Congress and the Nuclear Freeze: An inside Look at the Politics of a Mass Movement

Congress and the Nuclear Freeze: An inside Look at the Politics of a Mass Movement

Congress and the Nuclear Freeze: An inside Look at the Politics of a Mass Movement

Congress and the Nuclear Freeze: An inside Look at the Politics of a Mass Movement

Excerpt

Congressman Ed Markey's office in the Cannon Building next to the U.S. Capitol was noisy that night, filled with congressional aides, Washington lobbyists, grass-roots activists--some laughing and joking, several huddled around a television set in the corner to catch the late-night newscasts. The two long windows in Markey's personal office had been shoved up to let a cool May breeze drift in. Reuben McCornack, legislative director for the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, had stocked the refrigerator in the adjoining room with a case of champagne and now began uncorking the bottles.

At last, it was time to celebrate. Three years. Three years of educating, organizing, and mobilizing. Three years of peace rallies by the hundreds and referendum petitions by the hundreds of thousands. Three years of letter writing, lobbying, campaigning, pleading, debating, and protesting. Now, three years later, a grass-roots movement commanding millions of Americans, which began as an idea in the minds of just a few, had crossed one of its major legislative hurdles. No, this movement had not realized its ultimate goal, and as events in the coming years would unfold, the movement would not likely do so any time soon. But the congressional victory just achieved, as short-lived as it would be, was sweet nonetheless.

The U.S. House of Representatives on that balmy spring night in May 1983 had just passed a joint resolution calling on President Ronald Reagan to negotiate with the Soviet Union a mutual halt to the nuclear arms race. The resolution was called the Nuclear Freeze Resolution, and the people now filling that cramped congressional office pouring champagne and shaking hands had spent the better part of 14 months maneuvering the measure through the House.

Markey, who had just come from the House floor, walked in, while everyone applauded. Exhausted, hungry from being on the floor all day and not having eaten a thing since breakfast, the Massachusetts congressman perched on the side of his desk and took a cup of champagne, which he barely sipped.

"Well, we did it!" Markey finally exclaimed, with a wide smile. "It took us a little longer than we expected, but we did it."

Randy Kehler, the leader of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign . . .

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