Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Obama Needs to Do to Win

The GOP freight train is gathering speed. Beginning very humbly with its first announced candidates, Andy Martin and Fred Karger, through the entry of more substantial (but no more substantive) candidates like Gingrich (nearly out) and Pawlenty (out) and Paul (out there) and Cain (in a parallel universe), to the "heavyweights" like Mitt and Rick, the Republican Party has been gearing up in a bid to realize its wet dream of turning Barack Obama into a one-term president. The way those Democrat bastards did to George H.W. Bush. And, if the media hype is believable, our president is very vulnerable. We have an unemployment rate of nine percent. We have a housing sector that is suffering, starting its fifth year of "decline." We have banks now making it very difficult to qualify for credit of any kind. We are fighting two seemingly endless wars. The prices of gas and food are going up at a rate faster than the posted 3.5% inflation rate. "It's the economy, stupid" seems to be the mantra of the GOP now, stealing a page out of the Clinton playbook.

And, if this video is any indication, the GOP front-runner will hammer Obama hard on the economy and not spend a whole lot of intellectual firepower (what little there is, of course) on international matters. And why should they? About ninety-nine percent of the bad things happening today in U.S. foreign policy are because of the colossal screw-ups by the Bush/Cheney regime and the unpalatable but necessary clean-up efforts implemented by Obama.

Admittedly, this is a pretty good strategy. Nothing hurts an incumbent more than a challenger reminding voters that they're worse off now than they were before. And for a lot of Americans, that's true, IF they don't pull their heads out of their asses and face reality. Because the reality points out that for many Americans (like this American), the exact opposite is true. Unemployment would have been far worse had it not been for the policies of the Obama administration (think of GM potentially failing). Housing is actually better in some areas of the country, and there are signals that the luxury home market (which is typically the first segment to improve) is coming back. But the last housing downturn lasted seven years, as did the one before that; the economy is cyclical by nature. And while it seems that banks are more reluctant to extend credit, consider that the prior reality was that almost anyone could qualify for a mortgage or a car loan or a credit card; banks are now using actual thorough data to manage risk rather than using minimal "stated" data to justify disregarding risk. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, the action in Libya is nearly over, and dates are in place (soft though they may be) for the eventual withdrawal of troops; the idea that we are the world's police force is very unpopular among both voters and elected officials. And, while gas and food prices are indeed high, we are not waiting in long lines to buy what's left on the shelves or in the tanks.

Everything that Obama has done since taking office has been to correct the wrongs implemented over the previous 16 years (yes, I'm including Clinton's deregulation of banks, which was done with the help of Republicans). We will have universal health care which provides coverage for 30 million more people, which protects Americans from losing their coverage, and which allows for private insurers to do most of the heavy lifting and make a profit (of course, within a regulated system). Osama bin Laden has been killed (as was al Qaeda's #2 man); AQ is indeed teetering on the brink of collapse. Torture has ended as a way to extract "intelligence" from detainees (even as Gitmo remains open amidst a Gordian knot of legalities and political posturing). And more people are free to be who they are and love whomever they want without fear of discrimination.

I wish the solution to assure Obama's victory in 2012 was as simple as him spreading a bunch of sunshine. God knows, he's every bit as effective a speaker as Reagan was. But this time, voters are cynical, thanks to three decades of nihilism under the Limbaugh/Murdoch media empire. Anything that's not Republican is un-American in the eyes of a lot of people. Obama may have largely erased the foreigner/birther/other element from the opposition, but he still scares the bejeesus out of many white southern Christians, still reeling 150 years after losing the Civil War and nearly 50 years after being forced to sit next to non-whites at restaurants, urinals, movie theaters and buses.

What Obama needs to do to win next year is look right into the camera during every speech, or right into the eyes of every journalist lucky enough to get a one-on-one interview, and tell them flat out: "What I've done over the past four years doesn't look perfect or ideal to many people, including me. There is a lot I would have liked to do differently. I made the deals I could make so that I could make the deals I had to make. And there are some who won't vote for me, no matter what I say or do at this point. They insist I've made an even bigger mess of things. They're entitled to their opinion, of course. But they would be wrong. Today, we are a more compassionate America, even as we are a leaner America. We are a more powerful America, even as we become a more peaceful America. Today, we are closer to realizing the shared ideals of every American, from Main Street to lower Manhattan, than we have ever been. And yet we are in danger of losing all that we have gained to an increasingly shrinking movement that practices the politics of fear, division, and cynicism. We have never, ever been more successful being governed according to the values of a few than we have when we were led with fairness and equality for as many Americans as possible. The Reagan vision of a shining city on a hill has not diminished; we are still the richest, most powerful, and most welcoming country in the world." Reminding voters of this will go a long way. Also, warning them that "Take Back America" is a return to cynicism, failure, and inequality.

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