales, and what position he or she takes on actual or possible wars. Such a platform should include steps that will be taken on foreign bases, nuclear weapons, and areas of international relations currently in need of action. A campaign platform can also serve an educational function on topics not everyone is yet well informed on.

Meet The PINOs progressive in name only

Meet The PINOs: "Progressive In Name Only"

Dec. 16, 2021

Meet The PINOs: "Progressive In Name Only"

These Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Often Act More Like Corporate Centrists—And Many Deserve Primary Challenges

A Report

By Christopher D. Cook
Edited by Jeff Cohen

A Report

By Christopher D. Cook
Edited by Jeff Cohen


Meet The PINOs progressive in name onlyIn the fall of 2021, as progressive and corporate Democrats battled over the infrastructure and “Build Back Better” bills, the Congressional Progressive Caucus reached its zenith in power and profile—at one key stage pledging to withhold 60 votes from infrastructure legislation until Speaker Pelosi ensured that Build Back Better would also move forward. Led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the caucus wielded its greatest clout as a progressive bloc since its inception in 1991.

But when it came time to “hold the line” by voting No on the infrastructure bill—progressives’ final leverage to force votes on Build Back Better—only six members (the “Squad” plus Reps. Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman) stayed true to their pledge. The caucus’ newfound power and its limits raise important questions. How can one of Congress’ biggest caucuses—comprised of 94 representatives, one non-voting delegate, and one senator—lack the power to force passage of a modest social safety-net package already sliced nearly in half by two corporate Democratic senators?

Going forward, how can the caucus solidify and focus its power to advance transformative and urgently needed policies like universal healthcare, a Green New Deal, a truly livable minimum wage, a wealth tax, and a sensible downsizing of America’s runaway militarism?

For starters, the caucus could ensure that its members are committed to the CPC’s agenda. The caucus says it “strongly supports a Green New Deal to take immediate, necessary steps to protect current and future generations from the deadly impact of climate change”—so shouldn’t its members support this fundamental change? The caucus adds, “we’re fighting to pass the Medicare for All Act to guarantee health care to all people living in the United States”—so, shouldn’t caucus members join this urgent fight?

Caucus chair Jayapal has taken several steps in this direction, enacting new rules that “every CPC member must vote in accordance with positions that two-thirds of the caucus has agreed to adopt.” But there’s a loophole, as HuffPost reported: members are “allowed to vote out of step with these caucus positions one-third of the time.”

Our examination of key votes, campaign donations, congressional testimony, and other records shows that many members of the caucus are “progressives in name only”—PINOs. On core progressive policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, cutting military spending, robust civil liberties, and more, these caucus members function more like corporate centrists—opposing significant challenges to the status quo and protecting corporate power along with endless war.

Several of these PINOs refused to cosponsor a resolution from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling for a Green New Deal; failed to cosponsor Rep. Jayapal’s Medicare for All legislation; voted for huge unnecessary military spending increases; and opposed amendments by Reps. Mark Pocan and Ocasio-Cortez for a modest 10 percent reduction in the military budget (a proposal which, in  Bernie Sanders’ Senate version last year, would have redirected $74 billion to poor and working-class communities).

Weighing factors including votes, the political hue of members’ districts (e.g., red, blue, or purple), and length of service in Congress—see Methodology below—we identified six especially problematic PINOs who are not living up to their progressive pretenses: Reps. Madeleine Dean (PA-4), Donald Norcross (NJ-1), Joe Morelle (NY-25), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-at large).

With “progressives” like these, we might ask, who needs corporate centrist Democrats? How will we ever get Medicare for All, a bold and transformative Green New Deal, or less militaristic foreign policy when so-called “progressives” oppose these changes? If politicians claim they are “progressive,” constituents should insist their actions match their rhetoric.

It’s worth noting that all the PINOs in our report voted for a $15 minimum wage and support abortion rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and voting rights legislation. The Democratic congressmembers featured here are not as conservative as the NRA-allied, abortion rights-opposing Henry Cuellar, or Build Back Better obstructionist Josh Gottheimer, or others that RootsAction skewered in our 2019 “Bad Blues” report for stifling progress on many fronts. They may not be “DINOs,” but these PINOs fall far short of what today’s moment requires—political courage and boldness to fight for major climate action, universal healthcare, a scaled-back military, and a far more equitable tax structure that redresses today’s extreme income inequality.

Disturbingly, 16 CPC members are also part of the ideologically corporatist New Democrat Coalition, which insists that “the center of gravity within the Democratic Party is moderate.” The NDC proclaims it is “committed to pro-economic growth, pro-innovation, and fiscally responsible policies…seeking to bridge the gap between left and right by challenging outmoded partisan approaches to governing.” In sharp contrast to the Green New Deal, in 2019 the NDC promoted its “market-oriented” emissions plan emphasizing carbon pricing and business incentives.

One wonders, for instance, why Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is a Progressive Caucus member while launching (along with conservative Democrat Gottheimer) a Team Blue PAC aimed at opposing primary challenges to Democrats—widely viewed as targeting progressive challengers akin to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, both of whom unseated longtime establishment Democrats.

Sometimes, even the most progressive members of Congress need a push. In August 2021, RootsAction obtained a “Dear Colleague” letter that leading CPC members Pocan and Barbara Lee were circulating that encouraged the House Armed Services Committee chair, Adam Smith, and others to approve President Biden’s even-bigger-than-Trump’s military budget, rather than increasing it even further. With help from RootsAction, constituents urged Pocan and Lee to “stop pre-compromising,” and instead push for military spending cuts.

In 2019, the Progressive Caucus endorsed 22 incumbents for reelection, including Donald Norcross and Joe Morelle, both among our top PINOs. The political landscape could shift in some districts as states finalize their congressional redistricting maps, particularly in states controlled by Republicans. Redistricting may impact whether various PINOs identified in this report are ripe for progressive primary challenges in 2022 and beyond.

Beyond any horserace politics, larger questions require attention: Under Jayapal’s more rigorous leadership, will the caucus now hold its members to a higher standard? Could this principled focus give progressives more power to create change? Will new progressive challengers arise to push PINOs to shape up or ship out?

Our “Top” Six: Will a Strong Progressive Please Primary These PINOs Soon?

❌ Madeleine Dean (PA-4. D+9): 100 percent disagreement.

Madeleine Dean (PA-4. D+9)Representing a Democratic-leaning district in southeastern Pennsylvania, mostly in suburbs of Philadelphia, Dean is the only CPC member who scored a full 100 percent wrong on core progressive issues in our review. Now in her second term, Rep. Dean has already disappointed some of her supporters, including labor activists demanding she take stronger stands on healthcare.

Dean avoided supporting Medicare for All, stating on her reelection campaign website: “Every person deserves to be able to have access to affordable, quality, and comprehensive healthcare. … Madeleine wants to continue working in Congress to support universal healthcare that is economically balanced to fulfill the promise that our government made in 2010.” Reform that is “economically balanced”? It seems Dean ignored extensive research showing that Medicare for All could save lives and up to $450 billion a year.

At a 2019 public forum in Philadelphia for area members of Congress, Dean was booed by Democratic activists when she explained her opposition to Medicare for All. In April 2021, healthcare workers and unions picketed Dean’s district office to protest her inaction on even a temporary expansion of Medicare to cover everyone during the pandemic. David McMahon, a delegate for the Montgomery County Central Labor Council, said: “when it comes to healthcare reform she lets Big Business do all the talking. We couldn’t even get her to meet with us on the Healthcare Emergency Guarantee Act in the middle of a pandemic.”

Rep. Dean took $77,500 in campaign donations from the insurance industry sector in 2020, and another $40,300 from the pharmaceuticals and health products sector.

Union activists weren’t the only disappointed Dean supporters. Journalist Dave Lindorff wrote a scathing piece on Dean after getting a meager response from her office on a basic civil liberties issue; Dean sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

Dean has failed to support either of the Green New Deal measures from Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush. At the Philadelphia forum in 2019, Dean told the crowd of Democratic activists that while she supports the idea of a Green New Deal, she wouldn’t co-sponsor it. In her reelection campaign, Dean touted more tepid “legislation that transforms our country into a climate-forward and clean energy powerhouse.” (While Dean has joined many progressives in supporting the THRIVE Act, which has some elements of the Green New Deal, she backed it a full month after 44 of her colleagues had cosponsored the bill.)

In foreign policy, Dean signed the March 2021 congressional letter (backed by 70 Republicans and 70 Democrats) aimed at slowing the Biden administration’s efforts to reestablish an Iran nuclear deal—a letter organized by the Israel-can-do-no-wrong lobby, AIPAC. In 2020 and 2021, she voted against amendments to reduce military spending.

❌ Donald Norcross (NJ-1. D+11): 90 percent disagreement.

Donald Norcross (NJ-1. D+11)Donald Norcross, in Congress since 2014, may be best known as the brother of South Jersey power broker and insurance-industry executive George Norcross. According to an investigation by ProPublica and WNYC, the Norcross brothers joined forces when Donald was a state senator to push through a 2013 state tax plan that reaped “at least” $1.1 billion for George’s powerful insurance brokerage and connected business partners and charities. Norcross represents a heavily Democratic congressional district that includes the impoverished city of Camden and New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia.

On March 17, 2021, as Rep. Jayapal introduced her Medicare for All bill, Norcross tweeted promisingly: “The United States is the richest country in the world, but millions of Americans still can’t afford health care. #MedicareForAll will change that—it’s time for a bold change.” Yet at year’s end, Norcross still has not co-sponsored the legislation in either of the last two sessions of Congress. A coalition of progressive New Jersey groups has urged Norcross to match his words with action. Norcross raked in $82,000 from the insurance industry sector in the 2020 election cycle.

While Norcross supported the COVID-vaccine waiver, he has often failed to back progressive priorities. Norcross has not co-sponsored either Green New Deal measure, and he voted for legislation in 2018 to boost natural gas exports.

Norcross, whose congressional website features an aircraft carrier in fully armed military posture, sits on the House Armed Services Committee and has proved a reliable Yes for military spending increases—“fighting to ensure our military is ready to meet any challenge, at home or abroad,” as his website puts it. He was one of 70 Democrats who signed the letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken undermining an Iran nuclear deal. He voted against both military budget-cut amendments and voted for massive military budget increases in  2020 and 2021. Norcross chairs the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and serves on the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. He voted last year to reauthorize warrantless government surveillance powers, after voting to expand those powers in 2018.

In an interview with Defense News, asked about his “Buy American” push for military manufacturing, Norcross responded: “The Chinese are very focused on trying to have a boot on the throat of America so that it can cut off some of those critical supplies.” Norcross also heaped praise on Israel’s Iron Dome, calling it “a purely defensive system that safeguards lives.” According to research by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Norcross has received more than $52,000 worth of trips to Israel paid for by “pro-Israel” groups allied with AIPAC.

Despite his dubious record on many core issues, Norcross received the endorsement of the Progressive Caucus in his 2020 reelection bid, and is the caucus’ vice chair for labor; yet he also is a member of the corporatist New Democrat Coalition. Norcross is being challenged in 2022 by Mario DeSantis, who supports universal single-payer healthcare and Pentagon budget cuts, among other progressive priorities opposed by Norcross.

❌ Jimmy Panetta (CA-20. D+23): 80 percent disagreement.

Jimmy Panetta (CA-20. D+23)Following in his father’s footsteps, Jimmy Panetta represents the same Central California Coast district—overwhelmingly Democratic—that elected Leon Panetta for nine terms (formerly the state’s 16th  then 17th Congressional District). Panetta seems to have inherited his father’s hawkish tendencies, voting to reauthorize the misnamed USA Freedom Act, backing military spending increases, and opposing Rep. Pocan’s and AOC’s modest attempts to rein in the military budget. Panetta also signed the letter undermining a renewed Iran nuclear deal.

Panetta received credit from the Progressive Caucus for urging Biden and Pelosi to go “big and bold” on infrastructure and Build Back Better—but when push came to shove, Panetta was not among the 22 Democrats who at a key moment in late September pledged to oppose BIF unless it was packaged in a vote with BBB.

Panetta receives substantial corporate campaign donations, including from top contributors Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the USA Rice Federation, Honeywell International, Morgan Stanley, and the American Hospital Association.

Panetta is one of 16 CPC members who is part of the corporate-allied New Democrat Coalition. In 2020, Panetta faced his first progressive primary challenge, from Adam Bolaños Scow, who roundly criticized the congressman’s corporate campaign donations ($550,000 from corporate PACs in that cycle) and his refusal to support a fracking ban.

❌ Joe Morelle (NY-25. D+8): 80 percent disagreement.

Joe Morelle (NY-25. D+8)Elected in 2018 to replace the late Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, Joe Morelle represents New York’s 25th District, centered in Rochester. This strongly Democratic district cast a 60 percent vote for Biden in the 2020 general election (and 59 percent for Morelle’s reelection).

When the CPC endorsed Morelle for reelection in 2019, it called him “a true champion of the progressive values CPC stands for.” Unfortunately, on a host of key progressive values, Morelle has often acted more like a corporate centrist. Though Morelle supported the COVID-vaccine trade waiver, he has not sided with progressive leadership on much else.

Morelle failed to cosponsor AOC’s Green New Deal resolution or Cori Bush’s Green New Deal for Cities. When asked about his position, Morelle told the nonprofit 500 Women Scientists, “While I do not support the Green New Deal in its entirety, I support many of its proposals, including transitioning our economy away from fossil fuel dependence.” (Morelle did cosponsor the THRIVE Act.)

Despite declaring on his campaign website that “universal access to health care is a fundamental human right,” Morelle has not backed Jayapal’s Medicare for All legislation. In a 2019 congressional hearing on the bill, Morelle raised “concerns” about “disruptions in the marketplace,” and the taxes and costs associated with transitioning to Medicare for All. The insurance industry sector is Morelle’s top campaign donor (followed by lobbyists and real estate). At the hearing, universal healthcare activist Ady Barkan responded to Morelle, “We pay for far more expensive things like wars of choice. We can afford to do this. We just need to decide to make it happen. It is a political challenge, not an economic one.”

While questioning the costs of Medicare for All, Morelle voted in favor of big military spending increases which, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, he was “proud to have helped craft.” He voted against both Rep. Pocan’s and AOC’s amendments to cut Pentagon spending by 10 percent, and voted to reauthorize warrantless government surveillance powers last year. He signed the AIPAC-organized letter to Blinken attempting to impede restoration of an Iran nuclear deal.

❌ Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-at-large. D+6): 80 percent disagreement.

Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-at-large. D+6)Lisa Blunt Rochester has served as Delaware’s lone congresswoman since 2017, after filling the seat vacated by Democratic Gov. John Carney; she made history as the first African-American and first woman elected to Congress from Delaware. While Delaware is a blue state (D+6, choosing Biden by 58 percent in 2020), Blunt Rochester has consistently been one of the most conservative members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Heralded as an “emerging player” in congressional healthcare policy, Blunt Rochester has not supported Jayapal’s Medicare for All legislation. Notably, Blue Cross/Blue Shield is among her top campaign contributors this cycle. In 2018, the insurance industry sector was Blunt Rochester’s top campaign funder, donating $105,226.

Blunt Rochester also failed to support either Green New Deal measure, and did not back the COVID-vaccine TRIPS waiver push. In 2020 and 2021, Blunt Rochester voted against 10 percent “defense” budget cuts, while voting for military spending hikes. She also voted last year to reauthorize government surveillance powers, and voted to expand those powers in 2018. According to the Open Secrets website, she receives substantial campaign donations from “defense/aerospace,” pharmaceuticals, “pro-Israel,” and oil and gas sectors.

Strikingly, Blunt Rochester was one of only two Progressive Caucus members who voted with Republicans in 2018 to weaken banking regulations in the Dodd-Frank Act, the Democrats’ fairly limited 2010 Wall Street reform law.

❌ Brenda Lawrence (MI-14. D+29): 75 percent disagreement.

Brenda Lawrence (MI-14. D+29)Lawrence has served in Congress since 2014, representing Detroit and surrounding areas. She supported Keith Ellison for DNC chair in 2017, saying: “he’s progressive.” Yet despite representing Michigan’s most Democratic district—a shade bluer than Rashida Tlaib’s district—Lawrence scored 75 percent wrong on progressive legislation, failing to cosponsor either Green New Deal measure, while backing military spending increases and opposing Rep. Pocan’s modest 10 percent military reduction in 2020 (though she favored a nearly identical measure this year).

In 2019, Lawrence was confronted by constituents at a local union hall about her position on a Green New Deal. “When asked whether she supported the Green New Deal, she hedged,” according to a report by Michigan Left: “I do support the concept of it, but it’s a theory, it’s a philosophy.” The Detroit Coalition for a Green New Deal—which includes Rep. Tlaib, Sunrise Michigan, Southeast Michigan Jobs With Justice, and other worker and environmental groups—has unsuccessfully pressured Lawrence to change her tune on the Green New Deal.

Lawrence failed to cosponsor or support Rep. Jayapal’s Paycheck Recovery Act to help small businesses hurt by COVID-19. Lawrence signed the March 2021 AIPAC-organized letter undercutting efforts to revive an Iran nuclear deal—and voted to reauthorize the USA Freedom Act, which further expands the surveillance state and diminishes civil liberties. Given all this, it’s no surprise that Lawrence is also a member of the New Democrat Coalition.

On the Bubble: Three PINOs in Swing Districts

Some PINOs with dismally centrist status-quo records represent swing districts where they may face serious challenges from Republicans. We urge them to embrace progressive policies that have broad popular support and that address the critical needs of people and the planet. District-level pressure on these representatives to take more progressive populist stands—and not be cowed by corporate and conservative interests—would benefit their constituents, as well as their re-election chances.

❌ Steven Horsford (NV-4. D+1): 90 percent disagreement.

First elected to represent Nevada’s 4th—a swing district spanning rural south-central Nevada and portions of Las Vegas—in 2013, Horsford is the Silver State’s first African American to serve in Congress. Despite joining the CPC, Horsford has been far more of a centrist in Congress, and rated among the worst in our assessment, parting ways with progressive leaders 90 percent of the time. He is also a member of the corporatist New Democrat Coalition.

On Medicare for All, Horsford not only failed to support Jayapal’s bill, but has repeatedly spoken out against the idea, echoing insurance-industry talking points. In 2019, Horsford told Nevada journalists, erroneously, that Medicare for All would be “taking healthcare away from people that have it now.” He added, “Who’s going to pay for all that? Every one of us is taxpayers.” Yet like many Democratic colleagues, including a minority of CPC members, Horsford doesn’t raise these fiscal concerns when it comes to increasing military spending; he opposed amendments in both 2020 and 2021 that would have modestly trimmed the bloated military budget.

Horsford has also “pushed back on the Green New Deal, saying it was a distraction from pursuing actual policy,” the Nevada Independent reported. In his opposition, he emphasized “that we stay centered on growing the American workforce,” a false “jobs versus environment” wedge. Horsford, who sits on the budget, natural resources, and ways and means committees, receives major campaign funding from corporate interests, including the securities and real estate industries.

❌ Darren Soto (FL-9. D+3): 80 percent disagreement.

Now in his third term in office, Soto has proven to be far from progressive while reliably in the corporate centrist wing of Democrats. It’s no surprise that Soto is also a member of New Democrat Coalition, as well as the Problem Solvers Caucus, launched by conservative Democrat Josh Gottheimer and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, which pledges “to find bipartisan solutions” on issues including healthcare. Soto failed to cosponsor either Green New Deal measure, backed military spending increases, signed the AIPAC letter undermining a renewed nuclear deal with Iran, and supported the USA Freedom Act which has rolled back civil liberties protections.

Soto has a troublesome record of claiming progressive positions while taking contradictory actions. Despite having been a member of the congressional Medicare for All caucus, Soto has so far failed to cosponsor Jayapal’s Medicare for All bill. On his campaign website in 2019, Soto stated, “I support Medicare for All.” We found that Soto has violated his pledge not to accept fossil fuel industry money by taking substantial campaign donations from Duke Energy, a top greenhouse gas emitter. Soto’s other top campaign donors include the real estate and insurance industries.

❌ Andy Kim (NJ-3. R+3): 80 percent disagreement.

Elected in 2018 and reelected by a nearly 8 percent margin in 2020, Andy Kim represents central New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, considered a swing district, which Trump won in 2016 and virtually tied with Biden in 2020. A former national security adviser in the Obama administration, Kim has rarely supported progressive priorities despite his CPC membership.

Kim has consistently leaned corporate centrist, and hasn’t co-sponsored Medicare for All legislation or the Green New Deal measures. He signed onto the bipartisan letter to obstruct the Biden administration’s push to revive an Iran nuclear deal. Meanwhile, Kim did not join the majority of House Democrats signing a letter encouraging the Biden administration to support waiving of international trade rules to facilitate distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the globe.

While Kim voted against legislation to reauthorize warrantless government surveillance powers in 2020, he voted against both Rep. Pocan’s and Ocasio-Cortez’s measures to trim the Pentagon budget by 10 percent and voted for bloated military budgets in 2020 and 2021.

Dishonorable Mention

A disturbing number of other CPC members scored badly on core progressive issues, ranging from 50 percent to 70 percent disagreement with CPC leadership and stalwart caucus members. Our “dishonorable mention” roll call of CPC members includes:

❌ Sylvia Garcia (TX-29. D+19): 70 percent disagreement.

Representing this heavily Democratic and Latino/a district curling around East Houston, Garcia has performed more like a corporate centrist than a progressive. The two-term congresswoman failed to sponsor Medicare for All or either Green New Deal measure, backed military spending increases, and supported the USA Freedom Act reauthorization undermining civil liberties. Last March, some of her constituents urged Garcia to step up and support the Green New Deal. Her top campaign donors include the oil and gas industry and the commercial bank sector.

❌ Dwight Evans (PA-3. D+41): 65 percent disagreement.

Despite representing the nation’s most Democratic district, according to the Cook Political Report, an area spanning West and North Philadelphia made up of 55 percent Black voters, Evans has proven to be a centrist. In Congress since 2016, he has failed to sponsor Jayapal’s Medicare for All bill even though he has been a member of the Medicare for All caucus, and despite tweeting that he is a “staunch supporter” (a post he has since deleted). Evans also failed to sponsor either Green New Deal measure, backed military spending hikes, and failed to sign the COVID-19 waiver letter to enable greater global access to vaccines. Evans’ top campaign funding source is the insurance industry. Evans is being challenged in 2022 by Alexandra Hunt, a public health researcher and progressive who supports Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

❌ Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40. D+31): 60 percent disagreement.

Representing one of the nation’s most Democratic and Latino/a districts (likely to be altered by redistricting) since 1992, Roybal-Allard has functioned as more of a centrist than a progressive. She failed to sponsor either Green New Deal measure, while backing more military spending increases and the USA Freedom Act reauthorization curtailing civil liberties protections. Roybal-Allard also signed the bipartisan letter organized by AIPAC to undercut efforts to renew an Iran nuclear deal. Roybal-Allard has two progressive challengers in 2022.

❌ Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5. D+13): 60 percent disagreement.

In a solidly Democratic district in southeastern Pennsylvania, Scanlon failed to sponsor Medicare for All or either Green New Deal bill yet supported military spending increases and the USA Freedom Act reauthorization. Scanlon’s failure to support Jayapal’s Medicare for All bill seems to contradict her 2018 campaign statement that she “supports universal healthcare, and a transition to Medicare For All.”

❌ Lois Frankel (FL-21. D+8): 60 percent disagreement.

Despite her reputation as a progressive, Frankel has a centrist record on several core issues. The five-term congresswoman from South Florida signed the letter undermining a diplomatic renewal of an Iran nuclear deal and backed the USA Freedom Act reauthorization and rising military budgets (though she deserves credit for supporting both Pocan and Ocasio-Cortez’s amendments for10 percent military cuts). Frankel, who has personal investments in top greenhouse gas emitters Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, has failed to cosponsor the Green New Deal (and also has not supported the THRIVE Act, seen as a more modest GND).

❌ Mike Levin (CA-49. D+4): 60 percent disagreement.

While Levin has some progressive credentials and support in northern coastal San Diego County, the two-term congressman has acted like a centrist on major issues, including his support for record military spending increases and the USA Freedom Act reauthorization’s rollback of civil liberties. Levin touted his success in securing $105 million in the 2020 military budget for construction at Camp Pendleton. Levin also signed the AIPAC letter undermining efforts to revive an Iran nuclear deal, while failing to sign the COVID-19 waiver letter to expand global access to vaccines.

❌ Matt Cartwright (PA-8. R+5): 60 percent disagreement.

It’s no small feat these days for a Democrat to win a Republican district. And Cartwright, who represents Scranton and northeast Pennsylvania, has sponsored Medicare for All and signed the letter calling for a COVID-19 waiver enabling greater worldwide vaccine production. But the five-term congressman has failed to support either Green New Deal bill, has backed runaway military spending increases, and did not sponsor Jayapal’s Paycheck Recovery Act to aid small businesses hammered by the pandemic.

On Our Radar

As progressive Democrats seek to expand their influence in Congress, we’re keeping our eyes on other Progressive Caucus members whose records are not very progressive on some critical issues. These members diverged from the Progressive Caucus position and leadership at least half the time in our review, making it even more difficult to pass vital reforms legislation or trim back military spending. Leading this pack are Reps. Brad Sherman (CA-30), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), and Andre Carson (IN-7). Each departed from the caucus leadership 55 percent of the time in our review. Each voted for record military spending increases beyond those requested by President Biden (though Escobar and Carson supported AOC’s 10 percent military cut amendment). Each backed the USA Freedom Act reauthorization. Sherman and Escobar signed the AIPAC letter undercutting a renewed Iran nuclear deal. (Sherman is being challenged in the 2022 primary by progressive Shervin Aazami.)

Five other caucus members, all from strongly Democratic districts, were out of step 50 percent of the time on pivotal progressive issues: Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8), Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Alma Adams (NC-12), Linda Sanchez (CA-38), and Ruben Gallego (AZ-7). While some of them have provided strong progressive leadership on various issues, they all backed hikes in already-bloated military spending and disappointed on several critical progressive measures.


Our assessment is carefully researched. We selected nine actionable policy items—legislation and sign-on letters—and examined the actions (or inactions) of every member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. We awarded a demerit point each time the member’s position diverged from a dozen progressive stalwarts, including CPC leadership and others. We awarded another demerit point to members who are part of the New Democrat Coalition, a red flag apt to compromise their progressive commitment. (Half a demerit point was awarded for voting No on each of two nearly identical amendments cutting the military budget; and half a demerit point each for voting Yes on two military spending increases, in 2020 and 2021.)

To assess CPC members’ progressive commitment, we examined votes and positions on the following issues:

  • Green New Deal: Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’ House Resolution 332. (1 demerit point for failure to cosponsor)
  • Green New Deal for Cities: Rep. Cori Bush’s HR 2644. (1 point for failure to cosponsor)
  • Medicare for All: Rep. Jayapal’s HR 1976. (1 point for failure to cosponsor)
  • COVID-19 TRIPS waiver letter, April 2021, to allow “equitable access” to vaccines worldwide. (1 point for not signing)
  • Bipartisan March 2021 letter aimed at undermining the Biden administration’s efforts to revive an Iran nuclear deal—a letter orchestrated by the hawkish pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC. (1 point for signing)
  • USA Freedom Act Reauthorization, March 2020: HR 6172, which failed to curtail serious civil liberties abrogations remaining from the Patriot Act. (1 point for voting Yes)
  • National Defense Authorization Act of 2020: HR 6395, which, as The Military Times reported, “provides billions more in equipment purchases than the White House requested and all but assures steady growth in military spending next year.”(.5 point for voting Yes)
  • National Defense Authorization Act of 2021, HR 4350: This bill, under President Biden and Democratic-controlled Congress, further increased military spending. (.5 point for voting Yes)
  • Roll Call 148 to amend HR 6395, July 2020: Amendment by Rep. Pocan to reduce military spending by 10 percent. (.5 point for voting No)
  • Roll Call 284 to amend HR 4350, September 2021: Rep. Ocasio-Cortez 10 percent military cut amendment to HR 4350. (.5 point for voting No)
  • Paycheck Recovery Act, HR 6918: Rep. Jayapal’s May 2020 bill to provide economic relief to small businesses battered by COVID-19 recession. (1 point for failing to cosponsor)