Rather than responding to the misery of the millions of unemployed by articulating the rationale for additional stimulus, Obama and the Democrats have cowered in the face of the Conservative’s demand for draconian cuts in government spending. Obama is blithely touring the country visiting businesses he believes illustrate how jobs will be generated in a retooled economy in the future. He seems oblivious to the economic and political reality that for the millions of unemployed, the future is now! If President Obama was the audacious leader many of us had hoped for, he would boldly put forth and fight for another stimulus package and the allocation of federal funds to support a million short term “public sector” jobs and defy the Conservatives to reject it. He might lose the battle in Congress but he would win the strategic struggle for the hearts and minds of the army of unemployed who would see the President resolutely fighting on their behalf. Obama should take the fight to the “obstructionists” and make them pay the price in 2012 as callous and cold hearted Conservatives, more concerned with protecting the interests of Wall Street than Main Street!
But of course this is wishful thinking. And, here-in is the challenge for the re-election of Obama. In composite the flaws and lapses of leadership cited have demoralized the Democratic base and alienated significant numbers of new voters who marched on ballot boxes in record numbers for “change we could believe in.” Liberal-left- progressives are particularly disenchanted. Obama will certainly win the majority of the Democratic base, but the danger is the intensity will not be there to mobilize the margins needed to carry states like Virginia, North Carolina and Florida that provided a cushion in the Electoral College in 2008. Obama’s magnificent campaign oratory will ring hollow in the face of the reality of his record of timid leadership. The election will boil down to bruising, nail biting contests in traditional “battleground states” like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri. On this playing field, Obama faces a decidedly uphill struggle. But, it is a struggle which must be won!
Some within the progressive movement will view this as a stunning conclusion. But in my judgment, for all of the disappointment and disaffection with Obama and the Democrats, it is not in the best interest of the progressive movement to cede the election to the Conservatives. Obama’s health care reform bill fell far short of what I would have preferred, but millions of Americans who would have received nothing if the obstructionist had prevailed, at least have access to health care. Obama’s agenda on energy, greening the economy, the Consumer Protection Agency, Medicare and Social Security are much better than the policies being advanced by the obstructionists. Obama has appointed two moderates to the Supreme Court and workers will fare better because of the appointment of fair minded individuals to the National Labor Relations Board. At its core, much of the Obama agenda is decent, it’s just that too often he refuses to fight for what he believes -- hence, the anger, frustration and disillusionment on the left.
However, in the broad sweep of history, election in 2012 is bigger than Obama. A conservative victory would pave the way for the consolidation of the “electoral coup” of 2000 which ushered in the Bush-Cheney era with all of its radical rightwing ideological underpinnings. With a Conservative President and perhaps control of the House and Senate, the fate of Medicare, Social Security will be sealed. Moreover, the “bully pulpit’ of the presidency will be used as a bludgeon to batter labor in an all out effort to undermine the right of workers to organize and maintain unions. And, we are only one Justice away from the solidification of the Supreme Court as an impregnable citadel of conservative ideology. It will be a “Plessy v. Ferguson moment,” where the highest Court in the land will sanction the reactionary agenda of the Conservatives.
The consequences of defeat of President Obama are not pretty. We will be forced into a life and death struggle against an even more ferocious assault on the culture of rights that generations fought, bled and died to bring into being. Therefore, progressives must be sober, clear and mature in devising a strategy for election 2012, one which mobilizes voters around an agenda far more transformative than that of Obama and the Democrats and puts pressure on them to move to the left. Our strategy must look beyond Obama, even as we tactically support his re-election to achieve our broader objectives.
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com.
This is the second part of Dr. Daniels commentary on the 2012 election.