The presidency seems to becoming more and more of a burden for Barack Obama, even though we are only halfway into the first year of his second term. Regrettably, the Republicans have him right where they want him, mired in the gridlock of partisan politics. In all likelihood, conditions will remain the same for the remaining three and a half years of his presidency. This is why it may be wise for many progressives to trim their hopes for the next few years and look forward to the time when Barack Obama can more freely speak his mind and then tell us in his memoirs what he can’t now tell us now.
An example would be the president’s thinking about election reform. It would be my hope that his real beliefs include:
- Federalizing all rules, regulations, and procedures that relate to national elections (e.g. president/vice-president; senators, members of the House of Representatives).
- Explore new ways of reducing the length of campaigns and reducing the amount of money in campaigns. He might suggest that, ultimately, this would require a little tweaking of the First Amendment, though that has obvious risks.
- Ensure, through the strength of the federal government, easy registration for voting, and election times that are convenient for all voters.
On health reform, I would hope that he would make it clear that his preference would be a single-payer or “Medicare for all” program. Many Republicans suspect that’s what he wants, and many progressives hope that’s true. The imperfections in the Affordable Care Act may be best solved by moving toward a more unified and efficient system that would lead to single-payer. President Obama may have been crazy like a fox in accepting the current law and the anticipated improvements that may be made in the future.
President Obama may favor dramatic reforms to improve the lives of the working poor and those without employment. This may include a doubling of the federal minimum wage to make it an affordable wage. He may also support a new stimulus program of several trillion dollars, with much of the money being used to rebuild and expand our infrastructure. The infusion of funds could also be used to provide additional jobs for people in the fields of education, health care, child care, and care for the elderly.
He might also support real reforms with teeth to curb the runaway powers of Wall Street bankers and investment moguls. To have a former president strongly siding with the 99% would give the movement a considerable boost.
The value added to the progressive movement by the former president announcing his support of such policies could be incalculable. This is especially true if in 2016, the country elects another Democratic president. Barack Obama would be able to advocate policies that are truly progressive, which hopefully are the ones in which he truly believes. He would not have to face the same sort of Republican and right-wing media opposition that he currently does.
The true conservative agenda is unabashedly advocated by many members of the GOP. What progressives really want is still somewhat of a secret. If upon his retirement, Barack Obama advocated a progressive agenda, he could do so with no political risk to himself and considerable benefit to the movement and many of his fellow Democrats.