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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.