By Robin Koerner
Thursday July 7th 2011
The world lost its goodwill toward the USA when Americans voted for George W. Bush the second time around.
I don't endorse the idea that American politics should be dictated by foreign opinions but a reading of the foreign press over the last six years reveals that the first election of President Bush Jr. was largely excused around the world since no one could have known what this new president was going to do.
Moreover, America arguably didn't vote for him anyway in 2000.
However, the second election President Bush was not excused, because by 2004, the modus operandi of the Bush administration was clear. He wanted to 1) conduct wars against countries that did not threaten us (e.g. Iraq), 2) oversee large financial benefits to companies with which those in his administration were close (e.g. Halliburton), 3) establish a legal framework for riding roughshod over the liberties of private individuals who are not suspected of crime (e.g. Patriot Act), and 4) establish a massive federal apparatus to carry out such intrusions on innocent Americans in what is becoming a police state (e.g. domestic wiretapping, TSA etc... )
The more-or-less global delight upon Obama's election in 2008 followed largely from the hope that Americans had realized what a mistake they had made with Bush's second term and were therefore voting against the egregious actions of the then Republican establishment.
When most Americans voted for "Hope" and "Change," the above four objectives were at the top of their list of what they "hoped" would be "changed."
After two years, however, we now see that Obama 1) conducts wars against countries that do not threaten us (e.g. Libya, Yemen etc.), 2) oversees large financial benefits to companies with which those in his administration were close (e.g. Goldman Sachs), 3) supports the legal framework for riding roughshod over the liberties of private individuals who are not suspected of crime (e.g. Patriot Act), and 4) is growing a massive federal apparatus to carry out such intrusions on innocent Americans in what is becoming a police state (e.g. domestic wiretapping, TSA etc.. )
Put another way, when it comes to such things as the killing of innocent people, taking from the common man to support cronies, and the elimination of the basic values that make our lives worth living, we had the hope, but we haven't had the change.
Just as in 2000, Bush hadn't shown his true colors, in 2008, Obama had not either. A vote for either in those years was fair enough. But in 2012, if you vote for the Democratic nominee for president, you better have a moral justification that is SO good that it is a) worth killing innocent people who don't threaten you, b) transferring wealth to the rich and well connected, and c) the complete suspension of your right to privacy and such basic rights as protecting your child from being touched by a government official with the full force of the law behind him as he just follows his orders.
Do I labor the point? Good.
I don't believe that such a justification exists. I'm having difficulty seeing how a Democrat who voted for Obama (whom I supported) for the right reasons in 2008 can in good conscience do so again given that there is another candidate who has been consistent in his opposition to all of these things -- not just in words but in deeds.
If you've read my other pieces, you already know who he is. But if not, you should also know that Ron Paul has voted to let states make their own laws on abortion, gay marriage etc. and to let individuals follow their own social conscience -- even when he disagrees with them (as I disagree with him on some of these issues). In other words, he is consistent in his beliefs in civil liberty.
If you are a Democrat, and you sit tight and vote Democrat again "because you've always been a Democrat" or because you think that some group with which you identity will benefit more from Democrat programs than a Republican one, then that is up to you, and I wish you well. But don't you dare pretend that you are motivated primarily by peace, civil rights or a government that treats people equally.
That Ron Paul, who has been standing up for these principles quietly for half a lifetime, happens to be a member of the Republican party is a lot less important than the principles that we should be voting on. The fact that he is not a party guy should be obvious from his extensive differences in policy from his party and the fact that many think, given his views, he should not run as a Republican at all.
As Dr. Paul often points out, however, we live in a country with a corrupt political party duopoly... and the system is stacked against anyone who would run outside the two party system. So he's doing what he has to do. And so should we as Americans who love piece and freedom. It really isn't complicated.
Now, I know that the Republican party stinks to many Democrats and Independents who care about social justice and civil rights, but we all need to be smart and play the system to get the political outcomes we seek: you don't have to like a party or even identify with it to sign up as a Republican for a year to help make sure that the Republican primaries are won by the one representative who has always been for peace, has always voted against bailouts, and has always opposed the reach of government into your bedroom, your relationships and your person.
And if you are a Democrat or socially progressive Independent, you can't tell me you weren't hoping for all that from Obama.
Perhaps you see too much small-mindedness, or mean spirit or religious craziness in the Republican party. Sure you do. You can find all of them in spades. But since you can't change the Democrat ticket for 2012, why not act where you can make a positive change -- by telling the Republican party where you really want it to go... in the direction of peace and civil liberty (both of which, if you go back just a little way, can be found in the traditions of republicanism).
Just in case you need to make it absolutely clear for your friends at work that you have not gone to the dark side, I offer you a special moniker to set yourselves apart and give yourself a way back once you've done what needs to be done -- the "Blue Republican" -- to signify, of course, your liberal sensibilities and perhaps even your history as a Democratic voter. (Or why not just tell your friends that Bill Maher and Jon Stewart seem to have already gotten the message?)
I am aware that the main objection to Ron Paul from the left concerns his belief that private charities and individuals are more effective in maintaining social welfare than the government. To this I ask one question. Do you believe so much in the effectiveness of our current centralized delivery of social welfare that it is worth the war making and the abrogation of civil rights supported by both Bush and Obama's administrations? Moreover, while Ron Paul would look to transition out of the huge federally run welfare programs in the long-run, that's not where he wants to start: his immediate fight would be to bring our forces back to the USA and to re-implement the Bill of Rights.
Ron Paul's electoral weakness is not a difficulty in winning a presidential election. It is in winning a primary in a party with a Conservative constituency that includes the religious right and neo-cons. An influx of peace and freedom-loving independents and Democrats would change the math on the Republican side and potentially the future of America by setting up a presidential contest with a pro peace, pro-civil rights candidate (who could outflank Obama on those issues, at least, from the left).
Again, this isn't an endorsement of the Republican party or a claim that the Republican record is better than the Democrat on any of the issues discussed in this article. (It isn't.) It is not even a statement that Dr. Paul is some kind of panacea of American politics. Rather, it is to recognize simply that the one potential Presidential candidate who wishes to stop killing innocent people in foreign wars and stop transferring the wealth of poor and working Americans to the corporate elites happens to be -- this time around -- a Republican.
It is also to recognize that any other political choice is for a status quo in which all the issues that really matter (war and peace, civil rights) are settled for the military industrial complex and the interests of the State over the individual.
So what'll it be -- same old team allegiance or new, Blue Republicans?