For months, we have been both entertained and outraged as the political theater of the absurd that was the Republican presidential primary played out across the country. From one state to the next, a collection of mixed nuts attacked each other and President Obama with a wild-eyed hysteria that is, frankly, beneath the office.
We had Herman Cain, the endlessly entertaining huckster with his 9-9-9 plan for economic meltdown; Rick Santorum, the angry wimp in his "trendy" sweater vests; Michelle Bachmann, the darling of the Tea Party and a frighteningly delusional flake; Rick Perry, who kept tripping over his own tongue while displaying a stunning level of ignorance of, well, pretty much everything (this is the best you could do for governor, of Texas?); Ron Paul, whose tinfoil-hat proposals include getting rid of the Department of Education and other key agencies while shrinking the federal government to nothing; "the Newt," with his sheer lack of credibility on pretty much every issue, and who once, as speaker of the House, shut down the federal government in a fit of pique against then-President Bill Clinton; and finally, the last man standing, Mitt Romney, who keeps trying to sell America on his credentials as a businessman, who would ruin -- I mean run -- the country like one of his many business ventures.
Had Mitt been president in 2009, he apparently would have let the American auto industry go belly-up without a bailout. Attention, Mr. Romney: the government is not a business that can be downsized and sold off piece-by-piece, while deep-sixing the employees. But even in your "big business yes/'big' government no" mentality, consistency eludes you. As the "1%" governor of Massachusetts, you gave us the template - along with the Heritage Foundation -- for what has become known in conservative circles as "Obamacare." Your program included severe penalties for not buying into a government mandated healthcare policy that cost way too much and provided only bare-bones coverage. Imagine a system where the penalty for not participating is cheaper than the cost of being in it. Mitt did.
Jump to the present, and Republican presidential candidate Romney continues to distance himself from one of his major "achievements," its merits never discussed in any debate and his authorship of it avoided like the plague. Now, Mitt and his fellow GOP'ers want the Supreme Court to find the Affordable Care Act un-Constitutional. Hypocrisy knows no bounds with this crowd. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts State legislature is looking for ways to cut back on their healthcare commitment, as the ever-rising costs are becoming burdensome. Is anyone addressing the un-harnessed insurers? The cost of healthcare is one of the huge issues that no-one in either party will touch, while the insurers continue to make out like bandits.
In this past primary season, the Republican presidential "contenders" consisted mainly of D-listers and has-beens who offered no credible plans for moving the country and economy forward. They could only muster two simplistic answers to all issues -- lower taxes for the wealthy and smaller government with less regulation on big business. Their limited platforms mainly consisted of how to reverse President Obama's accomplishments over the past 4 years, by unleashing all of the old and tired accusations that Obama is somehow responsible for the state of our economy and the loss of jobs. Yet it was the Republicans who would have let America's automotive industry go into bankruptcy and fail, which would have had serious economic repercussions nationwide and beyond. Today, because the President and the Democrats had the courage to act, the auto industry is thriving. Mr. Romney says that was not a place for government to intervene. Of course, there is never a mention from any of the Republicans that it was their policies -- under the driving hand of "W" -- that were responsible for taking us to the brink of that cliff in the first place.
Mitt is even bringing into question the merits of taking out Osama bin Laden a year ago, bemoaning the millions of dollars it cost to remove one man. Was Mitt really saying that he would have nixed the mission to kill the most wanted terrorist in world history because it cost too much? He did finally agree that anyone would have taken Osama out, including even Jimmy Carter. It was one of the great triumphs of the Obama administration to remove that cancer from the face of the earth, a bold display of leadership and statesmanship by "cool hand" Barack. Another example of Mitt's gross inability to deal with a major issue was his response to the student loan crisis, advising the students to "ask your parents for money," a chilling response that should frighten the stuffing out of everyone. Meanwhile, the interest rate on those loans is set to double to 6.8% on July 1st if Congress does not act.
All of the Republican wooden soldiers have now fallen by the wayside, with only one left standing -- not including that little egomaniac Ron Paul, who has promised to hang around siphoning off delegates until the GOP convention, taking his candidacy to the convention floor. Their messages, which will now, we assume, become absorbed by "the Mitt," were all mainly one and the same: get rid of O, for whatever flimsy, fabricated reason they could offer. Where were their plans for creating jobs, improving the economy, helping students with their loans, saving those sinking homeowners, and building our energy reserves (other than more drilling for oil)? Where was their collective outrage against the "banksters" and Wall Street con artists who fleeced America? They could at least call out the president to ensure that these felons are held accountable for their serious transgressions, and that they are brought to justice for their crimes. Will Eric Schneiderman, New York State attorney general and one of the chairs of the task force on the mortgage crisis, really be given the manpower and financial resources needed to be effective and get to the bottom of this? Nothing of this was mentioned in the Republican presidential debates by these lackeys of the corporate elite, who are only interested in protecting their buddies on "the Street." This was the key issue leading to the Great Recession, from which we have still not recovered and are a long way from doing so.
The issue now is how will Obama make his case for re-election? The young people who supported him in '08 are disillusioned, and many of them are currently sitting on the sidelines while the Obama campaign works to rekindle their involvement and support. They are essential if Mr. Obama is to win. He is now traveling to battleground states, meeting on college campuses and talking to young people about lowered student loan interest rates, which is an imperative. We cannot have future generations unable to afford higher learning if we are to compete in the global economy. In each state, the president has offered a custom-made agenda, pandering to their specific needs. A much broader agenda and bigger vision for America must come from our President if he is to inspire victory as he did four years ago. Greater clarity and specifics are needed as to what the next "Change We Can Believe In" is about. And then he must really deliver. We bought into it once, Mr. President, but we will not be fooled again. Make the case that you will be a different kind of leader this time around, since you won't have the burden of another campaign after this one. Go bold and become the populist, core-value Democratic president we thought we were electing in '08. Martin Luther King gave us his dream, which still resonates, and now it is time for you to give us your grand vision for the future. How will we make that journey? It is up to you to tell us.
A key issue for this bold new Obama to take up would be the great need for our country to pass an amendment overturning the Citizens United decision and get the corrupt money out of our politics. Over $100 million from Super Pacs has already been pumped into the Presidential election. This foul money must be removed. Mr. Obama should also support the Fair Elections Now Act, which would enact public funding of campaigns. Without these two laws, Mr. President, you and all others who care about America will be whistling in the wind, and nothing in our politics will ever change.
So seize on these real solutions, Mr. President, and the people will deliver a huge win for you this November. The Senate has supporters for both proposals, as does the House, with Nancy Pelosi recently coming out in support of an amendment against Citizens United. Make this your cause and take it to your bully pulpit, Mr. President. You will have the support of our country and a grateful people. The quantum leap of "Change We Can Believe In" would finally be at hand, and all other national imperatives could then be addressed and resolved with real solutions and not political sellouts.
Think of the new America that would emerge.
with Jonathan Stone