The presidential campaign for those of us on the left was a real nail biter while the Romney team, optimistically cocooned in their alternative reality, had a victory speech and fireworks at the ready. Then the race was called when Ohio went to Obama.
We won. Whew. Team Romney/Ryan was handed its ass. Barack Obama has four more years, and yes this election was clearly a mandate. It matters that Obama will be sworn into office this coming January, but what matters even more are the progressive movements that put him there– and what effect they will continue to have on the remainder of his administration.
Wisconsin and the fight for labor and union rights Remember those pictures of thousands of Wisconsonites in March 2011 filling the state capitol building and braving the snow and cold in the streets in protest of newly elected governor Scott Walker’s hard right turn? Walker’s attempt to eliminate collective bargaining was a stretch too far. Walker escaped recall, but his assault on public sector employees and labor in general resulted in a national backlash and lots of discussion about nurses, teachers, police, firemen and librarians. We will continue to hear more about these workers–and workers at Walmart and Amazon as well, and the word “greedy” will not be the adjective of choice.
Planned Parenthood does quite well without the Komen Foundation In December of 2011 the Komen Foundation decided to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood breast cancer screenings. This was widely and rightfully viewed as political gaming by the anti-choice leaders within Komen. Contributions to the Komen Foundation tanked and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood went on to become a powerful surrogate for Obama. This was perhaps the biggest, most costly mistake in the conservative War on Women.
This was a wake up call for women, particularly for young women who rely on contraception and access to women’s health care-including abortions. Trans-vaginal ultrasounds, eggs as people and legitimate rape discussions were not going to pass under the radar. BTW- we will have 20 women in the Senate-the most ever.
XL Pipeline Protests, Arrests and Climate Change In August of 2011, high profile arrests in Washington DC over the extension of the Canadian tar sands pipeline through vulnerable areas dependent upon natural underground aquifers, resulted in a reprieve for environmentalists. The discussion about the continued extraction of fossil fuels and its impact upon climate change continues, although the topic was disgracefully given short shrift in the presidential debates. Then along came Hurricane Sandy. NY Mayor Bloomberg decided to endorse Obama because of his views on climate change. XL Pipeline protests continue. The effects of the BP oil disaster have not gone away. Lots of work ahead of us on this one.
OCCUPY WALL STREET! We are the 99% Who saw that coming? What happened in Zuccotti Park on September 17, 2011 ignited not only a national but international movement that protested economic and social inequality, greed, corruption and the political influence that corporations, particularly the financial sector, exert upon government policies. Congress and the president weren’t able to provide a strong and defensible argument against the conservative demand for austerity, but the people sure did.
Our political leaders weren’t willing to take on the banks and keep people in their foreclosed underwater homes, but Occupiers did. We were forced as a country to look at the effects of crippling student loans upon a whole generation of young people. Concepts like “debt forgiveness” were inserted into our collective vocabulary.
And Occupy Wall Street was certainly one of the inspirations for Elizabeth Warren’s speech about who built that and Obama’s less graceful attempt to do so. Occupy provided us with a context for critiquing Mitt Romney’s ill advised 47% comments to a group of wealthy fundraisers in Florida. The current administration has not shown any teeth in its investigation and prosecution of Wall Street malfeasance and corruption, but Wall Street has been tried and found guilty in the people’s court. And Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone isn’t going to stop writing about it.
DREAMERS force the President’s hand It is indisputable that Republicans blocked the attempt to what should have been bi-partisan immigration reform. And it is also indisputable that more undocumented immigrants have been repatriated in the Obama administration than in Bush’s. While Congress was gridlocked and Republican presidential candidates in the primary promised super-duper electrified triple border fences and the more humane self-deportation as serious immigration policy, young people who were brought here as children by undocumented parents courageously came forward and suddenly put the face of our neighbor upon the immigration discussion. The DREAMERS won a victory when Obama signed an executive order providing them with a path to legal status in the country.
Marriage Equality The unceasing, successful push for marriage equality is truly an amazing story. Remember Prop 8 here in California during the last presidential election a mere 4 years ago? The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Obama’s admission that he had “evolved” on the topic of marriage equality certainly made a difference. But the heavy lifting was done by the LGBT community and the ever widening segment of the population that was persuaded to support them. Republicans know that they can never again use marriage equality as a wedge issue–and win. Three states voted for marriage equality through the initiative process. There is no going back.
Voters Despite the Republican led, ALEC inspired efforts to suppress the vote, vote we did. The African American community did not have to rely on a long memory in order to quickly mobilize and provide the eloquent forceful arguments for electoral justice. Latinos turned out. Young people turned out. All of the groups that were targeted for suppression efforts stood in line and cast their ballots. The Republicans, not only unskewed, but unhinged from reality, were clueless in their assessment of the polls.
We need to put a stake through the heart of the conservative belief that restricting the vote and shrinking the electorate somehow protects the vote. It doesn’t. We also must have election reform. I never ever want to hear again of my fellow citizens standing in line for seven hours to vote or even an hour and a half to vote. This is not only cruel but absolutely stupid.
Civil Liberties- The movement that didn’t make itself felt in the first four years We should all be in a celebratory mood and savor the victories fully, but there has been a troubling absence of discourse throughout the campaigns about the grim erosion of civil liberties. Obama promised during his first campaign to close Guantánamo. We have lost our belief that justice is served by trying those who commit crimes against humanity in an international court of law, opting instead for extra-judicial military assassinations. We need to look at the civilian lives maimed and destroyed by our use of drones as something more than unfortunate but necessary collateral damage. This is just the beginning of a long sobering list.
Presidents matter. There should be no doubt that President Obama will be a far different president than Mitt Romney if he had been elected. But we do not have the luxury of assuming or hoping that he will carry through with the issues of the movements which elected him. So while we savor the moment, we should also be rolling up our sleeves. There is a lot of work ahead of us. Manos a la obra!