As Barack Obama continues to reach out to the Republican party only to be rejected time after time, it may be a good moment to reconsider the whole notion of bipartisanship. If Obama and other Democrats simply stuck to their guns and clearly articulated a progressive agenda, they would not be accused by their base and the general public of not standing for anything. Instead, the current administration is constantly making compromises on all of their major initiatives because they are afraid of being voted down in both houses. However, a better strategy might be to let the Republicans in the House and the Senate go on the record rejecting policies that most Americans support.
It is evident that a majority of Americans endorse the idea of reining in the banks and imposing tighter regulations on the financial instruments that caused the global financial meltdown. Yet, due to their fear of the corporate lobby and the Right-wing attack machine, the Obama administration has not pushed for any tough regulations and has not insisted on the need to separate traditional banks that loan money from investment banks that make high-risk gambles. Obama would win over many independents and strengthen his base if he would show that he is going after these risky actors with their huge compensation packages.
The Democrats would also gain ground if they presented a clear and simplified health care package that stressed reducing costs and regulating the insurance companies. What most Americans do not understand is that the best health care system in the world is in France, and this system is not a national or socialist plan. Instead, France regulates the private non-profit insurers and reduces costs by capping fees and regulating compensation. The United States could easily move to this type of system, but the Democrats are afraid of being called socialists by the Right-wing media and conservative politicians. Once again, the Democrats should simply ignore the Right and fight for what the majority of Americans want, which is affordable, high quality medical care that allows for personal choice.
Another possible win for the Democrats is to show how stimulus funding prevented a major economic depression by giving money to the states that were facing massive layoffs and job reductions. The Obama administration has tried to argue that they have created many more jobs, but this argument does not counter the reality that so many people are out of work. What Obama should be saying is that things could have been much worse, and if he does not give more money to the states facing huge deficits, things will really get out of hand. In fact, if we look at a state like California, we see that the federal recovery money (ARRA) prevented the state from cutting thousands of jobs and many essential public programs, but now that this money is gone, we could see unemployment jump in the Golden State from 12% to 18%. The reason for this potential massive increase in job losses is not only the fact that thousands of teachers and public workers will lose their jobs, but due to the escalating rate of unemployment, local restaurants, stores, and related businesses will be forced to shut down. Also, high unemployment will lead to more mortgage foreclosures, which in turn, will lead to more job losses in the construction industry.
Obama has to show that he is acting to prevent the increase in job losses as he helps to support the vital role that states play in public education. While his administration has pushed to increase financial aid for university and community college students, none of this increased access will matter if the states are forced to layoff teachers, and the schools are pushed to raise tuition. A better and clearer policy is to fund the states, and make sure that the money is used to maintain tuition costs, while increasing the amount of funds that are spent on instruction instead of administration.
It should be easy for Obama to clearly articulate an agenda of protecting jobs, improving education, and making health care accessible and affordable, but in his rush to make nice with his enemies, he keeps on announcing one compromised plan after another. Of course, one reason why the president might not be articulating the agenda suggested above is that he really is a right-to-center moderate that does not believe that government makes a difference, and so he should just get out of the way and let the free market do its magic.
Let's hope that Obama really does have a progressive agenda and that he is simply employing a flawed political strategy. Furthermore, my advice for the president should also be taken up by all people in the center and the Left; we simply cannot be manipulated by the Right-wing and libertarian fanatics that dominate the blogosphere and airwaves but probably only make up a small percentage of the general public. I say to Progressive bloggers and the president alike, ignore the Right and articulate your policies in a clear and rational fashion. If the Tea Partyers want to kick and scream and circulate their paranoid reactions let them know that they will have no effect on us. Let's match their Tea Parties with Coffee Parties, and let's invite the president to join us in our efforts to defend the future of America.