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President Obama, Go Big or Go Home

08/22/2014 01:40 pm ET | Updated Oct 22, 2014
  • Robbie Gennet Writer of words and music, rider of waves, author, educator and world traveler.
NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images

There's an old saying in surfing: Go big or go home. There is no room for nuance or cerebral calculations when you charge large. For six years, President Obama has worked against an obstructionist party in Congress. Government feels broken because a group of legislative terrorists are breaking it. Obama could win or lose the Senate in the fall as things stand and turnout will make the difference. There is a sizable portion of our population that is eligible to vote but chooses not to. Whether they feel disenfranchised, apathetic or are aloof, their inaction comes at a great cost to our supposedly participatory democracy. They've been convinced their vote won't matter or make a difference by the same people spending billions on voter suppression. In the last 20 years, voter participation hovered around 60 percent in national elections and just above 40 percent in the midterms. Those who don't vote number in the tens of millions so that even a small number of those who decide to get involved can make a huge difference.

Congress is dysfunctional but in every election it can be changed for better or worse. President Obama must present a concrete vision and give the people a reason to vote Democrat and give him a Congress he can work with. In 2014, all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives plus 36 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested; along with 38 state and territorial governorships, 46 state legislatures (except Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia), four territorial legislatures and numerous state and local races. With a visionary narrative to tie these races together, Obama has his best shot at achieving a truly transformative presidency.

So here's a list, much based on bills that were filibustered by the Republicans, figuring that if there was a Democratic majority in Congress, most would have already passed. Each of these would make a big difference on their own. But all together? A breathtaking possibility for our country to move light years forward out of the current morass. Plus, President Obama would cement his legacy as perhaps the greatest president ever, in conjunction with what would be a truly legendary Congress. But beyond that, the real winner would be the American people, who would benefit greatly for generations to come from the following:

1. Raise the national minimum wage.

2. Equal pay for women.

3. Infrastructure Bill & National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank.

4. Progressive tax reform with a focus on corporate taxation and capital gains.

5. A Clean Energy Revolution ending Oil/Gas subsidies and focusing on renewables.

6. Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and get rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

7. Restore Glass-Steagal & break up too-big-to-fail banks.

8. Real Net Neutrality.

9. American Jobs Act including job training/retraining program for unemployed.

10. Universal Pre-K.

11. Student Loan refinancing & college affordability.

12. Sensible background checks for guns.

13. Creating American Jobs & Ending Offshoring Act.

14. DISCLOSE Act for full transparency of dark money & overturn Citizen's United ruling and McCutcheon Decision.

15. Stop Keystone XL pipeline from being built.

16. Criminal justice reform including sentencing guidelines, drug scheduling & Youth PROMISE Act.

17. Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

18. VA Reform.

19. Lift cap on Social Security payroll tax and exempt the first $15K of income.

20. Single Payer Universal Healthcare. And yes, that's huge.

21. National Marriage Equality.

and lastly,

22. Decriminalize & Regulate Marijuana.

I would posit that this one final agenda item is going to bring the most non-voters out of the woodwork to vote. And with turnout as traditionally low as it is in midterm years, even a small bump can make a big effect. But a big bump? That wins elections and sets a new course. And the public attitude has shifted firmly in its favor. Marijuana decriminalization has the ability to get the most eligible but ambivalent voters to the polls, the vast majority of whom would vote Democratic if they voted (which is exactly why Republicans disenfranchise them in the first place). Add hot topic issues like Immigration Reform, VA reform, a federal minimum wage increase and universal healthcare & Pre-K (among the larger to-do list) and you have a real platform to fire up voters and drive them en masse to the polls.

President Obama, we know the platitudes from speeches. We who voted for hope and change saw you obstructed by a force in Congress whose obstinance has proved too formidable amidst your noble efforts to "change the tone" in Washington. The only way the tone is going to change is if the voters change it, like they did in California when they gave the Governor a Democratic majority to spur progress and action. Right now, each race around the country is in it's own little bubble, disconnected to the larger narrative. Only true vision and leadership can unite them to raise a populist wave and that is what the Presidential pulpit is for. Raise the bar so high in this election that instead of just a candidate, people are electing a vision for America. Give them a concrete list and a timetable for action and let them know that it is all possible with a working Congress. If you win, you win huge and solidify your legacy while seriously improving America. And if you lose? You're still President for two years and can take all the executive action you want. Your move.

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