Next year, President Barack Obama and the solidly Democratic Congress can pass legislation that provides universal healthcare, establishes a sustainable energy program, reforms labor laws and restores environmental safeguards.
In addition, the current economic crisis gives progressives an opportunity to pursue institutional reforms that have previously been off the table. We have nationalized elements of our financial system, but its institutions remain unresponsive to the needs of the American people. How can we hold the banks that we now own accountable? What adjustments can we make in our economic model so that the tremendous productivity of American workers will translate into higher wages and better lives?
We can also put on the agenda issues that were ignored during the presidential campaign. To give three examples:
First, the crisis in urban communities, where a generation of young men – who are denied opportunities that many Americans take for granted – are shackled to a broken criminal justice system.
Second, the foolish drug laws that provide the human-fuel for the prison-industrial complex and wreak political havoc in Latin America and elsewhere.
Third, a short-sighted national transportation policy that revolves around cars and trucks, and the haphazard sprawl that reliance engenders.
Can we resist the deficit hawks in both major parties and make the public investments in infrastructure and social services that we desperately need to pull us out of this recession? With our government having obviously failed to serve and protect, dare we dream to revive what 100 years ago was known in Midwestern cities as “sewer socialism.”
Respectable pundits and editorial boards will demand that Obama be “responsible” and curb spending. But fiscal austerity will only deepen this economic downturn, and the stern sermons of these neo-Hooverians ought to be cheerfully ignored.
The election of Obama shows us, people have power.
Yes, we can do all of the above. But will we?
The multiracial, progressive electorate that put Obama in the White House cannot rest on its November laurels.
The Republican right will sic their wily attack dogs on him. We must beat them off.
K‑street’s corporate lobbyists (a number of whom are Democrats) are already greasing their propaganda machines to prevent Obama from using his mandate to disrupt the status quo. We must put a wrench in their works.
The mavens of the mainstream media, “schoolmasters of the people,” will try to ensure that Obama’s promised “change” remains framed within the confines of conventional wisdom. We must remember that, as Obama said, “change doesn’t come from the top down, it comes from the bottom up.”
Our job is to support Obama as he makes good on his promises and hold him to account if he does not. The coalition of war-weary, recession-battered voters that gave him the presidency deserves no less.
Through the next four years, In These Times will, as our mission statement puts it, “provide an accessible forum for debate about the public policies that shape our future.”
We will work to expand the national discourse to address the hopes and aspirations of those Americans, who said on Nov. 4, “Yes, we can,” and changed history.
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.