President Obama needs to maintain his forceful, proactive leadership approach that he only too recently has adopted.

It took him more than a year to discard the fantasy of bipartisanship on health care reform, even though the Republicans obstructed him every step of the way and showed no interest in meaningful compromise. Their goal, all along, has been to make him fail.

Finally, he’s woken up to this reality.

Finally, he’s asserting himself, engaging in a nationwide campaign-style speaking tour to push health care reform through.

Subscribe to The Progressive

The bill is still not strong enough, and the lack of a public option remains a major flaw. But at least the president recognizes the need to get tough with his opponents.

He should apply this lesson to other issues now, including creating more jobs, reregulating Wall Street and fixing our flawed immigration system.

On these issues, too, he’ll face lockstep opposition from Republicans. They seem to believe that by preventing Obama from sufficiently helping working people in this country, they can achieve their main objective: to regain control of Congress and the White House.

It’s all about power.

But we had a democratic election in 2008 to decide who should have that power, and Obama and the Democrats won. Now they should wield the power.

He should use the congressional tool of reconciliation to get his crucial bills passed. His predecessor, President Bush, did the same several times, including on passing tax cuts for his “base,” as Bush once called the wealthy.

Obama should reward his base, too: working people.

In order to create real change for them, we need New Deal-type legislation to create jobs and pump some life into the moribund economy. In an era where the gap between the rich and the working people has increased, it’s time for more government spending on policies and programs aimed at addressing the needs of those who feel the impacts of the recession most severely.

In 2008, part of Obama’s base was also made up of Latinos, who overwhelmingly voted in favor of him. Obama needs to take the lead and persuade Democrats in Congress to produce a comprehensive immigration bill. We no longer should rely on the same enforcement-only practices that punish vulnerable individuals whose only crime is to provide for themselves and their families by taking low-paying, dead-end jobs that Americans reject.

Obama has a choice. He can do what he did his first year in office and extend the hand of bipartisanship, only to have Republicans repeatedly slap it. This approach will yield no important legislative victories, and the vast majority of Americans will continue to suffer.

Or he can take the mandate he was elected on and govern with strength and purpose, thereby improving the lives of the American people and reducing the inequalities that afflict us.

The second option is the way to go.

The first option is a recipe for a one-term president.

Alvaro Huerta is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of city and regional planning at the University of California-Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA. He can be reached at

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project