Thursday, November 08, 2012

President Obama, The Sequel -- A few thoughts on the election

Given the only realistic alternative, I’m happy Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States, as I generally presumed he would be. 

Although—as I conveyed in this September article—I have been dismayed and disillusioned by his performance to date, and seriously considered either not voting or casting a ballot for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, there has never been any variance in my answer to this question:

Of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, who would you prefer spend the next four years in the White House?

Any other answer, or opinion, was acutely irrelevant, so in early voting, I put a check mark next to Obama/Biden.

I would have been pissed had President Obama lost, as I feel that Romney represents a lot of beliefs that I don’t share (and could have wreaked a lot of havoc through potential Supreme Court nominees), but my feelings are less of euphoria—as in 2008 when I celebrated in Grant Park on Election Night—and more of wary relief.

If one believes, as I used to and would like to again, that Democrats are “better” than Republicans in terms of facilitating effective legislation on behalf of the common good—and not just the wealthiest among us, to whom most politicians are often beholden—than this election was rather uplifting, well beyond Obama’s victory.

In retaining control of the U.S. Senate, the Dems saw some rather progressive candidates elected (or re-elected) including Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin (the first openly gay politician elected to the Senate), Chris Murphy of Connecticut (who overcame Linda McMahon spending the most on a Senate race in history), Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (who beat incumbent Scott Brown), Tim Kaine of Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana and Bernie Sanders, the stalwart Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democratic Party.

Additionally, the two Republican Senate candidates who said asinine things about rape—Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana—were properly trounced. As did other such candidates, as shown at left.

Two Democratic House candidates triumphed in Chicago’s long red western suburbs—Tammy Duckworth and Bill Foster—and as a blow to the intolerant influence of the Christian right, gay marriage was legalized in both Maryland and Maine, and also essentially "approved" in Minnesota. And a record 20 women will now serve in the U.S. Senate.

So those of us firmly on the left—or who simply believe that one’s class, race, gender and sexual orientation should in no way restrict his or her pursuit of happiness (and that receiving a helping hand needn’t be begrudged)—there are theoretically many reasons to by excited by the election results.

But until more is actually done to help more people—including those who have seen their homes foreclosed or become an underwater burden, individuals who can’t find proper employment and soldiers who give life & limb to conflicts of questionable upside—the current Democratic (with or without a capital “D”) paradigm is merely window dressing.

Much has and will be written by political pundits much smarter and better informed than I about what Obama’s substantive but "not a mandate" victory will mean for the direction of his presidency. So far, I have heard it suggested that he must become more centrist and do a better job of seeking bi-partisan cooperation in Congress.

I say no.

While I truly wish our legislators would work cooperatively and collaboratively to create laws for the common good—from the richest to the poorest—this kind of thinking is why Obama got nothing done in his first two years and lost control of the House. He thought he would influence both parties to play nice and work together to enact his agenda.

Didn’t work. And logic says it won’t. While I understand that political realities will always dictate some give and take, I believe the President has to be progressive in pushing for laws that most benefit the most people while harming the least. In other words, he has to push his agenda through despite oppositional resistance, if at all legislatively possible.

Whatever needs to be done so that 1 of 6 Americans don’t go to bed hungry needs to be done, even if it means a few billionaires pay a good bit more in taxes.

Whatever it takes to get the economy moving and get 23 million unemployed people back to work—in good jobs—needs to happen.

Because you know what, although Wall Street seemingly dislikes Obama (the Dow dropped over 300 points on Wednesday), a robust economy is good for the 1% too.

So I’m not suggesting actions that merely ostracize and punish the “corporatocracy,” but rather that encourage it to spread the wealth in the name of universal progress—by hiring more employees, loosening the credit market for small businesses, etc.

Yes, we must rid Wall Street of fraudulent practices that rip a hole through the entire world, and yes we much ensure the financially fortunate pay their fair share in taxes. We also must curtail the undue influence of corporations and the uber-wealthy in politics, and I think we need to genuinely explore reducing our military spending.

I won’t continue to rail about policymaking admittedly over my head, but my point is that rather than simply saying it—with his phenomenal oratorical skills—President Obama must do more to fight for the fairness he (I hope) believes in. Fairness that virtually everyone, regardless of who they voted for, will support.

It’s easy to perceive that people vote based on their “values,” with minorities supporting Democrats and white Christians supporting Republicans, by and large. But look at Ohio. The bailout of GM shifted the balance, with enough Caucasians supporting the President to give him another 4 years.

If you make people’s lives acutely better, they’ll stop voting as much based on religious beliefs. And except for possibly the top 10% of the top 1%, most Americans really have more in common than our polarized political maps would have you believe. Give people safety, security, dignity and a steady paycheck and the rest is all details.

So in being glad Barack Obama will lead the United States for the next four years, I want him to step up and do what he knows is right. For everyone. Stop being a Wall Street apologist, start listening to guys like Paul Krugman more than Tim Geithner, and really enact change.

Even if it’s difficult. Even if it’s “unpopular.” Even if the “Right” hates it. Even if some of the “Left” hates it. Making a difference never goes hand in hand with being universally beloved.

Mr. Obama, you've been ratified to remain the leader of the free world for the next four years; the stage is still set for you to do great things. I gave you my vote with the hope that you do but one thing:

Truly lead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seth I truly hope you are right but I have lost all faith in America and American leaders. Transnational global corporations run governments worldwide, will ultimately own it all and hasten the extinction of humanity via global warming. Humanity is in the terminal stages of its existence and one must act accordingly.