By Sean Ryan, Special to the Gazette
If you lived in JP in 2008, chances are you voted for Barack Obama. Tired of the wars, privacy invasions and rampant crony corporatism of the Bush years, JP residents overwhelmingly endorsed an idealistic young reformer who offered a universally popular message: change. Candidate Obama’s closing argument was a powerful one. McCain stood for four more years of the failed policies of the Bush administration, and for a politics of fear rather than hope. Obama promised to end wars, restore rights and tame the influence of lobbyist money in Washington—and we “could take that to the bank.” Speaking of banks….
In 2012, if the establishment has its way, President Obama will face a pro-war, pro-torture, pro-bailout Republican candidate; and will not be challenged to defend his decidedly mixed record on progressive issues. Gone is the principled rhetoric of 2008; conspicuously absent, the promise of peace. Next year, if the 1 percent prevails, Americans will be presented with a newer but subtler set of alternatives: Drone strikes on 16-year-olds in Pakistan, or wars in Iran or Syria (or both!)? Indefinite internment of Americans via the National Defense Authorization Act, or a return to “enhanced interrogations”? Subsidies, bailouts and loopholes for these favored industries—or those?
Progressives value democracy not only as a means of peacefully transferring power from one governing authority to another, but also as an end valuable in itself. In this respect, progressives agree with the newer sort of modern conservative (who is also, however, likely to favor spreading democracy through force).
It has become clear to principled people of all political persuasions that our country’s democratic process is broken. Voting has not allowed us to change America’s foreign policy, after all, or to roll back increasingly outrageous (and permanent) liberties violations and cronyism. In sharing one platform on these and other issues, the two major parties jointly oppose the will of an American majority.
The establishment stands for four more years of the failed policies of the Bush and Obama administrations. Neither party promises to spend a penny less on wars and militarism. Neither will treat the Constitution as more than a “scrap of paper” when it comes to the Bill of Rights or the document’s restrictions on executive power. In 2012, the two parties will receive just as much of their campaign funding from subsidized, bailed-out and tax-exempt corporations as they did in 2008; and if one establishment candidate receives fewer Wall Street dollars than the other, it will certainly not be because he chooses to refuse them.
Anyone valuing the democratic process should prefer more choices to fewer. A vote for an unopposed candidate is not a choice, and this year, we cannot influence the policies pursued by the next administration by voting in the Democratic primary. There is one peace candidate in the Republican race who would, as his party’s nominee, challenge Obama to make good on his promises to progressives—and to renew his oath to uphold and protect our Constitutional rights.
I will vote for Ron Paul—warts and all—in the March 6 Republican primary, and I urge JP residents of every political persuasion to join me. If you are a Democrat, as I am, you will need to register as an independent on or before Feb. 15.
Ron Paul is not a perfect messenger. But, in voting for him, we can send a message to the party establishment that peace is the change we wish to see.
Sean Ryan is a JP Democrat and a former candidate for Boston City Council. He is volunteering on U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.