The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) is a unique organization in the US, in that not only is every state and territory (and many foreign countries) the site of a chapter, or "Post", but that there are only 2 requirements to join: 1. You must be an American Citizen, and 2. You must have served in the military, in combat. Like all such patriotic organizations, the republicans have been trying to (and have) make the VFW an arm of the republican party. The recent shutdown of the VFW PAC by the national leadership is a particularly glaring example of this: but this time there is something different - the veterans inside the VFW, the ordinary day to day members are pushing back.
The Veterans inside the VFW are pretty weird mob (as a member, I feel free to make this observation, and I include myself!). But at the same time they are pretty diverse. In my particular Post, we have veterans from Korea, Vietnam, various 'actions' and the Gulf and Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We also have serving members of the military in our group. I have met many hard-working people in the "V" who not only have full-time jobs, but also spend a lot of their free time working on promoting the VFW and working with the community. They are proud to do this volunteer work, but do so in a quiet, understated manner. They do their work to "give back" - as if their service wasn't enough.
Some just need a place where they can hang out once a month with people who can truly understand where they are coming from, who "speak their language". Some have a hard time, even after many years, of letting their demons rest. Most veterans in the VFW are from the Vietnam years, with the WW2 and Korean vets slowly dying off. Until recently, the VFW leadership felt pretty comfortable supporting the republican agenda, and are a fairly conservative group.
They've "taken some hits for the team" sucking up to the Republicans as a "strong on defense" political party even as the Republicans themselves demonstrated that they really don't give a shit for veterans. This, I think, was clearly shown during the 2004 Republican Convention, where, on the convention floor delegates and high-ranking GOP movers and shakers were running around wearing purple heart BANDAIDS. The silence from VFW leadership response on this outrageous stunt was deafening.
This year, another overtly political stunt is being pulled, this time from the teabagging websites and usual rah-rah gung-ho "military" blogs such as Black5, and all of the other rabidly republican smear sites.
This year we saw the intense pressure being brought to bear in the mid-term elections by the teabagging wing of the republican party, particulary in california and utah. The VFW PAC, made up of various VFW members, in consultation with local state representatives of the VFW and VFW Department commanders issued the usual VFW endorsements. They have a pretty rigorous method of handling endorsements. From the VFW PAC website:
Endorsement Policy, 1990
1. Members of Congress must show support of both: (a) Veterans Legislation and (b) strong National Security. The procedure for scoring shall be based on roll call votes in the respective houses of Congress. Abstentions shall be considered a vote against VFW interests unless special considerations are approved by the Board of Directors.
2. Members of Congress running for re-election who have a total score of 70 percent or higher in VFW-PAC endorsement scoring may receive the PAC endorsement for a given election year. This endorsement may consist of a monetary contribution to be determined by the VFW-PAC Board of Directors.
3. Members of Congress running for re-election who achieve a total score of 60 percent or higher in VFW-PAC endorsement scoring may be eligible for a monetary contribution to retire campaign debts and other fund raisers after the election, provided they win re-election. The total contribution to any individual in this category shall be determined by the VFW-PAC Board of Directors. Contributions will be made by the PAC Director only in response to formal solicitations.
4. VFW Department Commanders and VFW-PAC State Chairmen will be asked to present recommendations, in writing, to the Board of Directors as to whether or not the VFW-PAC should endorse candidates running for Congress from their respective states. Final decisions will be made by the VFW-PAC Board of Directors.
5. VFW Department Commanders and VFW-PAC State Chairmen may be asked for endorsement recommendations, in writing, when an incumbent member of the House of Representatives is running for the Senate or there is an open seat in either House of Congress. Final decisions will be made by the VFW-PAC Board of Directors.
6. Each member of Congress shall be rated based on his or her previous term in Congress (2 years for the House of Representatives and 6 years for the Senate members).
7. Final determinations and actions on all issues and endorsements shall be the responsibility of the VFW-PAC Board of Directors.
In other words, you need to show an active and continuous support for veterans issues and policies, and the typical method of ducking 'controversial votes' by abstaining counts against you. If you fail to do so, the endorsement will go to your challenger. AND, the views and opinions of the state VFW commanders is solicited and followed.
This year, however, the VFW PAC following guidelines in place since 1990 supported Barbra Boxer and Harry Reid. The teabaggers decided that someone needed to pay so they began a pushback campaign to get the National VFW leadership to reverse these very clearly earned and awarded endorsements revoked.
The VFW PAC, to their credit, refused. Since the republicans, and their right wing, the teabaggers are reasonable people, they decided to let the VFW PAC go about their business.
Being the sore losers - the "I'm taking my ball and going home" - type of whiny losers, they pushed the VFW leadership to shutdown the PAC and dismiss the VFW PAC board members.
Imagine: non-VFW members, twisting the arms of the VFW National Leadership (not very hard to be honest) to punish other VFW members for, essentially "Heresy" - is a typical right wing response. "If we can't control it, we must punish and destroy it."
The true travesty here is that the VFW Leadership is trying to spin this so hard as the "VFW PAC being totally out of touch with our VFW membership", and not supporting some kind of "Armed Forces Agenda". The VFW Commander has been emailing VFW members to gain support for the elimination of the VFW PAC at the next National Convention.
But the members are pushing back. For each email being sent out to "justify" the "punishment" of this "rogue element in the VFW PAC" there are other emails and comments calling bullshit on the entire affair.
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that the VFW is becoming a "liberal" organization. What I am going to say is that the VFW membership are all quite familiar with HQ trying to make a shitpile smell like roses and go away. They also do NOT LIKE being treated like children. These are combat veterans, and they do not take lightly to being told to quietly sit down and shut up. The responses to the comments being made shows that the National Leadership is aware of this and fears the potential backlash their pretty rash actions are stirring up.
The members of the VFW are very patriotic and will do what they feel is right for the nation. They do not like being told what to do, especially by a group of people who have made careers out of avoiding service. Especially when these characters enjoy wrapping themselves in the flag they avoided following with every bit of cunning they could muster.
Support the VFW membership against having their PAC shutdown by the same people who enjoy driving down voter turnout, and hurting America.