All In: Let’s Prove ‘Em Wrong and Reelect Barack Obama

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

By Josh Marks

Did someone kill the hope and change? If so, that’s news to me and the millions of patriotic Americans who know in their hearts and minds that President Barack Obama saved us from another Great Depression and set us on the long, hard course to an economy built to last.

If Obama only pulled us from the edge of the cliff we were about to fall from, that would be enough to earn reelection. But he has done so much more to push the United States of America into the 21st century. The list of Obama’s accomplishments is too long for this post, but here is just a sampling of the foundation for a new America: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 and the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act. There was also the successful auto industry rescue that Mitt Romney opposed.

Democrats, progressives and especially the White House should not be running away from these accomplishments, but should instead be embracing them and standing up for them every chance they get. All of these laws are already bettering our lives and are proving that good government is not only an American tradition, but vital to our success moving forward.

But the media is sending the message that Obama has disappointed the people that elected him and that there is an enthusiasm gap that favors the Republicans. The Huffington Post and Washington Post both published widely read feature pieces on Sunday that criticize Obama for not engaging his followers while governing the way he did while campaigning. That some Obama 2008 supporters feel slighted and betrayed by the administration is very real, and should be addressed…after Obama is reelected. Now is not the time for criticism and disappointment in Obama’s first term. That is exactly what the right-wing Republican leadership is hoping for as Mitt Romney is eagerly preparing to move into the White House in January.

Which brings us to documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s dire prediction that money will win this election and Mitt has more of it so he will win. That is, unless Obama supporters get more people to turn out at the voting booths on November 6th. So this is where you, me, your friends, your family, your coworkers, your Twitter followers and your mailman come into play. Because it is up to all of us, just like in 2008, to make sure that President Obama is reelected. And we all need to redouble our efforts because there are more cynics and critics out there now that Obama is an incumbent with an actual record, plus the anti-democracy Republicans have been passing voter suppression laws at a rapid pace in the hopes of stealing another election.

So, now is the time to put aside your disappointments and criticism of Obama for another day, because the alternative is President Romney and Vice President Ryan. How does that sound? Exactly. If you haven’t made phone calls for the Obama campaign, what are you waiting for? It’s easy and you get to meet likeminded people and feel good about making a difference. I’ve participated in many phone banks — in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and New York City. You will be recruiting volunteers or calling swing states like Pennsylvania or Virginia to make sure that residents are registered to vote, know about the different forms of ID they will need, where their polling place is located, information about early voting, and transportation options to the polling location.

Click here if you need to register to vote. Click here to sign up to volunteer for the Obama campaign. Click here to volunteer with MoveOn.org.

Just like in 2008, if enough of us get fired up and make enough phone calls and knock on enough doors and contribute what we can, we will win this election.

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles on the role we all must play in achieving progressive change, lessons to learn from the Wisconsin recall, how the media is aiding conservative efforts to destroy community colleges, state efforts to reduce rates of imprisonment, the disastrous impacts of federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and how far off the tracks today’s GOP has gone.

 

Creating Change is the People’s Job – A good overview of how, if we want to create a society governed by progressive values and policies, we progressives — not just the president — have to be the agents of change in our society.

7 Lessons Democrats and Progressives Should Learn From Wisconsin – How the Wisconsin recall election, despite not being successful in ending Scott Walker’s reactionary reign, shows the value of grassroots organizing, focus, and voting.

The Washington Post, PBS, and the Koch-Funded American Enterprise Institute Attack Community Colleges – how the Washington Post and PBS Newshour have interests in private, for-profit colleges and, at the same time, are aiding right-wing organizations in trying to undermine our nation’s system of community colleges.

States Take Sizeable Steps in 2012 to End Overincarceration – An encouraging overview of efforts in seventeen different states throughout the country that have taken steps this years to begin reducing their astronomical prison rates.

U.S. v. Jamel Dossie - an interesting federal district court decision explaining how federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws have created an unjust system marked by unnecessarily harsh prison sentences, the undermining of due process rights, and the exclusion of promising alternatives to incarceration.

The Truth About American Politics – an overview of three new books documenting how extremist today’s Republican Party has become and how that extremism is destroying our political system.

 

 

Hope Plus Action Leads to Change

Friday, April 27th, 2012

(By NCrissie B)

People often talk about hope, both in specific ways (“I hope this works out”) and as an abstract idea (“I hope for a better future”). Conversations like that usually resonate with other people who are hopeful. Alas, those explicit conversations about hope usually don’t resonate for people who are not already hopeful. Instead, they’re more likely to dismiss explicit claims of or encouragement to hope with words like “naïve,” “unrealistic,” “immature,” or “Pollyanna.”

Cynicism is popular, after all. It’s often mistaken for sophistication or wisdom. If you want to sound politically savvy, talk about why every politician is corrupt or at least more interested in winning elections than in making good policy. Add a generous dose of idealistic vision, describing a nation or a world where people agree on the basic facts and work together toward the obvious solutions. Contrast that with the mess we have, and describe how we’re pulling farther apart rather than closer together. Sprinkle in some media criticism about the focus on conflict to drive ratings and ad revenues, and the absence of fact-checking. Garnish with a sprig of nostalgia for the days when things weren’t this bad and a dash of how much worse things are likely to get and – voilà – your dish is ready for the Savvy Snarkoff.

Many of those ingredients can be backed by empirical data. Our political dialogue has grown more polarized over the past few decades, both in legislative voting patterns and in citizens’ views of legislative representation. Gridlock has become the norm in Congress, and we watch the bills they do pass get challenged in court and whittled away in implementation. As poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote, “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”

The Recipe for Hope

If talking about hope will usually only encourage those who are already hopeful, how can we share hopeful messages with other voters like archetypal Fred? The key is to recognize that hope is a transitive concept. We don’t hope to become more hopeful. Hope is not about itself. It is a cognitive byproduct, always about Something Else. To renew hope, we must talk about that Something Else.

While the quote about law and sausages is often mistakenly attributed to Otto von Bismark, the recipe for hopeful political dialogue is another Bismark quote: “Die Politik ist die Kunst des Möglichen,” or “Politics is the art of the possible.”

Simply, we feel hopeful when we envision a positive outcome that we perceive as possible. We don’t have to perceive that outcome as certain or even very likely. Most people who buy lottery tickets know they have only a tiny chance to win. In quantitative terms, buying a lottery ticket increases your chance to become rich by only a trivial amount. But in qualitative terms – what resonates for us emotionally – that ticket feels like the difference between impossible and possible.

A positive outcome and its possibility are two key ingredients for a story that inspires hope. But there’s a third essential ingredient: action that makes the positive outcome more possible. Without that call to action, the story is not hopeful but merely wishful. It’s the difference between imagining what might happen if you found a winning lottery ticket on your doorstep (you wish) and actually buying the ticket (you hope).

A Hopeful Climate Change Story

How might we tell a hopeful story about climate change, arguably the most pressing issue of the coming century? Here’s one idea:

There’s little doubt remaining that our climate is changing. Tornadoes are breaking out earlier in the year. Tropical storms have become stronger and more common, and are reaching places they rarely went before. Permafrost layers are melting, and rising seas are eating away coastlines. Crop and ornamental planting zones are shifting.

Climate change is already happening, and unless we make some big changes it will keep happening. Scientists say we may soon reach a tipping point and see a sudden shift. But here’s the thing: when they say “sudden shift,” the scientists are talking years or decades, instead of centuries.

That doesn’t mean we can relax. Far from it. Unless we make some big changes – in how we grow food, in how we create energy – climate change could be catastrophic. It could drive many species to extinction, including human beings. The scientists are not lying about that. They have reams of data, even if the data aren’t yet complete enough to say exactly will happen, when, and where.

So let’s make some big changes. Start with the Two Percent Solution. You can go online and calculate your personal energy usage. You can even get an app to do that on your phone. Then try to reduce that number by 2% over the coming year, and another 2% the year after that, and so on.

That doesn’t seem like a big change. It seems like a tiny change, but we live in a complex world and tiny changes add up. If everyone in the developed world did that, then by the year 2100 we could feed and provide a modern standard of living for every human being on earth – almost 10 billion by then – using only half the energy we consume today.

Imagine even the poorest family on earth having enough to eat, clean water, a job and a way to get to work, access to a modern hospital, schools for their kids and lights at home to read by … all with just half the energy we use now. We’re already developing energy technologies that could do that, without burning fossil fuels, by the end of this century. But we can only do that if each of us uses 2% less energy each year than the year before.

You can start making that happen, today. You can ask your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your boss to start doing that, today. And you can ask your elected leaders to start doing that, today.

Climate change is a big problem and it’s already happening … today. And you can already start helping us solve that big problem … today.

That may sound like a slim chance, a lottery ticket. But it’s a lottery we need to win, and to win we can’t just wish someone would leave a winning ticket on our doorstep. We have to hope, and that means we have to act.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

On Sustaining Hope

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

(By NCrissie B)

Maybe you’re reading this on a computer that, just thirty years ago, would have occupied an entire building. Or even more astonishingly, maybe you’re reading it on a cell phone. At your office, you can flick a switch and lights come on, turn a knob and have fresh water, or push a lever and flush your waste. In many public restrooms, you don’t even have to push the lever; a sensor sees when you stand up and flushes automatically. At your local market, you can find almost any kind of food at almost any time of year. Back at home, you can go online and chat with friends from anywhere in the world, share ideas, plan events, even fall in love. Humans have come a long way, at least in the developed world.

There are also seven billion of us now, heading toward nine billion by the end of this century. While most Americans have luxuries that would have dazzled kings just 200 years ago, and while a handful live almost beyond imagination even today, billions still lack basic necessities and wonder if they’ll have food tomorrow. As we saw last week, raising their standard of living will require more energy than we have and feeding them will push our climate to the brink. Just as we most need scientific breakthroughs, we find we’ve moved beyond the veil of cause, crunching data for patterns we cannot explain but dare not ignore. All of those amazing discoveries and inventions in the paragraph above were the “low-hanging fruit” of human innovation. The accumulated problem-solving that brought humanity to this century pales beside the problem-solving we’ll need to see the next.

Is There a Future?

When we look around at the problems that remain, hear the ticking clock of climate and environmental changes already underway, and meet the stubbornness of those who deny those problems … it’s easy to conclude that the clock may well run out, that we may be The Last Generation already pondering The World Without Us.

Even if we find solutions for agriculture and energy and slow or buffer the effects of climate change, we now know there are other dangers lurking. The Yellowstone Caldera is bulging, threatening a supervolcanic eruption causing a worldwide cataclysm. Eruptions in the Canary Islands or elsewhere could trigger megatsunamis. Laboratories now rush to develop nanotechnology to detect biohazards and pathogens, hoping to get warning time before a toxin or superbug spreads out of control. Add solar flares, stray asteroids, and geomagnetic reversals … and who would blame you for thinking we’re trapped on an unstable rock, waiting for a chaotic and dangerous universe to kill us. Unless we blow ourselves up first.

Watch Us Grow

All of those threats are real. Some we can’t even hope to prevent. But before you give up or start preparing for doomsday … take a breath and reread that paragraph about how far we’ve come as a species. Remember how we evolved to survive through communication and cooperation. Consider how much we can discover when we accept and learn from our mistakes.

Then take it out of theory and into the news around us. Look at what President Obama and Democrats accomplished over the past three years. Consider what activism accomplished in the past few months, from changing the story on income inequality to reopening the Trayvon Martin investigation, from protecting Planned Parenthood to pushing back ALEC.

Think about what it means that you can be part of solving problems like never before. You can donate a barnyard of hope to a family you’ll never meet, help finance their business, try to find a solution for a high-tech problem, and work to reelect our president … all with the same technology you used to read this essay.

Our challenges are bigger than ever before. But so are our tools, and our ability to support and encourage each other as we use them.

So yes … it still makes sense to hope.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

 

The Myth of the Disappointed Democratic Base

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

(By NCrissie B)

President Obama began losing progressive supporters when he invited evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation, the story goes. He lost more support when he didn’t get a big enough stimulus bill, and yet more when he didn’t put single-payer on the table for health care reform. And when he backed away from the public option, progressives abandoned him en masse. There went the 2010 midterms, and maybe even his 2012 chances. Turns out his book should have been titled “The Audacity of Nope.”

It’s a depressing story, but fortunately it’s just that: a story.

In fact President Obama’s approval ratings among progressives have stayed above 90% except for a brief period in the summer of 2011. Only during the ugly debt ceiling showdown did more than 10% of Americans say the president was “not liberal enough.” Different polls ask the question differently and get different numbers, yet Gallup found President Obama with 79% approval among self-described liberal Democrats even at his low ebb last September. And both Gallup and CNN found Democrats had closed the voter enthusiasm gap by the start of this month.

Yet the media message of disgruntled Democrats has held on, and at least some truly are disappointed with the progress President Obama and Democrats have made since 2009. The president has not been perfect, nor were the bills that survived Republican filibusters in the Senate. But we made more progress than many of us realize.

“What has President Obama accomplished in the last three years?”

That’s the title question of this handy wallet card that I got in the mail last week. Here’s what it says:

CHANGE IS … President Obama’s Commitment to American Women and Their Families

President Obama, the father of two girls, believes that women’s issues are America’s issues.

  • Equal Pay for Equal Work: Signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that ensured women get paid the same as men for the same work.
  • Improving Women’s Health: Starting in 2012, new health insurance plans will be required to cover women’s preventative services such as mammograms, domestic violence screenings and contraception, without charge.
  • Protecting Women’s Right to Choose: Reversed the Global Gag Rule which banned government from providing aid to international family planning groups. Stood up to Republicans trying to roll back a woman’s right to choose and defund Planned Parenthood.

CHANGE IS … President Obama’s Record on Health Care

On March 23, 2010, President Obama passed the landmark Affordable Care Act to restore health care as a basic cornerstone of middle class security in America.

  • Ending Insurance Company Abuses: Prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions or cancelling coverage when someone gets sick.
  • Keeping Premiums Low: Insurance companies must justify rate hikes; provide rebates if they don’t spend at least 80% of consumers’ premiums on care instead of overhead, marketing and profits.
  • Expanding Access to Care: 32 million more Americans are able to afford insurance for the first time and nearly all Americans – 95% of those under the age of 65 – will have insurance.
  • Closing the Medicare Prescription Drug “Donut Hole”: Over 2.6 million seniors have saved an average of $550 each on their prescription drugs and, by 2020, the Medicare “donut hole” will be completely closed.

CHANGE IS … Putting Americans Back to Work and Rebuilding a Fair Economy for the Middle Class

From day one, President Obama took immediate action to address the crisis of middle class security slipping away for millions of families.

  • Job Creation: An economic recovery program supported as many as 3.6 million jobs by cutting taxes, investing in clean energy, roads and bridges, keeping teachers in classrooms, and protecting unemployment benefits.
  • Saved the auto industry from collapse, preventing the loss of more than 1.4 million jobs.
  • The private sector has created nearly 3 million jobs during 21 straight months of private sector job growth – but our work is not done. That’s why the President is fighting for The American Jobs Act which would put even more people back to work now and put even more money in people’s pockets.

CHANGE IS … Creating an Economy Built to Last

President Obama believes Americans should be able to earn enough to raise a family, send their kids to school, own a home, and put enough away to retire.

  • Out-Educating the Rest of the World: Made college education affordable to hundreds of thousands more students by ending billions of dollars in subsidies to banks and using savings to double funding for Pell grants.
  • Out-Innovating the Rest of the World: Made substantial investments in clean energy manufacturing to create the jobs of the future here in America and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Everyone Plays by the Same Rules: Passed Wall Street reform to protect American families from unfair lending practices, rein in excesses on Wall Street and prevent future crises.
  • Everyone Does Their Fair Share: Called for closing tax loopholes to ensure millionaires and billionaires don’t pay less in taxes than the middle class.

CHANGE IS … Ending the War in Iraq and Honoring Our Veterans

President Obama kept his word: He brought the war in Iraq to a responsible end and brought home our troops.

  • Committed to Iraq’s Security: The U.S. transitioned full security responsibility to the Iraqi people; remains committed to Iraq’s long-term security; will continue to develop a strong and enduring partnership.
  • Refocusing on Al Qaeda: Refocused our security priorities toward dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda and its affiliates. In bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice, the President showed America’s resolve and our ability to unite to face the greatest threats to our nation.
  • Honoring the Service of Veterans and Their Families: Our troops and their families get the help earned, enacting new tax credits to encourage businesses to hire unemployed and disabled veterans.

The message of his work hasn’t always pushed through the media noise, but President Obama has built an impressive list of accomplishments. It’s not complete and, as we’ll see in my next post, many of our most difficult challenges lie ahead. But when I look at what President Obama and Democrats have done … I see reason to hope.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

 

A Message for Disgruntled Progressives

Friday, September 17th, 2010

For the past few weeks, I have been blogging about the significant progressive change that President Obama and the Democratic Congress have brought to our country and why progressives should be enthusiastic about getting involved in helping to protect our Congressional majorities in November. While many progressives have responded with shared enthusiasm, others have said that they are staying home because they are upset that President Obama has so far failed to achieve or fight enough for some specific progressive goal or because they feel that certain legislation is too moderate or corporate.

I share some of this frustration. I too would have preferred to see things like a public option in the health insurance reform plan, a larger stimulus bill, and climate legislation, and wish that President Obama had fought more for all of those things. However, to sit on our hands six weeks before an election because we as progressives have not gotten everything we want out of this Administration is self-defeating.

Now, the typical response to folks who are planning to sit on their hands is to point out that the Republicans would be immensely worse. This is undoubtedly true. Conservatives today are largely beholden to ideologies that benefit only the wealthiest of Americans at the expense of the rest of us, and the Republican party has been taken over by unqualified radicals who have absolutely no interest in or ability to effectively govern our country.

But this response only goes so far because mere opposition to Republicans does not grow or motivate the progressive movement. In keeping myself motivated to fight for progressive, I try insteadto focus on three basic points:

Progressive change is a long, ongoing struggle: Many of us were euphoric when Obama won the 2008 election. But it was on one victory in a much longer, harder battle to achieve fundamental economic, social, and political reform. True progressive change rarely comes in a moment or two; instead, it is almost always the culmination of a long, hard battle that builds on previous victories and fights through setbacks. For example, the legal strategy that led to the official illegalization of segregation with the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 was created and launched by Charles Hamilton Houston in 1929, and involved a series of cases over 25 years that slowly chipped away at legal segregation. Similarly, the battles for the right of workers to unionize, equal treatment for women, and basic rights for gays and lesbians took decades of struggle that continue to this day. The key to such struggle, however, is that people continue to fight and build on victories, rather than expecting immediate change and throwing their hands up in disgust when it does not occur. It can be frustrating at times, but if we abandon folks who are fighting for our side whenever there is a loss, setback, or compromise, as some seem to be doing with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress, progressive change will never come.

Progressive Change Requires Us All To Be Involved: Whenever I am disappointed by some progressive compromise or setback, I ask myself what I did to fight for the progressive position. Did I contact my elected officials? Write a letter to the editor? Organize rallies? Talk to my family, friends, and neighbors and urge them to get involved? Progressive change is often opposed by a well-funded and well-connected opposition that can only be overcome if we are all involved. If I am not doing my part, then I am not in much of a position to cast aspersions on our President for failing to go to the mat over some particular policy.
Progressive Change Requires That We Celebrate and Reward Progress: We progressives are very good at criticizing our elected officials when they let us down, but not at praising them when they do good things. This is problematic for two reasons. First, it makes us feel like we are always losing, which is no way to motivate or grow the progressive movement. Second, it makes elected officials less likely to take tough votes for us, as the resulting praise for such a vote that the politician deserves often never comes. While we should always be pushing our elected officials to do better, we could also use more celebrating of victories and less focus on every perceived defeat.

I believe that President Obama and Congressional Democrats have achieved significant progressive victories over the past two years that provide real, positive benefits to the American people. If you or a loved one has an illness, the health insurance reform bill will help you afford insurance and ensure that health insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage. If you are a student struggling to pay for college, student loan reform has nearly doubled the amount of federal aid available and reduced the burden of paying student loans back. If you are working to get out of debt, credit card industry reform and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will prevent your credit card company from jacking up your interest rates and limit the ability of payday lenders or credit counseling companies from taking advantage of you.
None of these reforms were perfect, and there is still much more work to do. But the progress that we have achieved so far, and our need to achieve even more in the future, is exactly why we should all be working to protect and expand our progressive majorities in the November elections, instead of sitting on our hands and letting it all slip away. I hope you’ll join me in the fight.