Wednesday, November 7, 2012

President Obama Soundly Defeats Mitt Romney And Is Re-elected To A Second Term; Five Women From the Democratic Party Are Elected To The Senate

Damon Winter/The New York Times
Americans voted to give President Obama a second chance to change Washington.

Damon Winter/The New York Times
President Obama, with his family, took the stage at McCormick Place in Chicago early Wednesday to speak at his victory party. 


Once again just as they did in 2008 in soundly defeating the McCain/Palin ticket the breathtaking strategic, tactical, and highly disciplined organizational brilliance of Team Obama (especially the incredible campaign leadership of the 'Two Davids'--Axelrod and Plouffe--as well as that of their major organizing cohorts Jim Messina, and the always dynamic Stephanie Cutter) prevailed over the fiercely reactionary and billion dollar 'Super-Pac' fueled Romney and Ryan rightwing machine.  The winning combination of extraordinary political mobilization skills and creative mastery of social media linked to the historically unprecedented voter participation of Obama's vaunted national coalition of African Americans, Latinos, Women, Asian Americans and young people under 40 was a very convincing textbook example of how to effectively organize and motivate an emerging new national demographic coalition that in both stylistic and substantive terms opposes, repudiates, and categorically rejects the socially lethal doctrines of white supremacy and sexist patriarchy and misogyny that  thoroughly defines the Republican and Tea Party.

That said it is now essential that this same progressive coalition make absolutely certain and insist that the President fight and stand up to the rightwing bullies in Congress and not give in to their demagogic bluster and blackmail on every major issue facing us in the very near future.  Obama ran a GREAT campaign and seriously deserves all the kudos and hyperbolic praise he has received.  Hopefully this will remind him that to be a great leader he must have and be prepared  to  assert courage, integrity, determination, and conviction.   Only time will tell if he--and the rest of us--has what it takes to truly change the direction of this country...Stay tuned...


Obama Wins New Term as Electoral Advantage Holds
November 6, 2012
New York Times
Barack Hussein Obama was re-elected president of the United States on Tuesday, overcoming powerful economic headwinds, a lock-step resistance to his agenda by Republicans in Congress and an unprecedented torrent of advertising as a divided nation voted to give him more time.

In defeating Mitt Romney, the president carried Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin, a near sweep of the battleground states, and was holding a narrow advantage in Florida. The path to victory for Mr. Romney narrowed as the night wore along, with Mr. Obama winning at least 303 electoral votes.

A cheer of jubilation sounded at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago when the television networks began projecting him as the winner at 11:20 p.m., even as the ballots were still being counted in many states where voters had waited in line well into the night. The victory was far narrower than his historic election four years ago, but it was no less dramatic.

“Tonight in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back,” Mr. Obama told his supporters early Wednesday. “We know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”

Mr. Obama’s re-election extended his place in history, carrying the tenure of the nation’s first black president into a second term. His path followed a pattern that has been an arc to his political career: faltering when he seemed to be at his strongest — the period before his first debate with Mr. Romney — before he redoubled his efforts to lift himself and his supporters to victory.

The evening was not without the drama that has come to mark so many recent elections: For more than 90 minutes after the networks projected Mr. Obama as the winner, Mr. Romney held off calling him to concede. And as the president waited to declare victory in Chicago, Mr. Romney’s aides were prepared to head to the airport, suitcases packed, potentially to contest several close results.

But as it became increasingly clear that no amount of contesting would bring him victory, he called Mr. Obama to concede shortly before 1 a.m.

“I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters,” Mr. Romney told his supporters in Boston. “This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.”

Hispanics made up an important part of Mr. Obama’s winning coalition, preliminary exit poll data showed. And before the night was through, there were already recriminations from Republican moderates who said Mr. Romney had gone too far during the primaries in his statements against those here illegally, including his promise that his get-tough policies would cause some to “self-deport.”

Mr. Obama, 51, faces governing in a deeply divided country and a partisan-rich capital, where Republicans retained their majority in the House and Democrats kept their control of the Senate. His re-election offers him a second chance that will quickly be tested, given the rapidly escalating fiscal showdown.

For Mr. Obama, the result brings a ratification of his sweeping health care act, which Mr. Romney had vowed to repeal. The law will now continue on course toward nearly full implementation in 2014, promising to change significantly the way medical services are administrated nationwide.

Confident that the economy is finally on a true path toward stability, Mr. Obama and his aides have hinted that he would seek to tackle some of the grand but unrealized promises of his first campaign, including the sort of immigration overhaul that has eluded presidents of both parties for decades.

But he will be venturing back into a Congressional environment similar to that of his first term, with the Senate under the control of Democrats and the House under the control of Republicans, whose leaders have hinted that they will be no less likely to challenge him than they were during the last four years.

The state-by-state pursuit of 270 electoral votes was being closely tracked by both campaigns, with Mr. Romney winning North Carolina and Indiana, which Mr. Obama carried four years ago. But Mr. Obama won Michigan, the state where Mr. Romney was born, and Minnesota, a pair of states that Republican groups had spent millions trying to make competitive.

Americans delivered a final judgment on a long and bitter campaign that drew so many people to the polls that several key states extended voting for hours. In Virginia and Florida, long lines stretched from polling places, with the Obama campaign sending text messages to supporters in those areas, saying: “You can still vote.”

Neither party could predict how the outcome would affect the direction of the Republican Party. Moderates were hopeful it would lead the rank and file to realize that the party’s grass-roots conservatism that Mr. Romney pledged himself to during the primaries doomed him in the general election. Tea Party adherents have indicated that they will argue that he was damaged because of his move to middle ground during the general election.

As he delivered his brief concession speech early Wednesday, Mr. Romney did not directly address the challenges facing Republicans. His advisers said that his second failed quest for the White House would be his last, with his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, standing as one of the leaders of the party.

“We have given our all to this campaign,” said Mr. Romney, stoic and gracious in his remarks. “I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead this country in a different direction.”

The results were more a matter of voters giving Mr. Obama more time than a second chance. Through most of the year slight majorities of voters had told pollsters that they believed his policies would improve the economy if they could stay in place into the future.

Mr. Obama’s campaign team built its coalition the hard way, through intensive efforts to find and motivate supporters who had lost the ardor of four years ago and, Mr. Obama’s strategists feared, might not find their way to polls if left to their own devices.

Up against real enthusiasm for Mr. Romney — or, just as important, against Mr. Obama — among Republicans and many independents, their strategy of spending vast sums of money on their get-out-the-vote operation seemed vindicated on Tuesday.

As opinion surveys that followed the first debate between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama showed a tightening race, Mr. Obama’s team had insisted that its coalition was coming together as it hoped it would. In the end, it was not a bluff.

Even with Mr. Obama pulling off a new sweep of the highly contested battlegrounds from Nevada to New Hampshire, the result in each of the states was very narrow. The Romney campaign was taking its time early Wednesday to review the outcome and searching for any irregularities.

The top issue on the minds of voters was the economy, according to interviews, with three-quarters saying that economic conditions were not good or poor. But only 3 in 10 said things were getting worse, and 4 in 10 said the economy was improving.

Mr. Romney, who campaigned aggressively on his ability to turn around the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, was given a narrow edge when voters were asked which candidate was better equipped to handle the economy, the interviews found.

The electorate was split along partisan lines over a question that drove much of the campaign debate: whether it was Mr. Obama or his predecessor, George W. Bush, who bore the most responsibility for the nation’s continued economic challenges. About 4 in 10 independent voters said that Mr. Bush should be held responsible.

The president built a muscular campaign organization and used a strong financial advantage to hold off an array of forces that opposed his candidacy. The margin of his victory was smaller than in 2008 — he held an advantage of about 700,000 in the popular vote early Wednesday — but a strategic firewall in several battleground states protected his Electoral College majority.

As Mr. Romney gained steam and stature in the final weeks of the campaign, the Obama campaign put its hopes in perhaps one thing above all others: that the rebound in the auto industry after the president’s bailout package of 2009 would give him the winning edge in Ohio, a linchpin of his road to re-election.

Early interviews with voters showed that just over half of Ohio voters approved of the bailout, a result that was balanced by a less encouraging sign for the president: Some 4 in 10 said they or someone in their household had lost a job over the last four years.

He defeated Mr. Romney 52 percent to 47 percent in Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, but only because of the number of votes he banked in the month leading up to Election Day.

Mr. Obama won despite losing some of his 2008 margins among his key constituencies, including among younger voters, blacks and Jewish voters, yet he appeared to increase his share among Hispanics and Asians. Early exit poll results showed Latinos representing about 1 in 10 voters nationwide, and voting for Mr. Obama in greater numbers than four years ago, making a difference in several states, including Colorado and Florida.

He held on to female voters, according to preliminary exit polls conducted by Edison Research, but he struggled even more among white men than he did four years ago.

Mr. Romney’s coalition included disproportionate support from whites, men, older people, high-income voters, evangelicals, those from suburban and rural counties, and those who call themselves adherents of the Tea Party — a group that had resisted him through the primaries but had fully embraced him by Election Day.

The Republican Party seemed destined for a new round of self-reflection over how it approaches Hispanics going forward, a fast-growing portion of the voting population that senior party strategists had sought to woo before a strain of intense activism against illegal immigration took hold within the Republican grass roots.

It was the first presidential election since the 2010 Supreme Court decision loosening restrictions on political spending, and the first in which both major-party candidates opted out of the campaign matching system that imposes spending limits in return for federal financing. And the overall cost of the campaign rose accordingly, with all candidates for federal office, their parties and their supportive “super PACs” spending more than $6 billion combined.

The results Tuesday were certain to be parsed for days to determine just what effect the spending had, and who would be more irate at the answer — the donors who spent millions of dollars of their own money for a certain outcome, or those who found a barrage of negative advertising to be major factors in their defeats.

While the campaign often seemed small and petty, with Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama intensely quarreling and bickering, the contest was actually rooted in big and consequential decisions, with the role of the federal government squarely at the center of the debate.

Though Mr. Obama’s health care law galvanized his most ardent opposition, and continually drew low ratings in polls as a whole, interviews with voters found that nearly half wanted to see it kept intact or expanded, a quarter wanted to see it repealed entirely and another quarter said they wanted portions of it repealed.

In Chicago, as crowds waited for Mr. Obama to deliver his speech, his supporters erupted into a roar of relief and elation. Car horns honked from the street as people chanted the president’s name.

“I feel like it’s a repudiation of everything the Republicans said in the campaign,” said Jasmyne Walker, 31, who jumped up and down on the edge of a stone planter in a downtown plaza. “Everybody said that if he lost it would be buyer’s remorse — that we were high on hope in 2008. This says we’re on the right track. I feel like this confirms that.”

Michael Cooper contributed reporting.
by Howard Fineman
Huffington Post

NEW YORK -- President Barack Obama did not just win reelection tonight. His victory signaled the irreversible triumph of a new, 21st-century America: multiracial, multi-ethnic, global in outlook and moving beyond centuries of racial, sexual, marital and religious tradition.

Obama, the mixed-race son of Hawaii by way of Kansas, Indonesia, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, won reelection in good part because he not only embodied but spoke to that New America, as did the Democratic Party he leads. His victorious coalition spoke for and about him: a good share of the white vote (about 45 percent in Ohio, for example); 70 percent or so of the Latino vote across the country, according to experts; 96 percent of the African-American vote; and large proportions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The Republican Party, by contrast, has been reduced to a rump parliament of Caucasian traditionalism: white, married, church-going -- to oversimplify only slightly. "It's a catastrophe," said GOP strategist Steve Schmidt. "This is, this will have to be, the last time that the Republican Party tries to win this way."

The GOP chose as its standard-bearer Mitt Romney, whose own Mormon Church until recent decades discriminated officially against blacks. His campaign made little serious effort to reach out to Hispanics voters, and Romney hurt himself by taking far-right positions on immigration during the GOP primaries. He made no effort whatsoever in the black community.

Obama reached out not only racially and ethnically, but in terms of lifestyle. Analysts made fun of, and Republicans derided, his campaign's focus on discrete demographic and social slices of the electorate, including gays and lesbians. But the message was one about the future, not the American past.

U.S. Census numbers tell the story. In the first decade of the new millennium, the Asian-American population rose 43.3 percent, the African-American population 12.3 percent, the Latino community 43 percent -- and the white population just 5.7 percent.

To be sure, the president won because of his stand on the issues -- health care reform, Wall Street regulation, the auto industry bailout, among others. But his victory is something more: a sense that we are all in this together as a society, no matter who we are or how we live our lives.

I saw this new America at the heart of the Obama reelection effort, in their campaign offices. In one office in Virgina, for example, the local campaign manager was Pakistani-American, the volunteers were of every race and background, the people heading out to handle the signup drive were Hispanic, and the event they were working on was a concert by Bruce Springsteen.
Senator-Elect Elizabeth Warren
(Photo: Josh Reynolds, AP)
Democrats keep control of U.S. Senate
by Susan Davis

Democrats are going to maintain their hold on the U.S. Senate.

3:05AM EST November 7, 2012 - Democrats will maintain control of the U.S. Senate after their candidates picked up Republican-held seats in Indiana, Maine and Massachusetts, leaving the GOP no path to a takeover with the remaining competitive races that remain undecided.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered a concillatory tone and called for compromise as Congress faces a daunting series of fiscal challenges in the months ahead.

"Democrats and Republicans must come together, and show that we are up to the challenge," Reid said. "This is no time for excuses. This is no time for putting things off until later. We can achieve big things when we work together."

It is the second election cycle in a row in which Republicans were favored to make gains because they were defending fewer seats, only to see their chances diminish because of missteps by their own candidates.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the party needs to take some time to process the impact of Tuesday's results.

"It's clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party," Cornyn said. "While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight. Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead."

In Indiana, Republican Richard Mourdock failed to recover from a late controversy over his remarks at a debate that pregnancy resulting from rape is "God's will" in explaining his opposition to abortion rights. Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly was declared the winner by a narrow margin in a victory that delivered a fatal blow to lingering GOP hopes for a takeover.

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock failed to recover from a late controversy over his remarks on abortion rights.(Photo: Michael Conroy, AP)

Harvard University professor and former Obama administration official Elizabeth Warren handily defeated GOP Sen. Scott Brown in one of the highest-profile races of the 2012 cycle, and the most costly in the state's history. Her victory was critical to Democrats' efforts to maintain control and hailed by liberal activists who supported her campaign.

In Maine, former Gov. Angus King sailed to victory despite the GOP's best efforts to make it a competitive race. King ran as an independent and has not said which party he intends to caucus with, but he is widely expected to sit with Democrats in the chamber. To that end, King criticized GOP strategist Karl Rove in his victory speech for directing super PAC money into Maine in an effort to defeat King. "I hope that man never comes to Maine," King said.

An early duo of Democratic re-election victories came in Ohio for Sen. Sherrod Brown and in Florida for Sen. BIll Nelson, thwarting long-shot GOP efforts for pick-ups in those states. Recent Democratic concerns about Connecticut quickly evaporated after Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy handily defeated former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, who spent nearly $100 million of her own fortune for a Senate seat in 2010 and 2012.
Sen. Sherrod Brown thwarted a long-shot GOP effort to pick up Ohio.(Photo: Tony Dejak, AP)

In Missouri, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who was targeted heavily by Republicans, pulled out a convincing win against Republican Rep. Todd Akin, whose campaign foundered after he claimed that women who were victims of rape had a biological defense against becoming pregnant.

Former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine defeated Republican former governor and senator George Allen in the hotly contested Virginia race, maintaining the party's hold on the seat. Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin defeated former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin and made history: She is the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate.

Republicans scored a rare victory in Nebraska, where Republican Deb Fischer defeated former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey, who was seeking a comeback. Fischer's victory was a GOP pick-up because the seat is currently held by retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson. GOP Rep. Jeff Flake also handily won in Arizona against Democrat Richard Carmona. Texas also elected Republican Ted Cruz, a popular candidate among Tea Party activists.

In Nevada, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley held a narrow lead over GOP Sen. Dean Heller, another potential Democratic pick-up, but the race remained tight. Republicans were also eyeing a potential pick-up in North Dakota, where Democrat Heidi Heitkamp held a narrow lead over GOP Rep. Rick Berg in a state Republican Mitt Romney won easily.

If either Berkley or Heitkamp secures a victory, 2012 would make history for sending a new record of non-incumbent freshman women senators to the Senate. The record was set in 1996 when four new women were sent to the Senate. Four women have already won including Baldwin, Fischer, Warren and Democrat Mazie Hirono in Hawaii.

Montana was too close to call in a race pitting incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester against GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg in a state Romney carried comfortably.

There were 33 Senate seats up for re-election, 23 Democrats and 10 Republicans, and most incumbents were favored to win handily. Five Republican senators and 17 Democratic senators faced no real re-election threat. With Republicans maintaining control of the U.S. House, Congress will be divided by near-identical margins next year.


Elizabeth is a REAL progressive and a very strong, independent, and effective leader.  She is now also the best and most accomplished grassroots activist and public intellectual in the U.S. Senate...


Elizabeth Warren Election Results: 
Consumer Advocate Unseats Scott Brown

Elizabeth Warren defeated Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) Tuesday in the race for U.S. Senate, NBC News and CBS News projected.

The Harvard Law professor and consumer advocate had narrowly been favored in recent days, as polls showed her with a slight lead over the incumbent senator.

Warren was the intellectual godmother of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and was its first head. She was denied a permanent appointment due to objections from congressional Republicans and from within the Treasury Department.

From the beginning, the Massachusetts Senate race attracted national attention. Brown, who opposed Obamacare, won election to the Senate in a 2010 special election at the height of the health care reform debate following the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) Warren's impassioned advocacy for economic fairness caused liberals to rally around their candidacy. Democrats were eager to reclaim the seat that Kennedy held for over four decades.

As a result, Warren became one of the top Senate fund-raisers of all time, surpassing Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate run. Brown was also successful in fundraising, having a significant war chest from his 2010 run.

The race was neck-and-neck for most of the race, but Warren pulled away narrowly after her speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. In September.

Warren stressed that the race was about control of the Senate, and tied Brown to the national GOP. Brown distanced himself from other Senate candidates like Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana. In the end, Warren had an easier lift as a Democrat in a deep blue state, and Brown's moderate image only carried him so far.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Politics of Race, Class, Gender and the U.S. Presidency in the Age of Obama

"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke, but you and I we've been through that, and that is not our fate. Let us stop talking falsely now, the hour's getting late..."

--Bob Dylan, "All Along the Watchtower," 1967
(famous cover version by Jimi Hendrix, 1968)

"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." 
--James Baldwin


I cannot emphasize enough just how crucially important and absolutely pivotal the current world-historical moment is.  If we stupidly take it all for granted and are foolish and  myopic enough to simply allow cynical resignation, solipsistic posturing, smug indifference, or braindead nihilism to consume us at this point in our collective history we will not only be brutally and soundly defeated by our ignorance, fear, alienation, and hatred(s) in collusion with our enemies but we as well as future generations will not survive the horrific consequences of that passively suicidal decision. What we should be seriously and soberly reminding ourselves at this moment of the presidential election is NOT who or what we think President Obama is or isn't at this point but far more importantly who WE are and what WE ARE PREPARED TO DO.  The raging zeitgeist is telling us all quite clearly (it's shouting at us actually) that it's "do or die" time once again in our lives whether we "like" or fully "understand" it all yet or not.  This is not the time certainly for any self serving and infantile speculations about "the future" but it is the time to take conscious hold and control of our real responsibility and obligations in the present ("nostalgia for the present" anyone?) and to ACT on the human agency that we do possess if we don't forget to exercise it.  If we fail in confronting and honestly addressing these stark economic, social, and cultural contradictions, problems, and crises on a mass scale by demanding real alternatives to the present quagmire we find ourselves in it won't matter who the next President is.  But in the meantime if we don't somehow tactically buy ourselves some admittedly very limited "free time" between now and at least 2014 (when the next midterm congressional elections take place) by keeping Romney and Ryan out of the Presidency, it will be even more difficult to fight for the major economic and political reforms that we collectively MUST immediately start fighting for when this national election is over on November 7...Meanwhile as the following article makes ominously clear an American historical replay of the "Weimar syndrome" surely awaits us all as these global crises intensify no matter what. So be prepared for real political and ideological combat no matter who's President...


History's Magic Mirror: America’s Economic Crisis and the Weimar Republic of Pre-Nazi Germany 
01 November 2012
By Charles Derber and Yale Magrass,
Truthout | Op-Ed
Workers set up a digital screen for a Mitt Romney campaign event in Lancaster, Ohio, October 11, 2012. (Photo: Ty Wright / The New York Times)

Germany's economic crisis of the 1930s led to the rise of far-right populism and the Nazi Party,  fueled by the corporate and military establishment.  An American version of this "Weimar Syndrome" could emerge as the far Right closes its grip on the Republican Party.

Contrary to common wisdom, the ascendancy of the Tea Party, Christian fundamentalist, militarist, anti-feminist, anti-immigrant and other racially-coded right-wing elements in the Republican Party - that could gain preponderant influence over the nation in a Romney/Ryan Administration - is not new. It is the most recent example of the "Weimar Syndrome," where liberal and Left parties fail to solve serious economic crises, helping right-wing movements and policies - that lack major public support, but are groomed and funded by the corporate and military establishment - to take power.

These movements have sometimes created perilous right-wing systemic change. In the 1920s and early 1930s German Weimar Republic, the world witnessed the rise to power of far-right groups, supported by only a minority of the population, but aided by the conservative establishment. An American Weimar could emerge as far-right elements gain increasing dominance in the Republican Party. The corporate establishment, represented by Mitt Romney, feels dependent on their support and is willing to implement most of their agenda, despite Romney's sprouting strands of moderate rhetoric since the first debate to reach beyond the hard core.

The Weimar Syndrome involves the following elements:
1. A severe and intensifying economic crisis

2. A failure by majoritarian liberal or Left groups to resolve the crisis

3. The rise of right-wing populist groups feeling economically threatened and politically unrepresented

4. The decision of the conservative political establishment to ally with and empower these right-wing elements, as their best way to stabilize capitalism and prevent the rise of progressive movements against corporations or capitalism itself

The most dangerous Weimar right-wing populist movements in Germany were not anti-statist, a distinctively American approach, and were brutally violent. Moreover, they would never support a candidate offering conciliatory rhetoric to appeal to the unconverted. While thus different than US ultra-conservative elements in the Republican Party today, who do not pose now the same type of danger, they nonetheless offer alarming lessons for America today.

The disastrous defeat in World War I and the ensuing hyperinflation and collapse of the German economy spawned hundreds of far-right populist groups. The most famous Weimar populists were the Nazis, but in 1920s Weimar they were just one of many hyper-nationalist, militarist and "family value" fringe groups not taken seriously by either the conservative or social democratic German Establishment.

The Weimar populists were "Red State" rural and small town Germans, rooted in small business, a demographic much like the Tea Party. Their leaders expressed the insecurity and rage of these conservative traditional classes.

Rural and small town Germans felt threatened by the humiliating defeat in the Great War and Weimar's crushing economic crises. Using racist demagoguery, the Weimar populists blamed both the military defeat and the economic crisis on Jews, the leading "traitors" concentrated in Berlin and other great cities. Under Weimar, big cities had become a cauldron of new movements for unionism, socialism and Communism, feminism and artistic experimentation.

The leading German liberal and conservative parties dismissed the Weimar right-wing populists as extremists and lunatics. By the early 1930s, though, the conservative corporate establishment viewed Hitler as the only alternative to a liberal or Communist takeover as the economy collapsed. German conservative elites correctly believed he would dispose of the Communists but erroneously calculated that they could contain Hitler himself. So they put him in power despite his electoral weakness and funded his militaristic solutions for the German crisis, which they thought would also save German capitalism.

Right-wing populists in the US also emerged in the Weimar era of the 1920s, involving Christian evangelicals such as Billy Sunday, as well as the Ku Klux Klan. They expressed anti-establishment religious revivalism and racist calls for restoring the traditional order and honor of the South. In the 1930s, the American Liberty League formed a Tea Party ancestor that opposed the entire New Deal as unconstitutional statism.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the United States underwent even greater division between a counterculture tied to a Left that saw the Vietnam War as emblematic of a flawed militaristic empire against a "silent majority" - a term coined by President Nixon to suggest a majoritarian right-wing America backed by the GOP establishment - committed to American glory, free market capitalism, traditional families, the virtues of hard work, and for some, white rights and Christian values.

By the late 1970s, the Silent Majority morphed - with aid from the Republican corporate establishment - into the populist "New Right." The New Right groups embraced unrestrained capitalism as "Christian," something which evangelical movements had seldom previously done. The American corporate elite found this version of populism - which they helped shape - palatable, especially when, like the German establishment during Weimar, it confronted a threat from the Left.

The 1970s New Right was a new generation of Christian fundamentalist populists emphasizing traditional values and free markets. In 1980, the New Right helped elect President Ronald Reagan and helped consolidate the Republican establishment's hold on power, based on the odd marriage of big corporations and Southern right-wing populism.

For all the talk about how polarized the United States is now - with polarization between a minority conservative rural populace and a progressive urban demographic - a feature of the Weimar Syndrome - it was far more so from the late 1960s through the late 1970s. Then, there was a real Left that was undermining the latitude of the American military. Many within the younger generation were rejecting the capitalist consumerist society that they were supposed to inherit. Japan and Europe were showing signs of surpassing the United States economically. Some within the corporate elite, like David Rockefeller, felt it was essential to re-establish respect for traditional authority.

A few years before the rift of the late 1970s, much of the American corporate establishment would have seen the Christian Right as a "loony fringe," but like the German elite of the early 1930s, they felt a need to find someone to return order and stability. Although many were previously suspicious of Ronald Reagan, they allowed him to become president. Hitler promised German honor would be restored and Germany would never again lose a war. Reagan made the same promise to America. The German business community thought they could contain Hitler. They were wrong. The American business community hoped they could control Reagan and it turns out they were correct. Reagan built a coalition between the corporate elite and the evangelical Right. He did not enact the programs of the fundamentalists, but he gave them lip-service as their perspective gained respectability. He re-centered the political spectrum as the real Left fell beyond the edge and liberalism, which previously had been the mainstream, became the "L-word."

Reagan dissipated the crisis that he was brought into office to resolve, but his fiscal and military policies laid the seeds for the present economic catastrophe, the structural heart of a Weimar era. He doubled the government deficit as jobs and infrastructures were exported. Despite underlying instability, reflecting the beginning of the a long American decline, there appeared to be a surface return to normalcy, prosperity and patriotism and today, even some liberals remember his tenure nostalgically.

The Tea Party and the right-wing groups in the Republican Party and House, led by Paul Ryan, are the step-children of Reagan, the New Right and the latest incarnation of right-wing populism. They pose new challenges for the corporate establishment in the GOP. How they deal with the Tea Party and Ryan Republicans will shape a possible Romney administration.

Long-term decline increases the radicalism of right-wing populists and the political volatility of the population. The corporate and GOP establishment, represented by Mr. Romney, are betting the ranch that they can again contain the new Far Right populists. But they are increasingly dependent on them, as evidenced by the pick of Ryan as Romney's running mate.

Romney insists that he, not Ryan, is the head of the Republican Party, and he is shape-shifting back to the image of moderation during his Massachusetts governorship. But a look at Romney's endorsement of the Ryan budget, his electoral-season new marriage with the southern Evangelical, militarist and racist elements in the party, and his own "severely conservative" budget and policy suggest the real Romney, in characteristic Weimar fashion, has embraced the right-wing Ryan factions and chosen to empower them.

Anti-tax guru Grover Norquist said, "We just need a president to sign this stuff.... Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen." Romney is willing. He has said would sign the Ryan budget, the document crystallizing all the Tea Party dreams of drowning the social welfare government in the bathtub.

He has spoken for a new hegemonic American militarism and proclaimed, "This century must be an American Century ... [Obama] has chosen this moment for wholesale reductions in the nation's military capacity ... This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest." He has joined anti-immigrant forces by opposing the Dream Act, while attacking Obama as a "food stamp" president and thereby appealing to all the racially coded elements in the party. This is a corporate presidential candidate adopting through most of the campaign the Weimar strategy of embracing the most Rightist elements in the GOP, and only muting his "severe" conservative tone very late in the campaign to expand his base beyond true believers.

President Obama's inability to lead the country, in FDR fashion, toward a New Deal that might solve the economic crisis, opens the door to a Weimar outcome. The corporate establishment fears even the weak populist tone that Obama has embraced during this election season, and sees both the long economic crisis and an Obama victory as eroding their power and potentially subverting capitalism itself.

The obvious lesson is that in periods of severe crisis and long-term decline, all bets are off. The establishment is risking not only the Republic, but its own survival. Only the progressive popular movements - mobilized by righteous anger at the plutocratic globalizing elites disinvesting from the nation itself as they embrace far-right nationalism and populism - can ward off a potentially disastrous repeat of the 1920s Weimar march into decay and barbarism.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


Charles Derber, Professor of Sociology at Boston College and Yale Magrass, Chancellor Professor of Sociology at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, are co-authors of The Surplus American (Paradigm 2012) and Morality Wars (Paradigm 2010).

We Need More than a New President
by Saket Soni
October 2, 2012  

This article appeared in the October 22, 2012 edition of The Nation.
Supporters react to seeing President Barack Obama stake the stage during a campaign event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In Mitt Romney’s America, 47 percent of the people live on government handouts, incapable of taking responsibility for their lives. In the real America, ordinary people are working harder than ever for less and less. Work once held a promise: it would allow workers to sustain their families, contribute to a community, and realize their full potential as human beings. In today’s economy, this promise no longer holds.

Workers know something about the economy that neither party has faced up to: work in America has changed, fundamentally and forever. First, the nature of employment has changed. Millions of people don’t work for the ultimate beneficiary of their labor, but for subcontractors or suppliers. Millions more are temporary, part-time or “self-employed.” A third of the US workforce—42.6 million workers—is now contingent. Tens of millions of workers no longer know who their real boss is.

Second, the nature of unemployment has shifted. Workers used to be employed for long periods; unemployment was short-term. Workers now face long-term unemployment interrupted by intermittent employment. Forty percent of the unemployed have been jobless for twenty-seven weeks. Unemployment is twice as high for African-Americans as for whites, and one and a half times as high for Latinos.

Third, the US workforce itself has changed. Today’s workforce isn’t just middle-aged white men: it’s women (49 percent), people of color, undocumented immigrants, young workers, baby boomers forced to delay retirement and guest workers. US companies now source workers from all over the globe, importing cheap labor for local jobs. And where there is prospective job growth, it’s overwhelmingly in low-wage sectors like service and retail.

Ana Rosa Diaz can tell you what the US workplace will look like at the end of this road. Jobless in Mexico, Ana was recruited to come to the United States as a guest worker. She peeled crawfish for a Walmart supplier in Louisiana that subjected her and her fellow workers to forced labor: they were compelled to work up to twenty-four-hour shifts with no overtime pay and were also locked in the plant to prevent breaks. When the workers spoke up, the boss threatened violence against their families.

On our current path, we all end up as guest workers: trapped in an economy of temporary, intermittent work, subcontracted, migratory, struggling with debt rather than building wealth, sourced into labor supply chains rather than climbing career ladders.

We need to use a second Obama term to create the conditions for winning a new social contract for a new economy. That means creating new forms of collective bargaining that let contingent workers and service workers bargain directly with the corporate actors that set the conditions of their jobs and their lives. It also means winning a vastly expanded role for the state in protecting all workers, including a new social safety net that addresses the rise of contingent work and long-term unemployment.

That will take more than a president; it’ll take a social movement. Because what’s really at stake isn’t the next four years—it’s the next forty.

Though far too many Americans and especially African Americans erroneously think or feel that this kind of incisive critical analysis of and aggressive civic engagement with the President should not be taking place because they/we fear that doing so "in public" somehow "weakens" or "undermines" Obama's image and/or political status among his many enemies and detractors, the far bigger and more important truth is that it is precisely these kind of mature critical assessments and diagnoses that not only should but MUST be made if we are to fully and maturely exercise our fundamental rights and responsibilities as citizens and human beings no matter who is in the White House or what political party is seeking to 'represent us' and our interests in any capacity in government.  Whether we support the President's bid for re-election or not it makes no sense and can only harm us in both the short and the long run if we simply attempt to petulantly censor ourselves or others who desire and need to make our demands and aspirations known to our chosen "leaders" whether they are in or out of government.  One of the biggest and most costly errors, mistakes, and inexcusable flaws of the past four years in U.S. political life--and this is especially true generally of both the national African American population and the broader multiracial, multiethnic radical/progressive American Left--is that far too often we paid a passive and even lazy deference to the President and his administration out of an "understandable" but ultimately egregious and irresponsible desire to merely protect and shield him from his many fierce enemies on the right at the expense of our own direct engagement, and as a result we too often wound up giving Obama and his adminstration a pass on his various public policy initiatives and positions (or lack thereof) when we should have been vigorously critically questioning, challenging, and even when the situation and circumstances required or called for it, actively opposing what he was doing and putting forth viable alternatives.  Given the incredible racial and philosophical siege/assault that this President has been relentlessly subjected to by the savage and psychotic Republican/Tea Party right it hasn't always been either easy or pleasant for fellow African Americans like Dr. Harris in this article or individuals like myself among others in the "national black community" (sic) to cpnfront or take on Obama in a critical or rational analytical context because we fully realize and deeply appreciate what Barack is up against and how truly difficult his task is but just as this bedrock reality doesn't mean that he as President can simply dismiss or evade his own deeper responsibilities and obligations to serve ALL of his many constituencies and support groups in a just, fair, and equitable manner, we as independent citizens and an integral part of these larger communities must also be willing and able to fully strive in a serious and disciplined manner for justice, freedom, and equality no matter who is in power, what they look like, or where they come from.  Thus I strongly applaud Dr. Harris and many other mature and serious critics of this President-- no matter what their nationality or "ethnicity" happens to be-- who while fundamentally sympathetic to and even in many cases largely supportive of him and his agenda are determined at ALL TIMES to speak truth to power and to call for, advocate, struggle for, and defend positions and critiques that may greatly diverge from or even be in direct opposition to the President and his agenda at any given time or place.  It's not only the right thing to do but it's the only way we can responsibly assert our own political and ideological agency and sense of independence and sovereignty as citizens and truly engaged members of the larger body politic...Stay tuned...


The Price of a Black President
Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos
Young men joined the march from the Selma to Montgomery, Ala., organized by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in March 1965.

October 27, 2012
New York Times

WHEN African-Americans go to the polls next week, they are likely to support Barack Obama at a level approaching the 95 percent share of the black vote he received in 2008. As well they should, given the symbolic exceptionalism of his presidency and the modern Republican Party’s utter disregard for economic justice, civil rights and the social safety net.

But for those who had seen in President Obama’s election the culmination of four centuries of black hopes and aspirations and the realization of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a “beloved community,” the last four years must be reckoned a disappointment. Whether it ends in 2013 or 2017, the Obama presidency has already marked the decline, rather than the pinnacle, of a political vision centered on challenging racial inequality. The tragedy is that black elites — from intellectuals and civil rights leaders to politicians and clergy members — have acquiesced to this decline, seeing it as the necessary price for the pride and satisfaction of having a black family in the White House.

These are not easy words to write. Mr. Obama’s expansion of health insurance coverage was the most significant social legislation since the Great Society, his stimulus package blunted much of the devastation of the Great Recession, and the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul added major new protections for consumers. His politics would seem to vindicate the position of civil rights-era leaders like Bayard Rustin, who argued that blacks should form coalitions with other Democratic constituencies in support of universal, race-neutral policies — in opposition to activists like Malcolm X, who distrusted party politics and believed that blacks would be better positioned to advance their interests as an independent voting bloc, beholden to neither party.

But the triumph of “post-racial” Democratic politics has not been a triumph for African-Americans in the aggregate. It has failed to arrest the growing chasm of income and wealth inequality; to improve prospects for social and economic mobility; to halt the re-segregation of public schools and narrow the black-white achievement gap; and to prevent the Supreme Court from eroding the last vestiges of affirmative action. The once unimaginable successes of black diplomats like Colin L. Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Susan E. Rice and of black chief executives like Ursula M. Burns, Kenneth I. Chenault and Roger W. Ferguson Jr. cannot distract us from facts like these: 28 percent of African-Americans, and 37 percent of black children, are poor (compared with 10 percent of whites and 13 percent of white children); 13 percent of blacks are unemployed (compared with 7 percent of whites); more than 900,000 black men are in prison; blacks experienced a sharper drop in income since 2007 than any other racial group; black household wealth, which had been disproportionately concentrated in housing, has hit its lowest level in decades; blacks accounted, in 2009, for 44 percent of new H.I.V. infections.

Mr. Obama cannot, of course, be blamed for any of these facts. It’s no secret that Republican obstruction has limited his options at every turn. But it’s disturbing that so few black elites have aggressively advocated for those whom the legal scholar Derrick A. Bell called the “faces at the bottom of the well.”

The prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power, regardless of political winds or social pressures, has a long history. Ida B. Wells risked her life to publicize the atrocity of lynching; W. E. B. Du Bois linked the struggle against racial injustice to anticolonial movements around the world; Cornel West continues to warn of the “giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism” that King identified a year before his death.

But that prophetic tradition is on the wane. Changes in black religious practice have played a role. Great preachers of social justice and liberation theology, like Gardner C. Taylor, Samuel DeWitt Proctor, John Hurst Adams, Wyatt Tee Walker and Joseph E. Lowery, have retired or passed away. Taking their place are megachurch preachers of a “gospel of prosperity” — like Creflo A. Dollar Jr., T. D. Jakes, Eddie L. Long and Frederick K. C. Price — who emphasize individual enrichment rather than collective uplift. “There’s more facing us than social justice,” Bishop Jakes has said. “There’s personal responsibility.”

Mr. Obama hasn’t embraced this new gospel, but as a candidate he did invoke the politics of respectability once associated with Booker T. Washington. He urged blacks to exhibit the “discipline and fortitude” of their forebears. He lamented that “too many fathers are M.I.A.” He chided some parents for “feeding our children junk all day long, giving them no exercise.” He distanced himself from his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose incendiary remarks about racism’s legacy caused a maelstrom.

But as president, Mr. Obama has had little to say on concerns specific to blacks. His State of the Union address in 2011 was the first by any president since 1948 to not mention poverty or the poor. The political scientist Daniel Q. Gillion found that Mr. Obama, in his first two years in office, talked about race less than any Democratic president had since 1961. From racial profiling to mass incarceration to affirmative action, his comments have been sparse and halting.

Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama weighed in after the prominent black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge, Mass. The president said the police had “acted stupidly,” was criticized for rushing to judgment, and was mocked when he invited Dr. Gates and the arresting officer to chat over beers at the White House. It wasn’t until earlier this year that Mr. Obama spoke as forcefully on a civil rights matter — the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Florida — saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

INSTEAD of urging Mr. Obama to be more outspoken on black issues, black elites parrot campaign talking points. They dutifully praise important but minor accomplishments — the settlement of a longstanding class-action lawsuit by black farmers; increased funds for black colleges; the reduction (but not elimination) of the disparities in sentences for possession of crack and powder cocaine — while setting aside their critical acumen.

For some, criticism of Mr. Obama is disloyal. “Stick together, black people,” the radio host Tom Joyner has warned. (Another talk show host, Tavis Smiley, joined Dr. West on a “poverty tour” last year, but has been less critical of the president than Dr. West has.)

It wasn’t always so. Though Bill Clinton was wildly popular among blacks, black intellectuals fiercely debated affirmative action, mass incarceration, welfare reform and racial reconciliation during his presidency. In 2001, the Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree called the surge in the inmate population “shocking and regrettable” and found it “shameful” that Mr. Clinton “didn’t come out and take a more positive and symbolic approach to the issue of reparations for slavery.” But Mr. Ogletree, a mentor of Mr. Obama’s, now finds “puzzling the idea that a president who happens to be black has to focus on black issues.”

Melissa V. Harris-Perry, a political scientist at Tulane who hosts a talk show for MSNBC, warned in 2005 that African-Americans “who felt most warmly toward Clinton and most trusting of his party’s commitment to African-Americans” were in danger of underestimating “the continued economic inequality of African-Americans relative to whites.” But she has become all but an apologist for Mr. Obama. “No matter what policies he pursues, the president’s racialized embodiment stands as a symbol of triumphant black achievement,” she wrote in The Nation this month.

Black politicians, too, have held their fire. “With 14 percent unemployment if we had a white president we’d be marching around the White House,” Representative Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Root last month. “The president knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn’t to someone white.”

Some of the reticence stems from fear. “If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us,” Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, told a largely black audience in Detroit last year.

But caution explains only so much. Representative John Lewis of Georgia, one of King’s last living disciples, has not used his moral stature to criticize the president’s silence about the poor. Neither have leaders of the biggest civil rights organizations, like Benjamin Todd Jealous of the N.A.A.C.P., Marc H. Morial of the National Urban League or Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, whether because of emotional allegiance or pragmatic accommodation.

The two black governors elected since Reconstruction — L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia and Deval L. Patrick of Massachusetts — have also de-emphasized race. So, too, have the new cadre of black politicians who serve largely black constituencies, like Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark, Mayor Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia and Representative Terri Sewell of Alabama — all of whom, like Mr. Obama, have Ivy League degrees and rarely discuss the impact of racism on contemporary black life.

Some argue that de-emphasizing race — and moving to a “colorblind” politics — is an inevitable and beneficial byproduct of societal change. But this ideal is a myth, even if it’s nice to hear. As Frederick Douglass observed, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” The political scientist E. E. Schattschneider noted that conflict was essential to agenda-setting. Other interest groups — Tea Party activists, environmentalists, advocates for gay and lesbian rights, supporters of Israel and, most of all, rich and large corporations — grasp this insight. Have African-Americans forgotten it?

IN making this case, I have avoided speculation about Mr. Obama’s psychology and background — his biracial heritage, his transnational childhood, his community organizing, his aversion to being seen as “angry,” his canny ability to navigate multiple worlds, his talent at engaging with politics while appearing detached from it. As a social scientist I keep returning to the question: What is the best strategy for black communities to pursue their political interests as a whole?

Were Harold Cruse, the author of the unsparing 1967 book “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual,” still alive, he would despair at the state of black intellectual life. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton, told me: “Too many black intellectuals have given up the hard work of thinking carefully in public about the crisis facing black America. We have either become cheerleaders for President Obama or self-serving pundits.”

There are exceptions. Writing in the journal Daedalus last year, the Harvard philosopher Tommie Shelby called Mr. Obama’s approach “a pragmatic strategy for navigating hazardous racial waters” that might improve lives for poor minorities. But he added: “Judged alongside King’s transformative vision of racial equality and integration, Obama’s philosophy is morally deficient and uninspiring.”

Mr. Obama deserves the electoral support — but not the uncritical adulation — of African-Americans. If re-elected he might surprise us by explicitly emphasizing economic and racial justice and advocating “targeted universalism” — job-training and housing programs that are open to all, but are concentrated in low-income, minority communities. He would have to do this in the face of fiscal crisis and poisonous partisanship.

Amid such rancor, African-Americans might come to realize that the idea of having any politician as a role model is incompatible with accountability, the central tenet of representative democracy. By definition, role models are placed on pedestals and emulated, not criticized or held accountable.

To place policy above rhetoric is not to ask what the first black president is doing for blacks; rather, it is to ask what a Democratic president is doing for the most loyal Democratic constituency — who happen to be African-Americans, and who happen to be in dire need of help. Sadly, when it comes to the Obama presidency and black America, symbols and substance have too often been assumed to be one and the same.   

Dr. Fredrick Harris is a professor of political science and the director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, and the author of “The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and the Rise and Decline of Black Politics (Oxford University Press,  2012)

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Case For President Obama's Re-Election From the Left: A Collection Of Critical Assessments and Evaluations

The following series of critical assessments and analyses of the need to re-elect President Barack Obama on November 6, 2012  is by a very distinguished and veteran group of progressive/leftist activists, scholars, public intellectuals, and social critics that appeared as part of a special issue of The Nation magazine dated October 22, 2012 entitled "Why Obama?"  The format is that of a panel of these writers who respond in varying ways to a lead essay by Deepak  Bhargava of that same title.

Why Obama?
by Deepak Bhargava
October 2, 2012
The Nation     

This article appeared in the October 22, 2012 edition of The Nation.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally in Denver, Colorado October 4, 2012. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Much—perhaps too much—has been said about the president and the shortcomings and accomplishments of his administration over the past four years. The record is more mixed than either his cheerleaders or fiercest critics would like to admit.

On the positive side, under this administration we achieved healthcare reform that will provide coverage to 35 million uninsured people; a Recovery Act that represents the largest expansion of anti-poverty programs in more than forty years; financial reform; student loan reform; the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; landmark executive action to protect more than 1 million immigrant youths from deportation; and an end to the war in Iraq.

On the downside, there were the failures to hold Wall Street accountable for crashing the economy; to do right by millions of homeowners facing foreclosure; to reverse the erosion of civil liberties in the “war on terror”; to halt an alarming increase in deportations; and to take bold action on climate change. Perhaps greatest of all was the failure to convey a compelling alternative to market fundamentalism—an ideology that, notwithstanding its disastrous track record, continues to dominate policy-making and the public dialogue at all levels.

Progressives may evaluate the success of Obama’s first term differently depending on how much weight they assign to each of these issues. But however we judge the past four years, it is crucial that we lean into this election without ambivalence, knowing that while an Obama victory will not solve all or even most of our problems, defeat will be catastrophic for the progressive agenda and movement.

We confront a conservative movement that is apocalyptic in its worldview and revolutionary in its aspirations. It is not an exaggeration to say that this movement wants to roll back the great progressive gains of the twentieth century—from voting rights to women’s rights, from basic regulations on corporate behavior to progressive taxation, from the great pillars of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to the basic rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively. After the emergence of the Tea Party, the 2010 elections, the extreme Paul Ryan budget proposal and the 2011 state legislative sessions (which featured voter suppression, nativism, attacks on reproductive rights and vicious anti-unionism), there can be no doubting the seriousness or the ferocity of our opponents. It is also important to note the deep racialized underpinnings of this movement, which seeks to entrench the power of an older, wealthier white constituency and prevent an emerging majority of color from finding its voice. The battles over the role and size of government, taxes, the safety net, immigration and voter suppression have become proxies for this underlying demographic tension. Should Obama lose this election, we can expect a ruthless effort to dismantle the social contract—including efforts to use state power to decimate sources of resistance by further restricting the franchise, destroying unions and attacking any remaining centers of power for communities of color and workers. All of this was clear even before, in a leaked video, Mitt Romney made plain his contempt for nearly half of the American people.

Immediately after the election, we will face one of the most important social policy debates of our generation. Before the end of this year, President Obama and Congress must confront the so-called fiscal cliff—the deep automatic cuts in defense and domestic spending that have been mandated by the last debt deal unless a new budget framework can be reached. This discussion of mounting debts and deficits will take place as the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire, setting the stage for a clash of ideologies from which the victor will enjoy the spoils for years to come. Winning the elections does not guarantee a progressive outcome to this debate—far from it—but losing certainly means that the dark politics of austerity will dominate the country, resulting in misery on a scale we can’t now imagine.

So the elections—not just for the presidency but for Congress and statehouses across the country—are job one. But we know winning those elections is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a revival of progressive politics. What’s next? In the period following the election, progressives must remain engaged and mobilized. Given the looming fiscal debate, we need to step up with an alternative to austerity that emphasizes three points:

§ We face a jobs crisis. Creating millions of new jobs—by investing in infrastructure, the green economy, care jobs and, yes, the public sector—is not just a matter of reducing human suffering; it is essential to laying the foundation for long-term fiscal stability and shared prosperity. As progressives, we cannot buy into the “deficit first” frame. There is no winning if we do not begin to redefine the problem and break the elite consensus.

§ We need to protect and strengthen Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other critical programs, particularly those serving the most vulnerable people. It has become conventional wisdom that we must “reform” entitlements—which is code for reducing benefits and raising the retirement age, since “we” are all living longer anyway, aren’t we? This is nonsense. As Paul Krugman has put it: “the people who really depend on Social Security, those in the bottom half of the distribution, aren’t living much longer. So you’re going to tell janitors to work until they’re 70 because lawyers are living longer than ever.” Simple measures such as lifting the cap on the payroll tax threshold would guarantee solvency for Social Security for more than seventy-five years and allow us to finance more generous benefits for low-income beneficiaries.

§ To invest in job creation and preserve our social contract, we need to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

This agenda is not in the mainstream of the Beltway discussion. But we won’t break the austerity consensus without, well, breaking from it! We must shift the frame of the debate to the left without fear or apology.

One great lesson of Obama’s first term was that we made progress when we pushed, and we stalled out when we waited and watched. The LGBT and immigrant rights movements challenged both Republicans and Democrats and achieved significant policy wins. Healthcare reform would never have made it over the finish line without relentless pressure from the grassroots on moderate Democrats. Only robust campaigns operating independently of both parties have a chance at putting jobs, foreclosures, immigration reform and climate change on the agenda.

This is especially urgent in the case of racial justice. The real unemployment rate for African-Americans is now above 22 percent, including part-time workers who want full-time jobs and those who gave up looking altogether. That’s nearly twice the rate that white workers face, and it amounts to a catastrophic depression in cities like Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo. People of color have seen a generation of progress in building wealth wiped out by the recession. Median white wealth is now nearly $100,000, compared with under $5,000 for blacks and Latinos. Whatever the real or perceived constraints on the president’s ability to engage the confluence of race, poverty and economics, those constraints do not apply to us.

It is also critical that we push for an agenda to strengthen democracy in 2013 to combat the growing power of organized money. Measures to strengthen unions, expand the franchise and provide a path to citizenship for immigrants are not just good public policies; they also empower working people. The right used its takeover of state governments to shrink democracy, as in Wisconsin, which passed harsh anti-union and voter suppression laws. If and when we have a chance to use power to expand democracy, whether through immigration reform or executive actions to strengthen unions or enforce voting rights, we must do so—not just because these measures are important in themselves but because they are levers that can push the other changes we seek.

If 2008 was a time for the audacity of hope, the years ahead are a time for sobriety, determination, patience and resilience. The problems we face are deep enough that there will be no quick fix. The most important question for progressives is how to build a movement for economic justice—a people’s movement that can topple the elite austerity consensus and overcome the massive money and energized conservative movement on the other side. The real crises facing the country are barely being discussed inside the Beltway, and rarely are the solutions proposed commensurate with the problems at hand: more than 106 million people—one in three Americans—are facing material hardship (defined as living under 200 percent of the poverty line); 20 million are living in extreme poverty; 12.5 million are officially unemployed; and wages and working conditions are in decline for a majority of Americans. The new framework for shared prosperity developed by Jacob Hacker and Nate Loewentheil, endorsed by a broad swath of labor, community and civil rights groups, spells out an alternative to austerity with the capacity to address these crises—but only an organized constituency can give such ideas life.

Part of the task before us is to build a deep alliance of movement forces—labor, community, women, faith, civil rights, immigrants and others—behind a broad social vision. No part of the movement has the resources or strategic capacity to solve its problems by itself. The other part of the task is to reach out to Americans who do not already agree with us, or who perhaps haven’t heard from us. An insular left that deludes itself into thinking we are stronger than we are, that talks mainly to itself and is not constantly creating new on-ramps to participation, will fail dismally to meet the challenges of this historic moment.

This recruitment challenge presents some hurdles for progressives. Most Americans hold complicated and sometimes contradictory views about the economy, but there has been a turn away from public solutions and toward private ones. As Ronald Brownstein observed in National Journal earlier this year: “One theme consistently winding through the polls is the emergence of what could be called a ‘reluctant self-reliance,’ as Americans look increasingly to reconstruct economic security from their own efforts, in part because they don’t trust outside institutions to provide it for them. The surveys suggest that the battered economy has crystallized a gestating crisis of confidence in virtually all of the nation’s public and private leadership class—from elected officials to the captains of business and labor. Taken together, the results render a stark judgment: At a time when they believe they are navigating much more turbulent economic waters than earlier generations, most Americans feel they are paddling alone.”

Those changes in perspective, together with the attack on and decline of unions—where habits of community, reciprocity and collective action have historically been nourished—mean that we face a very steep climb in making the case for public, collective action. We will have to experiment with new ways of building power and giving voice to working people. Such experiments are, in fact, already under way in diverse settings around the country. What they have in common is reconstructing the role of paid organizers, putting volunteers front and center, aligning people behind deeply meaningful visions instead of short-term issue transactions, and combining deep education and relationship building with creative action. There is nothing new about any of these methods—they have powered all the great movements that have changed America—but we must recommit ourselves to them. The patient work of movement building lacks the seductive power of many of the strategies in vogue among progressives, but there is no substitute for it—and there is a huge appetite for it in working-class communities across the country.

Perhaps the most resonant line of President Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech was when he said, “So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you.” If we ever thought that an Obama presidency would by itself produce dramatic change, we are wiser in 2012. Our progressive history is a history of getting our hope fix from movements, not just from individuals. The extraordinary example of Brazil—which has defied world trends, lifted 40 million people out of poverty, reduced inequality and passed major affirmative action legislation—demonstrates the power of social movements today. Over many years, Brazilian leaders aligned key movement sectors around a transformative vision, focused on recruiting the unorganized, engaged in politics and changed a country. There are signs of movement right here at home—in senior centers in Akron, in housing projects in Charlotte and churches in Phoenix, where ordinary people are coming together to talk about how we got into this mess, what it has meant to them and the people they love, and what we can do to get out of it. They are working tirelessly in this election because they know just how much it matters, but they are clear-eyed about the organizing work that must continue after election day. That’s change we can believe in.

About the Author

Deepak Bhargava is Director of the Campaign for Community Change.

Dorian T. Warren: “Go for the Jugular”
Frances Fox Piven and Lorraine C. Minnite: “Movements Need Politicians—and Vice Versa”
Saket Soni: “We Need More than a New President”
Bill Fletcher Jr.: “Defeat the Reactionary White Elite”
Tom Hayden: “Obama’s Legacy is Our Leverage”
Ai-Jen Poo: “A Politics of Love”
Robert L. Borosage: “Re-elect Obama—But Reject His Austerity”
Ilyse Hogue: “Time to Rewire”

Go for the Jugular
Dorian T. Warren
October 2, 2012  

This article appeared in the October 22, 2012 edition of The Nation.

An Occupy Albany protester speaks to participants in a May Day march in Albany, N.Y., on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

I agree with Deepak Bhargava that President Obama’s record “is more mixed” than critics and admirers admit, that progressives must refocus our attention on Congress and statehouse elections, and that elections are a “necessary but not sufficient condition for a revival of progressive politics.”

While Bhargava is right that we need to build a “deep alliance of movement forces” to pursue and win on a progressive agenda, we also need to become more hard-nosed, strategic and indeed ruthless in our effort to weaken the legitimacy and power of the right. Much as conservatives went for our collective jugular after the 2010 midterm elections by targeting the public sector labor movement, we must be willing to go for theirs—regardless of how much more money and power they might have.

What would a principled attack strategy look like? It must proceed on at least three tracks: ideological, organizational and structural. On all three, the Occupy movement has been a spark in jump-starting such a national campaign.

Ideologically, we need to put forward an alternative economic narrative—and demand that our elected officials embrace it, too—that powerfully counters market fundamentalism and trickle-down economics. One way to do this is to be relentless and repetitive about identifying the “Bush-Romney economy” as the exemplar of right-wing economics and remind people how that worked out for them in the last decade—followed by our alternative vision of shared prosperity and economic justice.

Organizationally, we should draw on the momentum from Occupy and target the 1 percent. I don’t mean merely rhetorically or even symbolically, but institutionally. By targeting the 1 percent, I mean the billionaires, corporations and oligarchs who fund hundreds of political organizations, affect thousands of communities and control millions of jobs. But we should go for the organizational jugular as the right has gone after public sector unions. One idea suggested to me by economist Suresh Naidu is to attack corporate political groups on anti-trust grounds. A serious political and legal campaign to protect voters (and consumers) from political collusion as well as business monopolies and anti-competitive concerted action in the political sphere might be waged against the Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Besides attacking these corporate political cartels, we could develop campaigns to identify the “small group of supervillains” who exert outsize economic and political power over all of us and hold them accountable for the injustices from which they profit, as veteran labor strategist Stephen Lerner argues.

Structurally, we must reclaim our democracy. We’ve been playing defense in dozens of states against the right’s coordinated campaign of voter suppression. If they really want a fight around voting and inclusion in the polity, let’s give them one. How about launching a true campaign for voter justice that dilutes the influence of their aging and numerically decreasing electorate? Let’s start with a robust debate about mandatory voting—which already exists in many rich democracies—and then make declaring election day a national holiday with same-day registration our compromise position. This would immediately reduce the power of the right’s core electorate and usher in Senator Lindsey Graham’s worst nightmare: a progressive majority that outnumbers the “angry white guys,” not enough of whom exist to keep the right “in business for the long term.” Combine that with a campaign for a constitutional amendment to ban corporate money from politics once and for all.

Each of these three tracks worked to bring our first Gilded Age to an end and usher in the New Deal. It’s time to pick up the fight to end this second Gilded Age and usher in a New Deal for the twenty-first century.

Re-elect Obama—but Reject His Austerity
Robert L. Borosage
October 2, 2012 

This article appeared in the October 22, 2012 edition of The Nation.

Students cheer as President Barack Obama makes a point during campaign stop on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 
When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. endorsed John Kennedy over Richard Nixon in 1960, it wasn’t because Kennedy was a powerful champion of civil rights, but because he represented the better option. Deepak Bhargava is right to ground his case for “lean[ing] into this election without ambivalence” on the threat posed by a victory by Romney and the moneyed right. And he correctly argues for building an independent movement that is ready to challenge the “elite austerity consensus” after the election. The tension between those two positions is demonstrated by what Bhargava intimates but does not say: in the fundamental struggle over the “dark politics of austerity,” a re-elected President Obama will likely lead the wrong side.

Bhargava’s fair-minded list of triumphs and disappointments from Obama’s first term omits the greatest calamity: the president turned toward austerity—and gave us Simpson-Bowles—in the midst of mass unemployment, rising poverty and declining wages. He joined the “elite consensus” on austerity early and has shown that he’s ready to put Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid “on the table.” He has touted his budget for cutting domestic spending to levels not seen since Eisenhower. And though he’s been bold in advocating increased taxes on the wealthy, his is a very modest version of progressive tax reform, returning top-end taxes to their Clinton-era levels and insisting that billionaires shouldn’t pay a lower rate than their secretaries. It’s a stark contrast to the trickle-down offerings of Romney/Ryan, but for addressing the nation’s needs, it isn’t even close.

The fight over austerity will be defining. To turn now to getting our books in order is to accept the current levels of joblessness, poverty and insecurity as the new normal. That is simply unacceptable. To focus on deficit reduction and not on how to revive an economy that works for working people is an ignoble retreat for a reform president.

Here, the successes of the movements for gay and immigrant rights or the fight over healthcare offer little precedent. And the coming struggle won’t be similar to the citizens’ lobbying effort for the public option within the president’s health reforms. This struggle requires a citizen mobilization that upends the “table” at which the president sits and demands bold action on jobs.

Here the president will not only be a reluctant warrior; he’ll be wearing the wrong jersey. A win by Romney in November would be catastrophic, but Obama’s victory will not be the triumph of hope; it will be the defeat of fear. The president increasingly defines himself as separate, if not antagonistic, to the movement he inspired. In 2008, it was “Yes, we can.” In 2012, “The election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you.” This is, as Bhargava notes, “resonant” but not for the reasons he suggests. After November, progressives will fight the next determining battle not only without the president, but also most likely against him. And the movement he helped inspire will succeed only if it moves far beyond the limits of his politics and policies.

Robert L. Borosage is president of the Institute for America's Future.

Defeat the Reactionary White Elite
Bill Fletcher Jr.
October 2, 2012 

This article appeared in the October 22, 2012 edition of The Nation.

President Barack Obama, followed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, walks to the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The 2012 election is not really about Obama or Obama’s record. As Deepak Bhargava points out, there is a debate over the president’s record, and there is much that we on the left can and should critique. Yet what has been unfolding before our eyes is a referendum on the changing demographics of the United States and whether any redistribution of wealth will even be considered in the ruling circles of Washington.

The Republicans have built on a white revanchism located among the racists and the fearful within white America. These voters not only despise the idea of an African-American serving as president of what they believe to be a white republic; they are terrified that the demographics of the country are changing in favor of people of color. For this reason, calls to boycott the election or turn toward third-party candidates miss what is going on. The right wishes to perpetrate a massive disenfranchisement in its desperate effort to preserve the rule of a reactionary white elite.

Although I will be voting for Obama on November 6, it would be incorrect to view the president as anything approaching a savior. At best, his re-election provides some breathing room—but as we have seen in the past four years, irrespective of his speeches, Obama remains the head of a global empire, and that empire has interests that are antithetical to the mass of humanity, including the mass of humanity within the borders of the United States.

Thus we are brought to the question of what posture to take after November 6, should Obama be re-elected. While I agree with much of what Deepak raises, I do not believe the agenda he outlines is sufficient. We on the left side of the aisle seem to abhor the fight for power unless (a) we are speaking in either the long-term or utopian sense; or (b) we surrender ourselves to liberalism. A very different approach must be taken. Not only must mass pressure be exerted immediately on a new Obama administration—as opposed to allowing a grace period, as occurred in 2008—but there needs to be a reorganization among progressives that has as its object securing power for working people in several key metropolitan areas as a jumping-off point for a larger national project. This means building a combination of mass electoral alliances that seek to win office on a platform of insisting on structural reforms, and mass movements for social and economic justice, whether in workplaces or communities.

The left needs to organize itself—politically and structurally—in such a way that its various tendencies can flourish, but also so that it can build a majoritarian bloc in which one can see the contours of a very different, progressive United States.

Movements Need Politicians—and Vice Versa
by Frances Fox Piven and Lorraine C. Minnite
October 2, 2012
A protest against "Money and politics" near the venue for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 2, 2012. Reuters/Adrees Latif

The familiar question of whether we work on electoral politics or on movement politics is fraught with emotion and argument about whether movement or electoral politics is more effective for the left. We think it is the wrong question. Both are needed, and without both, neither is effective.

In historical fact, movement politics and electoral politics are continuously intertwined. The fundamental dynamic is triggered when politicians have to deal with voter blocs composed of the same people to whom movements direct their appeals. We can see this dynamic on both the right and the left. The Tea Party picked up steam when Republicans eager for re-election began to repeat its slogans. So did the labor movement of the 1930s gain momentum from Franklin Roosevelt’s rhetorical appeals to the “common man,” just as the civil rights movement was energized by Lyndon Johnson’s echo of the movement refrain “We shall overcome.” When politicians echo a movement’s demands, they signal a degree of vulnerability to its constituency, and the movement gains traction.

It’s also worth remembering that when politicians are dependent on electoral blocs that are also movement constituencies, they will often hesitate to use the full arsenal of the state’s repressive capacities against movement actions and may even make uncertain efforts to protect movements—as when Robert Kennedy, as attorney general, grudgingly tried to protect the Freedom Riders.

Moreover, movements make gains when an electoral regime is forced to offer concessions to heal the widening rifts that the movement is causing in its electoral base. The demonstrations and marches against the beginning of the war in Iraq are often cited as a measure of the impotence of movement politics. We think rather that the problem was that the antiwar movement did not speak to an antiwar voter bloc that Bush and the Republicans depended on, so they could simply ignore the protests. By contrast, a smaller immigrant rights movement has pressured Barack Obama, who depends on Latino votes, to use presidential authority to void the deportation of undocumented youth. Similarly, looking to LGBT voters, Obama responded to the gay rights movement’s demands, ordering the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and reversing his position on gay marriage. And in one of the environmental movement’s most important recent victories, Obama denied a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline after activists staged months of mass nonviolent civil disobedience in front of the White House.

This is why the diverse protests we call Occupy need a Democratic victory in 2012: not because Democrats on their own will magically implement the movement’s agenda, but because Democrats depend on some of the same constituencies that the movement represents and to whom it directs its appeals. The overlap creates space for movements to grow and thrive. They win policy reform to the degree that they are able to leverage these electoral opportunities. Progressive hopes for a bolder second Obama term thus depend on the vigor of the Occupy movement and the degree to which it sparks activism and defiance among the other great movements for social justice that have always been important in American politics.

To be clear, we don’t think Occupy activists should drop their work on foreclosures or student debt or worker rights in favor of joining the election campaign by knocking on doors or staffing the phone banks or whatever. After all, not only is it unlikely that many Occupy activists, disgusted as they are by the hypocrisy and corruption of electoral politics, would do so, but their movement work is actually a contribution to the campaign. Think of the impact of Occupy on the national discussion, with its slogans about Wall Street and the 99 percent, along with its encampments and general assemblies and twinkling fingers! It has made extreme inequality an issue no one can ignore. Even the Republicans are campaigning as the party of jobs and economic recovery.
Obama's Legacy Is Our Leverage
by Tom Hayden 
October 2, 2012

This article appeared in the October 22, 2012 edition of The Nation.
“He’s made history. Now he has to think about legacy.” This analysis of Barack Obama came during a recent conversation I had with Representative Bennie Thompson, who joined the civil rights movement in Mississippi back in a time when no one was talking about a black president.

Was Obama’s victory perhaps the high point of his historic contribution, opening the doors of diversity to others? For Thompson and millions of others, the answer is no. Independent progressive movements will be needed to compel Obama to act. Progressive achievements may occur where the demands of movements converge with Obama’s need for a legacy.

The need to expand democracy is essential in its own right, but also for Obama’s re-election and legacy. California has just adopted same-day registration, for example, while right-wing politicians seek to suppress the vote and hollow out the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Beyond protecting the franchise, the main target for progressive reform is the Citizens United decision, with Obama encouraging a constitutional amendment to reverse it. What progressives can do is organize state by state against Citizens United, delegitimize the authority of a partisan Republican Supreme Court, push the president for two progressive appointees, and educate a new generation of Thurgood Marshalls to attack the undemocratic notions that money is speech and corporations are people.

A re-elected Obama will plunge immediately into a maelstrom of debate on deficit reduction and taxes. If he wins, the voter mandate will be to raise taxes on the rich and preserve Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. If Obama and the Democrats don’t find ways to defend that mandate, the possibility of leaving a positive legacy will be damaged at the beginning of the second term, perhaps even stillborn. Obama can also rely on a voter mandate to embrace the Stiglitz-Reich-Krugman school of economic thinking and support a “Robin Hood” tax on Wall Street transactions (as he once did before being smothered by his economic advisers).

From day one, Obama will need to use the bully pulpit and his executive powers if he wants a legacy of restoring progress toward reversing global warming. Given Beltway realities, progress is likely to be driven at the state and community levels in places like California, with supportive rhetoric and regulatory blessings from Obama.

Before November or shortly after, Obama’s legacy may be shaped by an Israeli attack on Iran, drawing America into regional war. Fifty-nine percent of Americans oppose joining Israel in going to war with Iran, and 70 percent oppose a unilateral US attack. Obama should rely on that mandate to navigate away from the brink and toward UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

Obama will have to pull back 68,000 American troops from Afghanistan by 2014 or break a fundamental pledge. And if he doesn’t want a legacy of restoring Richard Nixon’s imperial presidency (and provoking Muslim rage by his drone attacks), the former constitutional lawyer will have to engage in a serious revision of the 1973 War Powers Act. He also needs to embrace an FDR “good neighbor” policy toward Latin America—including Cuba—or face diplomatic isolation from our nearest neighbors.

Finally, Obama needs to resume the quest begun in his Columbia student days to freeze and reverse the nuclear arms race, the greatest threat to humanity alongside global warming. The United States has 5,113 nuclear warheads, which will cost $352 billion to maintain and “upgrade” over the next ten years. Obama’s opening to Russia, which Romney opposes, is merely an initial step in the process. Public opinion, inert since the 1980s nuclear freeze movement, will have to be reawakened, partly with his leadership.

A movement perspective always differs from a governing one, and in the best of times the two interact productively. Most progressives I meet believe the challenge is clear: get Obama’s back through November, then get in his face. But legacy might be the critical factor in focusing the president’s agenda in a second term.

For the Climate, Obama Needs Another Four Years 
by Michael Brune
October 3, 2012

Voting is vital, but it’s not the only thing that matters.

Two dates are critical to the direction of our nation on environmental and energy policy. The first is November 6, when a failure to reelect President Obama would signal a retreat from recent progress made on protecting citizens from polluters. Mitt Romney’s contempt for society’s most vulnerable members and his close ties to billionaire polluters would undermine the safeguards against mercury, soot and carbon pollution that we’ve won during the past four years.

In addition to letting the EPA do its job, Barack Obama has been the strongest supporter of renewable energy ever to occupy the White House. He championed the Recovery Act, which was the single largest investment in clean and renewable energy in our nation’s history and helped create tens of thousands of new jobs. Wind power has doubled during the past four years; solar has quintupled.

Mitt Romney has attacked those clean energy investments and would revert to policies that prioritize fossil fuels.

Although presidents have bemoaned our dependence on oil for decades, Obama is the first to do something significant about it—two rounds of stronger vehicle fuel-efficiency standards will double the mileage we get from cars and trucks and create 570,000 new jobs across America by 2030. Once implemented, these fuel-efficiency standards alone will cut US carbon pollution by 10 percent. Romney opposed these standards and instead favors more drilling in the Arctic, offshore and on our public lands.

Despite the failure to pass a climate bill, President Obama acknowledges the seriousness of the climate crisis and has done something about it. US emissions are down; oil and coal consumption are at levels not seen in decades.

Romney, in contrast, has joked about climate change and believes the United States should increase its use of the dirtiest and most climate-polluting fossil fuels.

Just as important as November 6, however, is November 7. That is when we must inspire the president as he inspired us. We must both challenge and support the president to deliver on the promise of a clean-energy future. Regardless of how the Democrats fare in Congress, a second-term Obama administration will have many opportunities to leave a lasting environmental legacy. For starters, it can:

• Finish the job it has started on cleaning up power plant pollution, including carbon and mercury pollution from new sources, coal ash, and cross-state air pollution.

• Protect our public lands by prioritizing conservation and public recreation over dangerous oil and gas drilling, fracking, and oil shale development.

• Preserve the power of the Clean Water Act and end mountaintop-removal mining in Appalachia by enforcing the act.

• Get us closer to the goal of moving beyond oil by doubling the fuel efficiency of heavy trucks (as was done with cars in the first term) and rejecting the Keystone pipeline permit.

So, although the choice is clear, winning this election will only mark the beginning of meeting the challenges we face as a nation. It will be up to all of us—and President Obama—to make the next four years count.

Time to Rewire
by Ilyse Hogue
October 2, 2012
Twelve years ago, as a different presidential election approached, I was frustrated. I graduated from college and grad school in the mid-’90s and entered a robust job market, even in my chosen field of nonprofit advocacy. I faced few challenges paying off the loans I had taken to cover the portion of my tuition that my parents couldn’t pick up. Still, the world looked—and was—unjust. The wave of unchecked free trade sweeping the globe was wreaking havoc on the manufacturing base here at home and human rights abroad. Privatization of natural resources was the buzzword of the day, and the ecological projections felt downright apocalyptic. I wondered whether there was anything besides cosmetic differences between candidates Bush and Gore.

Twelve years, two wars, one financial crisis, 15 million underwater homes, trillions in tax cuts for the wealthy, and a social safety net hanging by a thread have disabused me of that notion: what’s cosmetic to one relatively privileged white girl is life-changing for the tens of millions living in poverty.

Deepak Bhargava lays out the imperative to lean into this election and keep an eye on post-election movement building. His basic premise is inarguable: things will get a whole lot worse if there’s a Republican takeover. But it is also worth considering how, in addition to the devastating material impact of a Romney presidency, a GOP victory robs us of the oxygen required to grow deeper and broader roots for the progressive movement.

This may seem counterintuitive, since surges in participation are often most visible in times of opposition, but the strength and numbers required to elect majorities are different from those needed to rewire policies and priorities. The latter requires us to innovate, to invest in multi-tiered organizing, and to shift our culture to embrace power—all of which would become virtually impossible under a Romney presidency.

An emphasis on innovation is our best bet to secure the necessary breakthroughs in organizing. Experimental online organizing drove the electoral wins of the last decade. Maybe the next breakthrough will come from merging advocacy and service to help people in distress and strengthen incentives for participation. Or maybe from programs that prioritize horizontal relationships and the elevation of community leaders. Or maybe from putting pressure on less visible actors like ALEC. Whatever that next breakthrough is, we won’t find it if our imagination is tied up in defense.

Victory feeds progressive momentum and participation. Strategically picking and winning offensive fights will not only help the folks who need it most; it will set the stage for continued progress. From the Dream Act to marriage equality, early success came in the states. Opportunities at the state level are looming—including a real chance for clean elections in New York—and acting on them requires the breathing room a Democratic presidency offers.

For the long game, progressives have to learn to embrace power. Winning deep concessions requires not only outside pressure but deep ideological connections with officeholders. Progressives, long wary of the way power corrupts, are often reluctant candidates. But those connections are far more assured when we elect our own. Our candidates will be more viable if we have time and money to invest in training them and strengthening their campaigns.

We still have our work cut out for us if Obama wins a second term. What we’re fighting for now is the opportunity to do that work.

A Politics of Love
by Ai-jen Poo | 
October 2, 2012

An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator raises her hands painted with hearts during what protest organizers called a "Day of Action" in New York November 17, 2011. Reuters/Mike Segar

Building on Deepak Bhargava’s points [1], I would offer that there is a broader base for an economic justice movement than ever before. Despite political polarization, just below the surface, more and more Americans are feeling deep pain around their jobs, homes, health, security and future opportunities. From immigrant domestic workers and their families in California, to aging white boomers in deindustrialized Pennsylvania, to African-American teachers in Alabama and young veterans in Iowa, there is a continuum of anxiety and suffering that connects us. Regardless of election outcomes, this may be the greatest opportunity for us to unite in generations. To seize the opportunity, we must pay attention to the connective tissue needed to build and hold a broad movement together.

We must create a culture that welcomes people from all walks of life and creates opportunities for everyone to participate meaningfully. And that starts right now. As Deepak points out, there are dire issues that we will face immediately after the election, namely the so-called fiscal cliff, a defining budget fight that could cost us important infrastructure and many of the social services on which our communities depend. If we can communicate what’s at stake and how this moment affects each of us, we have the potential to achieve broad engagement. We should be organizing as many actions as possible to take place immediately after the election.

We need to embrace the direct-action spirit of the Occupy movement, and we need to broaden that spirit by offering the millions of people who are hurting ways to connect and participate. We should claim the significant voter protection, registration and mobilization work that was done to promote democratic participation in this election cycle. We can embrace the many ways in which people are coming together already to support one another and meet their communities’ growing needs.

We need to engage in massive efforts to change the culture, both within and beyond our movements. We need to engage in politics from a place of love and care; we must challenge the tendency toward individualism and self-interest that has dominated our politics for several decades. We need to reaffirm our humanity and spirit, emphasizing the importance of building emotional connections between people in local communities and identifying where interests overlap across constituencies. We need to come together to write a new story for our changing nation, one that places equity, care and human connection at its center.

When we do all of those things, we adopt a more powerful stance with which to face the future. And once we have reached a space expansive enough to see them, we will recognize that we already have many of the solutions we need.



Barack Obama for Re-Election 

October 27, 2012
New York Times

The economy is slowly recovering from the 2008 meltdown, and the country could suffer another recession if the wrong policies take hold. The United States is embroiled in unstable regions that could easily explode into full-blown disaster. An ideological assault from the right has started to undermine the vital health reform law passed in 2010. Those forces are eroding women’s access to health care, and their right to control their lives. Nearly 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act,  all Americans’ rights are cheapened by the right wing’s determination to deny marriage benefits to a selected group of us.   Astonishingly, even the very right to vote is being challenged.
That is the context for the Nov. 6 election, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear.

President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney’s true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney’s choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.

We have criticized individual policy choices that Mr. Obama has made over the last four years, and have been impatient with his unwillingness to throw himself into the political fight. But he has shaken off the hesitancy that cost him the first debate, and he approaches the election clearly ready for the partisan battles that would follow his victory.

We are confident he would challenge the Republicans in the “fiscal cliff” battle even if it meant calling their bluff, letting the Bush tax cuts expire and forcing them to confront the budget sequester they created. Electing Mr. Romney would eliminate any hope of deficit reduction that included increased revenues.

In the poisonous atmosphere of this campaign, it may be easy to overlook Mr. Obama’s many important achievements, including carrying out the economic stimulus, saving the auto industry, improving fuel efficiency standards, and making two very fine Supreme Court appointments.

Health Care

Mr. Obama has achieved the most sweeping health care reforms since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The reform law takes a big step toward universal health coverage, a final piece in the social contract.

It was astonishing that Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress were able to get a bill past the Republican opposition. But the Republicans’ propagandistic distortions of the new law helped them wrest back control of the House, and they are determined now to repeal the law.

That would eliminate the many benefits the reform has already brought: allowing children under 26 to stay on their parents’ policies; lower drug costs for people on Medicare who are heavy users of prescription drugs; free immunizations, mammograms and contraceptives; a ban on lifetime limits on insurance payments. Insurance companies cannot deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Starting in 2014, insurers must accept all applicants. Once fully in effect, the new law would start to control health care costs.

Mr. Romney has no plan for covering the uninsured beyond his callous assumption that they will use emergency rooms. He wants to use voucher programs to shift more Medicare costs to beneficiaries and block grants to shift more Medicaid costs to the states.

The Economy

Mr. Obama prevented another Great Depression. The economy was cratering when he took office in January 2009. By that June it was growing, and it has been ever since (although at a rate that disappoints everyone), thanks in large part to interventions Mr. Obama championed, like the $840 billion stimulus bill. Republicans say it failed, but it created and preserved 2.5 million jobs and prevented unemployment from reaching 12 percent. Poverty would have been much worse without the billions spent on Medicaid, food stamps and jobless benefits.

Last year, Mr. Obama introduced a jobs plan that included spending on school renovations, repair projects for roads and bridges, aid to states, and more. It was stymied by Republicans. Contrary to Mr. Romney’s claims, Mr. Obama has done good things for small businesses — like pushing through more tax write-offs for new equipment and temporary tax cuts for hiring the unemployed.

The Dodd-Frank financial regulation was an important milestone. It is still a work in progress, but it established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, initiated reform of the derivatives market, and imposed higher capital requirements for banks. Mr. Romney wants to repeal it.

If re-elected, Mr. Obama would be in position to shape the “grand bargain” that could finally combine stimulus like the jobs bill with long-term deficit reduction that includes letting the high-end Bush-era tax cuts expire. Stimulus should come first, and deficit reduction as the economy strengthens. Mr. Obama has not been as aggressive as we would have liked in addressing the housing crisis, but he has increased efforts in refinancing and loan modifications.

Mr. Romney’s economic plan, as much as we know about it, is regressive, relying on big tax cuts and deregulation. That kind of plan was not the answer after the financial crisis, and it will not create broad prosperity.

Foreign Affairs

Mr. Obama and his administration have been resolute in attacking Al Qaeda’s leadership, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. He has ended the war in Iraq. Mr. Romney, however, has said he would have insisted on leaving thousands of American soldiers there. He has surrounded himself with Bush administration neocons who helped to engineer the Iraq war, and adopted their militaristic talk in a way that makes a Romney administration’s foreign policies a frightening prospect.

Mr. Obama negotiated a much tougher regime of multilateral economic sanctions on Iran. Mr. Romney likes to say the president was ineffective on Iran, but at the final debate he agreed with Mr. Obama’s policies. Mr. Obama deserves credit for his handling of the Arab Spring. The killing goes on in Syria, but the administration is working to identify and support moderate insurgent forces there. At the last debate, Mr. Romney talked about funneling arms through Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funneling arms to jihadist groups.

Mr. Obama gathered international backing for airstrikes during the Libyan uprising, and kept American military forces in a background role. It was smart policy.

In the broadest terms, he introduced a measure of military restraint after the Bush years and helped repair America’s badly damaged reputation in many countries from the low levels to which it had sunk by 2008.

The Supreme Court

The future of the nation’s highest court hangs in the balance in this election — and along with it, reproductive freedom for American women and voting rights for all, to name just two issues. Whoever is president after the election will make at least one appointment to the court, and many more to federal appeals courts and district courts.

Mr. Obama, who appointed the impressive Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, understands how severely damaging conservative activism has been in areas like campaign spending. He would appoint justices and judges who understand that landmarks of equality like the Voting Rights Act must be defended against the steady attack from the right.

Mr. Romney’s campaign Web site says he will “nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito,” among the most conservative justices in the past 75 years. There is no doubt that he would appoint justices who would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Civil Rights

The extraordinary fact of Mr. Obama’s 2008 election did not usher in a new post-racial era. In fact, the steady undercurrent of racism in national politics is truly disturbing. Mr. Obama, however, has reversed Bush administration policies that chipped away at minorities’ voting rights and has fought laws, like the ones in Arizona, that seek to turn undocumented immigrants into a class of criminals.

The military’s odious “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule was finally legislated out of existence, under the Obama administration’s leadership. There are still big hurdles to equality to be brought down, including the Defense of Marriage Act, the outrageous federal law that undermines the rights of gay men and lesbians, even in states that recognize those rights.

Though it took Mr. Obama some time to do it, he overcame his hesitation about same-sex marriage and declared his support. That support has helped spur marriage-equality movements around the country. His Justice Department has also stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act against constitutional challenges.

Mr. Romney opposes same-sex marriage and supports the federal act, which not only denies federal benefits and recognition to same-sex couples but allows states to ignore marriages made in other states. His campaign declared that Mr. Romney would not object if states also banned adoption by same-sex couples and restricted their rights to hospital visitation and other privileges.

Mr. Romney has been careful to avoid the efforts of some Republicans to criminalize abortion even in the case of women who had been raped, including by family members. He says he is not opposed to contraception, but he has promised to deny federal money to Planned Parenthood, on which millions of women depend for family planning.

For these and many other reasons, we enthusiastically endorse President Barack Obama for a second term, and express the hope that his victory will be accompanied by a new Congress willing to work for policies that Americans need.