*Watching President Obama, former President Clinton and other Democratic Party leaders canvass the country in a desperate bid to fire up the party faithful on the eve of the midterm elections filled me a strange feeling both pride and deep disappointment.
Pride because President Obama has been at his best in recent weeks – boldly rebuking the Republicans, underscoring his achievements and vision, and reminding Democrats that their votes were crucial to stopping a Republican power grab in DC. But my disappointed feeling was never far away because it should never have come to this.
There should never have been a need for Mr. Obama to make a desperate, 11th hour sales pitch to his core constituents. There should never have been an “enthusiasm gap” among Democratic voters. Indeed, this gap might never have opened up if President Obama had been more courageous during his first year and a half in office.
A few weeks ago, President Obama scolded deflated Democrats in a “Rolling Stone” cover story where he declared: “The idea that we’ve got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible.” While he was philosophically correct, Mr. Obama failed to recognize that this “irresponsible” lack of zeal among some Democrats was largely his fault.
President Obama has been catching flak from liberals and progressives for well over a year now because of his perceived failure to advocate for basic, Democratic Party policies and principles. The President caved on key points in the healthcare bill (the end of life provision and the public option) without a fight, he kowtowed to the beat cop who humiliated and wrongfully arrested black Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates at his own house, he did not push for a Senate vote on his middle class tax cut plan (which Republicans opposed), he threw Shirley Sherrod under the bus then tried to play it off, he paid lip service to ending the military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy then sat quietly by while the Justice Department appealed the court ruling that found the policy unconstitutional…
Obama’s apparent timidity dispirited the liberal/progressive base of the Democratic Party and diluted excitement over White House successes such as: policies that saved thousands of public service jobs (teachers, cops, etc.), the extension of unemployment benefits, Wall Street reform, increased college financial aid, tax cuts for small businesses and (despite its flaws) passage of healthcare reform. And don’t forget that President Obama forced British Petroleum to set up a $20 billion fund for Americans affected by the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
If the Democratic Party is to have any measure of success in Congress over the next two years, and if Mr. Obama is to have any hope of re-election, then the President must adopt a radically different leadership style. With the balance of power poised to shift on Capitol Hill, President Obama needs to finally accept the fact that he is engaged political warfare. His honorable predisposition toward compromise and consensus has not worked and will not work because the Republicans are unabashedly committed to opposing, obstructing and undermining everything President Obama tries to accomplish. So, instead of acting like an arbitrator, Mr. Obama needs to become a fighter. That means pushing back rhetorically against the outlandish falsehoods and flat-out lies hurled by conservative rabble rousers.
It will mean taking his case directly to the American people, telling them why his policies are beneficial. Most important of all, President Obama must stand firmly, courageously and consistently, for the policies and philosophy in which he believes.
Thanks for listening. I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents.
“THINK! IT AIN’T ILLEGAL…YET!”
Watch Cameron Turner’s weekly television appearances on “The Filter with Fred Roggin” online at www.NBCLA.com and read more “Turner’s Two Cents” on www.PasadenaJournal.com. Cameron would love to receive your email at [email protected].