• Michael Thompson

Any Progressive Against Tim Ryan?

Tim Ryan at the June 2020 Democratic Debate

As Northeast Oho is no longer my home, I no longer have a say at the voting booth. However, from 2002 to 2012, I unflinchingly checked the box next to Tim Ryan every time. Since I moved to Houston, Mr. Ryan has been in three additionally elections, winning each of them handily. Now, Congressman Tim Ryan has his sights set on the big prize. Like 20+ other Democrats, Ryan believes that he has the necessary tools to unseat President Trump in November of 2020. It should, therefore, come as some surprise, that a Progressive like myself who supported the Congressman all these years, believes that not only should he stop running for the Presidency, but that he should be challenged in the 2020 Ohio Primary for his seat in the 13th District.

I have no doubt that Congressman Ryan faithfully serves Northeast Ohio and the Youngstown area to the best of his abilities. His ties to the Mahoning Valley predate his involvement in politics. Born in Niles, Ohio, just north of Youngstown, where he was a star quarterback at Warren JFK High School, and later played briefly locally in college for the Youngstown State Penguins before knee-injury curtailed his playing days. In 2002, Ryan’s political career began in a surprising way. He was an aide to the 17th District’s popular but corrupt James Traficant, who was forced from office in scandal. Everyone thought that another previous Congressman, Tom Sawyer from Akron, was a shoo-in but Ryan surprised everyone with a Democratic Primary victory in 2002 before winning the General Election later that year. Since then, Ryan has dominated, now having been in office for 17-years.

That much Congressional tenure usually leads to power and the notoriety to accomplish one’s agenda. The Mahoning Valley has been in need with someone with that type of pull for some time. Traficant had then tenure but was a Democrat ostracized from his own party. An old-steel town riddled with crime and crumbling infrastructure could surely use Federal Aid in buckets. Perhaps, that it is why it is so surprising that Ryan’s most notable accomplishments were his 2016 challenge of Nancy Pelosi for minority leader of the House and his 2019 announcement as a Presidential candidate. Peruse Wikipedia looking for something positive and you will soon realize that Ryan has accomplished little more than any first-term member of the House. When a politician’s greatest accomplishments are a quest for further personal power, there is something inherently wrong.

Congressman Ryan, for a man who has never been in danger of losing an election, has consistently played it safe and has been as centrist for his entire career. Sometimes it is okay to be a centrist in a Democratic stronghold if that is what the people want, but when I see a Democrat routinely win with 70% of the vote in practically every election, I would prefer that they take a few chances. Universal healthcare, guaranteed income, student loan forgiveness, free tuition, gun control - pick a Progressive issue, any Progressive issue and fight for it with passion. He won’t, however, too risky. Ryan would argue that the people of the Youngstown-area do not want Progressive ideas. I beg to differ but if 70% of the Valley is voting for you as a Democrat than many of the voters are looking for those big, Progressive ideas such as those his fellow Democratic candidates for President are endorsing. He argues that he won in an area that Trump won because, and I am paraphrasing, “he knows what the voters want.” I would counter saying that his election victory window has been getting smaller and smaller over the years. Constituents want change and progress out of the doldrums that the area has been stuck in since the 1970s. Trump was popular in Northeast Ohio because he made promises and told them what they wanted to hear hollow as those promises may be. Trump speaks to the residents in a straightforward way they respect. If Congressman Ryan will not champion some plan and take some risks than he should be challenged in the Primary for his seat and forget about the Valley residents even consider electing him to the Presidency.

This candidacy for President should be a slap in the face to his constituents. He has no lofty goals and no plans that will separate him from the other Democratic candidates. As far as I can tell, this run for Presidency only once again furthers Tim Ryan’s quest to improve his position. After watching the first Democratic debate in June, as all I saw was a man looking to increase his profile and name recognition. Whether that is a future run for Governor, Senator, or a try at Speaker of the House, I don’t know but this was not a man running for President. Congressman Ryan might have the least amount of accomplishments of anyone who was on that stage, Marianne Williamson included. Even his mentor, James Traficant, for all his craziness and corruption, can at least point to major legislative successes, such as limiting the IRS against delinquent taxpayers. The most important event in the Mahoning Valley over the past year was the shuttering of its largest employer, a GM Auto plant in nearby Lordstown and not something one wishes to hang their hat.

Congressman Ryan can still save face by stepping down and embracing a more Progressive agenda as I believe the people would continue their support of him. However, that is the risky road and Ryan does not do risks which is why I call for a Progressive candidate of the Mahoning Valley to come forward and run in 2020. For too long has the Mahoning Valley been forgotten about, and whether it comes from Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the people want change and they will be heard. A Progressive candidate might not win but just maybe Ryan can be pushed to take some risks as Congressman. Perhaps, in 2022, I can look at Wikipedia for my hometown and actually see a passed bill sponsored by Congressman from the 13th District of Ohio and I can point to it with pride knowing that my hometown is going in the right direction.

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