The Series

To Light a Fire in Liberal America

#4 This Is What You Should Be Making This Election About, Mr. President

(This piece is a timely expansion on entry # 3 in this Press the Battle series: “Calling Out the Republicans. Obama Hasn’t So We Must.”


Summary: It is clear the Republicans, with their obstructionism, have deliberately hurt the nation. That betrayal explains why the American political system is now more dysfunctional than in generations, maybe ever. The American people are quite dissatisfied with the performance of their government, but they need help understanding where the problem lies. I ask President Obama: Why are you not using this last opportunity to tell the voters what’s gone wrong, so they can use their votes to get back a government that does the people’s business.

Hey, Mr. President. Why aren’t you out there on the hustings talking to the American people? There’s an election coming up, and the American political system is more dysfunctional than it’s been in generations, maybe ever. What does it mean that you, as president, are not using this last opportunity of your presidency to talk to voters about what’s gone wrong with the system and what voters can do now to get back a government that does the people’s business?

The people know that something’s gone terribly wrong, as we can see from the record-setting low esteem in which the people hold the Congress. The people’s displeasure presumably that has something to do with another record the Congress has been setting in the past four years: its off-the-charts, unprecedented failure to accomplish much of anything to meet the considerable challenges our nation faces.

I assume you know what the problem is — that it’s the result of the Republicans’ having made it their top priority, even before you became president, to make you fail by blocking everything. That, even though the nation faced major challenges.

  • The economy was on the edge of an abyss, with an urgent need to restore demand to stop the vicious cycle of lay-offs throughout the economy.
  • Our health care system was bankrupting the country, costing twice as much as other rich nations’, while leaving millions of Americans without coverage and causing the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.
  • The alarms about the disruption of the earth’s climate, from thousands of scientists around the planet, were becoming more intense as the science became ever clearer.
  • The breakdown of financial regulation had helped bring on the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and that system needed to be rebuilt to prevent that happening again.

Yet on all these issues, in the first two years of your presidency, the Republicans — almost without exception — did everything they could to block any kind of solution. But then, your allies had the numbers in Congress, and on three of those four problems you managed to pass solutions. With a normal opposition party, these solutions would likely have been better, but they were at least a step in the right direction.

But the result of the Republicans’ controlling the House for the past four years has been a record that makes the “do-nothing Congress” Truman ran against look like a model of effectiveness. With the obstructionists having veto power over all legislation, the American government has failed to deal with a set of serious problems — even though polls showed that big majorities of the American people (even majorities of Republicans) favored measures that were proposed:

  • Failed to enact a jobs program to put Americans back to work during a time of high and persistent unemployment.
  • Failed to enact any measure to keep assault weapons out of the hands of unstable people, despite horrific reminders of the need. (Even a big majority of NRA members favored universal background checks.)
  • Failed to address the immigration issue, keeping a festering sore untreated in the body of America.
  • Failed to raise the minimum wage, which is less now in real dollars than it was forty-five years ago, and which is tied for lowest among all democracies, consigning many hard-working people to poverty.

In every case, it was the Republicans that blocked action, making no good-faith effort to come up with solutions that would serve America.

Their political strategy for getting power back for themselves – by making you fail – mattered to them more than what the needs of the nation, or the will of the people, demanded.

What do you call the members of a political party that chooses to sacrifice the good of the nation to increase their power over it?

Clearly, it’s a betrayal of the nation. In the dictionary, the primary definition of “traitor” is “a person who betrays a friend, country, principle…”

It would be good, Mr. President, if you could go out now and call them out for this unprecedented, disgraceful betrayal of America. But such such no-holds-barred straight talk would raise the question: “Since this has been happening from Day One, why haven’t you called them out like this before?” An excellent question. But it’s not the question this campaign should be about.

It should be about how to set things right now.

So you should just tell the people that if they want a government that will do the people’s business, they’ve got to take power away from “the Party of No” that so clearly has another priority, and has made obstruction their tactic on every issue.

Give the voters a list of things we know they want done, and tell the voters that those things can get done, but only if they will reject these lock-step obstructionists and send people to Congress who want to use our system of government the way our founders intended– not to indulge their lust for power, but to serve the nation and its people.

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