By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
If President Obama wants to win in November he will have to run against the Republican Congress. He will actually not need to spend his time on Romney. When you have people like former President Jimmy Carter suggesting that Romney is not that bad, you have a message problem and one that may not be resolvable in the short-term. On the other hand, as a few people have suggested, if the obstructionist, wealthy Republican Congress can be tied around Romney’s neck, it could quite possibly undermine Romney’s campaign.
What does running against the Republican Congress mean? It means taking a message to the public about what sort of economy we need. It means picking up on the themes raised by the Occupy movement and hammering away at the policies of the Republican Congress and their support of the upper 1 percent. It means walking the streets of our devastated cities and speaking with the unemployed, and particularly speaking with those who have been out of work for years, people who fear that they may never be able to work again. Obama needs to become the voice of the voiceless.
President Obama needs to remind people about the economic policies that got us into this mess. This is something that the White unemployed and precariously employed need to hear time and again. Too many of them seem to be ready to go one more round in the Republican economic fun-house.
If there was one thing that Obama needs to do, and I am not sure that he is prepared to do it, it is to encourage protests and action among the bottom 99 percent against economic injustice. I don’t particularly care that he did not show up in Wisconsin to support the anti-Scott Walker recall movement. Wisconsin needed to be about Walker, not Obama. That said, the people at the base need to hear from Obama the way that we did in January 2009 when he supported the demands of the workers at Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago when they occupied – no pun intended – their factory. When was the last time that we had heard a president of the USA take such a stand? We now ask, why was that the last time we heard this from Obama? We also need President Obama to stop trying to out- Republican the Republicans when it comes to national security. One of the best ways to demoralize segments of his base can be found in the continuing attacks on civil liberties that have been underway during his administration. ”Whistleblowers” have come under attack. Peaceful non-violent protesters such as the anti-war protesters in Minneapolis and Chicago – have not only come under surveillance but also have faced various legal charges. Look, we voted for a president we hoped would expand democracy rather than contract it.
We also voted for someone to end these senseless wars. Well, points go out to President Obama for ending the Iraq occupation, but we are still in Afghanistan and these drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen do nothing but inflame local tensions and create more enemies.
To win, Obama needs an “Obama Doctrine” for the 21st century, a clear, non-rhetorical statement that situates his campaign in the hearts and minds of the 99 percent. We do not need any more feelgood speeches. We need change that we can see.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.