In a previous blog I expressed my view and advice that the challenge facing President's Obama re-election is not about Bain Capital and/or Governor Romney's tenure there. As the Wisconsin recall demonstrates, among other things, the 2012 president election will be about the new power of money in state and federal elections and the various efforts, as in Florida, to suppress the vote from Obama's known and acknowledged "voter base."
Yes, it's still "the economy, stupid." More importantly, no matter what the president and his re-election surrogates say, the election in November will be a referendum on Obama's presidential leadership of our economy. Obama's political leadership in dealing with crucial domestic economic issues will be an issue, not only for Romney and the Republican Party but for many of those who worked and voted for President Obama in 2008.
Recently, during a Sunday brunch at the home of friends of mine who live in Berkeley, California, I had the opportunity to talk with a small group of undergraduate and graduate students. Some attended UCLA, others Berkeley. They were white, multiracial, male and female. Earlier in the month I had similar discussions with young adult African Americans in San Francisco. All of them had worked in the Obama 2008 presidential campaign or who had voted for him.
The common denominator of their "disappointment" with the president is what they characterize as "an absence of decisive presidential leadership in dealing with the Republicans in Congress." This issue has also been the subject of some of my previous blogs. There is no need to recite several critical instances when we believed President Obama should have "taken names and kicked asses" in dealing with recalcitrant obstructionist Republicans in Congress. However, I was surprised that they expressed a greater interest in issues of wealth inequality and fairness raised by the Occupy Wall Street movement, gay rights and same-sex marriage, the continued detention of persons at Guantanamo Bay inconsistent with what they describe as "our constitutional and moral values," our support of Israel against the Palestinians, the failure of any major banking leader to be criminally punished for their alleged role in forcing the government to bail them out with taxpayer dollars, homelessness and housing foreclosures, etc. The surprising thing in all of this is that every single one of them had not only voted for Obama in 2008, with the exception of one young woman who was too young at the time, but many of them had also actively worked in his campaign. None of them plan to do so this time, even though they plan to vote for Obama's re-election, in some cases reluctantly.
Reminders by the president that 4.3 million new jobs have been created during his administration and references to the economic problems in Europe have little impact on the 8.2 percent of Americans who are currently unemployed, many of whom have either experienced foreclosure or major diminution in the equity value in their homes. No matter what is said critically about Romney's work at Bain Capital, all of this will be obscured by the facts of our economy.
Yes, 450,000 persons have been laid off by state and local governments, and more than one million construction workers are unemployed. With a $15 trillion dollar economy, the question is whether or not Obama's call for passage of previous proposals rejected by a Republican Congress are really responsive to the magnitude of the problems in our economy, which currently has only a 2 percent annual growth rate.
No question, passage of Obama's resubmitted stimulus package is needed. The policy question, however, is whether or not these proposals are of sufficient scope and magnitude to make a material difference. Something is better than nothing, but it is still woefully inadequate.
For those who supported Obama and who may be disappointed in one or more of his leadership decisions, I again remind them that the campaign money permitted under the Citizens United decision is a game-changer in voter election politics. This, coupled with the efforts of several states to make it more difficult for senior citizens, African Americans, Hispanics and students to vote can potentially determine the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. This is the unmistakable lesson from the recent failure to recall Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, not withstanding exit polls showing that a majority of persons who voted in there still favor Obama over Romney.
Additionally, I remind Obama's disappointed 2008 supporters of advice that Dr. King shared with me in Albany, GA, 1962. He said: "Anyone can stand with you in the warm summer sunshine of August. But, only a winter-time soldier stands with you at midnight in the alpine chill of winter."
If President Obama is to be re-elected he needs more "winter-time soldiers."
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