I’m taking a break from blogging about poetry/writing to address politics again. A few weeks ago, after a Republican won a House seat in a deep blue NY district during a special election, I said here that Obama is going to have a tough time seeking re-election in 2012. As someone who worked on his campaign in 2008, I have been disappointed in his lack of willingness to stand up to Republicans and fight for key Democratic principles. I wondered what direction the president would take heading into 2012 and whose re-election campaigns he would try to emulate. Over the last few weeks, we have started to see how he plans to run for re-election. His new tone just may rally his alienated base.
Despite being surrounded by a bunch of former Clinton advisors, Obama doesn’t seem to be following Clinton’s path to re-election from 1996. Clinton moved to the center, as opposed to the left, and pushed bills that reformed Welfare and won over more independents and even some conservatives. Recently, Obama has channeled two other Democratic presidents more so than Bill Clinton- Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
I say Obama is channeling FDR because of his newly released jobs bill, which calls for higher taxes on the wealthy and a lot of infrastructure programs, including the creation of a high-speed rail system and the rebuilding of America’s crumbling schools. Like FDR, Obama has been arguing lately that in times of high unemployment, the government should act and pass a jobs bill to put people back to work. FDR did this successfully through the New Deal programs. This idea is the total opposite of the current GOP platform. The Republican leadership does not believe in a comprehensive jobs bill or further stimulus spending to put people back to work. They have been pushing greater austerity measures.
It has yet to be seen if Obama’s job bill will pass the GOP-controlled House. Republicans don’t seem likely to hand Obama a victory,even if parts of his job bill are popular with the public. Still, though, the president has been pushing the jobs bill day in and day out, and while doing so, he’s been channeling another Democratic president– Harry Truman. When Truman was re-elected, he ran against a very unpopular Congress. As I said in a previous post, Obama’s job performance numbers are low, in the 40s, but Congress’ overall approval number is even lower, historic lows. Some polls have Congress at 19 percent approval; other polls have Congress at 22 or 23 percent approval. Obama knows this, and he’s taken the gloves off to go on the offensive against GOP leadership in the House and Senate. He’ s also been pushing the plan in the districts of his opposition. He did a speech last week at a bridge in Ohio that links the Congressional district of House speaker John Boehner with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky. The president slammed both leaders for the gridlock in Washington.
The president has also been quicker to counter GOP attacks. When he stated recently he wants a higher tax rate for millionaires, GOP leadership cried class warfare. Obama countered that it’s not class warfare, just simple math.
Obama’s new populist tone should rally his base. This is the president a lot of supporters thought they voted for in 2008, someone willing to stand up for the middle class and jumpstart the economy. Still, though, Obama is going to face daunting unemployment numbers heading into 2012 and skepticism by some voters that he can fix the economy. It’s not likely the unemployment number of 9.1 percent will come down much between now and next November, and even if parts of the jobs bill pass Congress, their effects on unemployment may take time. But if Obama runs against the unpopular Congress, continues his populist tone, and points out how far to the right the current GOP presidential candidates are, he does have a better chance of winning a second term.