We Do Have a Mandate—- So What?


    Congratulations to all the Democratic grassroots, to an outstanding campaign team, and to President Obama and Vice President Biden.  What, exactly did we all win? Democrats still control the executive branch and half of the legislative, and the Republicans still control the other half of the legislative branch (thanks to some exotic redistricting) and the top of the judicial branch, SCOTUS.

    You might think Obama’s strong win was proof that the voters re-approved his message and his accomplishments in his first term; the election could be regarded as a referendum on Obama and his “liberal” policies. Not so fast. Already, we hear The Establishment pundit class stating in no uncertain terms that we are still a “deeply divided nation,” half and half, with the always-to-be-expected insistence that, well, Yes, Obama won, but… but half the country voted for Romney, so, of course Obama must now “move to the middle,” and compromise with the losers— who, remember, lost.  This demand was not, so far as I can remember, imposed upon George W. Bush, who was appointed to his first term not by the voters but by the Supreme Court; he governed as ferociously as if he had received an overwhelming mandate, and charged off down an utterly disastrous road

    Progressives have a bitter memory of how Obama did as the pundit class demanded after 2008; he started compromising and, in our eyes, caving in advance, trying to get Republicans to bargain in good faith so he could wash out the simmering rancor of the previous administration, and do what he was elected to do, govern the country.  We all know how that turned out.

    Yet, despite that disgusting record of gridlock, when Republicans held America’s credit rating hostage, there are some Democrats already naively saying that, now the voters have spoken, and Obama can no longer be turned into a one-term president, Republicans must modify their behavior; Speaker Boehner will “obviously” have to control his Tea Party caucus. This is, I believe, a foolish, futile hope. Most of the same intransigent ideological gang of self-righteous bullies is still in place in the House. They will fight tooth and nail to force Obama to do their bidding. If you have any doubts, watch this short post-defeat video from the Heritage Foundation:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?f…

    In his victory speech, Obama laid out once again his policies, and extended his hand in bipartisanship to his defeated opponent, Mitt Romney, and to the Republican leadership in the House. … much as he tried to do in 2009. Personally, I confess  I do not expect results any different from what happened in his first term, I just hope he has more of a spine this time around.  Here is what I want Obama to do in his second term:

    1- First order of business: Immigration reform, and on Obama’s terms. Make the Republicans swallow it or be exposed to the Latino voters (and other immigrants) for the bigots they are—-  bring angry immigrants on the Hill to lobby and thus lock in the Latino voters as Democrats for the mid-terms (and forever), and put the fear of el Dios into Republicans.

    2- Obama must spend time and effort building the Democratic Party, which he did not do at all after his victory in 2008; since he cannot succeed himself, OFA has to be integrated somehow into a reformed and strengthened party structure to ensure we do not have another collapse in mid-terms, and Obama can punish or reward Democratic politicians, so they fear not supporting his agenda when the chips are down.

    3- Obama must go to the American people  whenever the Republicans engage in obstructionism and hostage-taking:  Tell the voters what a particular policy is, why it is good for us, and exactly how the Republicans are stymying it—- go over the heads of Congress directly to their constituents. His failure to explain and sell Obamacare enabled the Republicans to define it, then demonize it, and is a major reason why (combined with #2) that the 2010 mid-terms were a disaster not just in Congress but at the state and county levels all across the country.

    4- Obama and the Democrats must continuously engage the electorate, explaining and raising the profile of Democratic principles, values, and policies. Obama successfully framed the 2012 election as a choice between two different visions of the country, and the electorate bought it. Now he has to deliver that choice continuously— explain it over and over; I believe people will understand it. Let’s not fall into the trap of “middle ground” which means tacitly accepting the Republican ideology of untrammeled capitalism and their bastardized “free market” theology as a basis for any reforms; that is fighting on hostile ground.

    5- Tax reform has to be on the agenda. Beware of striving for a “grand bargain,” in which, suddenly, earned benefits (i.e., “entitlements” in Republi-speak) are sneakily slashed in exchange for, say, higher taxes on millionaires. What we want, and what we must get, is a more progressive over-all tax structure, one fairer and, if possible, simpler…. Not just the income tax but also payroll taxes, for example.

    6- Austerity has failed spectacularly as a recovery policy in Europe, and under no circumstances can Democrats permit this pernicious policy (the Ryan Budget, for example) to be part of the negotiations on deficit reduction. How we spend our money tells us what kind of country we want to live in; Tim Kaine was good at this when he was Governor. Will there be a “peace dividend?”  The government can and does create jobs (take that, Ayn Rand), in research, development, infrastructure, green energy, education even. Why not?

    7- Get that jobs bill passed, raise the minimum wage. Past experience shows that dong so does not, repeat not, kill jobs. When Republicans balk, see #3. Supply side economics or trickle down economics is a farce. What we have now is a shortage of demand; higher minimum wage and more wage-earners means theat money will be spent immediately, creating the demand that producers need to see before they fire up their factories and the economy can take off.

    8- Clean up Citizens United and the Wall Street casino (we’ve made a start, but more needs to be done). Corporations are not people; this may involve a constitutional amendment and tougher disclosure laws, as well as funding Consumer protection.

    9- What I have suggested here also means that President Obama will have to bring in some other economists and financial and budget gurus who have a rather different economic philosophy than those tiresome free market theorists and practitioners (like Larry Summers or Geithner). Milton Freidman free marketeers are not the only (or even the best) capitalist economists. Only with new faces and minds outside The Establishment can he achieve that real change he promised.


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