What Obama needs to do next

Barack Obama

Image by transplanted mountaineer via Flickr

Over at American Conservative, Bill Dupray writes, “And some idiots will still blame Bush.”  Count me among them.

This country remains a mess because of the policies of George W. Bush.  The problem for Democrats, as Paul Krugman pointed out this weekend, is that they’ve failed to articulate that, again and again and again.

That, however, is just one piece of President Obama’s challenge as he sorts through the wreckage of yesterday’s U.S. Senate vote in Massachusetts. In his first year, he has tried to be a conciliator at a time of domestic political extremes.  He has tried to be nuanced when Americans desperately want simple answers — and jobs.  He has tried to be reasoned when Americans are feeling (and hurting) passionately.

Yes. Republican Scott Brown’s resounding special election victory to the U.S. Senate sends a message. But  it says far more about the confusion and fear of hard-working voters than it does about their demand for a change of political course.

It shows that the Republican Party, for now at least,  is succeeding as the party of NP. The N stands for negativity, nothing and no.  This is a party still defending the utterly failed Bush agenda of tax cuts, war and fear. It has led this country to the most distorted financial divide in modern times between rich and working class. And yet the GOP continues to get the support of many of those same working class voters.

Why?  Because of P. Despite recent internal bickering over just how far Right a real Republican must be, the party runs a well-oiled propaganda machine and one that, at a time of growing discontent,  has tapped into populist rage while Democrats counsel patience.

Yes, Democrat Martha Coakley ran a dreadful campaign. But n the blue state of Massachusetts she still likely would have won had the president been busy selling health care as a basic human right that’s denied to people in only one developed, democratic country — the United States of America.

Instead, his bill has looked like a back room deal, leaving the public scared and susceptible to simplistic Republican distortions. In the end, Scott Brown beat her because too many residents in a state with a strong health care plan of its own feared Washington’s plan would cost more but with no new benefits.  With money already tight, they voted out of fear and self-interest.

What can  Barack Obama learn from this?

1. He needs to promote policies that clearly and plainly help people, not the banking sector or green energy sector or any sector that doesn’t offer more jobs now for average Amerians. He and the Democrats need to take back the mantle of the people’s party. That means fighting for more work and against foreclosures. It means making banks and the Wall Street bad boys pay for their looting.

2. He needs to call out Republicans every day for their slash-and-burn propaganda as the party of no. He should run a permanent campaign, jumping on every lie quickly and setting the record straight.

3. He needs to push forcefully for a vote on the best health-care plan possible and  do so after he gives a passionate and rousing speech telling Americans they deserve better than to be the only country in the world in which people don’t give a damn about their neighbors. Remind us that selfish disregard for others is not the principle on which this country was built.

A friend of my daughter’s died of the flu last week, a young man. I don’t know all the particulars yet. I do know he dawdled in seeking medical care. He had no health insurance.

I wonder. How many tens of thousands more young people will this country allow to die before it begins to fix things?  How many more generations will suffer under the burden of unreasonable health care costs?  That’s a question Obama and Democrats should have been asking forcefully all along.

Passionate leadership needn’t be devoid of reason. But reasoned leadership without passion leaves the people lagging behind.

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About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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3 Responses to What Obama needs to do next

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention What Obama needs to do next - Jerry Lanson - News Prints - True/Slant -- Topsy.com

  2. libtree09 says:

    I would only add that the President needs to shed the Clinton people around him who operate on twenty year old inside strategies and support of a dysfunctional economic system. It is not so much as change for change sake as a new way of thinking about our problems. It is not the 1990’s nor the 1930’s. We need new solutions for a new century and there are plenty of big thinkers out there who do not consider politics as a part of every equation.

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