"... we believe that 'We're all in this together' is a far better philosophy than 'You're on your own.'"
Bill Clinton's words continue to resonate long after the DNC in Charlotte, and have become the rallying cry of the Obama campaign. Bill Clinton, in his brilliant tutorial, delivered this message exactly right, and clearly defined the stark difference between the two candidates for president, as well as their parties. Some variation of this message should be on Obama bumper stickers from coast to coast. It is the overarching message that has been missing from the president's campaign, but it must also come with a vision for where the president wants to take the country, which was still not clearly articulated in his convention speech.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney's campaign went into a free-fall last week, when a video of him surfaced dismissing 47 percent of the population as freeloaders for paying no income taxes and, in his opinion, not taking responsibility for their own lives. Romney added, "My job is not to worry about those people." Those roughly 146 million Americans are, to Mr. Romney, little more than dependents of the U.S. government, living on handouts and contributing nothing to society. Of course, the truth is that these people do pay taxes -- payroll taxes, sales tax, property taxes and others -- but earn so little from their low-income jobs that they don't pay income taxes. All of them are hardworking, proud Americans, yet Romney and his fat cat supporters displayed nothing but an arrogant distain for them. And to imagine, this man could be our next president! What would the likelihood be that he would really be interested in serving anyone more than that despised 1% of the population that are his most ardent supporters?
The truth is, much of the rest of the support for Romney can be found in the so-called "conservative" Southern states, which rank among the poorest and least educated, and who also happen to have the highest percentage of residents paying no income taxes. Many of the residents of these states are also recipients of some form of local, state or federal aid, depending on those so-called entitlements just to survive. Without Medicaid, housing vouchers and food stamps, these people would slide into even more abject poverty. Talk about voting against your own interests - these people should all be Democrats. And those low-income workers that do pay taxes pay at a percentage higher than Romney's recently announced 14.1 percent effective tax rate for 2011.
Romney has been accused of being out-of-touch and living in an elitist bubble, but it is more than that. This election is about the Republican Party's continued slide into a philosophical black hole and their attempts to tear down all that has made America great and the envy of so much of the civilized world. If Romney wins, what will happen to our standing in the world and the relationships and agreements we have with so many nations? Would Romney cut off life-saving aid to those nations that depend on us for their very survival? Would America ever be able to return to its former glorious status as a caring, compassionate society that works collectively to lift all boats, so that the next generation has a better life than the last one? Such compassion and dedication has been the American way and a major part of our national identity and fabric for decades, but it will be on the cusp of extinction if Romney wins the White House. Eighty years of American progress will be rolled back, with lower taxes for the rich, gutted and terminated benefit programs, less regulation on corporations and greedy "banksters," and less civil liberties for the rest of us.
There is some good news for Progressive poll watchers: Romney's numbers are dropping in some of the battleground states, according to Chuck Todd on Meet The Press on Sunday. Now, the president must make his case for re-election, rallying his base and bringing in those young voters and independents who gave him a win in '08. The dreamers remain in the Obama camp, even though some are still angered that the President did not push for immigration reform, as promised early in his election. The Latino vote could be critical in this election, especially with the news that newly passed, Republican-sponsored laws in 23 states could severely curb the voting rights of over 10 million Latino voters.
A relatively small band of extremely wealthy men -- like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers -- are supporting Romney's campaign with their nasty Super PAC's, throwing around truckloads of money to fund misleading ads and a slew of other dirty tricks as the days grow shorter and election day looms larger. We are witnessing the most expensive Presidential election in our history, a dizzying exercise in excess.
Of late, Obama has been landing the body blows, out-raising Romney in August and doing well on the campaign trail since the convention. Will his oratorical skills be on display early in October at the first debate? The messaging does need to improve and sharpen. The President must step up and expose the extreme agenda of the GOP to take control of our country and run it for a privileged few. Will we hear about his version of Roosevelt's New Deal, or his vision of a Great Society for America in the 21st century? Let us hope so.
It is also time for us to become "the change" President Obama alluded to at the convention with his comment, "It was never about me; it was always about you." So what can we do between now and November 6, when we head to the voting booth? We must do much more than just donate to the presidential campaign or local and state campaigns of our choice. We must also volunteer to help get out the vote this year in whatever ways we can: working in a campaign office; walking the district with your representative; making phone calls; handing out literature; and especially registering new voters. Whatever it takes, our goal must be to get the People into the voting booth this November 6, so we can end the Tea Party's stranglehold on the House of Representatives, keep the Senate in Democratic hands -- I can only imagine what Rand Paul would do in charge of a committee -- and, of course, work to reelect President Obama. But we must not then give him a pass if he wins. We must pressure him and our other elected officials to deliver a populist agenda that works for the needs of all Americans.
Last week I was amazed when, while chatting in New York with Bill Weitz, the chief of staff of my Congressman, Eliot Engel, Mr. Weitz said, "It would be nice if people volunteered to help out." He hears plenty of complaints and sharp-edged criticism from a few disgruntled locals who may not agree with the Congressman's position on an issue, but an offer of assistance apparently a unique concept. These are the good guys, who are caring, dedicated public servants in the best sense of the word. So contact a campaign and work to elect candidates that will work for you and want to change our politics for the better. Then, after the elections, continue to hold your elected officials accountable to the People as citizen activists, who participate fully in our democracy and ensure that it survives and thrives.
Our country needs us, now more than ever. The alternative is a Plutocracy from which there may be no return.
Co-authored with Jonathan Stone