THE BLOG
06/06/2011 10:55 am ET | Updated Aug 06, 2011

Canaries in the Coalmine of Obama Reelection

Canaries have been used to warn miners digging for coal underground of the danger of toxic gases. As long as the bird kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A dead canary signaled need for an immediate evacuation.

There are valuable "canaries," albeit, politically diverse, and in some cases sending warnings to the White House. Their "singing" (voices) may be more valuable in providing guidance for Obama in his reelection campaign than the president and his advisers fully understand and appreciate.

18 months or more ago, Rev. Jesse Jackson publicly asserted that the issue of rising unemployment and housing foreclosures was the most urgent national priority; and, President Obama was providing insufficient, innovative presidential leadership.

One can disagree with Congressman Paul Ryan's prescription for dealing with the deficit and the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid. He is one of those "canaries" whose opinion and advice should be carefully considered and evaluated; not demonized or summarily dismissed.

I believe Congressman Ryan's proposed solutions of tax breaks for the wealthy and his refusal to consent to deficit spending for infrastructure repairs, for example, are the wrong course of actions, at this time, for our economy. However, whether its vouchers or some other innovation, something must be done to control the continued escalation of the costs of Medicare and Medicaid.

Dr. Cornel West is also an invaluable "canary." His warning advice and comments should not be ignored. As I said in an earlier blog, we, or the White House, may not like the tone, content, or the intensity of his "singing." However, again, his comments should not be ignored. His "singing" to warn the president. Whether we like it not, Dr. West's intellect is an invaluable tuning fork for justice.

Dylan Ratigan, an MSNBC host commentator and Huffington Post blogger, has been and is also an important canary. His comments are too thoughtful, cogent and compelling to be ignored.

A few weeks ago I watched an online video from the Obama reelection campaign outlining the challenges they faced and the strategy they plan to pursue. The strategy was predicated on an assumed successful fundraising and get-out-the-vote campaign. It is now clearer than ever that even if the reelection campaign is successful in reaching its fundraising goal, mobilizing sufficient people to get out the vote remains the critical unknown.

I believe the Obama reelection organization underestimates the extent and the depth of disenchantment with Obama leadership among important constituencies necessary for them to go to the polls and vote for him, either for the first time, or again.

If there is no significant increase in employment or decrease in housing foreclosures, and illegal immigration continues, especially in our border States, along with the monthly drain of our national treasury in support of Pakistan, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, the indigenous movement of the Arab Spring and tax breaks for the oil companies; and, if the perception that Obama gave a "free pass" to the egregious behavior of some Wall Street Banks continues, it is more likely than not that Obama will not be reelected.

There will be little solace or satisfaction in knowing that "we told you so."

The White House may not fully appreciate how much renewal of the Patriot Act, with the continuation of important provisions, is offensive to civil rights and civil libertarian constituencies, many of whom are part of the voter group of independents he needs to reengage and inspire the most. The reelection campaign may dismiss as insignificant the disenchantment of a large part of Obama's 2008 voter base, who are disappointed and turned off by our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The recent house resolution critical of our continued involvement in Libya is just the tip of the iceberg.

Finally, it is reminiscent of Michael Corleone's dismissive comments about Fredo in the Godfather when Mitt Romney says as part of his announcement of his presidential candidacy that the American people took a chance with Obama, with no prior business management experience, because he was "well spoken."

God help us if in 2012 the country is going to return to the "clean cut," "articulate" and "well-spoken" Obama.

Canaries are in coal mines for a purpose. Don't turn a deaf ear to their "singing."