Go to Wisconsin, President Obama

The Republican master story blames those workers who still cling to middle class jobs for America’s problems, along with the ungrateful poor and those who’d dare to believe they could count on Social Security and Medicare in their old age. You need to complement the voices of ordinary citizens who are working to put forth a more accurate story, about how this country has been run into the ground by the rampant greed of a tiny group at the top, who need to begin contributing their share. Actions like your extending Republican tax cuts for the wealthiest in return for extending unemployment and making some other modest investments in our economy have blurred these key differences (you talked at first about being “held hostage” but alas quickly switched to praising bipartisanship). Speaking out now could begin to highlight the real choices.

If you help the Wisconsin movement grow stronger, as Roosevelt supported the labor movements of his time, it could not only provide a deterrent to other governors following or considering following Walker’s lead (like Ohio’s John Kasich and Florida’s Rick Scott). It would also give heart to a base that’s been consistently demoralized by your actions, something critically important for 2012, much as key generals visiting Tahir Square further empowered the Egyptian protests. Walker and his compatriots would never have gotten elected had Democratic turnout not plummeted, in large part because those who participated with such high hopes in 2008 felt them so consistently dashed during your first two years. One-time supporters became demoralized not just by Republican obstructionism, but also by your appointment of people who’d help cause the financial meltdown to begin with, like Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and Rahm Emmanuel. And by your escalation of an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. And by your reluctance to seriously fight and keep fighting for many of the key issues he’d run on, compromising again and again before he’d even begun to negotiate. As a result, volunteers who turned out in 2008 to bring about massive levels of turnout stayed home–and so did those they’d have otherwise brought to the polls.

Now many of those who’d helped carry you to office have begun once again publically acting, taking to the street instead of hoping that mere online petitions and emails can magically change history. Perhaps inspired by the courage of those who’ve faced down dictatorships in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, these grassroots citizens just might rebuild a movement to turn American culture around, as the Tea Party helped turn it away from the hopes so many had when you first took office. But you could help by speaking out.

paul loebOn the day of the 100,000 Madison march, I stood with 2,500 to 4,000 others in my state capitol of Olympia Washington, on a snowy day and inconvenient location. We cheered when state legislators came to the podium, reminding us that we weren’t alone. If you stand with us, and help shift the debate back towards the real roots of the crises facing America, we’re more likely to energetically support him and with candidates in the next election cycle who will be open to your initiatives. Wisconsin is the test case for both the Republican roll-backs and the responses that just might recapture the fire of barely two years ago. It would help immensely if you stood beside those ordinary citizens who’ve already stepped up to lead.

Paul Loeb
Soul of a Citizen

Published by the LA Progressive on March 5, 2011
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About Paul Rogat Loeb

Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times, whose wholly updated new edition will be released March 30, of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association, and of Generation at the Crossroads: Apathy and Action on the American Campus. See www.soulofacitizen.org To receive his articles directly email sympa@lists.groundwire.org with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles.