Sunday, August 28, 2011

Timothy Egan: Obama Should Practice “More Muscular Politics”

Commentator Timothy Egan (left) acknowledges the disappointment among a good part of Obama’s 2008 supporters. For many, his performance during the debt ceiling talks confirmed the feeling that this president doesn’t fight hard enough for progressive priorities. The administration’s lack of a strong jobs plan and its permitting the Republicans to place the deficit above employment only heighten dismay. On the other hand, the prospect of one of the current crop of Republicans winning the presidency is unthinkable. Egan advises Obama to aggressively bring the fight to the GOP regarding taxes, health care and even social issues. He'll probably find a public quite receptive to this line of attack:

...As president, he’s been a sober, cautious, tongue-shackled realist — a moderate Republican of the pre-crazy, pre-Tea Party era. Having failed to come up with a Big Idea to guide his presidency, he will sink or swim now on strengths that don’t lend themselves to large rallies...

Urban liberals, labor, blacks and Hispanics, environmentalists, the young – the core of Obama’s army in 2008 — are disappointed in the president of August, 2011. They’re right when they say he caved on the debt talks: the evidence is House Speaker John Boehner’s boast that he got 98 percent of what he wanted from the president.

...For Obama the political mortal, two lines of governance present themselves.

One is simply to be the executive whose policies, with a few exceptions, are backed by the majority of the public, and opposed by Republicans in thrall to kooks and corporate absolutists.

Tax cuts for wage-earners, but not for millionaires and billionaires, has deep, bipartisan support across the land, sensibly articulated by Warren Buffett, who pointed out the absurdity his secretary paying a higher tax rate than he.

...He doesn’t have to launch a class war — merely to engage one that’s already underway. So far, surprisingly, he has not taken a side. He should make Republicans defend the politics of grotesque economic inequality.

...About 50 million American have no health care. If that’s the status quo Republicans want, Obama should make them own the misery, highlighting Rick Perry’s Texas, where one in four citizens are without this basic right, which the rest of the industrial world shares.

...On social issues, Perry wants to amend the Constitution to take away rights from gays and pregnant women, and eliminate the power of citizens to directly elect their senators (that’s the Seventeenth Amendment, which Perry opposed in his book).

Public opinion, again, is on Obama’s side on these issues. But to leverage it, he has to practice a much more muscular brand of politics. He doesn’t have to be Superman; Clark Kent with a strong dose of brio would do it.

No comments: