Erixon is a sophomore political science and rhetoric major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2012 is approaching, and before our world comes to a screeching halt in the assuredly bloody and violent chaos that will erupt Dec. 21, our country is scheduled to conduct a comparatively organized presidential election. I can’t wait.
While the Republicans will likely spend the next two years playing chicken with deficits in Congress and arguing over who believes in science less on the campaign trail, President Barack Obama has all the time in the world to convince people that he is a far more qualified leader than Michele Bachmann or Haley Barbour. I think I like his chances.
Obama took office in January 2009, a little over four months after the greatest economic collapse America had seen in almost a century. Things were getting bad and fast, and there was little hope left. His efforts to pass The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act early in 2009 represented one of the largest investments in education, infrastructure, energy and scientific research this country had seen in a long time and it helped us get our economy moving again, and moving in the right direction.
The Recovery Act was an impressive accomplishment in its own right, but he wasn’t done yet. Obama also passed sweeping health care reform, repealed the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and signed an arms control treaty with Russia. He also passed new regulations, consumer protections and reform for the financial industries that caused the economic crisis in the first place.
What did Republicans do during this time? They disregarded their elected responsibilities by acting as if government was a zero-sum game in which Obama’s loss was their win. Unfortunately for them, things don’t work like that. Their destructive and obstructive actions weakened our options in responding to the economic crisis. Their poisonous rhetoric has created an increasingly hostile political environment. These “culture warriors” and “tea party patriots” fail to see even the possibility that government can be used as a vehicle for good and seek only to tear it down and keep America from accomplishing anything.
If there is anything we can take away from the democratic losses in 2010, it should be that just because the opposition lacks a coherent, sensible vision, that doesn’t mean they will be easy to beat. Despite the tea party’s shortcomings, it is an undeniably powerful political force. The tea party will make several states Obama won in 2008 much more difficult in 2012. States such as Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina are going to be very competitive in two years. Also, states the Democrats might have considered safe two years ago are now back in play. For Obama to get re-elected, he is going to need to shore up his support among middle-class moderates and independents in states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Colorado.
Fortunately, this is not an impossible proposition. The recent activity in Wisconsin has shown how fragile the tea party truly is. It was pretty easy for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to campaign on cutting spending and balancing budgets, but when people saw exactly how he planned on doing it, they revolted.
This is Obama’s moment. He needs to take a stand against these irresponsible budgetary policies that cut spending in important areas like education and infrastructure to pay for corporate tax cuts. Publicly supporting the public employees will restore any credibility with the base he may have lost with his lame-duck session tax deal. Not only is it a politically astute move, it is the right thing to do.
In his State of the Union address, Obama made a strong argument for American innovation and “winning the future.” Is there a better way to illustrate these ideals than standing up for the rights of public school teachers?
Right now in states across the country, education is under attack. Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are picking fights with teachers while right here in Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad is eliminating universal pre-school access and proposing zero percent allowable growth for school budgets. While all of these Republicans are trying to say “No” to any policy that isn’t exclusively helpful to corporations, Obama should try to be the one politician to stand up and say “Yes.”
Yes, we do want to teach our children well. Yes, we do want high-speed railways, high-speed Internet and a national smart grid. Yes, this is America and we do big things. Above all, President Barack Obama needs to stand up and, once again, declare, “Yes, we can.”