There seems to be an anthem for every political season. Reagan, much to the chagrin of Bruce Springsteen, had "Born in the USA" in '84. Clinton had Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop." Go back to Bobby Kennedy's 82-day presidential run in '68 and you come up with Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." Fast forward to 2008 and you had Palin claiming Heart's "Barracuda" and Obama with Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)." In truth, it was will.i.am's spoken word collage "Yes We Can" that inspired the masses and probably still gives a few MSNBC observers that Matthews-esque thrill up our leg when we play it. But more than 1,000 days have passed since that anthem came out and Obama's midterm rebuke--to use Jon Meacham's phrase--calls for another. Recommendation: Eminem's "Not Afraid."
The "shellacking" Obama spoke of was more a result of self-defeat than the brilliance of the Republicans. The Democratic Party simply did a poor job of promoting and defending its legislative record to the electorate. As the LA Times aptly points out, "By approving healthcare reform and imposing tighter regulations on Wall Street, Democrats delivered precisely the 'change' they promised two years ago." Coupled with the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression and the expectation that the party in power would lose congressional seats, it is surprising the Republicans did not do better than they did. It is also worth noting that it was Blue Dog Democrats--not the Progressive wing--that saw the most losses.
The "Hell No You Can't!" House Speaker-elect of the 112th Congress, John Boehner, said on 60 Minutes the Sunday after the election that the "American people have clearly repudiated the policies that [Democrats] put forward in the last two years." Not so. The Democrats in Congress--and their spokesman on Pennsylvania Avenue--failed to effectively communicate with the American people on what they did to stave off a complete financial collapse and other notable reform measures. They lost that "Fired Up/Ready to Go" mojo and distanced themselves from one of the most productive Congresses in a generation.
Bill Maher was right when he told a national audience in June of last year and again in this year's season finale of Real Time that Obama needs a little Bushian attitude and certitude. Many would add "So does the Democratic Party." Consensus-building and bipartisanship are worthy goals but insiders will tell you that it usually comes after a bruising battle along party lines. Democrats have to be mindful that simply scoring political points as the end-game rather than addressing voters concerns will hurt them with the independent swing voters. But it is about time that we replace "Yes We Can," a slogan rooted in Cesar Chavez's "Sí se puede," and replace it with "Lo dicho dicho," Spanish for "What I say, I Stand By."
Which brings us back to what the national anthem should be for Democrats over the next two years: Eminem's "Not Afraid." Obama does not have the unfavorables that the Clinton had after his first midterm elections in the White House, but 44 also has not demonstrated a willingness to trade punches to get to the championship rounds. To borrow from the pop culture of the last time the Republicans took over the House of Representatives, "No Drama Obama" needs to add some of that Samuel L. Jackson Ezekiel 25:17 vengeance to his leadership style. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell already unveiled the gridlock card before November 2 and quickly showed his disdain for even the mere hint of finding common ground by blowing off a bipartisan summit at the White House. And of course there is Senator John Kyl's political posturing over the new START treaty, which is just a sign of things to come.
You cannot blame George Soros and others with the capitol means, intellectual guns and battle scars for wanting to "fight fire with fire." It is understandable that they are calling for a little more Old Testament Jules Winnfield and a little less New Testament turn-the-other cheek in our president. To be sure, Fox News will sic their modern day McCarthyite, Glenn Beck, and propagandist, Sean Hannity--to say nothing of talk radio Jeremiah Rush Limbaugh, on any and all of them.
Politics is a contact sport and Democrats should not shy away from the verbal fisticuffs and political pugilism--the Republicans sure aren't. The "Yes We Can" ethos is part of our aspirational language but so should be the more muscular "Lo dicho dicho"--especially over the next two years. Think about the new anthem. Join hands. Mobilize. Be willing to find common ground AND throw the metaphorical sharp elbow when needed. Most importantly, let the other side know: We're "Not Afraid."
I'm not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that, you're not alone
Holla if you feel that you've been down the same road
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