Truman Moment for Democrats

obama and neice

On vacation on Martha’s Vineyard in 2009, the President shared a moment with his young niece, Savita. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

The fighting spirit shown by President Obama in recent days suggests to me, and is confirmed by White House sources, that a defining moment has arrived for the Obama presidency. Great!

If the president campaigns in the tradition of Truman in 1948, and Democrats campaign with the ferocity that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) showed when he pulverized Sharron Angle in 2010, an epic campaign has begun that will turn a national spotlight on a Republican Party of know-nothings who promote an ideology that gravely damages the nation and do-nothings who blockade progress with an uncontrollable lust for power.

Listening to Republican leaders and watching Republican debates  make the GOP today appear to be a party run amok. It denies science, reason, facts and even, at times, the president’s birth. They attack and abuse core interests of a majority of voters. Their tactics are often alien to the basic notions of civility, moderation, fair compromise and respect that constitute the American idea.

The President asks the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, who live in luxury at a time of widespread hardship, to make a tiny sacrifice — and Republicans accuse him of class warfare?

Democrats in Congress offer bills to create jobs for two years, and Senate Republicans oppose with more obstructionism than was ever shown by the most racist senators from the segregated South, who didn’t filibuster every bill that would put Americans to work.

House Republicans would destroy Medicare and turn this revered government program into a subsidy for insurers while they attack a long list of programs vital to women. A leading Republican presidential candidate calls Social Security a criminal enterprise and writes that it is un-American. A previous GOP front-runner sought the presidency by attacking the president’s birth certificate. Should laid-off workers without health insurance die because of some weird notion of responsibility? Stay tuned.

What kind of people do they think we are? The “Blame Americans First” Republicans act as though our problems are caused by overpaid police, greedy teachers, the Firefighters Local 23, fence-climbing Hispanics with contorted faces pictured in GOP ads or lazy, jobless bums who some Republicans say prefer to be jobless while they wait in long lines at job fairs with their prayers and pain.

What kind of a nation do they think we are? The “Hope America Fails” Republicans seem to rejoice with every new layoff, exploiting human pain to achieve political power while they oppose jobs bills.

It is incredible that many Republicans oppose new energy sources that would make America independent and create jobs while the Chinese pour money into them because they seek to dominate the future that the “Blame Americans First” Republicans would surrender to them.

These Republicans act like the equivalent of taxpayer-paid lobbyists for the government of China, opposing American firms, American jobs, American independence and America’s economic future.

For Obama and Democrats it is time for Truman. While it is a difficult hour for Obama, his poll numbers make him look like Mount Rushmore compared to those of House Republicans, who are so unpopular they could be swept aside in a landslide. Doesn’t Mitt Romney resemble Tom Dewey? Doesn’t Rick Perry sometimes resemble Strom Thurmond in 1948?

Brent BudowskyIn November 1947, Clark Clifford wrote a famous memo to Harry Truman about how to win in 1948. The president and Democratic leaders read the entire memo, which I post today on The Hill’s Pundits Blog.

Clifford wrote to Truman that the winning campaign includes a fighting spirit that unites progressives and independents.

The idealism of JFK, the reformism of Ross Perot, the toughness of Harry Reid and the fighting spirit of Truman will make today’s headlines look like ancient history long before ballots are cast in 2012.

Brent Budowsky

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at <i></i>.


  1. says

    A ‘Truman moment’ is not the same as really being a Truman.

    In 1948 the country responded to the reality: candidate Truman himself was thoroughly and constantly ‘the-buck-stops-here’ Truman. The country would not have been impressed by a wimp candidate who had finally and desperately resorted to a few put-on ‘give-em-hell’ ‘Truman moments’. Truman was Truman all the time, not just during Truman ‘moments’.

    It’s too late for wimp Obama to convincingly put on ‘Truman moments’. It’s not too late for real Democrats with some already demonstrated Truman spine to be Trumanic – especially if they run a real Truman Democrat candidate for president.

  2. in_awe says

    Shared sacrifice:
    The top 0.1% of taxpayers pay in federal taxes more than the bottom 80%. And yet somehow that is inequitable to the bottom 80%? Really? And don’t get confused by facts that have repeatedly demonstrated in the real US economy over 7 decades that lowering the top tax rates yields more tax revenue:

    Lessons From Past Tax Cuts

    Lesson #1: Lower tax rates do not mean less tax revenue.

    The tax cuts of the 1920s: Personal income tax revenues increased substantially during the 1920s despite the reduction in rates. Revenues rose from $719 million in 1921 to $1.164 billion in 1928, an increase of more than 61 percent (during a period of virtually no inflation).

    The Kennedy tax cuts: Tax revenues climbed from $94 billion in 1961 to $153 billion in 1968, an increase of 62 percent (33 percent after adjusting for inflation).
    The Reagan tax cuts: Total tax revenues climbed by 99.4 percent during the 1980s. The results are even more impressive, however, when one looks at what happened to personal income tax revenues. Once the economy received an unambiguous tax cut in January 1983, personal income tax revenues climbed dramatically, increasing by more than 54 percent by 1989 (28 percent after adjusting for inflation).

    Lesson #2: The rich pay more when incentives to hide income are reduced.

    The tax cuts of the 1920s: The share of the tax burden paid by the rich rose dramatically as tax rates fell. The share of the tax burden borne by the rich (those making $50,000 and up in those days) climbed from 44.2 percent in 1921 to 78.4 percent in 1928.1

    The Kennedy tax cuts: Just as happened in the 1920s, the share of the income tax burden borne by the rich increased following the tax cuts. Tax collections from those earning more than $50,000 per year climbed by 57 percent between 1963 and 1966, while tax collections from those earning below $50,000 rose 11 percent. As a result, the rich saw their portion of the income tax burden climb from 11.6 percent to 15.1 percent.2
    The Reagan tax cuts: The share of income taxes paid by the top 10 percent of earners jumped significantly, climbing from 48.0 percent in 1981 to 57.2 percent in 1988. The top 1 percent of taxpayers saw their share of the income tax bill climb even more dramatically, from 17.6 percent in 1981 to 27.5 percent in 1988.

    1. Joint Economic Committee, “The Mellon and Kennedy Tax Cuts: A Review and Analysis,” June 18, 1982

    2. Ibid.


    Oooo! Extra points for creatively weaving in the race card! The Dems jobs bills have been a failure by even Obama’s standards. “Heh, heh, I guess there weren’t shovel ready jobs”.

    “The “Blame Americans First” Republicans act as though our problems are caused by overpaid police, greedy teachers, the Firefighters Local 23, fence-climbing Hispanics”

    In CA cops are being paid $100K – $225K plus benefits and early retirement at 50 at 2-3% of peak salary times years of service; ditto for fire fighters; CA has the highest paid teachers in the country and our schools rank near the bottom in achievement; CA spends at least $10B per year on providing services to illegal aliens. So there just might be something there.

    Energy Sources:
    Yep, the Obama green initiatives have created jobs at $5.4M cost each. Solyndra just blew $530MM and was on track to get another half billion from Obama for his favored campaign bundler George Kaiser. Then there was the MA solar company that took $300MM and moved its plant to China. Windmills – great return on investment there too. You want energy independence? Drill baby! Drill! Coal gasification. Natural gas. Oil sands. Fracking. Ocean drilling.

    Heh! Heh! Laughable coming from a Democrat especially in light of Obama’s track record on granting favors and sweetheart deals to lobbyists.

    By any object analysis Obama’s Keynesian approach to the economy has doubled down on the negative outcomes, and he wants another go at it. Oh, then there are the 4,000 new federal rules and regulations being promulgated – great for stimulating growth!

    The truth is that Harry (who famously had a sign on his desk saying the buck stops here) is spinning in his grave over teflon Obama’s blame everybody else approach. Obama resemble Truman only in that both were registered Democrats.

  3. c mann says

    as long as corporations have more power than the people and as long as the republicans are employed by them democracy is doomed. We’re like every other country now. rich and poor, . It was the middle class that kept this country unique…’s over. I';m really sad. O’Bama: you’ve got my vote, but my heart’s not in it. who are you talking to? Those big boys scared you and it’s obvious I always remember Orange County that went bankrupt….they’re fine today.

    • in_awe says

      Have you checked Obama’s corporate ties? Look at GE – huge special treatment for GE and Jeff Immult and what happens? GE opens up plants in China and shuts down US plants. How about Obama’s buddies in and from Wall Street – special breaks and bailouts for all. The majority of top donors in the 2008 Presidential election were unions sending money to Obama – and then he turns around and shafts them?

      Where there aren’t corporations in the traditional sense like China, the Soviet Union, Eastern bloc countries, N. Korea,and Cuba where the people ostensibly had “more power than the corporations”, they somehow don’t stand out as shining examples of democracy. In fact, those people couldn’t wait to escape to the capitalist West for a better life. Let’s not forget about the way workers were treated – communist regimes were responsible for the murders of nearly 80,000,000 of their citizens because they didn’t conform. Read up about it – it was called the 20th Century.


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