2012: Looking Forward to History

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by Peter Deccy, Peace Action Development Director

The occupy movement has strengthened the demand for corporate and government accountability. It is a rare moment in history where crisis and opportunity combine to create the potential for sweeping social and political change.

The outcome of the 2012 elections will likely determine whether organized money or people power will set the agenda for the next decade and beyond.  The 1% knows it and has decided its ‘all in’.  They’re betting the 99% won’t be able to match them vote for vote.

There are many activists, and others as well, who believe we can no longer make real progress toward our ultimate goal of peace and economic justice by working within the system.  But inaction will only help the 1% cement their stranglehold on our democracy.

Peace Action is uniquely positioned in 2012 because we deal with the problems of the systemic inequalities in the national spending priorities, engaged, as we are, in both policy and organizing the grassroots movement for peace and justice.

In the 2012 elections, we will bring the expertise that contributed to the Sustainable Defense Task Force,  a panel of experts organized by Representative Barney Frank to identify over $900 billion in cuts in military spending, to the debate on budget priorities. That report was referenced in every commission or report about the budget deficit. We must move the money from the Pentagon to the domestic needs.

Our grassroots network has played an important role in the debate, building unprecedented support for cutting military spending, deflating the myth that every penny being allocated for ‘defense’ is vital to our national security.

So, while Congress wrestles with the federal budget and campaigns for reelection, Peace Voter 2012, Peace Action’s grassroots, election year organizing drive is already bird-dogging candidates in key primary states, following them from event to event, asking tough questions and getting them on record.

Our goal is to create a public relations crisis for office holders and candidates who might otherwise try to avoid uncomfortable questions about the corrupting influence of organized money in politics or the cost of an unending war in Afghanistan.

Planning and activist training are central to this goal.  Peace Voter 2012 utilizes the tools of a reinvigorated democracy: volunteer recruitment and training, voter registration and education, candidate briefings and forums and the all important get-out-the-vote come Election Day.

2012: More Than an Election Year

While Peace Voter 2012 is an important component of our Move the Money Campaign, it’s not the only event of significance on our organizing calendar.

In May, NATO and the G8 will hold their summits jointly in Chicago.  It’s the first time the summits have been held in the same city since 1977.  They did us a favor really, helping make the connection between the military and the monetary for us.

Chicago Area Peace Action (CAPA) is working with a host of allies, including the Chicago branch of the occupy movement to organize a conference and a mass demonstration to draw attention to the role militarism plays in the bankrupting of national economies all over the globe.  Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has stated that his department is already preparing for “mass arrests.

With opposition to the US/NATO war in Afghanistan and the movement for economic justice growing with each passing day, we couldn’t have planned a better organizing opportunity.  We’ll be reporting details and developments to you in the months ahead.

In August, the next major troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is scheduled.  This is when the remaining troops sent to Afghanistan as part of the President’s ‘surge’ strategy are slated to come home.  This is an opportunity to demand a larger drawdown and an end to US and NATO military operations.

Thus far military operations have not ended the insurgency and managed in the process of failing to do so to poison relations with our already reluctant ally, Pakistan.  Destabilizing Pakistan only make matters in the region worse.

The August drawdown date is an opportunity to accelerate an exit strategy and end US involvement in this terrible war.  Our President and elected representatives will feel the heat.

A Decisive Year

The success of the occupy movement has fundamentally changed the political landscape. Now the political framework in which we are organizing is confronting the systemic inequalities between the 1% and the 99%. Addressing these inequities is the only path out of the economic and political crisis in the US.

At Peace Action, we believe grassroots organizing is a cornerstone of our democracy and the only way to rest the power over our lives the 1% have so shamelessly abused for their own profit.

An effort to preserve the wealth, power and control of the 1% anticipates endless war and conflict.  But it’s not the future the rest of us want.

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said when the nation was in the grip of the Great Depression; “We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can’t have both.”

It’s time to inform the 1% of our choice.

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