Working towards peace and sustainability

Staking Out a Sensible Place to Stand

We, in Peaceworks, like many progressives, often find ourselves hard pressed to find political space when much of the mainstream media defines the Obama administration as the left pole and the GOP/Tea Party as the right. On numerous issues, however, the majority of the people embrace more progressive positions, although this is seldom acknowledged.

The polls show nearly two-thirds want to end the Afghanistan War. Obama plans continued combat operations for at least three and a half more years. The administration says balancing the budget requires sweeping cuts, but, when it comes to the Pentagon’s allocation, all they propose cutting is the rate of growth in spending.

Overwhelming majorities want no cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The Republicans aim to gut all three. The White House says, in effect, “let’s talk.” The response should be: “These programs were guaranteed to us. Any cuts are off the table. End of discussion.” Likewise, progressive taxation is widely supported, but those in office have extended hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the wealthiest and proposed new tax breaks for corporations.

Vast majorities support strict regulation of polluters and a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy. The administration says “sure,” but then proposes massive subsidies for coal and nuclear power. They support more offshore drilling, more dirty fracking for natural gas and eschew any meaningful action on climate change. And the GOP’s positions are far worse.

As unions are busted and austerity pushed down our throats, we run the risk of seeing the installation of a Twenty-first Century feudalism. Our nation is facing profound challenges against the backdrop of a new Gilded Age. More wealth and power is in the hands of fewer people than any time in nearly a century. In the wake of Citizens United, more political power than ever is in the hands of major corporate interests.

Observing this rightward tilt in politics and media mustn’t take the wind out of our sails. Rather, let’s look to the examples of activists across the nation rallying for progressive agendas, challenging the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum mindset. Think Wisconsin. By taking bold, principled positions, we have the potential to move both public opinion and the politicians.

As the 2012 election approaches, some fear that any criticism of President Obama will weaken him, making a Republican extremist more likely to win. While Peaceworks does not take positions on candidates or elections, we’d observe that pressure that moves the administration in a progressive direction might actually excite not just Obama’s base, but a broad spectrum of the electorate, perhaps improving his prospects for a second term.

Peace, climate change, sustainability, social and economic justice, these are all too important to be held hostage to lesser-evilism. We must actively challenge assumptions and pursue real, workable solutions. No, we don’t have to live with permanent war, a declining standard of living and an environment going to hell in a hand-basket. If you want a better future, join us as we educate, agitate, organize and persist in fighting for the common good.