The California Democratic Party speaks with a loud voice in national politics. It is, by any reasonable measure, the biggest party in the biggest state in the nation.


With their history and their heft in mind, it is reasonable to say that when California Democrats take a strong stand on a contentious issues, it matters — both as a signal with regard to popular sentiment within the party and as an indicator of the issues that could cause political headaches for a Democratic president.


So what does the California Democratic Party have to say about the global conflict that many believe could be for Barack Obama’s presidency what Vietnam was for Lyndon Johnson’s?


“End the U.S. Occupation and Air War in Afghanistan.” That’s the title of a resolution endorsed over the weekend by the 300-member executive board of the California party. The resolution calls for establishing “a timetable for withdrawal of our military personnel” and seeks “an end to the use of mercenary contractors as well as an end to air strikes that cause heavy civilian casualties.”


In place of a continuing U.S. military presence, the California Democrats are urging Obama “to oversee a redirection of our funding and resources to include an increase in humanitarian and developmental aid.” That’s sound advice for a president wrestling with the issue of how to respond to a request from some commanders for a surge of more troops — into what looks to many expert observers to be a quagmire.

Among those speaking for the resolution was former Marine Cpl. Rick Reyes, who described how his experience in Afghanistan led him to the conclusion that the U.S. occupation was illegitimate. “There is no military solution in Afghanistan,” said Reyes. “The problems in Afghanistan are social problems that a military cannot fix.”

The resolution was co-authored by a few others, including congressional candidate Marcy Winograd. Winograd called on state parties across the country to send similar anti-war messages. Says Winograd: “Yes, this is about Afghanistan — but it’s also about our role in the world at large. Do we want to be global occupiers seizing scarce resources or global partners in shared prosperity? I would argue a partnership is not only the humane choice, but also the choice that grants us the greatest security.”

– John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine.

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