THE BLOG
08/01/2012 04:27 pm ET Updated Oct 01, 2012

Revisiting the Option and Limitations of 'Power to the People' in 2012

We and many others have written or spoken repeatedly during the past year about the "historic importance" of the presidential election only a few months a way this November.

The nation's attention, at one time or another, has been focused on the Republican primaries; the Trayvon Martin case; the Supreme Court decision on "Obamacare"; Congressman Darrell Issa's investigation of the Fast and Furious program; escalating gun violence in several major cities and the relationship between gun control and the recent mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater; tax cuts for the rich; same sex marriage; various state and congressional efforts to outlaw abortion; the impact of Citizens United; collective bargaining rights for public employee unions; our unfunded national debt; various efforts requiring photo IDs to restrict voting, and more.

In this cacophony of political issues we are provided occasion to pause and reflect on just how important the upcoming presidential and congressional elections are -- and on the organization and exercise of political power required to affect their outcome.

The initial challenge facing progressive political and/or faith-based community leadership today is to analyze what is at stake in terms of the future of our country. If there is substantial agreement on the magnitude of the challenge to assure that we will have a country that is significantly different than its current direction under the influence of the Tea Party, right wing members of Congress and unlimited campaign spending, then the practical question is, what should be done to meet this challenge?

History makes some political leaders; sometimes political leaders are able to provide leadership that "makes history." This is the issue presented by the reelection candidacy of President Obama this November.

Whether one agrees with all of most of President Obama's policies during his first term is not the determinative issue.

One can be critical of action (or inaction) of the president on one or more important domestic or foreign policy questions. One can be critical of a past failure to exercise more decisive leadership. Indeed, in an earlier blog last year we were so critical of President Obama abandoning his campaign pledge to end the Bush tax cuts that we raised the question of whether or not the Democrats should consider a primary challenge to his reelection.

Astute political analysis, however, requires that those who really want to prevent the "American Dream" from becoming a "nightmare" to recognize that President Obama is the most realistic political instrument for preserving that dream. This does not mean he gets a blank check or pass immunizing him from criticism -- even from those who have profound admiration and personal affection for him and his lovely family.

The challenge confronting our country is not choosing between the reelection of President Obama and "God Almighty." The choice is between reelecting him and electing Mitt Romney, no matter how nice he and his wife and family may appear to be.

Politically, Romney is the leader of the current Republican Party that seeks to destroy much of the progress achieved in our country during the past 70 years.

Otherwise, how do you explain the effort by congressional Republicans, on the very eve of Obamacare's legislation becoming effective on the first of this month expanding healthcare services for women, never before available, passing a bill to repeal Obamacare! Or, how else does one explain that in Pennsylvania and Florida, for example, in spite of on-the-record admissions by Republican Party officials that their new Voter ID laws were specifically aimed at preventing or limiting voting by African Americans and other minorities, they nevertheless plan to enforce these new voter "suppression laws"?

I am not "carrying the water" for President Obama's reelection. He has more knowledgeable and eloquent spokespeople on his behalf. The reality of my years of political experience, however, requires me to urge those political and community-based leaders who have the capacity to make a difference in voter turnout at the polls in November to take a moment and realistically assess the magnitude of power they have to make such a difference.

Yes, I know that we cannot ignore the state of our economy: 8.2% unemployment (almost 15% among African American adults, 40% among black teenagers), only 1.2% annual growth rate, muti-trillion dollar deficit, etc. Governor Romney will emphasize these facts to persuade voters that President Obama is responsible for our current economic woes, while omitting to mention the consistent and consecutive efforts of Republicans in Congress to block any effort by the president to enact and implement job-creating programs.

I am blessed by the experiences and lessons learned from one of the greatest moral and political leaders of the 20th century. We in the Civil Rights movement who worked with Dr. King really did believe and continue to believe in "power to the people." We really do believe that power concedes nothing without a demand. We believe that 100,00-250,000 people "sitting in" -- so no business "as usual" can be conducted at those state capitals is the best way to protect voting rights-- earned with the loss of several lives, blood sweat and tears. This show of "power to people of the people" remains the most effective answer to those states engaged in such efforts to suppress the right to vote in the November election (with all due respect to pending legal challenges).

Right-wing super PACs under Citizens United have the power and financial resources to fund negative ads and on-the-ground organizational activity to prevent President Obama's reelection. This means then that the challenge confronting progressive political and faith-based community leaders who want to preserve the social and economic achievements of the past century is to use what earlier social and political movements did not have: the social network tools of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the Internet to mobilize millions of people to turn out to vote.

I mean millions of people, in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, need to respond to those on the right who shout and carry signs directed at Obama that "they want their country back." The response of progressive and faith-based community leaders should be: "So do we!"

Any person who complains that Obama didn't do this or didn't do that, but who wants to preserve not only what his administration has achieved and who is not a registered voter -- or is registered but standing on the sidelines while an effort is being made to dismantle pillars of progress like Social Security, Medicare and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- this November must face his or her "moment of truth."

If they don't vote to support President Obama in the face of such a right wing onslaught against his reelection, they are aiding and abetting a right-wing take over of the government of the Untied States.

There is an old labor movement song during the 1930s that asked "Which side are you on boy, which side are you on?" Later, in the '60s, an axiom emerged which said, "You're either part of the solution or part of the problem."

In short, it's time for those who really believe in "power to the people" to non-violently "kick ass and take names" to prevent what can only, politically, be characterized as a counterrevolutionary effort to overthrow the Democratic Party's presidential election success of 2008. This is the only effective way, with the assistance of 21st century social network technology, to honor the legacy of "power to the people."

The reelection of President Obama in the face of the financial and voter suppression onslaught by the right will be most fitting early tribute to next August 2013's 50th anniversary of the Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech, August 28, 1963 at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Wash, DC.

Which side are you on?