If the disgruntled Obama supporters thought they would get everything they wanted from this White House – without lifting a finger other than to cast their ballot in the voting booth – they were sorely mistaken. Elections are important, but are no substitute for the hard work of building movements, coalitions and institutions. At the same time, diehard Obama supporters and apologists who say he is just one man and cannot do it alone must realize that he is not doing it alone. He has an administration filled with intelligent, capable individuals. Yet, Democrats have not put enough pressure on Obama, which is why we are here today. But Democratic leaders—including progressive lawmakers and members of the Congressional Black Caucus— and groups such as MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee(PCCC) are pushing back, challenging the President to reject the Republican budget agenda, and not to cut programs for low income people.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked civil rights leader A. Phillip Randolph to “go out and make me do it,” that is, make him use his power and the bully pulpit to right the wrongs and do the things they both agreed should be addressed. That is precisely what today’s progressives must do with Obama. They must build the infrastructure of an independent movement that supports the President when he deserves it, and pressures him out of love, like a wayward family member, when necessary. Most of all, this movement must look toward the future, with the goal of surviving beyond an Obama administration or any other presidency.
Progressives must also craft a media narrative that places their ideals squarely in the political center, with the President having no choice but to embrace them. Justice for union workers, a living wage and benefits, a clean environment, social safety net and fighting against wealth inequality are mainstream policies. Triangulation is both unnecessary and counterproductive for a president who already enjoys support among moderates, who have fled the GOP in droves. The once mainstream Republican Party is now dominated by conspiracy theorists, crackpot Birthers in the mold of Donald Trump, self-righteous religious zealots and morality police, and Neo-Confederates. They want to turn extremism into the mainstream, and make ignorant the new smart. It is hard to imagine finding common ground with a party whose core constituencies include hate groups.
Further, the base must remind President Obama that the Republican goal is to run the economy into the ground – and his presidency with it – all for political gain. Therefore, he has no choice but to come home. And progressives should make it clear that if he wants a second term, he most certainly must come home in order for his supporters to come out next Election Day. That is not to say the Obama voters will flock to a viable challenger from within or outside the Democratic Party. Rather, many of them, demoralized and lacking in enthusiasm, simply will stay home and, by default, bestow victory upon the Republicans. That’s what happened in the 2010 midterms, and the rest is history.
David A. Love