We’re proud to introduce our newest monthly column, from Don Washington, progressive rabble-rouser, writer and frontman of Mayoral Tutorial.
Last time President Obama won there was a honeymoon and the assumption that he had progressive values, so progressives gave him time to “play chess” and find common ground… Reality check, my friends: it will not happen this time. Right from jump-street we’ve rejected the Grand Bargain, and if the Democratic Party wants to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory all they have to do is go along with this nonsense. Context is everything, and this time progressive forces are already not being quiet. From Keystone to the Grand Bargain, we are in the streets. We remember how in 2010 the president came out and helped Blue Dogs and corporate Dems beat progressives in the primaries, and it won’t happen this time.
It’s reality check time for President Obama as well as the media. The country is not tearing itself apart; it is transforming into a society where the basic humanity of all of its people is affirmed and the needs of its citizens are met in the most equitable and just way possible. What we voted against was inequality. The reality check here is simple enough. If President Obama does not address it, we, the people will not only not have his back, we will on it with baseball bats.
President Obama had barely been re-elected by three million popular votes and a 126-electoral-vote margin when a cavalcade of pundits began talking about how he didn’t have a mandate, the country was evenly split, and he had to fix those divisions by coming to grips with our budget deficit. What this proves is that we have a center-right media in a center-left country. It also proves that our corporate media’s masters and owners are fixated on a problem, the deficit, for any number of sinister reasons. Here’s just one. Maybe they see a rare opportunity to do permanent harm to the only reasons millions of Americans aren’t on the streets starving and burning things right now—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—for temporary concessions from them. A reality check for the media is that President Obama does indeed have mandate.
To be fair, there is no precise definition of a “mandate” thing, and our media friends wouldn’t know how to define it if you asked them. Here is what we know. In both of his highly questionable elections to office President George W. Bush never had a three million vote lead in the popular vote, never won as many electoral votes as President Obama, and he never won overwhelming majorities across as many segments or voting blocs of the population. Even though all of that is true we were told upon his re-election he had both the political capital and a mandate to try and privatize social security. Obama must have an even bigger mandate for something. Remember that; we will be circling back to it later.
A mandate is a permission slip from the population to do what they elected a leader to do. Since without a doubt President Obama won by overwhelming majorities among every segment of the population except white men, southerners, rich people and old people, and he didn’t get trounced by appreciably large margins even within those groups, he has one. But the intelligent question is, what is that mandate for? Remember how I said we were going to circle back on what “W” tried to do with his mandate? “W” used his mandate to attack Social Security and took a drubbing.
Obama is using his to do the same thing only to a lesser extent only just like with “W” no one voted for anyone to touch the big three earned benefit programs. Reality check time again: We didn’t vote for the president’s agenda. We’re not even sure if he had one. We voted against Mittens and the promised deepening inequality embedded in his candidacy, from the Ryan Budget to his off-the-cuff, out-of-touch 47% speech. The makers and takers false narrative pissed us off. We weren’t scared; we were angry.
The president spent most to the election telling us that we were making a fundamental choice between what kind of country we would be. The GOP spent most of the election trying to steal it through voter suppression or buy it with dark money. Inequality brought us out to the polls, not “stuff,” conservatives. Everyone wants something from the government. The questions are what do they want, how much do they get, who pays for it and how much does it cost?
Women voted for the president to protect their rights to privacy and autonomy. LGBTQ folks voted for the president to protect the sanctity of their humanity and their human right to express their humanity as full members of society. Brown and Black people, native-born and immigrant voted the president because to not do so would empower and move deeper into mainstream American thought ideas that range from violent and fantastical xenophobia to icy indifference and reflexive intolerance. Poor people voted for the president because they are already experiencing record levels inequality, poverty and oppression.
The educated voted for the president because they’d like someone protect the government from people who hate and deny everything from climate science to evolution. The young voted for the president because as disappointed as they have been with him they can’t imagine the world were intolerance, greed and neglect define the boundaries and aspirations of public policy. Labor voted for the president to not take any more rights and protections from them and what remains of organized people, which would have been at the core of what would have passed for a “heart” in a Romney administration.
What we gave him a mandate to do was to affirm the humanity of people by addressing inequality wherever it exists, from economic disparity to scientific denial. We have spoken in a clear voice that what we do not want is anything that takes any more from the mass of people. What we have asked for and as you can already see, are demanding through demonstration and direct action, is an utter rejection of sorts of public policy that are a threat to a more just society.
If the president had trumpeted a progressive agenda he would have won by a far larger margin, but he did not because that is not who he is and we know that this time. Democracy is the battle that never sleeps, President Obama, and you are either in favor of addressing inequality or at odds with us when we metaphorically drag, kick and beat you and your party into doing our bidding. Last reality check: You have a mandate… don’t make us use it on you.